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Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

Matt Gardner
Activision, Bungie, Destiny, FPS games

Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

It's so very close now. Bungie have announced that "Destiny servers will admit Guardians as soon as it is September 9th somewhere in the world. When you play is between you and your retailer."

With the year's most anticipated game only hours away, we've assembled a little starter guide for interested parties who've yet to get stuck into the game or maybe just want a little clarification on what the hell is going on.

Here's a little all-in-one article to give you the fast-fire lowdown on everything you need to get started in Destiny when the servers go live later.

The Story

Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

One fine day, a mysterious entity called The Traveller showed up at Earth, and ushered in a Golden Age for humanity that saw rapid technological and scientific advancements. Mankind spread across the stars, terraforming and colonising planets. Unfortunately, the celestial orb had a nemesis in the form of The Darkness, an ancient evil that followed The Traveller across the universe until it found Earth too.

The Darkness forced humanity back to Earth whereupon The Traveller sacrificed itself in a last stand designed to salvage the pockets of humanity that remained. The Traveller now lies dormant, its aura protecting the last human City.

But before it succumbed to The Darkness, The Traveller delivered one last boon to humanity in the form of the A.I. Ghosts -- sent forth to seek out worthy warriors to become Guardians of the City and defend Earth against attack.

You (and indeed I) are one of those Guardians.


Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

Choosing between Human, Awoken, and Exo is a purely cosmetic decision in Destiny. Do you want to look like a regular person, an extra from Prometheus, or a robot? The choice is yours, it won't make much of a difference. It must be said that the character creation options have been a little limited thus far, but here's hoping Bungie step it up once the servers go live. In any case, you don't need to worry too much over your choices here: go with something you think looks cool. The next decision is much more important...


Choosing your class in Destiny is the first big decision that you have to make. You can set up numerous characters, of course, trying out all of the different combinations that the game has to offer, but I find that there's always something a little special about the first one when everything is still fresh and new. So you don't waste any time faffing about and chopping and changing, here's a little class guide to help you get started swiftly:


Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

Titans are essentially tanks, but don't think that they can't dish out a fair bit of damage too. This is a class that's all about getting up close and personal, dishing out damage with the shotgun or smacking foes around with an enormous fist. Titans are more heavily armoured than the other two classes, but they're not quite as nimble. The two subclasses for the Titan are the more damage-oriented Striker (an excellent choice for melee fans) and the super tank Defender.

  • Double Jump: Double tapping the jump button for a Titan triggers the Lift, and it's a little like a hover jetpack. It's all about going straight up rather than bridging gaps.
  • Special Melee: How does an electrical mega punch sound? It sounds like the cries of your enemies sailing backwards through the air into oblivion. Defenders, on the other hand, get a Force Barrier that disintegrates anything that touches it.
  • Super: The Fist of Havoc has your Striker jump through the air and smash the ground with a powerful AoE attack, like a futuristic Donkey Kong. Defenders can basically weave a massive Void shield out of thin air to protect you and your allies.
  • Grenade: The Striker rocks a flashbang-esque grenade that can be upgraded to deal incremental damage and also stick to surfaces. The Defender, on the other hand, starts with a magnetic grenade that explodes twice, and can be upgraded to suppress enemy abilities.


Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

Hunters are the most nimble of the classes. These are your scouts and your snipers, a perfect classes for players who like to feel a little more mobile and who prize precision above all else. You can most weapons with all classes, but the Hunter's skillset is more tailored towards flexible offensive capabilities -- dealing serious damage while staying out of harm's way. The two subclasses here are wildly different: the Gunslinger is very much a sniper class with benefits, but the Bladedancer mixes up long-range attacks with some abilities that allow it to get in close, dish out serious damage, and then skip back out of harm's way.

  • Double Jump: This one's actually called the Double Jump because that's exactly what it is -- fast, dynamic, and incredibly useful. Can be upgraded to deliver a triple jump, which is awesome.
  • Special Melee: The Gunslinger's basic melee attack has you slicing and stabbing foes up a treat with a knife. The special allows you to throw that knife, and the results are very satisfying indeed. The Bladedancer can execute a Blink Strike -- a melee attack with range that allows you to essentially deliver a teleport backstab.
  • Super: The Bladedancer's Arc Blade turns you into a sci-fi ninja, and upgrading it allows you to fire out reams of Arc Light and eventually turn invisible. Probably the least ostentatious super, the Gunslinger spawns a Golden Hand Cannon loaded with three supercharged shots of Solar Light. When fully uploaded, it'll cause enemies to explode, showering anyone in the near vicinity with collateral damage. So it basically turns you into a hyped-up Scaramanga...wait, that's fantastic!
  • Grenade: The Gunslinger's grenade is a bit fiddly. It's an incendiary orb that bounces around a bit before exploding after a short delay. But when fully upgraded, it turns into a sticky proximity mine that's utterly brilliant. The Bladedancer's Flux grenade can be upgraded to become a cluster bomb with homing projectiles.


Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

Masters of the arcane, and conduits for the Traveller's energy, Warlocks can use Destiny's version of the Force. They're fragile, but boast regenerative capabilities and they dish out a lot of damage. You'll find yourself taking cover a lot more frequently than you might with the Titan and even the Hunter as the Warlock has neither the armour nor the agility to rely on. They do, however, have some nifty magical attacks at their disposal, mind. The Voidwalker is the more accessible subclass of the two, with powers feeding back into reducing cooldown times, and basically allowing you to almost spam destructive blasts of Void energy once upgraded. The Sunsinger, though, is truly special being the only subclass in the game to be able to resurrect.

  • Double Jump: The Glide is really annoying at first. It's good for crossing gaps, but it's a bit imprecise. Fully upgrade it, however, and you can Blink/teleport short distances, which is ace.
  • Special Melee: The Voidwalker is basically equipped with a Powerglove that dispenses a blast of Void energy, and that's super rad. But when upgraded, you can use it to drain the life force from people and reduce the cooldowns on pretty much everything. The Sunsinger can set people on fire and, once upgraded, make them explode.
  • Super: The Voidwalker's Nova Bomb is an utter arse to aim, as the Warlock jumps into the air, suddenly in third-person, and you hurl a blob of Void light vaguely in the direction you were pointing. Get it right, though, and you'll disintegrate everything in the near vicinity. When upgraded, you get three projectiles, and they travel much further. The Sunsinger's super is basically a super buff called Radiance that dramatically boosts your efficacy in all areas. When maxed out, you can activate it from the grave and come back to life.
  • Grenade: The Voidwalker's Vortex Grenade basically creates a singularity bubble and continually damages anything caught within it, later becoming a cluster bomb. The Sunsinger's does much the same, but with Solar Energy.


Something that flew completely under the radar during the Alpha and Beta tests for the game was the importance of elemental powers and the impact that they'll have on gameplay in later missions and Raids. There are three types of Elements in Destiny, with two of the six subclasses accounting for each, and specialist weapons available should you require powers that your subclass doesn't have to hand. Here's how they break down:

Arc Light:

  • Bladedancers (Hunter)
  • Strikers (Titan)

Solar Light:

  • Gunslingers (Hunter)
  • Sunsingers (Warlock)

Void Light

  • Defenders (Titan)
  • Voidwalkers (Warlock)

So what does all of this mean? Well, certain enemies will have Elemental affinities, and the three Elements work in a kind of rock-paper-scissors fashion. DattoDoesDestiny has made a video that explains the balance rather well indeed. Check it out above.

Even if your class isn't the right one for the job, you can still help turn the tide against Elemental enemies with Special and Heavy ammo for Elemental weapons. But these can be quite rare and run out quickly, so having the right Fireteam for the job when it comes to tricky Raids is going to be a must. Thankfully, Bungie's clan system should help when it comes to sorting out Fireteams and setups for particularly fiendish encounters.

Ah, that reminds me...

Sign up to Bungie.net and join the Dealspwn Destiny Clan!

Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

Do you want awesome stat tracking? Community engagement? A place where you can trade war stories, find Guardians to fill out your Fireteam, and enjoy a delicious old fashioned*? Well, you should join the Dealspwn Destiny Clan. If you don't do it for me or the glory of this site, do it for Toby and his wild-eyed, crazy-grinning face.

Or you know, because it'll be awesome.

*Clan members may need to supply their own old fashioneds.

Game Modes

Destiny is not quite the seamless experience I was hoping for, but it does have a wealth of content. Once the servers go live and you can get stuck into things, here's what'll be on offer:

  • Story: Here you jump into enormous environments for rather linear, narrative-driven story missions. It might just be me, but this all felt a bit empty in the beta. There's no point exploring in this mode, follow your markers and complete the objectives, and listen to Peter Dinklage phone it in. Still... that gunplay. Mmmmmm.
  • Strike: These are your co-op missions. You can attempt them solo, but you'll die. Lots. You'll probably still die a fair few times in co-op too, but this is where Destiny really comes alive in these half-hour bespoke firefights for you and your three-person fireteam. Raids, accessible after level 25, extend the fireteam to six players, and dramatically up the ante.
  • Explore: I'm still not sure why you have to select a different mode for free-roam activity, and why this couldn't have been incorporated into a glorious whole with the Story missions (like every other expansive FPS/MMO out there), but there it is. Explore mode actually gives you things to do if you go off the beaten track, with optional missions and challenges aplenty. Though here's hoping we see more variety and invention than we did in beta.
  • Crucible: Ever played Halo? You'll be right at home here. There's some guff about Guardians using the gladiatorial arenas of the crucible to test their mettle and improve their abilities, but it's basically classic Bungie multiplayer that plays in enormously familiar fashion to their previous franchise.
  • Tower: This is basically your home hub. Here you can dance, upgrade, buy stuff, and play footy to your heart's content. Here you can mingle freely with other players without fear of enemy contact, you can exchange blueprints for awesome new weapons, and drop some serious Glimmer (the game's currency -- earned across all modes) on new swag.

The Review

Destiny Starter's Guide - The Cliff Notes

So when is our review coming? Well, given the scale of the game and the fact that the servers only get switched on today, you won't be seeing a review from us until the end of this week at the earliest. This is one of the biggest games of the year, it's predicated on an online experience, and so we're not going to half-ass this at all. Buingie themselves have already warned against day one reviews, and here's what community manager DeeJ had to say on the matter:

“For us, this is a first – a new experience. It’s a bit of a risk, too. We fully anticipate seeing day one reviews from folks who decide to kick the tires, but don’t have the time or patience to take our ride for a nice, long road trip.

“Some of you might wait to pick up a copy until you read the final verdict from your most trusted review house. We’re okay with that. We’ve created something we’re proud of.”

He added that the game is designed for thousands of players to explore, and without high player numbers it’s not the real Destiny experience the team has been working towards.

“From the beginning, we set out to make Destiny feel like more than bits on a drive. We wanted to build a place for players to visit – a place filled with luminous life. Without a vibrant population for the last safe city on Earth, and Guardians roaming the wild frontiers, Destiny is a shadow of what it should be. That’s not how we wanted to submit for review.

“We explored several options to populate the world for reviewers. Our team estimates it would take thousands of gamers to ensure each potential public space in Destiny would be populated – that every activity would be accessible at all hours of the day and night. Where on Earth would we be able to find thousands of gamers?

“The answer, again, is you.

“So, reviews of Destiny will wait for your arrival. On day one, you’ll be rubbing elbows with the pageant judges, so look sharp. Who knows, you may end up on one of their live streams. They may end up on one of yours, too!”

So Polygon will probably drop a day one review and then change the score a week later if previous practice is anything to go by. Regardless, we'll be playing the thing the way it was meant to be played and bringing you a review accordingly. In the interim, check out all of our Destiny coverage so far here.

Good luck, Guardian. And God speed. We'll see you on the Moon.

Add a comment7 comments
TheChappy  Sep. 8, 2014 at 13:42

Matt why did you say dont bother exploring in story mode? I explored in story mode in the beta. All areas are open the only difference is the objective marker on your screen always points towards the story objective. But i didnt let that stop me getting distracted and wandering off to other side of the map for whatever reason.

MattGardner  Sep. 8, 2014 at 14:29

I didn't find that there was anything to really do in Story mode aside from the objectives. Only in Explore mode did the optional missions open up and the world actually seem to come alive a bit more.

I got distracted loads to begin within, only to find that there was little to actually uncover in Story mode. Felt a bit empty.

TheChappy  Sep. 8, 2014 at 15:01

Got you. I suppose it would get like that eventually, once you knew there were no areas you hadnt already seen.

Quietus  Sep. 8, 2014 at 16:24

Can I just ask you to clarify: Can I play this game entirely as a single player game, or are the multiplayer features required. I like the look of Destiny, but don't want any multiplayer stuff.

MattGardner  Sep. 8, 2014 at 16:47

Can I just ask you to clarify: Can I play this game entirely as a single player game, or are the multiplayer features required. I like the look of Destiny, but don't want any multiplayer stuff.

You'll need an online connection, but I think you can technically do everything (barring the Crucible) with a Fireteam of 1. You may run into players doing their own things in the open world (much like MMOs), but things were quite sparse in beta and I played all of the Story stuff solo and never engaged with anyone else really. Had a dance off with another player, but that was about it.

TungstenShark  Sep. 8, 2014 at 17:20

before it succumbed to The Darkness


I always knew those Lowestoft boys were bad news! Sound's like they didn't seek 'Permission to land'! and the the whole thing turned into a 'One Way Ticket to Hell... And Back'! But I'm sure the game will sell like 'Hot Cakes'!

...sorry I need to go and lie down now...

Last edited by TungstenShark, Sep. 8, 2014 at 17:22
TheChappy  Sep. 8, 2014 at 17:46

before it succumbed to The Darkness


I always knew those Lowestoft boys were bad news! Sound's like they didn't seek 'Permission to land'! and the the whole thing turned into a 'One Way Ticket to Hell... And Back'! But I'm sure the game will sell like 'Hot Cakes'!

...sorry I need to go and lie down now...

Its too late for apologies.lol

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