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- "The focus is the thing that carries all your abilities. It allows you to take to take the Traveler's light and turn it into effects in the world. The focus defines how you're going to be playing the game right now, much more so than your class."
- — Tyson Green
Subclasses (formerly called Focuses) are the primary way players choose their Guardian's abilities in Destiny.
Subclasses are all based on an Element, and offer the players abilities that inflict that damage type. All subclasses have at least one Super ability, a Melee ability, multiple Grenades to choose from, and multiple Jump types, several other Perks, and multiple Class Abilities starting from Destiny 2. Grenades can be shared across Classes, while Jump and Class Abilities can be shared across Subclasses of the same Class.
Subclasses are the main way Guardians improve and level up. Each subclass advances independently from level, although until level 15+ these upgrades synchronize with level. New abilities, passive bonuses, grenade types, and more unlock as the subclass gains experience, with each subclass containing twenty-eight upgrades. Subclass abilities are shaped as the player levels up, and each upgrade tree is distinct. In any given subclass, the player is offered a number of tiers that give the player a choice of attributes such as:
- Grenade type—i.e homing or proximity.
- Vertical movement—i.e short-range teleport or double jump.
- Melee bonus.
- Weapon specialty.
- Passive bonus.
- Upgrades to Super ability.
With the exception of the three "base" abilities (jump, Super, and melee), each column of three upgrades is mutually exclusive; only one can be active at a time.
Every class has two subclasses to acquire and develop, each with its own specialties. Subclass is effectively a piece of equipment that can be changed at will, much like selecting a new weapon. One subclass can be used as a competitive multiplayer loadout, while a second healing-oriented focus can be used for cooperative play. Subclasses are also meant to be synergistic with the gear the Guardian is wearing.
Upon mastering a subclass, the player is awarded an Exotic Weapon Bounty from his or her Vanguard, as well as an achievement/trophy.
Originally, every Class had access to a subclass for two of the three elements of Light. With the release of the The Taken King expansion, a third subclass for each element was added for every class, unlocked through a Quest.
At the launch of Destiny 2, subclasses were overhauled multiple times, with the implementation of level trees taking the former game's system place. Guardians have the choice of selecting one of two different ability focuses for each subclass, being locked into that particular path. With the release of the Forsaken expansion, another tree, usually with a new Super, was added to each Subclass. With the release of the New Light Campaign, the Upgrade Points system was removed, and subclass trees were fully unlocked upon the completion of their respective Quest.
The release of the Beyond Light expansion saw the first Darkness-based subclasses added to the game with Stasis. This new subclass had a different type of customization, dubbed Subclass 3.0, that would be applied to the Light subclasses starting with Void with the launch of The Witch Queen expansion & Season of the Risen, followed by Solar with the launch of Season of the Haunted and finally Arc with the launch of Season of Plunder. The launch of Lightfall sees Strand introduced as the second Darkness subclass using the same customization.
In this system, all Grenade abilities are shared across classes, and all Jumps are shared across subclasses, allowing for four or more jumps in certain cases. A third class ability was also added to some subclasses. In this system, the main capabilities of the class are chosen between three-four Aspects, each with unique, class related attributes. This update also introduced Fragments (Echoes for Void, Embers for Solar, Sparks for Arc, Whispers for Stasis, Threads for Strand), which are passive perks shared across classes that provide synergistic effects, and occasionally stat boosts or penalties. Each Aspect comes with a number of Fragment Slots (between one and three), which can be filled with a different Fragment each. Changing to an Aspect with less slots disables Fragments, starting from the right. This update also formalized many of the elemental buffs and debuffs available in the game, defining them as Verbs.
Players start the game with a given Light subclass, and can obtain the others after completing a Quest given by Ikora Rey in the Tower, further unlocking abilities through buying them from her with Glimmer and meditating at the nearby Altar. Stasis subclasses are obtained by completing the Beyond Light Campaign, with Aspects and other abilities obtained through post-campaign Quests, and Fragments acquired by completing Bounties given by the Exo Stranger on Europa. Strand subclasses are obtained by completing the Lightfall campaign.
List of subclasses
- Voidwalker—increases damage dealt but decreases defense. Super ability is the Nova Bomb, dealing Void damage.
- Sunsinger—super ability is Radiance which buffs and heals allies, and increases melee and grenade recharge.
- Stormcaller—direct manipulation of Arc energy, focusing body and mind to channel and chain the lightning. 
- Dawnblade—manipulated Solar energy to forge a sword of fire and enhance lift, focusing their abilities within their Daybreak super ability.
- Shadebinder—manipulates Stasis to instantly freeze enemies with their Winter's Wrath super ability and detonate them to shatter on command.
- Broodweaver—manipulates the Weave using only their mind.
- Gunslinger—specializes in single target damage with precision and accuracy. Super ability is Golden Gun, which deals devastating Solar damage.
- Bladedancer—specializes in melee and close quarter combat with the Arc Blade super ability.
- Nightstalker—specializes in applying debuffs and crowd control with the Shadowshot super ability, slowing and suppressing enemies for your fireteam.
- Arcstrider—specializes in a single strike melee with the Arc Staff Super ability, being able to clear large groups of enemies.
- Revenant—specializes in slowing and suppressing enemies for crowd control, utilizing the Silence and Squall super ability to freeze and damage large groups of enemies over time.
- Threadrunner—masters of movement, speed, and grace.
- Striker—specializes in close quarters damage. Super ability is Fist of Havoc, and deals Arc damage. 
- Defender—creates a protective Void bubble shield known as the Ward of Dawn for any member of the fireteam to hide out in.
- Sunbreaker—summons a flaming Solar hammer that wreaks destruction upon enemies. 
- Sentinel—summons a glowing Void shield, that can bash large groups of enemies, being able to be thrown as a projectile and used as a melee weapon. Can also utilize the Defender's Ward of Dawn.
- Behemoth—forms an icy gauntlet of Stasis that can spawn crystals to shatter for massive AOE damage.
- Berserker—tear at Strand to manifest claws they use to sever their targets from the Weave.
List of appearances
- ^ a b c d Game Informer January 2014, page 54
- ^ Bungie.net: The Taken King
- ^ a b c Bungie.net Lightfall
- ^ Bungie (2014-7-17), Destiny: Beta PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard
- ^ Game Informer: Hands on with the three classes
- ^ Bungie.net: The Taken King
- ^ Game Informer: The Character Progresson of Destiny
- ^ The Guardian: How the makers of Halo plan to change the future of shooters
- ^ Bungie.net: The Taken King