For a game that’s all about the loot, Destiny 2′s leveling system is remarkably confusing. As time has gone on and more expansions have been released, Bungie has been caught in the process of trying to balance Destiny 2 for new players while keeping the rewards intriguing for long-time players. With the release of Beyond Light, it seems Bungie has finally nailed a system that works, and in this Destiny 2 power leveling guide, we’re going to show you how to take advantage of it.
This guide is designed to take a complete beginner from the base power level to the power level cap in Destiny 2. However, if you’re a complete beginner, we recommend having our Destiny 2 beginner’s guide handy to make your first few hours a little easier.
Destiny 2: Leveling explained
Leveling can be a little confusing in Destiny 2 if you’re a newcomer. In previous iterations, you had both a character level (gained through experience) and a power level (gained through gear stats). With the New Light update, character levels were removed in favor of only power levels, and now, Bungie occasionally raises the base power level of new players to keep in line with the community.
As with Light in Destiny, the power level is the average of all your gear and is a measurement of your overall strength, offensively and defensively. As you move through the story, each activity has a suggested power level in the director. If your power is low, spend time completing side objectives like public events and adventures to get better gear.
As of the Beyond Light update, every player now starts at power level 1050, with every characters’ subclasses unlocked. From there, there are three different level caps:
- Soft cap: 1200
- Hard cap: 1250
- Pinnacle cap: 1260
We’ll explain each cap as we go, so don’t worry too much about them now. As you play, you’ll get different gear drops, which are color-coded by rarity. You’ll mostly be seeing rare (blue) drops during this stretch, which will give you gear above your current power level until you hit that soft cap. This grind can go by really fast if you’re simply playing through the game’s campaign, as you’ll constantly get new gear just by playing.
Step one: Reach the soft cap
The soft level cap in Destiny 2 is 1200, and you don’t need to do anything special to reach it. Gear drops always scale with your level, so the higher-powered weapons you find later won’t show up if you’re below the cap. At this stage, it’s simply a matter of playing Destiny 2 while avoiding any activities that reward Powerful gear or Pinnacle gear (the drops aren’t worth it before the soft cap).
For starters, get all the campaign missions done, making sure to pick up any gear that’s higher than your power level. From there, the fastest way to level up is by playing Crucible and completing public events. There were a few popular grinding spots previously, where players could reach the soft cap in a matter of an hour or so, but Bungie has been quick to rebalance any areas where this is possible.
In case there’s an area Bungie hasn’t patched yet, the leveling trick worked by repeating a Lost Sector over and over again. Before the patch, certain Lost Sectors would give you a Legendary Engram every time you killed the boss, allowing you to earn the highest level gear possible in the shortest amount of time. Now, most Lost Sectors stop giving out Legendary Engrams after the first few tries, and the overall drop rate is lower.
Don’t infuse anything
This isn’t really a leveling tip, but it’s important nonetheless. Because your gear determines your overall power level, you’ll constantly filter through new equipment as you grind to level 1200. You may be tempted to infuse lower-powered gear into gear you actually like, raising that gear’s power level. At this stage, however, you’ll be raising your power level so frequently that any gains you’ll get from infusing will quickly become invalid. Save your gear — or dismantle it, as we’ll get to next — for the next step.
Don’t be too precious here. You’re going to be switching gear constantly while you work up to 1200. You shouldn’t get tied to any one piece of equipment. Instead, keep equipping your highest level gear. This will raise your power level and, in turn, make it so you receive higher random drops.
Dismantle old stuff
In more traditional role-playing games, you might sell your old equipment, but in Destiny 2, you simply dismantle it from your menu screen by holding a specific button (square on PlayStation 4, for instance). You should scrap any old green or blue drops with power levels below your most powerful items. When rare and legendary drops are dismantled, they yield gunsmith materials. Take these to the gunsmith at the Tower to increase your reputation with him. Just like turning in reputation tokens, if you give the gunsmith enough parts, you will fill a bar on the screen and eventually earn some new, more powerful gear.
Make some alternate characters
You can have a total of three characters in Destiny 2 — a Titan, a Warlock, and a Hunter — and using two or all three of them gives you the chance to sort of leapfrog your characters by sharing equipment between them. That can help you get all of their power levels to about the same place, which will mean that instead of doing five milestones per week, you can do 10 or even 15, and then pool your characters’ resources together.
Once you get your alt character pretty close to where your main character is power-wise, start knocking out alt character milestones for guaranteed high-level gear drops. Armor will have to stay on your alt since it’s not interchangeable between classes, but any weapons you get that are above your power level will also give a boost to your main character. Sharing weapons back and forth can quickly increase the level of your characters up each week.
Step two: The road to 1250
Once you reach the soft cap, things slow down a lot. After power level 1200, you won’t simply get better gear by playing the game. Instead, you’ll need Powerful gear to increase your level. Powerful gear will always be higher than your base power level, so as you complete activities and earn Powerful gear, your power level will rise.
Powerful gear is separated into three tiers, noting how much higher the power level is than your current level:
- Tier 1: +3 to base power level
- Tier 2: +4 or +5 to base power level
- Tier 3: +6 to base power level
In addition to Powerful gear, there’s also Pinnacle gear, which increases your base power level by six. Don’t worry about Pinnacle gear for now, though. We’ll get to that in the next step.
You can earn Powerful gear by completing certain weekly objectives and milestones. If you look at your director, you’ll find golden marks, which indicate the ways you can get powerful gear. Think of these as your weekly chores; log in every week and complete as many of these as you can to optimize your grind. In its current state, you can pretty much gain rewards for doing any activity, so let’s break down some of the things you can focus on.
Strikes are a collection of longer missions that have their own playlist on your director. Each week, the playlist will have a different “burn” active, which means that a certain element’s power will be boosted during the strikes. Each week, you’ll get a Tier 1 reward if you complete three strikes while using a character subclass that matches up with that burn. For example, if Void Burn is active, you’d want to make sure your Warlock had their Void subclass equipped. Completing three strikes with that matching element equipped will give you a reward.
While you’re here, don’t forget that about Zavala’s Vanguard bounties. His bounties specifically deal with PvE activities and strikes, so this is a great way to accomplish those and get your weekly Vanguard reward for completing eight bounties.
Enter the Crucible
Each week, you can get Tier 1 rewards by completing matches within different Crucible (the game’s PvP mode) playlists. First, there are “Core Match” playlists. These are essentially basic game modes that are always available, like Control. Compete in four matches between these playlists, and you’ll get a reward. You don’t even need to win to accomplish this, so don’t worry about your skill level here.
Then there are Rotator playlists, which are special PvP modes that swap in and out every week. Rewards here work the exact same way as core matches: Compete in four matches between these playlists, and you get a Tier 1 reward, win or lose.
On top of all this, the Crucible includes a ranking system that can net you even more rewards. You’ll get experience for every match you complete, with wins in a streak upping your experience gain. Every time you rank up, you’ll get a package that contains a Tier 1 drop. This makes Crucible one of the most reliable methods for leveling up if you’re trying to grind. Between rank up rewards, Shaxx’s weekly bounty engram, and the prizes for weekly playlist completions, you can get a ton out of Crucible every week.
Many of the Tower’s basic vendors will give you Tier 1 engrams for completing eight of their bounties in a week. For example, you can complete eight of Shaxx’s Crucible bounties in a single week to gain a reward. You should always pick up as many bounties as you can, as completing them has a number of benefits (including giving you experience that goes toward unlocking seasonal rewards). If you don’t know where to start, focus on Gunsmith, Crucible, Vanguard, and Gambit bounties. All of these can be obtained within the Tower, and you’ll get Tier 1 gear from their corresponding vendor for completing eight of each every week.
Gambling on Gambit
Gambit is Destiny 2’s unique hybrid of PvE and PvP, and like Crucible, it can be very rewarding. For completing three Gambit matches every week, you’ll get a Tier 2 reward worth +4 to your base power. Much like Crucible, you’ll also get Tier 1 rewards every time you rank up, which can be achieved quicker by stringing together wins. Note that Gambit matches can be significantly longer than Crucible matches, so this might not be as fast a grind.
Again, the Drifter will give you a Tier 1 reward for completing eight Gambit bounties in a week, so make sure to pick these up before jumping in.
Join a Clan
If you play Destiny with friends, you’ll want to make a clan. Clans are an incredibly valuable way to get rewards. Each week, you can get Tier 1 engram in the Crucible, Strikes, Gambit, Nightfall, and Raid activities when you play them with clanmates. It’s an incentive to make some friends in Destiny 2, which makes the gear grind quicker and more fun to work through. Plus, you’ll get a Tier 2 reward every week for contributing enough clan XP, which simply translates to “play the game enough, and you’ll get a good reward every week.”
Speaking of just playing the game every week, Prime engrams are their own X-factor here. These are completely random drops that contain powerful rewards. Even if you’re not doing something on your checklist, there’s a good chance you’ll just get these randomly every once and a while, whether from random enemies or as rewards for completing activities. Always make sure to bring these to the Cryptarch when you find them for a little boost.
Do some Quests
After completing the story campaign in Destiny 2 and in the expansions, you can return to each planet and speak to its quest giver to open a new multistage mission called a quest. Quests are like more involved Adventure activities, and when you complete all of them on a planet (usually three), you’ll get some quality rewards.
Quests can often drop legendary and exotic weapons that can drop above your power level. So not only are you getting some cool gear, but you’ll also be getting a power boost for doing these. If you’re looking for a starting place, try tracking down the Hawkmoon quest from the Beyond Light expansion.
Step three: The Pinnacle cap
Once you reach 1250, you’ve hit the hard cap, meaning Powerful gear will no longer offer power levels above your base power level. Technically, though, you can push your overall power level further. This is done with Pinnacle gear, which is just Powerful gear that’s, well, slightly more powerful.
Unsurprisingly, the leveling rate decreases dramatically. In this final step, you’ll only gain 10 additional power levels, compared to 50 in step two and 150 in step one. That’s because Pinnacle gear drops are few and far between, they take a long time, and they’re very difficult.
Because of that, we recommend either getting really good at Crucible or putting together a team to take on raids. This will make grinding your last few levels easier — and, hopefully, a little more entertaining.
Crash the Crucible
We mentioned earlier that the Crucible is an extremely lucrative way to get powerful drops. But you can also get a Pinnacle drop for mastering it. Each season, you’ll get a Pinnacle reward for reaching Legend Glory rank in competitive mode. That means getting thousands of points over the course of a season in the game’s most challenging PvP playlist. If you just don’t have the patience for raids or Nightfalls, this at least gives you something to work toward, even if it’s only for one drop.
You can also earn a weekly Pinnacle drop by playing other modes. You’ll get a Pinnacle drop for five and seven wins in the Trials of Osiris and one for completing four Crucible matches in a week.
Run the raid
If you’ve hit 1250, that means you’re ready for the biggest piece of endgame content Destiny has to offer: Raids. Raids are complex missions that require six Guardians to complete. As of Beyond Light, the Deep Stone Crypt raid will give you a Pinnacle drop each week, and if you’re consistent, you can reach 1260 in no time. That’s assuming you can consistently get a group of six together, though.
Turning in raid reputation tokens will also get you great raid gear, but as with other reputation vendors, equipment will be below your level if you’re at or above the soft cap. As you’re working through a raid, there’s a chance that chests will drop higher-level gear. Run each raid after the weekly reset if you’re really interested in grinding your level up.
Even beyond Pinnacle gear, you’ll get extremely powerful gear for completing raid encounters, so if you’re all in on the grind, raids should be on your to-do list.
Mastering the Nightfall
Nightfalls are souped-up versions of strikes that switch things up by adding in random modifiers. With Shadowkeep, Nightfalls got a significant rework and now run under the “Ordeal” system that offers different tiers of difficulty for increased rewards. Simply completing a few every week will give you a Tier 1 drop, but Nightfalls are also a source of Pinnacle rewards.
If you want to pull this off, you’ll have to score a minimum of 100,000 when you finish a Nightfall. Unlike normal strikes, Nightfalls give you points for different things, such as killing enemies. To get enough points, you’ll need to play on one of the highest difficulty settings, meaning you’ll need to be close to 1250 to even attempt this. To pull this off, you’ll need to work fast, as the longer it takes, the more points you’ll lose, so try doing this with friends if you can so you can make sure you’re perfectly in sync.
There’s one last weird quirk to power levels: Seasonal artifacts. This mechanic is new to the series and gives players a way to boost their power level without needing high-level gear. When you make it to level seven in the season pass, you’ll gain the experience to access the artifact. Once you’ve unlocked the artifact, you don’t actually have to do anything extra to reap its benefits as you’ll just continue to increase your power level as you play. So, if all of your gear is 1215, but your artifact is leveled up enough that it’s giving you a +5 boost, your power level will be displayed as 1220.
Even though the official level cap is 1260, seasonal artifacts can get you closer to 1270 depending on how much you level it up during a season. So if you’re having trouble gaining levels once you’ve hit 1250, just keep doing what you like doing. You’ll gain XP no matter what, and that will buff your power level. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have 1260 gear because you can still make it to the top of the mountain with sheer grit and perseverance.
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