Once you hit level 20 in Destiny, the emphasis shifts away from XP and towards gear. Levels 20 to 30 are about obtaining high-end gear and upgrading it through a mixture of experience (which applies to equipped items) and materials (which you spend unlocking the extra potential of equipment when an item reaches certain experience thresholds). Your overall character level still goes up from 20 to 30, but instead of paying attention to XP the game is interested in the "Light" level associated with your armour. (Also, although it's not relevant for this guide, it's worth noting that any abilities for your character subclass that you haven't unlocked yet will continue to level normally as you accumulate more XP.)
It all sounds quite confusing and initially it will be, but once you get into a rhythm with the gear grind you will find it easy to understand - not to mention hilariously addictive.
Levelling guide - how to reach level 30 quickly
Our primary goal is still to level up our character, so let's start by looking at the big picture of how that happens. At launch, Destiny has a soft level cap of 20 and a hard level cap of 30. This means you reach level 20 simply by earning XP through missions, bounties and other activities, after which you need to focus on other things. In Destiny's case, levels 20 through 30 are all about the "Light" level associated with your armour.
Once you hit level 20, you start unlocking armour pieces that have this new Light stat associated with them. Helmets, Gauntlets, Chest and Leg Armour can all have Light ratings and in most cases it can be upgraded as you level up the equipment, which you do by wearing it while doing things that normally accumulate XP (such as completing missions, cashing in bounties or simply killing enemies) and then using materials (such as Glimmer, Spinmetal and Ascendant Materials) to activate the extra potential of the equipment.
Your overall Light number - calculated by adding the Light rating of those four armour pieces together - determines the overall level of your character. The game hides this journey behind a yellow progress bar that appears when you hover over the Light rating on the character select screen, but it also shows you a Light number and by comparing that to the values below you can see how close you are to achieving a higher overall character level.
- Level 21 = 20 Light
- Level 22 = 32 Light
- Level 23 = 43 Light
- Level 24 = 54 Light
- Level 25 = 65 Light
- Level 26 = 76 Light
- Level 27 = 87 Light
- Level 28 = 98 Light
- Level 29 = 109 Light
- Level 30 = 120 Light
In order to reach the highest Light levels, you will need to obtain legendary and even exotic armour pieces. A single piece of legendary armour begins with 18 Light and can be upgraded to 27, while exotic armour starts at 21 and goes to 30. This means that by equipping three fully upgraded legendary pieces and one exotic, you can hit level 29 (27+27+27+30=111). At present, the only way to hit level 30 is to obtain special legendary gear from the Vault of Glass Raid event, which has the same Light level potential as exotics.
How to get legendary armour
Getting your hands on legendary armour can take quite a while. Certainly, if you simply play the game in the way it suggests - completing daily and weekly events, participating in Strike and Crucible playlists and tooling around on Patrol - it will take ages because you will be reliant on random drops and only accumulate the currencies that matter in small increments. Fortunately there are slightly more direct ways of zeroing in on this high-value armour. By farming Vanguard Marks and Ascendant Materials, you can reduce the time it takes to climb higher than level 20 by a considerable amount. It will still take a while, but it is good fun and you will get there a lot quicker than the average player.
One thing to note before we start though: wherever you are, if you see a material deposit nearby, grab it. You will always need more materials. On Earth you're looking for Spinmetal, the shiny silver tendrils that stick out of brown barrels; on the Moon it's those glowing Helium Filaments; on Venus it's those white, flower-like Spirit Blooms; on Mars it's dark red Relic Iron. Materials are randomly placed but the spots are consistent over time, so you will get a sense of where to look as you spend more time in each area. Materials can also be found in random chests, which appear in the rooms and caves where enemies spawn and on other elevated or obscured parts of the map, so whenever you're idling in an area waiting for something, use the time to vacuum up materials and check any nooks and crannies for chests..
Farming Vanguard Marks
Once you hit level 18, you begin earning Vanguard Marks. You can obtain 100 Vanguard Marks in any given week (the reset is on Tuesdays at 10am GMT) and you can spend them with Vanguard vendors in the Tower. Your Vanguard mentor (Titan, Hunter or Warlock) will sell you legendary armour, which unlocks the precious Light we so covet, and once you have a full set of Vanguard legendary armour you can use any more Marks you gather with the Vanguard Quartermaster in the hangar, who sells some funky weapons.
It's also possible to farm Crucible Marks by playing Crucible matches and Marks for one of the game's three other factions (Dead Orbit, Future War Cult and New Monarchy) by purchasing class armour from their representatives in the Tower and then completing activities while wearing it. However, we're going to focus on Vanguard Marks for two reasons: 1) You gain Vanguard Marks for completing Public Events, which is key. 2) You will find it much faster to level up your Vanguard Reputation (which must hit level 2 before you can buy legendary armour) than the others because you've already gathered a lot of it by completing Vanguard bounties on the road from level 1 to level 20.
The best way by far to farm Vanguard Marks is to grind Public Events. Public Events are little set-piece battles that involve defending a location from assault or taking out a specific enemy or waves of enemies. The idea is that you join forces with any other Guardians in the area to complete them. Completing one to gold standard, which is pretty easy and doesn't require any special coordination between you and other random players, rewards you with four Vanguard Marks.
The trick is to use a website like destinypublicevents.com to work out when and where the next event is taking place and then to go and wait for it to start. As the website says, events are not guaranteed to occur, but in our experience there will usually be a few people in any given location waiting for one to begin, which helps. The most difficult part of grinding events is learning the geography of each planet well enough to chart an efficient path between locations, but this will come to you quite quickly. The best planet to grind Public Events is Earth, where events are most frequent.
Completing your first Public Event of the day will also reward you with an additional two Vanguard Marks and Ascendant Material, which you can pick up from the Postmaster back at the Tower. As with weekly resets, a new day in Destiny starts mid-morning UK time.
Your Vanguard mentor will sell you legendary armour at these prices:
- Helmets - 120 Vanguard Marks
- Gauntlets - 65 Vanguard Marks
- Chest Armour - 65 Vanguard Marks
- Leg Armour - 65 Vanguard Marks
Because of the weekly Vanguard Marks cap, you should try to time your grind so you max out on Monday and begin again on Tuesday. You will need 195 Vanguard Marks for Gauntlets, Chest Armour and Leg Armour (enough to get you to level 26 once fully upgraded), so if you start grinding on a weekend, max out in time for the reset and then start grinding again, in theory you could make it most of the way to level 30 in the space of a few days, playtime permitting.
Farming Ascendant Materials
Except, you will probably find it takes a bit longer than that because of the Ascendant Materials bottleneck. Levelling up your equipment in Destiny is partly about XP - killing enemies, completing events and cashing in bounties while your new armour is equipped will start levelling it up, a process you can check in on by highlighting the relevant armour piece and hitting the Details button. But in order to unlock the extra Light each armour piece contains, you need to spend some materials. You probably have a decent amount of Glimmer already, while you can pick up plenty of planetary materials while you're waiting for Public Events. But Ascendant Materials are more difficult to obtain. There are a few guaranteed ways though:
- Complete the Daily Heroic story missions at level 24 or 28 (you need to change the difficulty manually) and you receive Ascendant Material, either Shards (for upgrading armour) or Energy (for upgrading weapons)
- Completing your first Public Event of the day rewards you with Ascendant Material, handed out by the Postmaster in the Tower
- Completing sections of the Vault of Glass Raid rewards you with Ascendant Material
- Decrypting decoherent or legendary engrams sometimes rewards you with Ascendant Material
- Dismantling legendary armour or weapons usually rewards you with Ascendant Material
- Completing Crucible matches or opening loot chests occasionally rewards you with Ascendant Material
Of those, initially you will receive the most by completing Public Events daily. Once you hit higher levels, start running the Daily Heroics at higher level so you can increase your earning potential in a 24-hour period. As with everything in Destiny, bringing a friend or two along will make these activities a lot easier.
How to get exotic armour
Grinding for legendary armour takes a while but will not place huge demands on your abilities, apart from that occasional Public Event where nobody else shows up and you're expected to take down an irritatingly resilient Fallen Captain single-handedly. If you want to speed up the process of getting your hands on exotic armour, however, then you are going to need to enlist a couple of friends and turn on the flair.
That's because the best way to obtain exotic armour is to buy it from Xur, Agent of the Nine, a mysterious trader who appears in a random location in the Tower once a week for 48 hours between Friday and Sunday morning UK time. Xur will sell you exotic armour (he usually has a piece each for the three classes) but he only accepts the Strange Coin currency. And he wants 13 Strange Coin for each piece.
(Xur also sells an exotic engram for 24 Motes of Light, which are easier - although slightly more random - to obtain, but you cannot predict which class the decrypted armour piece will be bound to, so the likelihood is you will spend your Motes of Light and end up with something you can't use. Although at least in this instance you can dismantle it and obtain some Ascendant Material.)
Farming Strange Coins
Strange Coin (the style seems to be "Strange Coin" as plural rather than "Strange Coins") is randomly rewarded at various times in the game - for completing Public Events, opening gold loot chests, decrypting decoherent engrams, etc - but the only reliable thing about those processes is that, by spending a lot of time playing the game, you will gradually end up with more Strange Coin. If you want to speed things up, the only way to do so is to take part in the Weekly Heroic Strikes.
These weekly events are for 1-3 players and take you through a rotating cast of Strikes from the game but at higher difficulty settings and with certain conditions active. For example, at the time of writing the weekly is the Nexus Strike from Venus with 'Angry' enemies and Void Burn, meaning weapons that deal Void damage (either belonging to you or the enemy) are more powerful than usual. Completing these weekly events rewards participants with Strange Coin depending on the difficulty level. The Weekly Heroic Strike at level 22 rewards three Strange Coin, level 26 rewards six and level 28 rewards nine. If you complete it at a low level and then complete it at a higher one later, you will be rewarded with the extra Strange Coin.
Weekly Heroic Strikes (and Nightfall, which is much more difficult) are formidable undertakings even for experienced players. It is possible to complete them solo and there are lots of guides out there for doing so, but you will have more success, not to mention more fun, if you team up with a couple of friends and work together to take them down.
Once you have the Strange Coin you need, work out where Xur is located between Friday and Sunday and go spend your loot. Xur varies his position, but you can locate him pretty quickly if you know the layout of the Tower - just look for a cluster of high-level players who are stationary in an area where you know there isn't a vendor. They will be standing with Xur.
Going beyond level 30
At the time of writing, it is not possible to get any higher than level 30. However, Bungie has announced that the first Destiny expansion, The Dark Below, will raise the level cap to 32 by adding armour with higher Light levels. The Dark Below is due out 9th December 2014.