Destiny's first expansion, The Dark Below, adds new story missions, Strike and Raid content, as well as all sorts of new gear and weaponry, but for many players the most interesting prospect will be going beyond the previously hard-coded level limit of 30. With the right gear it is now possible to hit level 32. So where and how do you obtain the bits you need?
Please note that this guide is for people who have already reached the upper levels of Destiny and understand the basics about going beyond level 20. If you are still learning the game, check out our original Destiny guide, which contains advice on how to hit 20 and start gaining ground beyond that.
How to get to level 31 without buying The Dark Below
The first thing to note is that everyone playing Destiny can now reach level 31, whether or not you buy The Dark Below. The key is the new legendary (purple) armour being sold around the Tower. Bungie has gotten rid of the old stock held by the Vanguard, Crucible and Faction vendors and replaced it with new legendary items that have a higher potential light level. The old gear could only deliver 27 light. The new stuff goes to 33. In order to hit level 31, you need a total of 132 light. Conveniently enough, four pieces of the new armour will give you that, because 33x4=132. (Who needs Brain Training, eh?)
If you already have a lot of Vanguard and Crucible Marks and have ranked up the vendors sufficiently, you can probably buy a few things immediately. Vanguard, Crucible and Faction vendors (New Monarchy, Future War Cult and Dead Orbit) all sell new gauntlets, chest and leg armour for 75 Marks apiece if you are rank 2, while helmets are 120 Marks and require rank 3 and a Commendation. We'll come to Commendations in a second.
If you're a little short on Marks, then you will need to grind them before you can buy things. One good way to obtain Vanguard Marks is to chase Public Events using destinypublicevents.com; successfully completed Public Events reward you with four Vanguard Marks and you get another two (plus an ascendant material) for your first event of the day. The other way is to take part in Vanguard Strike playlists, which reward Marks in a steady stream. It is also worth completing the new Dark Below story content so that you can unlock the Will of Crota Strike, which offers up 20 Vanguard Marks the first time you finish it.
For Crucible Marks, you just need to play a lot of Crucible. Remember to take on the daily playlist promoted on the navigation screen for a slight boost.
When you have four pieces of the new legendary armour, all you need to do is level them up to the maximum. It will take time to obtain the necessary amount of XP, not to mention the planetary and ascendant materials required to finish them off, but if you've gotten this far then you are undoubtedly used to the Destiny grind by now. Welcome to more of it! Don't forget to finish the Nightfall to gain that weeklong XP boost.
How to get a Vanguard, Crucible or Faction Commendation
In some cases, all you need to buy the new gear is Vanguard and Crucible Marks and a sufficient ranking with the respective vendor. For a few pieces, however, you will also need a Commendation, which is awarded when you next cross a ranking threshold for that vendor. For example, if you are rank 4 with the Vanguard vendors, when you hit rank 5 you will receive a Vanguard Commendation. This will satisfy one of the criteria necessary to buy the new high-level Vanguard helmet for your class.
In order to increase your Vanguard ranking and gain that Commendation, equip a neutral class item (a Titan Mark, Hunter Cloak or Warlock Bond that isn't allied to a Faction) and do things that gain lots of XP. Completing daily PVE bounties is a good way of doing this because they offer decent windfalls each time you cash them in with Xander, while high-level events like dailies and weeklies also bestow big chunks of XP. You can also gain a bit of XP by completing Patrol missions, although you will need to do a lot to gain much ground.
Increasing your Crucible rank follows the same principles: gain XP in the Crucible without wearing Faction-specific class items. Crucible bounties will be helpful here, as will completing the daily playlist. To increase your ranking with the New Monarchy, Future War Cult and Dead Orbit Factions, you first need to buy a class item from them in the Tower in exchange for some Glimmer, then equip it and complete activities that reward you with XP windfalls. It doesn't matter whether you do this in PVE or PVP, because the XP will automatically accrue with the Faction whose item you're wearing.
You can check on your ranking progress by visiting one of the relevant vendors or by checking the Advisors section of the Bungie.net website or Destiny companion app. Once you reach the next ranking - it doesn't matter if you're currently 0 or 26 - you should receive the relevant Commendation in a package delivered via the Postmaster.
How to get to level 32 in Destiny
As with the original version of Destiny that shipped in September 2014, the only way to reach the level cap is to obtain Raid gear. (Bungie subsequently altered this so gear pieces delivered via the Iron Banner PVP event would also bring you closer to the cap, and this will likely continue when Iron Banner returns, but if the principles remain the same then you will still need at least some Raid gear.)
That means going into the Crota's End Raid in The Dark Below. As with Vault of Glass, you will need to assemble a fireteam of six people and then work together to make progress. New Raid gear can be obtained in loot chests and by reaching checkpoints in the new Raid, e.g. by reaching the bridge beyond the initial Abyss section or by defeating the Deathsinger. The new Raid gear delivers 36 light, four lots of which will give you the 144 light you need overall to hit level 32.
As with the Vault of Glass, you are not guaranteed to receive Raid gear when you play through Crota's End - in theory, you are in the lap of the random number gods. However, Bungie has stated that it felt the drop rate in the Vault of Glass was not entirely fair on players and wishes to make amends with Crota's End. The game will now make note of when you last received an exciting Raid drop (a weapon or gear) and make sure that the interval between that and the next similarly exciting drop is not too lengthy.
And if you've managed to obtain three pieces but that fourth one eludes you, the good news is that Xur, the weekend vendor who appears in the Tower from Friday to Sunday morning, is now selling a rotating cast of exotic armour pieces that can deliver 36 light. He will also sell upgrade modules for your existing exotic armour pieces in exchange for a bundle of Glimmer and an Exotic Shard. As usual, though, you can't predict or guarantee what Xur will be selling, so keep checking in.
Once you have obtained four pieces of gear that can reach 36 light, you will need to level them up in order to unlock their full potential. You do this in the standard way but there is one new consideration: in order to reach the highest levels on your Raid gear, you will need Radiant Shards, a new ascendant material that can be obtained in Crota's End or by purchasing it from Eris Morn in the Tower, providing you have ranked her up enough.
Oh well, I guess you'll just have to keep running Crota's End. As if you needed another excuse...