The arrival of new expansion Rise of Iron and its higher difficulty Raid means one thing - a new Destiny Light level cap to work towards. Whether you're moving on up past the 385 cap from the expansion's launch or haven't played Destiny at all for some time, figuring out how to reach Light level 400 makes Rise of Iron's end-game content - such as Wrath of the Machine Hard Mode and Crucible event Iron Banner - all that more easier to take on. Here's the various ways you can get there.
Destiny's Light system - How leveling works in Rise of Iron
Before we get started, a quick reminder of how Light Level works in Destiny. Once you hit experience Level 40 - which increases as you gain experience points from activities throughout the game - there is a second rank that takes into account the average 'Light level' of all your currently equipped weapons and armour - this is the large, gold number on the upper right of your inventory page.
Not only does increasing your Light Level make your attack and defensive abilities better, but it also opens the door to new activities. Many end-game events have a recommended Light Level, and having the highest Light Level possible is advised for end-game content, such as the game's Raids. Here's a list of the most prominent activities and their recommended Light levels:
- SIVA Crisis Heroic Strike playlist - Light level 350
- Daily Heroic Story - Light level 350
- Wrath of the Machines Normal Raid - Light level 370
- Weekly Nightfall Strike - Light level 380
- Wrath of the Machines Raid - Light level 380
The way loot drops work in Destiny is that while it can drop at a lower or the same Light level that you are on now, it will generally scale with you - usually capped at up to five Light levels above, depending on the activity - so the more you play, the more chances of you gaining better loot will be.
Note that though Year 1 gear will always be capped at a Light Level of 170, Bungie has confirmed that all Year 2 equipment - which was capped at 335 - can be freely Infused (the process of 'moving' the Light level of one piece of equipment to another you want to improve) to Year 3's level cap of 400.
How to reach Light Level 400 in Destiny and get past those frustrating 350 Light, 385 Light milestones
Following the April update and continuing in the Rise of Iron expansion, there was a welcome change to how drops worked that meant players could increase their Light level from a variety of sources, not just the six-person dependent Raid.
That said, certain activities and sources 'cap' the amount of Light you can get for them - such as Engrams - forcing players to shift their focus elsewhere to keep increasing. Remember you're free to do 400 Light activities from when you start the expansion, as they will offer scaled loot at lower levels (if you're powerful enough to do them) - it's just that other parts of the game will be easier and quicker.
Activities in the game and their capped Light level drops:
Vendors or Quests that provide loot at 350 Light:
- Xur's Exotics
- Items purchased with Legendary Marks
- Destiny Artifacts available once a week
- Exotics such as the Gjallarhorn Quest and Khvostov Quest
Vendors or Quests that provide loot at 365 Light:
- Decryping Rare (blue) Engrams
- Normal difficulty Strikes
- Challenge of the Elders scorecard completions
Activities that drop loot up to 385 Light:
- Heroic difficulty Strikes
- Legendary Engrams
- Archon's Forge (Armor sets)
- Watch of the Machine Raid - Normal mode
Activities that drop loot up to 390 Light:
- Faction reward packages
Activities that drop loot up to 400 Light:
- Strike-specific loot with Skeleton Keys
- Nightfall Strike
- Decryping Exotic Engrams
- Trials of Osiris
- Crucible match rewards
- Weekly Crucible Bounties
- Iron Banner
- Watch of the Machine Raid - Hard mode
- Archon's Forge (Class items, Artifacts and Ghosts only)
So first, let's discuss the best practices to increase your Light level in Destiny as you play Rise of Iron:
- When you first progress through the game's story missions and initial Quests, play everything as you would normally, as the Rare (blue) items and Engrams can increase your Light Level to 365.
- When you decrypt Engrams, and run activities that can drop gear at higher Light levels, always have the highest Light level possible equipped before doing so, as this is what the loot will scale to. If you have a stack of Engrams to decrypt, check the Light of the new armour that's just dropped before progressing to the next Engram, to always ensure you are at the highest possible level.
- Spend your Legendary Marks - which are accrued from Daily and Weekly playlists, Patrol events and elsewhere - on purchasing Legendary gear from vendors, as well as getting Rise of Iron's new Artifacts, will get to 350 Light as fast as you can.
- The Crucible can reward high Light level gear all the way up to the 400 cap, and while it's possibly slower than other more reliable sources, it means you should have the highest light Gear on you in the event this does happen.
- New event Archon's Forge is a particularly lucrative source of Engrams, with certain loot items (Class items, Ghosts and Artifacts) dropping all the way up to the 400 cap. Trouble is the SIVA Offering items that trigger it are limited, and you'll need to play with others (whether in your Fireteam or found in the Patrol) to make this an achievable goal. But if you do, then farming this can really help you gain levels.
- Always use a Three of Coins item before fighting major enemies and participating in Crucible match, giving you a (low) chance of dropping an Exotic engram, which not only often decrypt at higher Light levels, but will help you all the way to Light level 400. Be sure to stock up on these from Xur when he visits Friday to Sunday.
- You can gain Light level gear or armour rewards all the way up to 390 from leveling up Factions, such as Vanguard or Crucible, so always keep an eye on activities that may tick you over to get better loot. From there, only certain activities and Exotics will make the difference.
Between Blue Engrams and purchasing items from Vendors, it should be fairly straightforward to get to 350 / 365. However, the jump from Light level there to Light level 385 and 400 can be a difficult one. Here's some tips to help close the gap:
- According to Bungie upon the game's release, the Legendary Engram Light value will decline in worth as you climb towards its level cap, where Engrams will grant something higher half the time. It's here where other activities are worth doubling down on to improve your chances of increasing Light level.
- As you run out of story missions, a good way to fast track Light level increases is by doing a Strike playlist, which will generate a healthy number of drops (not Engrams) tied to your current Light level. We managed to go up one Light level per two Strikes on average, so an afternoon's play helped us make good progress. While this playlist becomes less useful once you pass 385, remember since Strike-specific loot will drop up to level 400, and you can still use Exotic Engrams.
- Getting up to 400 Ghosts and Artifacts can be particularly difficult. Generally, these will both eventually drop from Engram decryptions, and between that and the fact they contribute less Light than weapons and armour means you shouldn't worry too much about them. In the October Light level increase, Archon's Forge will drop both of these up to the new 400 cap, and outside of Engrams and that event, Faction rewards can give you Ghosts, while Artifacts can drop from finishing Strikes or leveling the Crota's Bane Faction.
- Fancy using the Omnigul exploit to help get you leveled a little faster? It's since been patched out by Bungie, so spend your efforts on the regular Strike playlist instead.
From there, as you go from Level 385 to 400, Legendary Engrams and Strike Playlists won't help you. It's from there certain activities - such as the Raid, the Nightfall, Iron Banner Trials of Osiris, as well as Exotics and leveling Factions - will offer the higher Light level loot you need.
The overall fastest and easiest ways to gain Light levels in Destiny
In terms of the fastest way to gain Light levels in general, once you're high enough level and have practiced it, Raid remains the best way to go, especially with the added possibility of using Three of Coins and SIVA Cache Key chests after boss battles. Alongside the Hard mode Light level cap increase, Bungie said loot from the Raid will drop at higher Light on average. If you're not close to the 370 entry for the Raid, we'd recommend the Heroic Strike playlist, especially if there is an elemental burn to speed things along.
Secondly, at least going by its debut week in October, Iron Banner is a very good way of getting drops thick and fast. Between post-match completions, weekly Bounties and Quest stages - not to mention using Three of Coins - you'll easily go up a handful of Light levels by the time you hit rank 5, and thanks to the way the reputation and Bounty systems have been revamped, requires less skill than before. Above all, you can take part in the event alone and just matchmake with randoms, as opposed to the organisational trial that is setting up a Raid, so it's well worth dedicating a few evenings during Iron Banner week if you can.
Otherwise, those proficient at Crucible will find the weekly Trials of Osiris event another speedy way to get drops, while Strikes and Archon's Forge are a time efficient way of getting Engrams, especially if you factor in experience-boosting items to also get Faction rewards that little bit faster. For those on the way to 365, Challenge of the Elders is also straightforward and will also take you between an hour and 90 minutes for a full Scorecard completion, guaranteeing you two drops per week.
As for the easiest practice to stick to, always always use Three of Coins - the item you can buy from Xur, the merchant appears in social spaces at weekends - as much as possible. Remember to use one before tackling any high level enemy and before every Crucible match. Exotic Engrams tend to decypt at higher levels more often than not, and even if you can't equip it, it can always be Infused into a Legendary. The fact they decrypt until the level cap of 400 make them eternally useful, so get in the practice of keeping one active at all times.
Want more Destiny: Rise of Iron guides, tips and tricks? Then read our Wrath of the Machine walkthrough and guides, complete list of all Dormant SIVA Cluster locations, tips on how to reach Destiny's max Light level, how to complete the Exotic Gjallarhorn Quest, Khvostov 7G-OX Quest and Thorn Quest and new modes Vanguard Elite Strike Scoring and SRL.
Other things to remember to reach max Light level in Destiny
- After the April update, Infusion carries 100% of the Light Level, not a close approximation as it was before. This means that those who don't like using Shotguns or Sidearms can infuse high Light level versions into a Sniper Rifle, for example, or any Exotics that can't be equipped with your loadout (if you can't bear to part ways with your Black Spindle, for example) can still be used for their Light.
- You can give high Level weapons and infuse armour drops from other classes, which is particularly handy if you want to boost the Levels of second or third characters to run lucrative gear sources - such as the Raid - more than once per week.
- While we wouldn't recommend it as a Light-raising strategy due to its difficulty and length of time it takes, but it's worth noting the new Exotic weapon Overload Prime drops at 390 Light, which should boost you up a few levels.
- To stress the importance of this, we're going to repeat it here - always remember that whenever you decrypt an Engram or receive Faction rewards to equip the highest possible amount of Light you have, as it will only take into account your current Light level - and not what you have equipped previously / have in your inventory right now. The same applies with activities that drop loot at your level too - so the Raid, Nightfall, Crucible and more.