The arrival of Destiny 2 brings with it new end-game activities and yes - a new Destiny 2 Power level cap to work towards.
Power level is the new name for Light level, and ever since the original Destiny game this is the first time you are starting to build it up from scratch.
Though it works in somewhat the same way - and there are many more ways to get most the way there - there are a few differences worth noting. Doing so will help you reach the game's richest end-game content, from the Nightfall to the Raid.
Here's the various ways you can get to the Destiny 2 Power level cap.
Destiny 2's Power system - How levelling works, Power Level vs Light level
For those coming from the original Destiny, your Power Level is essentially the new name for Light Level, though it is now a number that is visible and worth working on as soon as you start the game.
Whether you forgot the ins and outs of the system, or are completely new to Destiny in general, here's how it works.
There are two numbers associated with how powerful your Guardian is on the gear screen - Experience Level and Power Level. Everything you do in Destiny 2 - completing missions, Patrol activities, killing monsters - gives you XP, and at a certain point, you will hit the experience level cap of 20.
There is also a large number on the right, which is your Power level. This second rank takes into account the average 'Power level' of all your currently equipped weapons and armour.
Essentially, every piece of gear that drops could be higher than what you have, so you want to keep an eye on your inventory, look at any flashing boxes in armour or weapon slots, and compare the two. Swap it around, and the average should increase a few points.
This is the system that essentially dictates how powerful you are the entire game. However, experience level is important to begin with because that restricts not only early story mission access, but what Power you can reach.
So if your experience level is too low to progress or equip something, get XP. This is thankfully really simple - just play the game. Killing enemies and completing story missions is the easiest way to do this, and if you're stuck, complete the game's many planetary activities (such as Lost Sectors, Public Events) until it goes up.
Either way, you should hit experience level 20 by the time you complete the game's core set of story missions. Once you hit the cap you can still earn XP, with each 'level up' giving you a Bright Engram. But you should worry less about XP in general - as this is when power level really matters.
Why Power level is important
Not only does increasing your Power Level make your attack and defensive abilities better, but it also opens the door to new activities. Many end-game events have a recommended Power Level, and having the highest Power Level possible is advised for end-game content.
Here's a list of the most prominent activities that require high Power levels:
- Vanguard Strike Playlist - 140 Power Level
- End-game planetary story missions - 200 on Nessus, 220 on Titan, 240 on Io, 260 on EDZ
- Weekly Nightfall Strike - 230 Power level required, 240 Power Level recommended
- Trials of the Nine - 260 Power Level
- Leviathan Raid - Between 260-280 Power level
- Legendary Mods to be traded with Banshee-44 - 280 Power Level
- Prestige Nightfall - 300 Power Level recommended
Essentially, as you have been doing so far, you need to get increasingly high numbers of Power on your weapons and armour to bring up your average. That is essentially the end game, finding ways to increase your Power level from as many ways as possible.
The way loot drops work in Destiny is that while it can drop at a lower or the same Power level that you are on now, it will generally scale with you to give you increases a few levels above - so the more you play, the more chances of you gaining better loot will be.
Though in our experience Faction rewards can also drop up to 10 levels above your current gear level - by and large weapons and armour will increase based on that current items level, not your overall Power - so don't expect to jump huge amounts if haven't seen a particular gear item for a while, as it'll likely be just a few levels at once.
However, these regular drops and Engrams only work until a point - as once you hit level 265-270, you need to look elsewhere for the best possible gear to take you forward.
Power level sources to help you get past 265 Power level and towards 300 Power
Learning which sources give what Power loot is key to faster and more effective levelling. However, unlike the original Destiny, the vast majority of activities will drop loot at a cap of 265 to 270, meaning it's easier to simply play the game how you want and gradually level up.
However from there, may activities - including Legendary Engrams - will cap the amount of gear you can get from them, forcing players to shift their focus elsewhere to keep increasing.
Legendary Engrams and standard loot will stop at around 265-270, and so you must seek out 'Powerful Gear'. (Note that these 'regular' sources will technically scale with you, but at a pace of around 10 levels behind - so if you are 281-2, this loot will drop at 271-2.) This section explains the differences between activities, and tips to reach this soft cap - while the end of this article explains how best to go beyond.
Note you're free to do any activity you choose (assuming you've unlocked it) when you reach the end-game, even if it's far higher level than you, though they will still offer scaled loot at your lower level.
Activities that scale with you until the cap of 265 to 270:
- Blue and Purple drops from enemies
- Getting Faction rewards
- Decrypting Blue and Purple Engrams
- Completing activities (such as Public Events, Lost Sectors, Strikes, Crucible) for loot chests
- Trials of the Nine match completion drops
- Xur's Exotics (270 Power Level cap)
Once you reach 265 / 270, then you have to switch and work on specific activities to increase your level, including the game's many 'Powerful Gear' sources. Otherwise, loot will remain at this lower cap.
'Powerful Gear' sources that scale with you until the 300-350 level cap:
- Weekly Nightfall Strike drops and Milestone rewards
- Leviathan Raid loot drops and Milestone reward
- Trials of the Nine vendor rewards
- Weekly Flashpoint Milestone reward
- Maxing out your weekly Clan XP contribution, Clan Engram drops
- Possible drops from Cayde's weekly Treasure Maps
- Weekly Call to Arms Crucible Milestone
- Exotic quests, such as Mida Multi-Tool, Rat King and Sturm
- Exotic Engrams / drops (which can drop a random from any 'regular' up to 265 Power activity)
As mentioned, most of these activities can only be done once a week and allow you to do them again upon the weekly reset, while others - such as the Exotic quests - drop only once.
Currently unknown Power levels drops from end-game activities:
- Iron Banner
With the above in mind, what are the best practices to increase your Power level as you play Destiny 2?
- Though Power level is relevant as soon as you start the game, first progress through the game's story missions and initial Quests, play everything as you would normally, to get to the 'experience' level cap of 20. Then, you can start worrying about Power level.
- From there, since the vast majority of events drop Rare Engrams - even regular Public events and enemy drops - you can easily continue playing what activities you like and level at a steady pace.
- If you want to power level up faster, then we'd recommended sticking to Public Events, as these give you a guaranteed blue drop and take just five to ten minutes to complete - and even more rewards if you manage to trigger the Heroic version. Use your map and time your arrival in their zones to minimise your waiting time as much as possible.
- Combine Public Events with the Tokens you receive for doing so, and you can level up Faction rewards at the same time - which in our experience can drop Legendary loot up to 10 or so levels higher than what you currently have.
- Story missions and Adventures, while good for XP, probably aren't the fastest way to get gear. That said, it can be a source of Ability Points for your classes; check their Rewards before you take them on.
- Unlike the first game, Engrams no longer have you equip the highest possible level gear before your go to the Cryptarch, as the game will work that out for you.
- However, there are two important caveats. Engrams will now give loot based on when they drop, not when you decrypt, so use them as soon as possible to reap their benefits. But if you have levelled a Faction and are rewarded an Engram, don't pick it up, as that will trigger the Engram cap. While it's waiting to be collected it'll scale to your level, so wait as long as possible before collecting it.
- Though you can do them before 265 soft cap, hold off from doing Cayde's Treasure Maps, Exotic Quests and the Nightfall until you are close to or past it, as they are some of the few reliable post 265 sources of gear.
- Infusion is less of a concern in Destiny 2 since Engrams and drops will take into account your potential Power and not your currently equipped Power, but it means you can use Infuse Exotics into Legendary Gear and take advantage of Mods better on gear that already has it.
- Speaking of Mods - these are new consumables that can increase the Power level of Legendary Gear by 5, and can be a helpful way of giving you a small boost at higher levels. Though you can most easily get them post-280, Infusing higher level items into already-modded gear can give you gains as soon as you start dealing with Legendary gear. This is more useful as you progress past 270 and particularly 280, with our Destiny 2 Mods and Infusion going into this process in far greater detail.
- Xur's Exotics scale with you until Power level 270, so save your Legendary Shards and wait for his arrival on a Friday to give you a boost if you've yet to reach it.
Want more on Destiny 2? Our Destiny 2 guide tells you everything else there is to know on the game so far, including Lost Sectors, Treasure Map locations, Heroic Public Events, and Flashpoints on EDZ, Titan, Nessus and Io. Elsewhere we explain how to Power level to the 265, 300 and 350 Power caps, as well as what to spend Glimmer on, how to join Clans and how Mods, Infusion, and Engrams and Legendary Shards work, Crucible tips, a Destiny 2 Exotics list, details on the Nightfall schedule, Trials of the Nine and the weekly reset, how to unlock classes and subclasses, and how to complete the Destiny 2 Raid.
Making your way up to Power level 300 and max level 350 in Destiny 2
Between standard Engrams and purchasing items from Vendors, it should be fairly straightforward to get to 265-270 cap. However, as with the first game, the Power level jump from there to 300 can be a difficult one.
The max level cap is technically 350, as explained by the game when you attempt to Infuse something. However, it appears the game slows your progress around the 300 mark - suggesting yet another soft cap. Right now few have got close, suggesting it requires new activities or mods to close the cap.
Until then, here's how to get as close to that cap as possible, which right now is around 300.
- You are essentially looking to get what Milestones call 'Powerful Gear' - which comes from a variety of end-game activities as listed above.
- Most Powerful Gear sources can only be unlocked once before the Tuesday weekly reset, so make sure you complete before that happens. If you complete the Milestone and don't collect your reward, it'll auto decrypt when you next log into the game.
- That said, if you have Powerful Gear rewards waiting and you aren't at the 265 cap yet, then wait until as close to or past the cap as best you can, since they are rarer than standard drops and offer better Power level gear.
- According to players on Reddit, several players - as well as those with alternative characters are stuck on getting 272/273 when players are hitting the mid-280s or above. With the original Destiny, it was harder to progress to the cap the closer you got, and it's possible that's the case here (the RNG - or random number generator - playing unfair). Others, especially in the case of alts, are suggesting a bug. The general advice appears continue hitting those high level sources - such as the Nightfall - for your best bet at the highest levels.
- If Destiny 2 is like the original, the fastest way to gain Power levels in general - once it unlocks, you are high enough level and have practiced it - will be replaying the Raid every week. If you can get a regular team to play this activity, then it should be the best source of Power levelling in the game.
- Exotic weapon quests - such as Mida Multi-Tool, Rat King and Sturm - will drop based on your Power level, and are not preset - so make sure you are as high a level as possible before undertaking them to get the best gains. (Thanks to the Destiny subreddit for clarifying this.)
- In the original game's third year, Iron Banner (and for those skilled though, the Trials Crucible event) became a particularly useful way to get Gear drops all the way to the level cap, between its end-of-match drops, Bounty (now Challenge) completions and the ease of matchmaking with others and not having to organise fireteams. So if you're struggling, then it's worth checking in when that goes live to see if the same applies this time.
What you should also do past Power level 280
So once you get past the 265/270 range, the best course of action is to do Powerful Gear activities - indicated by the Milestones - as well as the Nightfall and Raid every week. These drop gear that scale with you to the level cap.
In-between that you can also micro-manage your gear through Mods and Infusing. What you need to do is ensure everything has a Mod attached to give it a +5 Power boost - and if it doesn't, Infuse a higher level item without a Mod into something that does have one to get the boost - until level 280.
At this point, you can visit Gunsmith vendor Banshee-44, who can trade you Rare (blue) Mods for Legendary ones, making it far easier to have everything you own have a Mod equipped if it hasn't already.
If you want to read more, our Destiny 2 Mods and Infusion page goes into the specifics of how these systems work, and how to know which gear to Mod into and not. Mastering it will give you small but valuable increments at this slow endgame stage.
That's the cycle you then follow. Complete Milestones, and when you get new Legendary gear, add a Mod to it if it hasn't already, and repeat, slowly making your way up towards the cap.
Additionally, though one offs, Exotic Weapon quests are a great way to top up any weapon slots with low levels. For example, if your Kinetic is lower than the rest, then doing the Mida Mini-Tool will give you a guaranteed higher level Kinetic drop upon completion.
Otherwise, patiently waiting until the weekly reset to gain access to those Milestones is your best bet.