The arrival of Destiny 2's Black Armoury brings a new Destiny 2 Power level cap to work towards - now set at 650 Power.
However, with the soft cap remaining at 500, getting to the max level cap works practically the same way as when Forsaken arrived.
But whether you've last been playing, getting closer to 650 will help you reach the game's richest end-game content, from the Nightfall to new Raids.
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What's changed in Destiny 2's Power Level system and how to get to Power level 500
If you're jumping into Destiny 2's second year with Forsaken, levelling mostly works the same as before, but with the following changes:
- The XP cap has increased from 30 to 50, and while the Power Level 'soft cap' is 500, it's said to be tied to your XP cap progress - so once you reach XP level 50, you can reach the soft cap of 500.
- Didn't reach 550 before the release of Black Armoury? Though the soft cap is the same, getting to 550 has been made easier, with more Prime Engram drops and more Power level jumps to get you there.
- The usual rule of Power level increasing slightly with new loot has changed a little. Completing activities while "severely under-leveled" will offer larger Power upgrades, and vice versa, so don't be surprised by a drop much higher than you are from time-to-time. For example, we got 500+ drops from Crucible matches despite being around the 400 mark! However, by and large, expect loot to scale just above your current Power level as before.
- Milestones are now 'Challenges' that appear in the Director. Up to XP level 50, these drop Legendary loot. After 50, these are replaced by Powerful Gear activities to help you get past the soft cap of 500, and have different Weekly and Daily resets.
- Planetary Tokens and their respective Vendor Engrams no longer really exist, so instead the three vendors you'll use to get Legendary Engrams from are Zavala (Strikes), Shaxx (Crucible) and Gunsmith (Gunsmith materials).
- Mods no longer grant +5 Power level, so any existing weapons or armour with that mod has disappeared. On the bright side, you no longer have to worry about Infusing with this in mind.
- Infusion now works based on the slot it's in (Primary needs a Primary weapon) and not the weapon type (so you can no longer Infuse an Energy Pulse Rifle into a Kinect Pulse Rifle).
Though it's generally the same system as previously - you will gradually get better loot from all drops until level 50 and Power level 500 - you might see a much higher level item drop appear from time-to-time. The biggest take away, ultimately, is if you're not at level 50, the Power level 'soft cap' won't be at 500, so get there as soon as you can.
Want to get to Power Level 500 as soon as possible? We recommend:
- Getting to XP level 50. Starting with Forsaken story missions until you hit a wall is probably the best way to get started, as it will naturally give you loot as you go.
- Crucible matches and Public Events are still the best way of getting loot and XP quickly, even if the XP gains from Public Events have been reduced in favour of an increase from Strikes and the Nightfall.
- Once you meet Tangled Shore vendor Spider, his array of Wanted Bounties are a good source of easy-to-find Legendary Gear.
- Don't worry about Infusing until you hit the soft cap. Not only is it easier to just get loot drops - since Infusion now costs Planetary materials - but most of them will be rare (blue), which can't be Infused anyway.
- Don't cash in all your Vanguard, Crucible and Gunsmith tokens all at once. If you can, wait until you are experience level 50, when the soft cap is at its highest point, but don't wait too much longer - they are only good until level 500.
- If you have Powerful Gear waiting but you haven't hit 500 yet, wait until you have before collecting it, as they are one of the few sources of loot in the game that will get you from 500 to 650.
If you aren't focused on getting to Power Level 500 as fast as possible, then just enjoy the game at your own pace. Then from after that, the Powerful Gear grind begins.
Destiny 2 Power level sources list to get to max level cap 650, including Powerful Gear sources
Learning which sources give what Power loot is key to faster and more effective levelling. The vast majority of activities will drop loot at a soft cap of 500, meaning it's easier to simply play the game how you want and gradually level up.
However from there, may activities - including Legendary Engrams and Vendor rewards - will cap the amount of gear you can get from them, forcing players to shift their focus elsewhere to keep going up.
Legendary Engrams and standard loot will stop at around 500, 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 551-2, this loot will drop at 541-2.)
Activities that scale with you until the cap of 500:
- Blue and Purple drops from enemies
- Decrypting Blue and Purple Engrams
- Getting rewards from Tower vendors Zavala (Strikes), Shaxx (Crucible) and Gunsmith (Gunsmith materials).
- Completing activities (such as Public Events, Lost Sectors, Strikes, Crucible) and opening Loot Chests
Once you reach 500, then you have to switch and work on specific activities to increase your level, including the game's many 'Powerful Gear' sources.
To make things more complicated, many in the community (thanks Daniel300999 and Hankstbro on reddit) have worked out now all Powerful Gear sources are equal. Though all Powerful Gear is useful, most will only increase an individual item's Power by one after 520, making it a very long levelling process.
Others, however, give you a much higher jump per loot drop - so you'll want to focus on those from 520 onwards.
(Note: Since the arrival of Black Armoury, getting to 550 is made a little easier - you should see more Prime Engram drops, while Powerful Gear sources should be more powerful than normal. However, the way you source them remains the same - the grind is simply faster.)
'Powerful Gear' sources to choose until 520:
Note many of the below only appear when you are experience level 50, and have varying Weekly and Daily reset times where noted.
- Flashpoint (Weekly)
- Heroic Adventure in that week's Flashpoint (Daily)
- Daily Heroic Story Mission (Weekly)
- Crucible (Weekly and Daily)
- Gambit (Weekly and Daily)
- Strikes (Daily and Weekly)
- Complete 20 Challenges for Ikora (Weekly)
- Clan XP reward and Clan Crucible, Nightfall, Raid, Gambit completions (Weekly)
- Festival of the Lost questline (Seasonal, from October 30th)
'Powerful Gear' sources to get from 520 to 650:
Note if you've yet to reach 520, the above will still increase your level, just very gradually - it's just these activities will give you the most beneficial boosts.
- Prime Engrams (essentially a permanent Three of Coins buff in-all-but-name)
- Exotic Engrams
- Last Wish encounter wins and completion (Weekly)
- Nightfall completion (Weekly)
- Nightfall high score (Weekly)
- Iron Banner Bounties
- Final Wanted Bounty (Weekly)
- The Dreaming City activities, including Petra's Weekly Bounties for the Ascendant Challenge and weekly mission
- Black Armoury's Forges
As well as the above, there are a handful of 'one-time' sources of Powerful Gear:
- Zavala quest (Complete Strikes wearing set of Season 4 Vanguard armour)
- Shaxx quest (Win Crucible match wearing set of Season 4 Crucible armour)
- Drifter quest (Win a Gambit match wearing set of Season 4 Gambit armour)
- Ikora quest (Complete three daily or weekly challenges)
- Spider quest (Complete four Lost Sectors in Tangled Shore)
- Forsaken Exotic quest completions, such as Ace of Spades, Chaperone and Malfeasance
Destiny 2 activities by Power level restriction
As before, increasing your Power Level makes 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. Post-Warmind this difference between your own and an enemy's Power level has been made even greater, increasing in difficulty until it's 50 levels above.
From there, they will have an ?? icon in their name, and won't take damage from the player at all. Don't bite off more than you can chew! That said, with the arrival of Forsaken, completing activities while "severely under-leveled" will offer larger Power upgrades, so there's a chance you can get something better if you're playing ahead of where you should.
Here's a list of the most prominent activities that require specific Power levels:
- Strikes - 300, 400 or 500 Power Level options
- Leviathan Raid / Raid Lair - 300 Power Level
- Daily Heroic Adventure - 320 Power Level
- Spire of Stars Raid Lair - 370 Power Level
- Spire of Stars Prestige Raid Lair - 380 Power Level
- Escalation Protocol - 380 Power Level
- Nightfall - 540 Power Level
- Final Wanted Bounty Adventure - 540 Power Level
- Last Wish Raid - 550 Power Level
- Volundr Forge - 610 Power Level
New to Destiny 2? Power level and XP system explained
New to Destiny 2? 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. (Or for those with Curse of Osiris - level 25, level 30 for Warmind, and level 50 for Forsaken).
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, and 30 by the time you're done with Warmind, and 40 once you're done with Forsaken's story. 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 your Power level really matters.
Essentially, 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 be aware these regular drops and Engrams only work until a point - as once you hit the 'soft cap' of 500, you need to look elsewhere for the best possible gear to take you forward - such as from Exotics and Powerful Gear sources.
It's also important to stress most loot will scale with you, even if you get drops from a much more difficult activity. Don't expect to get 370 drops if you are just hitting 300, for example!