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Destiny 2 levelling guide: Max level cap and Powerful Gear, Pinnacle Gear sources explained

The best ways to reach the level cap and beyond for the latest Power level increase.

Each new Destiny 2 expansion and season brings with it a higher Destiny 2 Power level cap to work towards.

Season of Plunder and Destiny 2's fifth year is no different. The good news is, as of The Witch Queen, everyone now starts at the same base gear level, regardless of when you started playing - and as before, from there, there are multiple level caps and many Gear sources from which to get there.

Learning where to find Powerful Gear and Pinnacle Gear sources is a key aspect of Destiny 2 levelling - and in short, means at points you'll have to change your focus to certain activities to keep levelling, all to help you access and survive end-game content.

It's a slightly overwhelming system to get your head around at first, and this page will explain how to navigate each step of the way.

To help, this season players have been gifted a free Power level boost - known as Gift of the Thunder Gods - to level 1540 to help you get a leg up this season.

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How gear levels work in Destiny 2 and the max level cap explained

Destiny 2's levelling system operates with three different caps to work towards, each requiring different sources of gear to level up past. Here's what they are at a glance for Season 18:

  • Base Gear level - 1350 Power Level
  • Soft / Legendary Gear cap - 1520 Power Level
  • Powerful Gear cap - 1570 Power Level
  • Pinnacle Gear cap - 1580 Power Level

How to reach these caps, and what to do to reach the next one, is outlined on the rest of this levelling guide.

It's worth noting that, technically, the Destiny 2 max level cap goes beyond 1580, thanks to the seasonal artefact. Every new season will give you this item, and by levelling it up with XP, you'll receive a series of bonuses - including temporary additional levels that adds to your Power, allowing you to go beyond the level cap. (Or, if you're not there yet, a slight nudge towards it.)

You can see your current level, and what the artefact is contributing, on the main gear screen:

Not sure where your Power level is coming from? Hover with your cursor to see the breakdown - as well as how much XP you need to increase your artefact bonus once more.

The end of each season, however, sees many things in Destiny 2 reset and change. This includes the artefact, which will start over, so you have to level up the power level bonus with XP once more. As well as this, the gear cap itself will increase - usually 10 per season.

How to get to 1540 for free with Gift of the Thunder Gods

During Season of Plunder, all players get a free Power Level gift to help them get closer to the maximum cap.

This is called Gift of the Thunder Gods, and includes a full set of 1540 Power weapons and armour, plus two Exotics - the Thunderlord machine gun, and a class-specific armour piece.

This chest can be found in the H.E.L.M. social space:

If you are above this power level, then you aren't left out - instead, you'll receive gear that is around three levels above where you are currently, up until the Powerful Gear cap of 1570.

This giveaway applies to all characters, so log into your alts before you start using them, with the gift being around until the end of Season 18.

If you are returning to Destiny for the first time in a while to sample King's Fall and making use of this gift, then know the 1540 set is 20 levels below the recommended Power to complete all encounters. In which case, it's time to start levelling to the Powerful Gear cap - which we'll explain how to do effectively in a later section.

How to get to Legendary Gear to get to the 1520 Power Soft Cap in Destiny 2

Learning which sources give what Power loot is key to fast and effective levelling. The vast majority of activities in Destiny 2 will drop loot up to the 'soft' Legendary cap of 1520, meaning when you start Destiny 2 or a major new expansion, you simply play the game how you want to level up.

Here's an idea of what this includes:

  • Blue and Purple drops from enemies
  • Decrypting Blue and Purple Engrams
  • Completing activities (such as Public Events, Lost Sectors, Strikes, Crucible) and opening Loot Chests
  • Individual Clan Bounties
  • Legacy Raids (such as Last Wish, Garden of Salvation) not highlighted in the weekly rotation
  • Legacy Dungeons (such as The Shattered Throne, Pit of Heresy) not highlighted in the weekly rotation
  • Regular Nightfall playlist
  • Drops from opening Paraversal Hauls from Xur in the 30th Anniversary expansion

You are also welcome to complete Powerful Gear and Pinnacle Gear activities, which will benefit you too - though the drops will be in line with your current level than leapfrogging you past that.

You can see an Engram's Power level in your Engram collection in the menu.

We'd also suggest you avoid infusing - which enables you to change the Power of a certain piece of Gear by 'consuming' another one - until you at least hit the Powerful Gear stage, since until then be getting gear so regularly it'll be outstripped by something else very quickly.

In summary, to get to 1520, it's simple a case of playing any activities you like. If you want to speed this up and have completed all story missions, then Crucible matches and Public Events are among the fastest way to do it.

That said, there are methods to get to the soft cap quickly...

Powerful Gear Tier sources to get to the 1570 cap in Destiny 2

Legendary Engrams and standard loot will stop at 1520, and so you must seek out 'Powerful Gear'. This means you have to switch and work on specific activities to increase your level.

This is where the grind gets a little more involved. Instead of having each individual activity likely to drop something which can increase your Power level, you now need to focus on completing Weekly Challenges.

These include:

  • Strike, Gambit, Crucible playlist activity completions *
  • Rewards from each of the six Vanguard (Strike), Crucible and Gambit ranks **
  • Completing eight Bounties for a vendor
  • Season pass drops
  • Trials of Osiris (third win)
  • Prime Engrams (drops at random; essentially a permanent Three of Coins buff in-all-but-name)
  • Exotic Engrams
  • There are also a handful of 'one-time' sources of Powerful Gear, such as Exotic quest rewards

* A welcome change from Year 4 onwards is all playlist activities have a chance to drop Powerful Gear after each completion, even if you have completed their respective weekly challenge.

** From Season 13 onwards, you have to return to these activity vendors in the Tower to get a Powerful engram after you rank up. You can bank these if you so choose, so visit when ready.

Our recommendation? Focus on the eight Bounties for each vendor. Though many of these are area or activity specific, some such as Banshee in the Tower can be completed while doing any activity. Bounties should be a priority anyway to get you XP to level your artefact and level your season pass for additional drops.

Also, remember you can also earn Pinnacle Gear to boost your level, such as from the Raid, which you should now be strong enough to play.

As well as the above, it's worth knowing completing the Legendary campaign will give you a gear set at 1520. This is some way below the Powerful Gear cap, but if you're just starting out, might be a good step up if you fancy the challenge.

The Season of Plunder is here! New additions include the Sails of the Shipstealer quest, Treasure Coordinates and Map Fragments, Cryptic Quatrains and Quicksilver Storm. Meanwhile, there's the arrival of King's Fall and weapons such as Doom of Chelchis and Touch of Malice, as well as the return of Allied Demand in Iron Banner this season. Get up to speed with our levelling guide ahead of tackling the Duality dungeon, and learn how to collect Calus Bobblehead locations, Calus Automaton locations and find all Opulent Key chests. For The Witch Queen, learn how to get Exotics including Dead Messenger and Parasite.

Pinnacle Gear Tier sources to get to the 1580 cap in Destiny 2

Once you have reached the Powerful Gear cap, you then have to switch to Pinnacle Gear to give you the last 10 levels you need to reach the absolute Gear cap.

These are amongst the most challenging or time-consuming activities in Destiny 2. Not only that, there are fewer of them, ramping up the grind.

Here are all the current Pinnacle Gear sources:

  • Weekly playlist challenges for certain activities, such as Crucible, Strike and Gambit
  • Earning Clan XP for Tower vendor
  • Latest Raid (King's Fall) encounter completions
  • Latest Dungeon (Duality) completion
  • Completing legacy Raids or Dungeons highlighted in the latest weekly rotation *
  • Preservation completion (post-campaign The Witch Queen mission)
  • Trials of Osiris (seven wins, flawless)
  • Nightfall: The Ordeal reward for scoring 100,000 points or more
  • Iron Banner Bounties

* Unlike the most recent Raid or Dungeon, Pinnacles will drop on completion only - not for each individual encounter.

The bread and butter here for solo players is focusing on weekly playlists, which can give you a straightforward source of Pinnacle Gear. If you combine this with chasing Triumphs, Seals or Pinnacle Weapons, then you are essentially preparing your character for various end game activities in both level and loot.

However, the best source of Pinnacle gear will always remain the latest raid, if you are high enough level and can find others to join you. When taking into account each encounter, a full raid playthrough should earn you four Pinnacle drops, giving you a solid levelling boost. Though challenging, a raid playthrough can be achieved in an evening's play with practice. Dungeon completions, meanwhile, are also useful to practice, as they can be reliable fast Pinnacle sources when you know what to do.

The best Pinnacle gear source for your time will almost always be the latest Raid.

It's worth adding that seasonal events - such as Festival of the Lost during Halloween, or Solstice - can offer max level weapons or armour upon completing certain requirements, regardless of your current power level. If you're behind, these are well worth completing to raise your average level quickly.

Ultimately, know getting Pinnacle Gear is a grind. But as mentioned earlier, your seasonal artefact can boost your Gear's Power level as well, so if you're struggling with the above multiplayer-centric activities, then simply playing and getting XP will gradually see your Power level increase.

Though it can be a lot of work, it's worth remembering the Power Level increases by 10 across all caps every three months when a new season arrives, giving you a leg up for the next raise each time.

No matter your goals when it comes to levelling, we wish you the best of luck!

About the Author

Matthew Reynolds avatar

Matthew Reynolds

Managing Editor

Matthew edits guides and other helpful things at Eurogamer.net. When not doing that, he's out and about playing Pokémon Go or continuing to amass his amiibo collection.


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