Don’t quit as soon as the XP bar disappears. Destiny beyond 20 is a whole new game.
The shooting was still some of the best I’ve ever seen, but there comes a point where you want a new hat, you know? I didn’t understand how to progress. I nearly stopped.
Level 20 was easy. Destiny’s campaign never bored me and I, along with many others, batted through it in a week. This is brilliant, I thought. The battlecries of the Cabal in dusty red storage rooms and that blue Venus volcano will never be old. But then, at the level cap, the whole thing sort of. Stopped.
I was happy grinding out story missions and Strikes for XP, but then the bar vanished. The level didn’t rise. Yes, I know now that every time I earn XP it’ll eventually produce a Mote of Light (although I wish someone as Bungie had taken the time to research the definition of “mote” beforehand), but simple levelling, the normal driver of play, the fuel of the grind, had gone. And with it, I felt, so had Destiny’s edge.
I was thrilled to hit 20. I’d done it! But then I was mopping up leftover story missions and getting nothing for it. I could fight on Mars for an hour and receive no levels, no engrams, no gear. It made no sense, as if I were suddenly playing a different game from the RPG I’d been loving since launch. The shooting was still some of the best I’d ever seen, but there comes a point where you want a new hat, you know? I didn’t understand how to progress. I nearly stopped.
I’m glad I didn’t. The tone of this piece changed overnight, and I’d urge you to stick with Destiny. The transition between the standard levelling up to 20 and the Light levelling system afterwards is jarring, and progress through the later levels is built on a system of sometimes eye-rolling convolution, but once you’ve sussed it the urge to play returns. Don’t quit.
All I needed to do was open my eyes. As I’m sure most of you know, you level beyond 20 by collecting Light-imbued gear, and you get it by rising to Destiny’s end-game challenge.
Light isn’t the same as Motes of Light, which is a currency you can use to buy Legendary kit in the Tower. Some gear has Light “in it,” as you can see in the shot above. If you equip it, your level starts to rise again. See the yellow bar? I’m still going up. This is how you get to 26 and approach the Raids.
You’re unlikely to get Light gear from the story missions after you hit 20. Bungie is keeping Destiny interesting past the level cap by providing daily story challenges, Crucible challenges, weekly Strike challenges, Vanguard playlists and plenty more. The Queen’s Wrath and Combined Arms events, for example, will give new gear, and public events, which will now occur with increased regularity, can grant blue engrams. The playlists, especially, seems to be a good way of making progress beyond the cap. I shot through the Nexus Venus Strike at level 20 last night with a random and picked up two pieces of Light gear from the Cryptarch afterwards.
Vanguard playlists are split into Eagle, Viper, Wolf and Tiger, in order of severity. Launching one puts you and your fireteam into a random Strike during which you can earn Light gear and Vanguard Marks. The Marks buy all that lovely purple kit you see for sale at your Vanguard Class Trainer and other traders in the Tower. You’ll need tons of them to buy anything decent (each Viper Strike, for example, nets you two: you’ll need 120 and Vanguard Rank 2 to get a Legendary helmet).
Destiny becomes esoteric beyond level 20, a mist-shrouded campagne, a Hellraiser cube. Pick at it.
Did I forget to mention Vanguard Ranks? You need Vanguard Reputation to get Vanguard Ranks (2,000 Vanguard Reputation points are needed to hit Vanguard Rank 2) to buy Vanguard Gear from your Vanguard Class Trainer, so to progress beyond level 20 you’re looking to build Vanguard Reputation, Vanguard Ranks, Vanguard Marks and Motes of Light which you get from XP which still accumulates but is now invisible, and grind the hardest Bungie-supplied challenges you can stomach to get Light gear to raise your level. Obviously.
Confused? So is everyone else. Then, of course, there’s Xur, the Exotics trader who only turns up on Fridays. Exotics? That’s the level of gear beyond Legendary. And you’ll want your Crucible Marks as well, not to mention your Faction Reputation and your Strange Coins. You can give those to Xur. How do you get the Strange Coins?
Just play the game. Don’t stop. I’ve missed plenty of information about how to progress after the cap, but this Reddit post is a good primer, and we’ve outlined brief explanations of the various currencies in our Destiny guide.
Destiny becomes esoteric beyond level 20, a mist-shrouded campagne, a Hellraiser cube. Pick at it. Complete the challenges. Decode the engrams. Revel in the fact you’ve swapped one levelling attribute for many.
I nearly dropped the pad at the cap, but I’m so pleased I didn’t. Add me (patlikefr on PS4), because I’m not going anywhere.