Destiny gets difficult after level 20. We lay out precisely what you need to do to get yourself through the troughs before level 30.
Destiny: how to get to level 30 with Light, Legendary Exotic and Ascendent gear
Destiny employs a somewhat complicated system of levelling once you hit the XP cap of level 20.
Many players are confused about why levels matters, what they need to do to get to level 30, and the best method of doing so. Let’s talk it through.
Why do I need to grow past level 20?
The answer isn’t just “because it’s there”. While you can easily complete Destiny’s story campaign at level 20 (or before, if you’re skilled), most endgame content is aimed at higher levels. The harder Strike Playlists, for example, cater to level 22 and 24 players; Weekly Strikes are level 24; and the Weekly Heroic is really aimed at level 28 players and above.
Levels really make a difference in Destiny. You won’t notice it so much if you’re punching below your weight, because damage to lower-levelled enemies is capped, but wander into a level 28 mission at level 26 and below and you’ll see how little damage you do to your foes – and how much they do to you.
This isn’t an insurmountable barrier and players with good weapons and better skills will manage, but levelling makes it all a lot more fair. If you were planning to keep playing Destiny for weeks or months rather than days, you’ll want to get into endgame content.
So, how do I get past level 20?
You still earn XP after you hit the level 20 cap, but it’s used to unlock weapon and armour upgrades and earn Motes of Light, a currency you can trade with the Speaker for Legendary vanity items.
Level is gear-dependent after level 20, rather than experience dependent. What level you are, post-20, depend on how much Light your gear collectively holds.
To increase your effective level – upping your damage and survivability, and unlocking higher-level content – you’ll have to find and equip armour with Light. Rare (blue) armour has a chance to carry Light, while all Legendary and Exotic items do.
Except for Exotics (more on that later), how much Light a piece of armour has is randomly generated, and depends on its quality. You may find a pair of Rare gloves with 2 Light one day, or you may find one with 6 Light. Obviously, if you’re planning to increase your level, you want the latter – but you may need to take a hit to defence.
Your chance of finding better quality items increases as your level does, so absolutely equip low-Light items for a single level boost – it’s worth it for the bonuses alone, but it will also make it much more likely that you’ll find an even better piece.
In general, Legendary items will carry more Light than Rare. All Exotic items have the maximum possible amount of Light once upgraded.
The amount of Light on a piece of armour can be increased with upgrades. You should be familiar with upgrading weapons and armour by level 20, but there are a few caveats to bear in mind.
Sometimes, a fully-upgraded Rare armour piece will have more Light than a piece you’ve just picked up, but the second piece may have the potential to hold more total Light once upgraded. If you are wearing a fully-upgraded helmet with Light 8, and you pick up a brand new one with Light 7, the second helmet is the better choice; you’ll drop one Light now (and maybe a level!) but later on you’ll have a higher total Light.
To upgrade Legendary armour, you’ll need Ascendent Shards as well as Glimmer, class-specific armour components and materials harvested from the environment. Shards are very rare, so think carefully before upgrading a Legendary fully; if you find a piece of equipment with a better base Light stat, you’ll be livid at having spent the Shards now. Get as high level as you can without over-committing.
If you find an Exotic that suits your play style, then upgrade away – all Exotics hold the maximum amount of Light. An Exotic makes a great base for your build; fully upgraded, it alone will bump you a few levels. You can only equip one piece of Exotic armour at a time, but one fully upgraded Exotic and some decent Legendaries with a few upgrades each can get you to level 28.
But how do I get to level 30?
So you have a full set of Legendary gear, it’s fully upgraded, but you still can’t get past level 28. Why?
The answer is that there’s a sort of secret tier of equipment. If you really want to reach level 30 you’ll need Raid quality gear – armour found in chests or dropped by the bosses in the Vault of Glass. Raid quality gear and Exotics are the only pieces of armour which, when fully upgraded and worn as a full set, will net enough Light to get you to level 30.
You really need to be at least level 26 to be any use at all on the Raid, and if you really want to contribute rather than have a group carry you through the later stages, aiming for level 27 or 28 is necessary. If you can get a group to carry you, finding a piece of Raid quality gear before you’ve invested too many Ascendent Shards in other Legendaries will give you a decent head start on your level 30 build.
Now that you know the theory, head to the next page to find out how to make it actually happen.