Destiny 2 is all about Power, and that means it’s all about loot. Get across our tips for collecting Engrams, increasing reputation, Legendary mods and more.
Destiny 2 makes some subtle but important changes to a loot-based progression system honed over the three years of D1’s refinement. Let’s kick off our Destiny 2 guide with a quick rundown of how to level up fast, what the Power cap is, changes to systems and more. Scroll down if you’re on top of the basics and just looking for the hot levelling intel.
Some additional pages that may help you grok Bungie’s somewhat esoteric systems include a glossary of Destiny 2’s activities and an explanation of how weapons, rarity and Infusion work in Destiny 2, much of which also applies to armour and other gear. Read this oage first, though.
The most important thing you need to know if you’re a newbie is that there are two progression metrics – level and Power. Power is both a measure of your overall progress and the base calculation for how much damage you’ll do with your special abilities – melee, grenade and Super.
Your Power goes up as your overall gear score increases – that is, it is derived from the average attack value of your equipped weapons, and the average defence values of your equipped armour. In D1, this concept was known as “Light”.
Power has nothing to do with your level. Your level goes up from one to 20 as you acquire experience from kills and activity rewards, and doesn’t mean much at all. Some activities and equipment pieces are level-gated, but that’s all – and your Power can increase much, much higher than the value you’ll have when you first hit level 20, the current cap.
So, you get it – your goal in Destiny 2 is to get your Power as high as possible so you can kick butt all over the place. How do we do that? In four simple steps. Before we get into that, though, a couple of important warnings:
- Don’t hoard your engrams to cash in later
Destiny 2 sets loot values on pickup, not decryption. Go cash in your drops as soon as you can, so that your subsequent loot drops are as high value as possible. Note that you don’t need to equip them, though! As long as you don’t dismantle your best gear, you’ll keep getting better drops.
- Don’t infuse anything before you hit step 3 or 4
Your next drop will probably make whatever it was redundant, so it’s a waste of resources until you hit the soft caps. Just equip whatever you have handy and pop your favs in the vault to infuse later.
- Don’t complete anything in your Milestones menu listed as providing “powerful loot” until step 3 or 4
You’ll see why when you get to that stage of the guide – just trust me on this one.
Step 1: play story missions to get to level 20
I know I just said your level doesn’t matter, but all the best rewards and activities are locked until you hit certain level milestones. As such, your best bet is to hit level 20 as quickly as possible so you can start reaping your rewards.
Just shooting goons is a very, very slow way to level up in Destiny 2. Here’s what we suggest instead:
- Play story missions
Story missions award lots of XP, and unlock vendors and services you’ll need shortly. Just get it out of the way.
- Complete Adventures
Sometimes you’ll hit a level gate in the story campaign and need to level to proceed. Adventures, or side quests, are available from the region vendor at each destination, and are the quickest way to fill your boots with XP between missions.
That’s all! You’re likely to reach level 20 by the end of the main story campaign. If not, just do some more Adventures or complete side content until you do; it won’t take long. You’ll want to finish the main campaign as quickly as possible since it unlocks many of the Activities you’ll want to look at in the next step, too.
Step 2: farm engrams in Activities to get to 260 Light
Now that you’ve hit max level, there’s nothing preventing you pushing your Power score up by collecting engrams and activity rewards of the best possible value for your current Power. It’s not too hard to push all the way up to the soft Power cap of 260 and beyond just by doing anything and everything you fancy, and cashing in the Rare, Legendary and Exotic engrams you’ll get as a result.
Before we dive into this, there’s one more thing you need to know about engrams and loot. Until you hit the first soft cap, drop values are designed to be equal or more often slightly better than your best piece in that equipment category, not your overall Power value.
For example, if your best chest armour is at 220 and your other bits are at 260, your next chest drop is likely to be in the low 220’s, not 260.
On the bright side, this means you won’t get shitty low Power drops on your other bits and pieces just because your chest armour is lower than average. In any case: if you have a big hole in your build, go shopping and try to fill it in. On that note, here’s how you should go about pushing your Power value up to the soft cap:
- First, go shopping at region vendors to raise your Power to 200 across the board
With all those story missions under your belt you should have plenty of Glimmer. Check with the region vendors to see if they can bump your Power with a quick purchase before you start picking up engrams. Region vendor stock is capped at 200 Power.
- Check out every drop
Hopefully this is obvious, but until you hit the first soft cap almost every drop has the potential to improve your overall spec, so don’t ignore green and blue loot and engrams dropped by trash mobs.
- Max out each region vendor
Complete Adventures and Lost Sectors, harvest resources, open Region Chests, take down High Value Targets and complete public events, then cash in all your Region Tokens at the vendor. Once the bar fills, which should happen pretty quickly, you’ll get a Legendary engram. This feature is locked before level 20.
- Raid Lost Sector chests
While you’re maxing out each region, be sure to open the chests at the bottom of Lost Sectors for better-than-average loot.
- Complete Challenges
Once you complete the story mission on Io, Ikora will return to the farm and offer Challenges – basically, a set of tasks to complete at each Destination, in Strikes, and in the Quickplay and Competitive Crucible playlists. These challenges reset every day – a bit like the Bounties from D1. Tick them off to earn rewards.
- Complete Strikes and Public Events
You have a reasonable chance of getting good loot from Strikes and Public Events.
- Earn engrams through reputation levels
Zavala, Ikora, Banshee and Shaxx all offer Legendary engrams in return for filling your reputation bar. Do this by pursuing their associated activities (Strikes, Meditations, dismantling equipment, Crucible matches) and trading in materials and tokens.
As we mentioned above, don’t hoard your lovely engrams: take them to the Farm as soon as you can, and cash them in to earn loot. Cha-ching! These Activities will quickly help you push your Power up high enough to handle almost anything Destiny 2 throws at you – but there will come a time when that changes.
Step 3: The Plateau
Once you reach 260, you’ll find that your progress slows down. Random Rare drops will cap out at or just below your current Power level, and only Rare drops from more challenging Activities will be high enough to give you a little boost. However, normal Legendary drops cap out at 270, so you should still make progress relatively swiftly.
You’ll randomly receive Legendary drops in chests and from enemies, but it’s slow and luck reliant. Your best bet here is to begin farming Legendary engrams, by increasing your reputation with the following NPCs:
- Devrim Kay (EDZ region vendor – resources, region tokens, quests)
- Sloane (Titan region vendor – resources, region tokens, quests)
- Failsafe (Nessus region vendor – resources, region tokens, quests)
- Asher (Io region vendor – resources, region tokens, quests)
- Banshee-44 (gunsmith – dismantle weapons for parts)
- Shaxx (Crucible – Crucible tokens)
- Zavala (Strikes – Vanguard Tactician tokens)
- Ikora (Meditations – Vanguard Research tokens)
You can also skip this and progress straight onto the next step if you like, but if you’re in a real hurry to hit the Power cap it is best to wait until you hit the second soft cap of 270, since your chances to earn loot above this level are limited. We’ll explain why in a minute.
Step 4: enter endgame to reach Power 300 – and beyond
Once you hit the second softcap of 275, you’re in endgame territory. From here on, regular loot drops won’t help you get stronger. You’ll only find equipment of 275 Power and higher through:
- Weekly Milestone rewards
- Endgame Activity rewards
- Legendary mods
- Random Exotic engram drops
Let’s go through these one by one.
Weekly Milestones are special Activities or goals available once a week, which reward “Powerful Gear”. That means an engram at least a few points above your current power, sometimes referred to as Luminous Engrams.
You’ll want to collect these every week. There are four Weekly Milestones at present:
Cayde-6 issues a Flashpoint challenge each week, which just means completing a number of Public Events at a set destination.
- Call to Arms
A weekly Crucible quest with varying objectives, issued by Lord Shaxx. If no specific goal is set, it just means you should complete Crucible matches in either playlist.
A tougher version of a Strike, with nasty modifiers. No matchmaking.
- Clan XP
Now that Clans are active in Destiny 2, you can earn a Legendary engram by reaching the individual contribution cap (5,000 XP) each week. Since you earn clan XP for petty much everything, this Milestone can’t be saved until you reach Power 260, unfortunately.
It’s important to note that – where possible – you should only decrypt the Luminous engrams you get from Weekly Milestones when you’re past 275-280 Power or close to the weekly reset. Here’s why:
Unlike traditional Engrams, Luminous Engrams scale with your Power level to offer you gear that’s slightly higher than what you have. For this reason, you should dismiss the prompts to pick them up when you visit vendors and instead save them until you’re past 275 Power. The same goes for Exotic Engrams, which you can learn more about further below.
However, you can only do this up to the end of the Destiny week. Meaning that you’ll want to pick everything up from vendors before the weekly reset. If you ignore this, all your undecrypted Luminous Engrams will be automatically decrypted and sent to your inventory when the rest hits on Tuesday morning.
After you’ve exhausted regular weekly sources of Luminous engrams, it’s time to look at other sources of endgame drops. Here are the ones we know of so far:
- Leviathan Raid
Raids were D1’s first source of endgame gear, and we expect this tradition to continue. Multiple loot opportunities throughout the raid mean many chances to bump your Power. The Raid’s normal difficulty range is 260-280 Power, so you’ll want to be pretty strong before you go in.
- Trials of the Nine
Weekly PvP event Trials of the Nine kicks off on September 13, and if it follows in D1’s pattern, it will be a source of very Powerful gear.
- Iron Banner and other events
Monthly PvP event Iron Banner will return in October, and again we expect it to follow D1’s pattern and award endgame loot.
- Other events
There haven’t been any announcements yet, but we expect to see both PvE and PvP events roll out over the coming months. Look for these to reward endgame gear as thanks for your participation.
Now we’re into advanced territory. Once you reach Power 280 you’ll be able to craft Legendary weapon mods from Banshee-44, the Gunsmith, and this opens the door to higher Power equipment by a roundabout means – and a lot of Glimmer. You’ll need to collect three Rare mods, which you can just purchase, to trade in for a Legendary mod.
First of all, buy +5 Power mods for all your Legendary gear – that’ll boost you a few Power levels right away. Unfortunately Kinetic weapon +5 Power mods are very rare, and cannot be purchased; you’ll need to wait for a random drop in a Gunsmith reputation engram, or find a weapon with one already equipped.
If you do find a weapon with a +5 Power mod, keep it even if it is lower Power than your current weapon. Any weapon with a +5 mod already equipped will Infuse to +5 of whatever you sacrifice into it. See our Destiny 2 weapons and Infusion article for an explanation on how this works, so you can turn it to your advantage.
Once you’ve exhausted the above methods, you’ll have to wait for the following week’s Milestones or for new events – or start chasing Exotic engrams.
Exotic engrams always decrypt at better than whatever you’ve got – and it’s usually substantially better. Even once you’ve collected every Exotic and reached the Power cap it’s worthwhile finding more, as you can always use them as Infusion material (be aware of those +5 Power mods if you sacrifice an Exotic, though! You don’t want to get a less than optimum result.)
Unfortunately, Exotic drops are really rare. The most reliable source of Exotic engrams we have found is farming Heroic Public Events. This is most easily achieved in a co-op group, as random players will often ruin your attempts to trigger the Heroic objective.
Fingers crossed that Xur brings us something similar to the Three of Coins from D1 when he turns up for the first time this coming weekend!
We fully expect Bungie’s live team to expand the endgame activity roster as the months roll out, and to raise the level cap when the first Destiny 2 DLC hits, probably sometime in December.
But for now, as far as we know, this is the progression path in Destiny 2. See you at the Power cap, Guardians.