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Destiny: the complete levelling guide

Destiny players can level up right through the highest ranks just by playing the game for fun, but if you don't have time to wait on the Cryptarch's fickle decryptions, we have you covered.


Destiny: the complete levelling guide

Destiny has multiple levelling systems and it can be a major headache for newcomers even to understand them, let alone power their way through.

Our advice to beginners is just to enjoy the game, doing what takes your fancy, until you hit challenges that are too tough for you or have done everything but tackle the Raid. At that point, you'll need to think about how to step it up to the next level.

This guide will serve as a basic introduction to the shooter MMO's multiple levelling systems, sources of gear, and even how to farm for loot.


XP: What is it good for?

The first and most basic of Destiny's levelling systems is based on experience. You earn XP through various means - we'll talk about that a little later - and it is used for multiple purposes.

The first use for XP is to level up your character. Characters can grow from level one to twenty, but this number doesn't actually mean a heck of a lot: some content is gated by level, and so is a lot of gear, but that's about it. Once you hit level 20 XP no longer contributes to your character level growth, but is instead used to earn Motes of Light, a rare currency.

The second use for XP is to level up your subclass. Since you only have one subclass available at first, you may not even realise that your subclass grows independently of your character level - but it does. Switch over to the alternative subclass after level 15 and you'll find you no longer necessarily get a new unlock on your subclass skill tree with each level. Once you hit the level 20 cap, you can continue to earn XP on your subclass; you won't be anywhere near finished the first one, let alone both, by the time you max out your character.

The third use for XP is to level up your gear. Guns and armour can both be upgraded with perks, which must be unlocked via XP (or as rewards for completing various tasks). Initial upgrades cost Glimmer, but later ones require various materials as well, some of which are very rare indeed.


XP: How do I get it?

XP is earned in various ways. The most obvious and accessible one is by killing things - either the forces of the Darkness in PvE, or other Guardians in the Crucible.

XP is also earned for completing Story Missions, Strikes and Patrol Missions.

In the Crucible, you earn XP for completing objectives, not just getting kills, and for earning various medals. Some of these, like the Medic medal for reviving two teammates in rapid succession, are available in all modes.

In all play modes, you can earn XP (as well as lots of other goodies; see later sections for more details) by completing bounties. Bounties are available from the Tower once you hit level four, and are available in Crucible flavour as well as for everywhere else.

So that's how you get XP, and if you play through all the content available you should find you hit the level 20 cap pretty easily. If you really want to speed things up, though, we have a few tips on how to level up fast.

As discussed above, there are plenty of reasons to earn XP beyond reaching level 20, so whether you're hoping to grab another Mote of Light, unlock a weapon upgrade or complete a subclass tree, there are a couple of ways you can maximise your earnings.

The first is to bump the difficulty up; you'll earn more XP taking on tougher challenges.

The second is to be smart in how you combine bounties. You may be able to grab three or maybe even more, even as you're completing story missions.

Finally, by meeting certain targets - killing so many thousand enemies in an area, for example - you can unlock XP bonuses. Check the Destiny companion app to see which bonuses you're approaching, and unlock them.

Next: beyond level 20.


Destiny: beyond Level 20

Hitting level 20 can be something of a wall for Destiny players. The levelling system beyond 20 is poorly communicated in-game, and can seem extremely frustrating. Stick with it: it's worth it.

Take a look at a decent piece of Rare or Legendary equipment and you ought to see a new kind of stat bonus. Each level after 20 requires 11 points of Light to unlock. Unlike XP, Light isn't something you earn - it's part of your gear.

Your first Light drops will probably be pretty rubbish, with just a few points each, but these values will increase as you upgrade the gear through its perk trees - and you will find better stuff soon.

As you no doubt understand now, after level 20 increasing your power in Destiny is an arms race to find the best equipment. The next section of this guide will detail the various ways to go about this.

Good Rare and Legendary gear will drop if you just play the game and have patience, but it's not a common occurrence; the tendency of engrams to decrypt as absolute rubbish - or wonderful things for the wrong class - has become a running joke. Rather than hope for the best from random drops, you're better off buying gear from vendors.



There are multiple Vendors which offer a variety of items for sale on the Tower, and there's a good reason for choosing to shop with them. You know exactly what you'll be getting, because you can browse the stats right from their storefronts, looking at the upgrade trees and checking how they might fit into your build - are you going for grenade spam, faster super, more melee?

Vendors are gated by a reputation system. You need to earn points and unlock at least level two with each group in order to access their stashes.

The Vanguard Mentors offer class-specific or optimised items, while the Vanguard Armory near the Shipwright has more generic gear. To purchase better items, you'll need a special currency called Vanguard Marks.

Getting to level two and beyond it's easy; you can only earn up to 100 points per week, although Marks are uncapped. Both Vanguard points and Marks can be earned by completing Vanguard bounties and Patrol Missions, but the quickest way to earn them is to participate in the Strike playlists at the highest level you can.

Lord Shaxx and his crony offer a similar service, but focused on those who earn their chops in the Crucible. You'll need to play Crucible matches and complete Crucible bounties to earn the necessary points and marks to access their inventories.

Crucible fans can also purchase a Faction item for 2,500 glimmer from one of the three Crucible Faction vendors around the tower. While this item is equipped, all Vanguard and Crucible points will instead go towards Faction reputation and currency.

It's worth noting that every Faction level from three onwards will earn you a piece of legendary gear, so once you hit your weekly limit on Vanguard points, wearing a faction item while running around in PvE scenarios is pretty lucrative. You can join and level your way up through all three factions with no penalties, and you don't even need to play Crucible matches if that's not your bag.


Pot luck vendors

If you're fond of gambling, you can level up your relationship with the Cryptarch by completing his rare Patrol missions, decrypting engrams, and purchasing engrams from him. Doing so will allow you to purchase better engrams and even give you a few free ones as a bonus. But they're still pretty likely to decrypt as rubbish, so we don't recommend it.

If you're after an exotic item, speak to Xur, a shifty vendor who appears in multiple locations on the Tower only on weekends. His gear is expensive, and you'll need Strange Coins, one of the more rare drops, to purchase it.

Destiny farming

Of course, if you're not interested in earning gear the standard way you could always try farming.

Farming in Destiny is not a guaranteed quick answer to gathering better gear. Loot drops are low, and fickle, and even using the best farming methods you'll be at it for quite a while. if that's what you wanna do, though, we're not gonna stop you.

There are a couple of methods of farming - through battle, and through chests. We've got guides to both, with videos of suggested routes, in our dedicated Destiny farming guide. There are a couple of locations which are particularly good for farming - the Moon and a certain famous cave on Earth.

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