Destiny 2 is all about Power, and that means it’s all about loot. Get across our tips for farming reputation, earning Luminous engrams, applying 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.
We’ve recently rewritten this page to try and clarify Destiny 2’s nebulous endgame levelling system, but we start off with some basics for beginners – so scroll down if you’re in endgame and just looking to escape The Plateau and hit 300. We’ve also got a section on how Legendary mods fit into endgame levelling right at the bottom of the page.
The basics of XP, level and Power
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 three 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 based on your maximum possible Power.
- Don’t infuse anything before Step 3
Your next drop will probably make whatever it was redundant, so it’s a waste of resources until you hit The Plateau. Just equip whatever you have handy and pop your favs in the vault to infuse later.
Step 1: finish the story campaign
Finish the story campaign as quickly as possible. You’ll hit level 20 for doing so, if you don’t ding before then.
I know I just said your level doesn’t matter, but all the best rewards and activities are locked until you reach level 20 and complete the Red War campaign. Your best bet is to achieve both as quickly as possible so you can start reaping your rewards.
Sometimes you’ll hit a level gate in the story campaign and will need to earn XP fast. You can earn XP in any Activity in Destiny 2 you like, but here’s what we suggest if you’re in a hurry:
- Complete Public Events
Public events award a lot of XP – especially if you trigger Heroic objectives.
- Unlock and then complete Patrols and Challenges
If you’re far enough through the story that you’re in touch with Cayde-6 and/or Ikora, you can earn extra XP on the side. Challenges are available everywhere as soon as you chat to Ikora on the Farm, but you’ll need to do a little quest for Cayde-6 to unlock Patrol missions.
- Complete Adventures
Adventures, or side quests, are available at each destination, and are the quickest way to fill your boots with XP between missions. Weirdly, later Destinations have easier (lower Power) Adventures than early ones. Be warned, though; some Adventures include story spoilers.
An hour or two of this sort of thing should get you back on track and racing to the end of the campaign.
Step 2: earn engrams until you hit The Plateau
Before you finish the campaign and reach level 20, you’re reliant on random drops for new loot. Once you pass this point, you open up the world of engrams.
Engrams are loot drops you either have to return to a social space to decrypt, or which are unlocked through vendors as a reward for increasing your reputation with them. You earn reputation for completing quests and Challenges related to the vendor’s area of expertise, and for trading in gathered resources and reputation tokens.
Tokens are the most controllable sources of reputation. You need 20 tokens (or in the Gunsmith’s case, weapon parts) to level up and earn a new engram from a vendor. It is very easy to farm engrams by doing whatever the heck you want; nearly every activity rewards reputation tokens you can cash in.
What you want to do is farm engrams, doing whatever you fancy, until you find that your Legendary engram drops no longer make you more powerful (that’s what we mean when we say “hit The Plateau”, and when you move onto Step 3).
Here’s how we go about earning reputation tokens and collecting loot from level 20 to The Plateau:
- 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, so get everything up to that point before you turn to RNGesus.
- Raid Lost Sector chests
While you’re out and about, always 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 reputation tokens.
- Complete Public Events
If you pass a Public Event, stop and participate. Loot can be very good, especially if you trigger a Heroic objective.
- Earn engrams through reputation levels
Here’s a list of vendors who offer Legendary engrams as rewards, and how you can increase your reputation with them:
- 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 and equipment for parts)
- Shaxx (Crucible – Crucible tokens)
- Zavala (Strikes – Vanguard Tactician tokens)
- Ikora (Meditations – Vanguard Research tokens)
- Faction leaders (Faction tokens – only available during the Faction Rally event)
As you can see, there’s heaps you can do to push your Power up in Destiny 2. Whatever activity you like best will earn you goodies – although some are better than others. The token earn rate in Crucible is a little grim, for example, while the Faction Rally event just rains them down on you.
As we mentioned above, don’t hoard your lovely engrams: head to a social space as soon as you find or earn one, and cash it 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 and all your Legendary engrams are dropping at the same level as the gear you have equipped. What can you do?
Step 3: Use Luminous and Exotic engrams to climb out of The Plateau
So you’ve hit Power 240, or 260, or 280, and your Power gains have slowed to a trickle. Every now and then you get a good drop, but they seem few and far between, and everything else you find is either on your level or even way, way below it. What’s going on?
This is The Plateau, and your time of just levelling up at random are over. You must now master the Luminous and Exotic cycle of The Plateau.
The key points to remember about The Plateau are:
- The Power value of vendor Legendary engrams at any time is your current best drop value (BDV).
- Your BDV is dependant on and lower than your maximum possible Power (MPP). Therefore, increasing your MPP increases your BDV.
- Luminous (and most Exotic) drops always have a higher Power value than your BDV, and therefore increase your MPP.
- Your BDV increases alongside your MPP.
So getting Luminous and Exotic drops is the key to raising your MPP, you get it. But why do we care about the fact that increasing your MPP also increases your BDV?
The answer is that your MPP will also increase ever so slightly if you ensure that all your gear is at or above your current BDV. After you get a Luminous or Exotic and raise your BDV, you should go out of your way to collect a few vendor Legendary engrams, see what your new BDV is, and make sure you own an item in every single equipment category that lives up to your new BDV.
As you collect vendor Legendary engrams to meet your new BDV, you may find that the BDV itself actually increases slightly, because you push up your MPP even further. Keep collecting vendor Legendary engrams until your BDV levels out and you once more find yourself on The Plateau. Then just grab a new Luminous or Exotic drop, and start all over again.
Putting it all together, here’s your levelling routine:
- Collect vendor Legendary engrams until all your gear is at or above your current BDV.
- Earn a Luminous or Exotic engram to raise your MPP, thereby raising your BDV.
- Collect vendor Legendary engrams until all your gear is at or above your new BDV.
- Earn another Luminous or Exotic engram; rinse and repeat.
Don’t ignore step 1 and 3 here. Because the Power value of your Luminous and Exotic engrams is also dependent on your MPP, you get more goodness from each Luminous and Exotic engram if your MPP and BDV have increased even just slightly due to your collection of new BDV engrams between Luminous and Exotic engrams.
This system makes the most of the limited number of Luminous and Exotic engrams you can expect each week. While Exotic engrams can be farmed, the drop rate is low enough that it’s best to think of them as a nice bonus to your regular levelling cycle – or save the farming for after you’ve exhausted your chances to earn a Luminous engram each week.
Now that you know you need to space out your Luminous and Exotic engrams in order to make the most of them, and that Luminous and Exotic engrams are the key to levelling up, let’s talk about how to find them.
How to get Luminous and Exotic engrams
The good news is, it’s very easy to collect a few Luminous engrams each week. Here are the current sources of these tasty goodies, and how to get them.
- Flashpoint [Easy]
You can earn a Luminous engram every week by completing Public Events in the featured Destination. Open your director and check the Milestone tab (left trigger on consoles) to see which Destination is hosting a Flashpoint, or to check your progress. When complete, visit Cayde-6 for your reward.
- Call to Arms [Easy]
You can earn a Luminous engram every week by participating in Crucible matches. As of a recent patch, it only takes about four complete Quickplay matches to earn this Milestone. Again, check the Milestones tab in the Director to see your progress. Cash in with Lord Shaxx for your reward.
- Nightfall [Challenging]
You can earn one Luminous engram each week by completing the featured Nightfall Strike. You need to be 240 Power and have a pre-formed three-person fireteam – but Guided Games is available to help you there. Cash in with Zavala to collect your reward.
- Leviathan Raid [Very challenging]
You can earn one Luminous engram each week by completing the Leviathan Raid. You need 260 Power (higher is recommended) and a fireteam of six (with mics and a good attitude). Guided Games is currently in beta for the Raid, but will be available to everyone soon.
- Personal Clan XP [Easy]
If you are in a clan, you can earn a Luminous engram every week simply by doing anything and everything until you cap out your Personal Clan XP limit. Check the Milestones tab in the Director, or the Clan tab in your menu, to see your progress. You can do this even if your clan is very small and inactive. Cash in with Hawthorne for your reward.
- Clan Rewards [Varies]
You can earn up to four Luminous engrams each week from your clan’s participation in Crucible, the Nightfall, the Leviathan Raid and Trials of the Nine. Check the Clan tab in your menu for details of how the clan can unlock each of the four engrams. You yourself do not need to participate to get these Luminous engrams! As long as someone in your clan does, you all get the goods. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be part of a well populated clan. Visit Hawthorne to collect them.
We’re hoping to find other sources of Luminous engrams via endgame events as Destiny 2 continues to roll out events and features, but right now, this seems to be the total you can earn each week: nine Luminous engrams across a range of easy and tough Activities.
As for Exotic engrams, they can drop anywhere, but your best bet is farming Heroic Public Events. Or just wait for reset and go after Luminous engrams again!
Endgame players may choose to increase their Power via judicious use of Legendary Mods. There is actually only one difference between rare and Legendary and mods in Destiny 2: Legendary mods give the attached item a +5 boost to Power. Sticking one on every single item you own will raise your average Power level by five points.
Raising your Power this way will make you stronger, but does not affect your BVD, so it’s best saved for endgame when you just want to be tougher for challenging content like the Nightfall, Leviathan Raid or Trials of the Nine.
Getting hold of Legendary mods isn’t very hard. Once you reach Power 280, the Gunsmith, Banshee, will allow you to trade in three Rare mods of the same kind for a Legendary mod.
If you have stacks of Legendary mods but can’t find, say, a mod for gauntlets, consider dismantling the ones you don’t want. This awards you Mod Components, which you can trade to Banshee for a random Legendary mod for either armour or weapons. This gives you a slightly better chance of finding the mod type you need.
That said, it seems that you will never get a Legendary Kinetic weapon mod via Banshee’s crafting or via random drops. It seems the only source of these are Kinetic weapons that come pre-installed with a Legendary mod.
This means you should quickly inspect every single Legendary drop you receive, to see if it has a mod installed. If it does, do not discard it or use it for infusion! Hold onto it, and infuse something else into it to bring it inline with – or more likely five points higher than – your other gear. Check our Destiny 2 weapons and Infusion article for more information.
Well, that’s about it for our advice on levelling up and getting more Power in Destiny 2.
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.