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Digital Trends / Tech - Game

Here's how to level up your 'Destiny 2' character fast and get ready for the raid

Need to prepare for the Leviathan raid? Our Destiny 2 power leveling guide will help you get ready fast.

Like Destiny before it, Destiny 2 is all about earning new loot and growing as powerful as you possibly can. But figuring out how to get your strength up quickly, especially with Destiny 2’s first raid imminent, can be a bit confusing. That’s why we’ve made this Destiny 2 power leveling guide, which breaks down everything you need to do to max out your power level. If you want to know when and how to get your characters up to the power level they need for raid readiness, use this guide to avoid wasting your time and achieve maximum Power as quickly as possible.

Step one: Get to level 20

Your first goal on the road to reaching the endgame is to max out your character level. You do that by gaining experience points for killing guys and completing missions, so just keep at it until you reach level 20. For many players, completing the story campaign will get you most, if not all the way there on its own, but along the way, you’ll find some weapons and gear are too powerful for you to handle until you’ve put the work in.

Destiny 2 also measures your capabilities by your “power” rating. As with “light” in Destiny, your power level is the average value of all your gear, and functions as a measure of your overall strength both offensively and defensively. As you move through the story, you’ll find each activity has a suggested power level when you select it in the Director. If your power is low, spend some time completing side objectives, such as public events and adventures, to get better gear.

Your power level will steadily increase throughout the game. New, more powerful weapons and armor regularly drop from enemies. Gear that’s common (white), uncommon (green) and rare (blue) will continue to have higher and higher Power levels as you go. They top out at 260, so once you hit that Power level, you can regularly dismantle any green or blue drops you get. You no longer need them.

Grab your subclasses

The other thing you want to do as early as possible is unlock your alternate subclasses. After completing a public event, you may receive a strange object, which triggers a quest to earn your subclasses back. Once they appear, you’ll see them added to your Milestones.

To earn your subclasses, complete public events until the subclass milestone directs you back to Earth. In Earth’s director map, you’ll see a mission that will take you to the Dark Forest, where you’ll completely a short mission that unlocks your subclass and gives you a chance to play with it. From there, continue leveling up (even after 20) to earn more Ability Points so you can unlock all your classes’ perks and capabilities.

Step two: The road to 265

Once you hit Level 20, you’ll be free to use every weapon in the game. From here on out, your exclusive focus is on raising your power level.

Power is tied to the stats of your weapons and armor — your gear — so you achieve this by earning the best stuff you can. This can be something of a process. You can earn gear routinely by completing different activities as well as through random drops as you play, but gear increases power in step with your character. That means you won’t immediately find 260-power gear as soon as you hit level 20; instead you’ll have to continually find and equip new stuff to climb the ladder. By the time you hit 250-260, you should focus on finding legendary (purple) weapons, which will push your power level all the way up to 265, which many players refer to as the “soft cap.”

At the same time, there are activities you’ll want to put off until later to maximize your rewards. Hold back on doing activities that say they dispatch “powerful” gear until you raise your power to 265. Some Milestones, like flashpoints and the “Quest” missions that appear on each planet once you’ve visited the major quest-givers, are on each one after finishing the story. While most adventures and quests reward you with better versions of standard gear, “powerful” rewards can boost you well beyond those limits. By holding off on completing the Milestones that give you powerful gear, as well as quests for various exotic weapons (yellow) you can save the best rewards for when they’ll be most effective, instead of getting decent loot at lower levels, which will boost your progression in ways that you can achieve elsewhere.

Clear out everything

Any drop you get before you hit 260 will increase your overall Power level, so complete every mission and go for every reward you can. Go nuts. A quick way to advance is to clear out each of the planets, knocking out their Adventure missions. Adventures often give you gear (as well as Ability points to boost your subclasses), and they’re a little more enjoyable than some of the other content, like patrols.

Raise your rep

Everything you do on various planets earns you Tokens that correspond to those planets. You take those tokens to the quest givers on each planet — Devram in the EDZ, Failsafe on Nessus, Sloane on Titan, and Asher on Io — to increase your “reputation.” Effectively, every time you give a quest giver enough tokens to fill up the bar that appears on their screen when you talk to them, you’ll receive some new gear that will be more powerful than the stuff you have.

Just about everything you do on a given planet will give you reputation tokens. Completing adventures and patrols earns you Tokens, as does clearing challenges, finding supply caches (treasure chests randomly scattered around on planets), and clearing out “Lost Sectors” (hidden tunnels full of bad guys, with a special loot box that can only be opened if you kill the big enemy at the end with the yellow health bar). You can also look for “high value targets” around various planets; these are special, tougher enemies with yellow health bars that sometimes appear wandering the wilderness. You can also complete public events to earn more rep, and you’ll find gear drops at the end of those as well.

Dismantle old stuff

In more traditional role-playing games, you might sell your old equipment, but in Destiny 2, you simply dismantle it from your menu screen by holding a specific button (Square on PlayStation 4, for instance). You should scrap any old green or blue drops with power levels below your most powerful items. Rare and legendary drops, when dismantled, also yield “gunsmith materials,” which you can take to the Gunsmith at the Farm to increase your reputation with him. Just like turning in reputation tokens, if you give the gunsmith enough parts, you’ll fill a bar on the screen and eventually earn some new, more powerful gear.

Complete Strikes

Once you’ve unlocked the strike playlist, you can access it to be matched into a fireteam of three Guardians to complete these lengthier missions. Each time you finish one, you’ll open a loot chest with some decent gear — mostly blues, but sometimes purples as well. You’ll also receive reputation tokens you can give to Zavala in the Farm or Tower, which work the same way as reputation with any other faction leader, and earn you even more gear.

Spend time Meditating

Once you’ve finished the story campaign, you can visit Ikora in the Tower to access a weekly set of Meditations. These are story missions you can replay, with each mission handing off some gear rewards as you finish them. Completing Meditations for Ikora earns yet more reputation tokens that you can give back to her. Turn in enough, and you get more gear.

Enter the Crucible

The competitive multiplayer arena known as the Crucible is another reliable place to get new gear. You might not get a gear drop in every match you play, but you’ll pull something down in the majority. Mostly, these will be blue gear pieces that will top out around 260, but there’s also a fair shot for you to pick up purple legendary gear as well. And as you finish Crucible matches, you’ll earn reputation tokens, which you can give to Lord Shaxx in the Tower for more loot.

Complete Challenges

In just about every activity, you’ll be able to complete daily challenges (which replace “bounties” from the original Destiny). There are three daily challenges for each planet, as well as for strikes and the Crucible. Completing them earns you additional reputation tokens for those activities, giving you yet another handy way to keep grabbing gear and building up your power level.

Step three: Pushing your power level to the limit

Once you reach a power level of 265, you’ll hit the endgame gear grind. From here on out, you’ll be hunting the best loot in the game to get yourself powerful enough to take on Destiny 2’s Raid, “Leviathan,” and compete in its top-level competitive activities like the “Trials of the Nine” and the “Iron Banner” tournament. You’ll have to shift gears to earn better stuff, though — regular blue and purple gear drops will stop being better than whatever you have, as will reputation rewards. You can still get quality gear from these, but they likely won’t help you increase your overall Power.

Technically the highest possible power level is currently 350. That said, at this point in time, the game’s drop rates still hew to the game’s original power level cap, which topped out at 305. Even getting that far is a hell of a challenge, but there are still a few ways to get there and prepare yourself for Leviathan.

Achieve some Milestones

The most reliable way to get gear above Power 265 is to watch for and achieve Milestones. These are the various objectives Destiny 2 provides for you over the course of the game, and the late-game ones come with plenty of big rewards. Watch for Milestones that offer “powerful gear” as rewards (as opposed to “rare gear” or “legendary gear”). That usually denotes that completing the milestone will help you rise above 265 — so you might want to save those for when you’ve already gotten all the power you can out of regular drops.

Do some Quests

After completing the story campaign in Destiny 2, you can return to each planet and speak to its quest giver to open up a new multi-stage mission called a “quest.” Quests are like more involved Adventure activities, and when you complete all of them on a planet (usually three), you’ll get some quality rewards.

Almost every quest also drops a weird object at the end that you’ll find in your weapons inventory. Each of those items requires you to do more activities, but completing each set of objectives will earn you an exotic weapon. Legendary gear and exotics are the only types of gear that can get you up to 350 Power, so unlocking these special guns and gear pieces is essential.

Flashpoints, Heroic Public Events, and Nightfalls

Each week, Destiny 2 resets its weekly “Flashpoint” and “Nightfall Strike” events. Flashpoints appear in your Milestones, sending you to a specific planet to complete a certain number of public events. Nightfall strikes are some of Destiny 2’s hardest content: They remix the game’s standard strike dungeons, adding additional enemies and intense modifiers that amp up the difficulty. Both can earn you some top-level endgame gear, so they’re worth completing each week (and if you’re really ambitious, on each of your three characters).

You can also trigger a tougher but more rewarding version of public events you run into in the game world by completing specific, unmarked sub-objectives. For instance, on the Glimmer Drill event, shooting a small Fallen machine that spawns near the drill can destroy the drill itself, leading to a version of the event in which players need to protect a pile of Glimmer from a tougher onslaught of enemies. Pay attention to other players to learn the various triggers to turn events Heroic, and you’ll increase your likelihood of better gear drops.

Mod it up

When you start earning Exotic gear, you’ll likely notice on the “Details” screen that most pieces will come bearing weapon or armor mods, usually of the “5 Damage” or “5 Defense” variety. This means that these pieces of gear have 5 Power points added to their stats. It’s an important distinction because when you’re looking at a 265 Exotic chest plate, for instance, the armor’s Power level is actually 260, with the extra 5 points coming from the mod.

Where that comes into play is in using Destiny 2’s Infusion system. “Infusing” gear means you take a weapon or armor piece of higher Power number and sacrifice, or “infuse” it, into a piece of gear with a lower number. The gear with the lower number takes the Power number from the higher number, which is extremely handy when you get a high-level piece of gear that you don’t need, and want to boost the stats of your favorite armor or weapon.

But gear with mods can be deceptive, because it can be tempting to infuse that 270 Exotic weapon that you have doubles of into a different gun instead. If the weapon has a mod, it’s actually five points lower than it appears to be, and you’ll only get the infusion bonus of the base number. Put another way: if you try to use a 270 piece of gear with a mod to infuse something lower, you’ll actually only get the lower piece up to 265 Power, and the mod that gave it the extra 5 points will be lost for good.

This also means that once you get gear up to a high level and you think you’re going to keep it forever (especially with Exotics), you can use Legendary-level mods you’ve found along the way to boost that gear up even more. In fact, most of your gear can accept mods, and you’ll rack up a ton of blue-level mods as you play the game. Once you use them, though, they’re gone. If you dismantle the piece of gear you modded, or want to add a new mod to that gear, the old mod is lost forever.

Join a Clan

Once you get to a high enough power level, you’ll receive a milestone suggesting you create or join a clan, which will reward you with powerful Gear. Even after you get that first drop, though, being in a Clan has reliable rewards in most activities, too. Each week, you can get extra rewards out of the crucible, strikes, the Nightfall and other activities when you play them with your Clanmates. It’s an incentive to make some friends in Destiny 2, and can make the gear grind quicker and more fun to work through.

Compete in the Iron Banner and Trials of the Nine, and ready a Raid team

In Destiny, the best gear always came from the hardest activities, and you can expect Destiny 2 to function the same way. Top-level gear reliably drops in the Iron Banner Crucible tournament (where, unlike the regular Crucible, you keep your power level, so your grinding efforts are rewarded) and in the Trials of the Nine, so you’ll want to get good at the player-versus-player portion of the game.

Outside of Trials, the top gear in Destiny was always located in its various raids, both in their regular and “hard mode” forms. If you really want to push your characters up past 300 Power in Destiny 2, start getting your six-guardian fireteams ready to gear up and conquer Leviathan.

Use Fireteam Medallions to amp up your drops

At the Eververse shop, you can buy fireteam medallions, which are consumable items that give you increased loot drops for four hours across a number of activities. They’re especially useful when you play with friends, as everyone on your fireteam gets the benefit as well. Fireteam medallions increase the frequency of drops, which can help you get high-quality ones a little quicker. You’ll need bright dust to buy things from Eververse, which you can get by paying real money, or breaking down the cosmetic items you get out of bright engrams, such as ships and sparrows.

Run the raid

Once you’ve broken the 270 Power threshold, you’ll be ready to head to the Leviathan raid. Along with milestones, it’s one of the few places to keep grinding your Power level up toward the power level cap. The raid requires a team of six players and includes four different major encounters. After each one, you’ll open a treasure chest that will drop Reputation Tokens that you can turn in to a specific, new vendor in the Tower. With enough tokens, you can reliably get raid-specific gear from the vendor, just like with any of the other reputation characters in the game.

Gear you get from turning in raid reputation tokens will get you raid gear, but as with other reputation vendors, you’ll receive it below your level if you’re at 265 or higher. But as you’re working your way through the raid itself, there’s a chance those chests will also drop higher-level gear as well. So it’s worth it to run the raid each raid after each weekly reset if you’re really interested in grinding your level up.

Make some alternate characters

Once you hit the 265 threshold in Destiny 2, reliable advancement can be tough to come by. Each weekly reset only provides a couple of Milestones for players to complete, and those are pretty much the only places you’re guaranteed to get gear that will consistently increase your character’s Power level. There’s a potential workaround, though: Start a new character to get more Milestones.

You can have a total of three characters in Destiny 2 — a Titan, a Warlock and a Hunter — and using two or all three of them gives you the chance to sort of leap-frog your characters by sharing equipment between them. That can help you get all of their power levels to about the same place, which will mean that instead of doing two milestones per week, you can do four or even six, and pool your characters’ resources together.

It works like this: First, start an alternate character and complete the story campaign to unlock all content for that character. Once you get to level 20, you can use weapons with any Power level in the game. So next, transfer your best weapons from your main character over to your alternate (you can do that quickly and easily with the Destiny smartphone app). You can’t share things like armor, but you can use the same guns — and that should automatically give your alt character a huge Power boost.

From there, just level your character like normal, holding off on completing milestones while knocking out things like adventures and patrols. With high-level weapons, you’ll get much higher random equipment drops, and the items you get for turning in reputation tokens will drop higher as well. That should make it fairly easy to equalize your alt character’s other equipment with your high-quality guns. Having that high-level equipment will also make your grind past 265 a little quicker.

Once you get your alt character pretty close to where your main character is, Power-wise, you can start knocking out your alt character’s milestones for guaranteed high-level gear drops. Armor will have to stay on your alt since it’s not interchangeable between classes, but any weapons you get along the way that are above your power level will also give a boost to your main character. Sharing weapons back and forth, you can increase your ability to level our characters up each week.

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