PLEASE READ IF YOU ARE A NEW LEVEL 20, FRUSTRATED LOOT FARMER, OR ANYONE GETTING ANNOYED BY RNG IN GENERAL
First off, if the above doesn’t apply to you, and you’re just having fun, and feel like you can keep playing the game until you stop having fun, then ignore all of this. Rewards will come as you play, even without realizing it, and before you know it you’ll be able to get sweeeeeet loot all your own.
I’ve seen a lot of confusion, frustration, misunderstanding, and even misinformation with regard to gearing up post-level 20 in Destiny. I wanted to at least prepare a guide to demonstrate how, with relatively minimal effort over a short period of real time, you can reach Level 26 without needing to rely on RNG at all. Again, everything prescribed in this guide is completely and 100% divorced from any RNG/random chance/luck. Can’t stress this enough and how important it is to enjoying the game- I have received zero “lucky drops” so far, yet I’m currently about 3 or 4 points of Light from my goal, 8 days from release (or one day after the raid unlocked).
To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one mini-goal at a time (each is in red like this). You can skip down to the first one if you’d like. Everything else is just helpful surrounding info.
If you’re used to traditional loot games- anything in the vein of Diablo or Borderlands- a lot of this is going to seem counter-intuitive and even infuriating. You have to unlearn a LOT of habits to get the most from it. But as someone who has been playing with an open mind and enjoying myself every step of the way so far, I have to say that my overall impression of the system at this point is highly positive. It’s satisfying, it’s simple to make significant progress, it has tangible impact and (maybe most importantly) it is totally accessible to casual players.
The first thing we need to discuss is the difference between XP and Light.
Light versus XP
Reaching level 20 in Destiny via XP is relatively simple and quick. However, as soon as you do, you’ll notice that your XP bar is no longer going up toward level 21 as you kill things, turn in bounties, etc.
First of all, you ARE still gaining XP at this stage, make no mistake!
XP after level 20 offers the following:
Continues to level up your class abilities; once you have maxed your chosen subclass, remember you can switch to the other and continue leveling that up too. You can switch between them at will, even mid-combat if needed.
Continues to unlock your equipped gear’s upgrades
At every instant when you would have “leveled” from XP, you instead get a Mote of Light (a currency, explained later)
So that’s all good stuff! But it won’t get you to 21.
Light is a stat on Rare-or-better armor (NOT weapons, ever) that has no impact on anything except raising your light level. It is independent of the character-stats on the gear. I have nothing really to compare it to, personally. I haven’t played every game with gear progression but I just don’t know any examples that wouldn’t just confuse the issue to bring up. I wouldn’t say it’s “groundbreaking” or “revolutionary” by any stretch of the imagination, but I do consider it unique.
Basically, instead of making steady progress via XP to your next level, you make steady progress toward your next piece of gear or gear upgrade- which then provides you a huge chunk of “XP” all at once. It’s entirely possible and likely that during your quest to 26, you’ll jump an entire level and be partway to your next one in an instant, and may immediately feel the effects.
Your level (and thus your “Light level”) has two primary impacts:
The damage you deal to, and damage you take from, monsters below, at, and above your level. I unlocked an armor upgrade in the middle of a strike which put me over to 25, and I could immediately feel more damage being done to the now-below-my-level enemies.
Your loot drops. The personal loot table that the game rolls against seems to be completely tied to your level at the moment the roll occurs. I didn’t see a single piece of base level 20 rare gear, for example, until hitting level 22.
Of course, your level also signifies if you are or aren’t ready for higher-level content, such as the Weekly Nightfall, and of course the Vault of Glass.
Here are the breakpoints for each level- it takes 20 light to get from 20 to 21, 12 from 20 to 22, and 11 for each light level thereafter:
“So how do you get it?”
To answer that, let’s introduce our first short-term goal:
Mini-goal #1 (Levels 20-24): Obtain a Set of Maxed Lvl. 20 Rare Gear
Equipping Rare (blue) gear that has light on it will immediately show some progress toward level 21.
The base level of a rare item determines how much light it can potentially have. Furthermore, when a piece of gear with light on it gets upgraded with an armor upgrade (the one that increases defense), its light will also go up.
So the ideal rare set is all four pieces with a base level of 20, and all four fully upgraded. That will make 4×15 = 60 Light, putting you squarely into Level 24.
Where do you get rare gear? Rare engrams, which can drop anywhere at all (decrypt at the cryptarch), or outright rewards from a chest, Strike or Crucible match. For now don’t worry about the stats on a drop besides the Light. If it is a higher base level or has higher +Light, replace what you’re currently wearing. Little by little you’ll make your way to a full set of maxed 20 blues.
“Wait a minute, that’s random drops! You said literally no RNG was needed!”
That’s true, you got me. Rare (blue) gear you will find from random drops. But I get a pass because:
Unlike Legendaries and Exotics, and despite the name, Rares are… not that rare. I’m already deleting them on the regular even though I don’t have legendaries in the slots they’re for.
Technically, you COULD skip this mini-goal altogether. Unless I’ve missed something, you could save up, and go from wearing all greens to Legendary gear directly, gaining 3+ levels in one fell swoop.
But seriously, Rare gear is not too tough to come across by playing.
Continue/finish off the story missions, complete bounties, do the side stories, do the daily heroic, hop in some strikes, do some PvP if it interests you, help out friends with their stuff. In gameplay terms, 20-24 is a great period to really come to grips with the advanced capabilities of your subclass while unlocking its last few abilities.
As you do the things that you’ll want to do to put yourself on the path to legendary gear, you are likely to hit 24 in the process. Either way- whether you have a full set of maxed rares or not- you can start on mini-goal #2.
Mini-goal #2 (Level 25): Earning Your First Legendary
Now we’re talking… Legendary gear. You want it, I want more of it, players are farming the same exact areas a dozen hours over for a chance at it.
How do you get it reliably and concretely? By earning Reputation, which allows you the right to purchase it from certain vendors in the Tower, and Marks, the currency that you will use to buy it. You will earn and choose the exact gear that you want for your character, and be able to buy and equip it immediately once you have Rank 2 at the vendor, and the requisite marks. This will be your piece of gear, that you chose and earned without relying on luck.
Here are the Vendors that will sell you Legendary Armor:
Your Class Vanguard (or the Vanguard for another class if buying armor for another character). For example, Cayde-6 for Hunters.
Lord Shaxx, Crucible Handler
Executor Hideo, New Monarchy
Lakshmi-2, Future War Cult
Arach Jalaal, Dead Orbit
You can look at all this gear (and preview it) by talking to the vendor NPC. The different factions offer different stat distributions and you can choose between them based on that, or hell, whatever you feel like. Most important thing is that any single piece you buy, no matter from whom, will be +18 Light.
By earning Reputation with either the Vanguard, the Crucible, or one of the Factions, you’ll be on your way to your first legendary armor piece.
To purchase it, you’ll need (for the vendor of your choice):
65 Marks (this will get you gauntlets, boots, or a chestpiece. Helms, for some reason, are 120.)
Let’s take a look at the difference between Rep and Marks, and how you get what you need of each.
Reputation vs. Marks
Reputation is earned primarily by doing bounties.
Strikes and beacon missions (patrol) will also earn you small amounts of Rep.
Vanguard bounties offer Vanguard Rep and Crucible Bounties offer Crucible Rep. Strikes and beacon missions provide Vanguard Rep.
If you wish to get Faction gear, buy a Faction’s class item from its vendor for a small amount of glimmer and equip it. At that point, any bounties, strikes, or patrols you do will be earning you Faction rank instead.
Earning enough reputation for either the Vanguard, Crucible, or your Faction will eventually level them up to Rank 2 (you can check this at the same vendor). At this point, all the armor they have is unlocked for sale, permanently.
Marks are earned by doing Strikes and Public Events, along with your Daily Heroic Story and Weekly Heroic Strike (for Vanguard), or PvP (for Crucible). The Faction vendors all rely on Crucible Marks for currency.
You may earn a total of 100 Vanguard and 100 Crucible marks per week, with this cap resetting at 5:00AM EST on Tuesdays. You will keep all your marks after the reset, you just can’t earn any more than 100 of each per week.
This cap (which has already angered some) exists for two reasons:
To incentize you to return next week, rather than, necessarily, tomorrow
To artificially limit the rate at which those with the most time per day to devote are able to progress. This has proven upsetting to people who do have the time, but for the playerbase and game at large it is a good thing. Making it simply take less real-world time- not less time spent in-game, but fewer calendar days- to “max out” a character is not actually beneficial to the community, even though it seems like a great idea to the individual.
Because the prerequisites for this are a one-time unlock you can progress toward at your leisure, and the currencies are awarded frequently for activities that you only complete once a day or once a week, casual players have a surefire avenue toward their own progression. It might take some longer than others but it can’t not happen given enough time.
When you hit Rank 2 and 65 marks, it’s time to buy. Choose your gear and equip it immediately!
However, this will not put you quite to Level 25. 45 + 18 from your Legendary piece is 63- and Level 25 requires 65. To hit that, we’ll need to upgrade your new Legendary’s armor rating one time.
Like any other item, Legendaries unlock useful upgrades as you gain XP while wearing them. On Legendary armor, there will be a number of “armor upgrades” that increase the item’s Defense stat. For each of these upgrades, the item’s Light will increase by 2.
At first, these upgrades will be relatively cheap and simple to do. But the later ones will require specific and sometimes rare crafting materials that come from all across the game.
To meet mini-goal #2, however, you just need to do the first one. Boom, you’re 25. Fine work.
Stayed tuned for part 2…