Since Destiny 2 launched in 2017, the game's gone through a lot of changes. The story has grown more complicated as interstellar races hope to survive, and in 2018 the Hunter Vanguard Cayde-6 was murdered. Classic locations from the first game, like the Moon, have been brought back, while whole planets were removed from the game as the Darkness arrived in the solar system. Just as important as story aspects, the classic level system received changes before being dropped in favor of power level with the Forsaken expansion. In comparison, players' power levels in Destiny 2 have only continued to grow.
The Red War campaign, which is part of Destiny 2’s vaulted storylines, is dwarfed by the power that players wield now. Destiny 2 originally started with a max level cap of 20 and had a power level cap of 300 in the base game, and since release, the latter stat has increased tremendously. With the game’s power level cap now more than quadruple what it was at launch, the introductory mission automatically starts Guardians at a base power level of 1100. This shows how much the power level system, like many other facets of Destiny 2, continues to be in constant growth.
Vanilla Destiny 2 Power Level
In the early days of the game, Destiny 2’s level cap and power level system followed a pretty standard path. The two were originally complementary to one another, shifting with the storyline that was most current. When a new campaign was added, like Curse of Osiris or the Warmind, the caps for levels and power levels were increased. This increase in level and power level cap allowed players to work up to new challenges and earn new gear for their Guardians, followed by endgame content. More difficult missions, strikes, and raids rewarded gear that was more powerful, but also required players to be closer to the level needed, or power level if it was endgame-oriented.
When Destiny 2 moved onto the Forsaken expansion, it started to move away from the level cap and began to introduce the seasonal model. Season of Opulence was introduced with Forsaken, and it was also the last time that the level cap was used, with a boost to level 50. Since then, the game has primarily focused on the player’s equipment level to determine how effective their Guardian is in different areas of the game.
Unlike other games where character level may dictate the gear power the player can use, Destiny 2 has become more focused strictly on gear as a means of progression. This approach has resulted in a more standardized experience that focuses on aspects of a Guardians armor and weapons, more than a player’s character level, with each expansion. With the armor stats, perks, and mods that players need from gear, this approach has made a lot more sense as the game has continued to evolve. While each class does have multiple subclasses, including new Stasis subclasses, those are focused on character abilities rather than technical effects that armor and gear provide.
Destiny 2 Seasons
When Season of Opulence ended, it was followed by Season of the Undying and with it another set of changes for Destiny 2’s power level system. In Season of the Undying, the game’s power level cap was split between a soft cap and a hard cap. This is a mechanic that has been in the game since, and it directly affects endgame content as well as gear.
With the split level caps, players have a goal to reach by the end of the story. The soft power level cap is very much where Guardians should be, while the hard power level cap is an additional incentive for endgame content like raids. The hard power level cap provides something for players to grind for beyond loot, as it reduces the difficulty of many high-level activities, and also facilitates access to things like the Grandmaster Nightfall Strikes.
These activities are not reached solely through achieving the hard level cap on all of a player’s gear. On top of the split level cap mechanic is an additional layer that was also added in during Season of the Undying; Seasonal Artifacts. So far, there have been six seasonal artifacts, each with seasonal mods. Along with these mods, seasonal artifacts also provide a power level boost beyond the hard cap in many of Destiny 2’s playlists and hard PVE content.
While the Seasonal Artifacts do have a passive influence on a player’s power level, their functionality also comes from the mods they have. These mods allow Guardians to be effective against specific enemies like Barrier, Unstoppable, and Overload Champions. In unison, the power level boost and mods of Seasonal Artifacts make them incredibly important to Destiny 2’s end-game content.
Destiny Power Level and Gear
Destiny 2’s gear drops are also affected by a Guardian’s power level and vice versa. This is because the player’s power level is an average of all the gear worn, which also affects the gear that drops for players. This maintains a cycle that is necessary for looter shooters and continues to reward players for the effort that they put into the game.
Still, when the different power level caps come into play, Guardians will find that higher level gear does not necessarily appear the same way that earlier weaker drops did. This is because with the hard and soft power level caps, there are also different tiers of engrams that can be rolled into gear. As players get closer to the hard level cap gear will begin to stagnate somewhat at a level of 1300, as more engrams are needed to roll more gear.
There are three different tiers of the Powerful gear that can be found through bounties, playlist rewards, and missions throughout the game. While these can generally be gained rather passively by playing through Destiny 2’s content, they still require some grinding. Powerful Tiers one through three are then usurped by Pinnacle Rewards. These rewards are what will ultimately help players achieve the hard cap of 1310.
Pinnacle rewards are obtained in a few ways. They can be dropped in raids, as rewards for high-level Nightfall strikes, or for completing activities a certain number of times in the week. Their high level means that Pinnacle Rewards can either be kept as an upgrade, or infused into other pieces of gear to boost that item's power level. While the options to obtain Pinnacle Rewards are limited they have a lot of worth to players that want to participate in harder end-game activities, which will be important as Guardians prepare to face the powerful Witch Queen, Savathun, in the game's next major expansion.
Power Level Over 9000
Even now, the power level system continues to grow with every season and when Season of the Splicer launches at the end of Season of the Chosen, players will see it jump up another ten levels. With how much the system has grown since the vanilla version of Destiny 2, it is impressive to see its continued update. Its use, however, does not mean that the system is perfect.
There are definitely ways that the power level system could be improved for future Destiny 2 content. The introduction of Pinnacle Reward missions in later weeks of a season would help with increasing a player’s power immensely. More solo avenues might take away from the team-oriented nature of Destiny 2, but they would also help build confidence for those players that do not want to LFG and do Master Nightfall Strikes. Overall though the system is at a good point in its life even if it could still be buffed out in some areas.
Destiny 2 is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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