Destiny 2 Power Grind Changes Significantly With Shadowkeep
Leveling and Powerful drops are about to function differently in Shadowkeep.
Destiny 2 is about to be a very different experience. The release of the Shadowkeep expansion on October 1 brings with it a huge amount of systems, activities, and loot getting overhauled alongside the release of new content. That also means that a lot of what we're used to in terms of how the game plays is getting either tweaked slightly or upended completely. In the final days before Shadowkeep, Bungie detailed one set of changes to how you increase your character's power--which will probably have the biggest impact on your game experience. [Update: Shadowkeep is now live, and as expected, the process of leveling up past the new soft cap of 900 is quite different. We've put together a guide to help you power level above 900 and the new sources of powerful gear.]
In its final "This Week at Bungie" blog post before the launch of Shadowkeep, the developer dropped a heap of bullet points detailing myriad changes to the game. The post broke down changes to things like how damage is dealt to over-leveled enemies and how "pinnacle" weapons are set to change, and it gave some very concrete details about how the Power grind will work in Shadowkeep. For the most part, the changes sound like they should make working toward the new Destiny 2 endgame less of a pain, at least until you start to hit the caps.
First up, earning experience points is no longer a part of leveling up your character. Previously, you first had to level your character to the cap (currently 50), and then start increasing a second number, your Power level, by gathering better and better gear. With the release of Shadowkeep, every player will automatically be level 50, regardless of whether your character is new or old. Experience points will instead advance your way through the new seasonal rewards. As in games like Fortnite and Apex Legends, there's a slower free path and a quicker premium path through those rewards, depending on if you buy Destiny 2's Season Pass.
So instead, going forward, you'll only focus on your Power level, which is the average of all the Power level numbers on all your equipped gear. On October 1, every character starts at the current 750 Power level cap, regardless of whether you hit the cap before Shadowkeep, or you're a brand new Guardian. From there, you'll advance toward the "soft cap" of 900. All gear drops in the game, from all activities, will be of a higher Power level than the highest item you own, either equipped to your character or in your vault. Essentially, just playing the game in any capacity will strengthen your character. Once you hit 900, things get more complicated.
Grinding For The Endgame
From the soft cap, you'll need to earn Powerful drops or Pinnacle weapons, like the ones that exist in Destiny 2 right now. You can get Powerful drops from a number of activities, like completing Strikes, Crucible matches, and Gambit matches, although Bungie notes that the Powerfuls currently offered from Forsaken activities--the ones in the Dreaming City, for instance, or from completing Black Armory Forge bounties--will be converted to weaker Legendary drops instead. You can also earn Prime Engrams as you play, which count as Powerful drops. Prime Engrams will drop three levels higher than your best piece of gear (as opposed to the 4-7 levels higher in Forsaken). That will carry you up to Power level 950.
At 950, things change again. Powerful drops will no longer advance you at that point--they'll drop at the level of your highest equipable piece of gear instead. That should make getting your entire gear set up to 950 a little easier than it is now; you can sometimes get held up waiting for one piece of armor to drop in order to raise your character's total Power.
Reaching The Pinnacle Cap
To advance to the final "hard cap" of 960 Power, you'll need "Pinnacle" rewards. These aren't the pinnacle weapons we saw in Destiny 2 before--a series of unique weapons earned by completing lengthy quests in a particular activity. Instead, it seems that Pinnacle drops will require you to best Shadowkeep's toughest activities, like the new version of Nightfall Strikes called The Ordeal, or to take on the Garden of Salvation raid.
But while 960 is the top of Power grind for your gear, it isn't the end of the grind altogether. You can still increase your character's Power using the new Seasonal Artifact. This item comes with its own set of perks an adds additional Power to your character as you rank it up (although we haven't seen how that's done yet). The Seasonal Artifact doesn't affect the Power levels your gear drops at, but it does raise your character's overall strength and defense stats, so making sure to take care of it will be essential for completing top-tier Shadowkeep activities.
That's all a lot to keep in mind, but for the most part, it sounds like it'll make the Power grind in Shadowkeep a little clearer in terms of which activities you need to do and when. We'll have to see whether that's actually the case, and just how attainable Destiny 2's Pinnacle is, when Shadowkeep launches next week.
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