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Feature Article

Destiny 2 Power Leveling Guide: How To Pass Level 900 And Getting Raid Ready

Here's where to get powerful gear in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep.

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Destiny 2: Shadowkeep brings new content to Bungie's sci-fi loot shooter MMO, transitioning the game into a whole new season and adding on to its story. Plus, there's a ridiculous amount of new gear to chase. With the new changes come adjustments to level balancing and the in-game economy, though, completely revamping the armor system and approach to weapon mods--making them both more customizable.

And, of course, there's a new raid out now--Garden of Salvation launched on October 5 and its first completion kicked off the Vex Offensive event that Season of the Undying owners can now play. For some Destiny players, Garden of Salvation is the most important thing in the Shadowkeep expansion, which means getting raid-ready by powering up as high and as quickly as possible is crucial.

Power levels have changed significantly with the release of update 2.6.0.1. All players and items have been boosted to power 750, the previous hard cap, and a new climb to 900 and beyond has begun. Reaching 900 in just a few days to be able to take on the raid right away might seem daunting, but thanks to some changes to how power levels now work in Destiny 2, it's actually incredibly easy to do. Things get a little bit more complicated once you pass 900, but it's nothing you can't manage with this handy guide. Here's how to get as many powerful drops as possible to ensure you're ready to tackle the Garden of Salvation.

The Soft Cap

Gaining over 150 power levels quickly seems intense, given that each season used to raise the power cap by only 50 points. But what matters is actually the new "soft cap," which is set at 900 power.

That means that any drops you get while playing Destiny 2, no matter their source, can potentially help to increase your power level all the way up to 900. That even includes the normally worthless blue items that come from completing public events, simply killing enemies, and dozens of other sources. There are exceptions to this--for example, if your overall power level is 800, but you have one slot with a high outlier number like 810, drops for that slot likely won't help you until the rest of your slots catch up. But for the most part, you can simply play the game normally, completing the new story elements and exploring the Moon, and hit 900 with relative ease.

One important thing to note is that it's best to save any potential Powerful drops until after you hit 900, since gear that's designated as Powerful is the only way to increase your level over 900. For example, you should wait until you hit 900 to pick up Hawthorne's clan rewards, which are considered Powerful drops. However, this doesn't apply to Prime engrams, whose levels are set the moment you pick them up or they arrive in your postmaster.

You want that world's first clear, don't you?
You want that world's first clear, don't you?

Of course, if you want to speed this up and hit 900 more quickly, you have some options. For veteran players, the best course is to simply spend some time trading in materials for vendor gear. If you have a surplus of items like Crucible or Vanguard tokens, or even destination materials like Dusklight Shards and Microphasic Datalattice, you can trade them in with their respective vendors and receive random loot in return. Vanguard and Crucible tokens are probably your best bet, since you might have several thousand of them, and they serve no other purposes in the game (unlike destination materials). This can be a tedious process, but it might be a bit faster than playing through content like Strikes or the Crucible that you'd otherwise want to save for after hitting 900.

But even new players without a huge surplus of these materials can get to the soft cap of 900 without breaking a sweat, simply by farming public events on any destination, completing old story content (if you're a New Light player), or doing other world activities (like killing the Trove Guardian knight on the Moon and looting the chest his death opens a path to). And really, the sub-900 level climb is so quick now that you'll likely hit the mid-800s by the time you finish the Shadowkeep quest. Just playing the game is probably the most efficient and cost-effective way to get up to 900.

How to Get Powerful Drops Above 900

Now that you're 900 power, the easy part is over. Progressing above the soft cap is always a challenge in every new season of Destiny, but this time it's thankfully not too bad, thanks to a few key changes.

First off: Make sure your Gear Level is 900 power, without the extra levels from your seasonal artifact being factored in. To ensure this, you can hover over your power level in the character menu and see your power from gear and your power from the artifact laid out separately. Power added from your artifact does not affect the level of new gear drops; if you're wondering why your gear is seemingly so much lower than your average, that's the answer.

Throughout the power grind, you'll be able to see "Powerful" gear sources on the map and destinations director, and even more will appear to you once you hit 900. These specially named engrams are guaranteed to award you armor or guns that are above your current maximum possible level. They even have tiers now--Tier 1, Tier 2, etc.--to indicate exactly how much of a boost they'll give you.

Even so, there's bound to be some confusion around exactly where you can get Powerful gear, because many old sources from the past year of Destiny 2 no longer count. For example, you can still play old raids to get legendary weapon and armor drops--and even new, Year 3 Armor 2.0 versions of old raid armor. But those drops will act the same as basic world drops, getting you up to the soft cap, but not helping to progress you beyond it.

There's one major caveat to this: Thanks to changes in Shadowkeep, non-Powerful drops can potentially still help you even after you pass the soft cap. That's because normal, everyday drops now arrive at levels much closer to your current power or even at the same level as the total, even after you get above 900. For example, if all your gear in every slot is 915 except your helmet, which is lagging behind at 905, a blue helmet that drops in a patrol zone or from a public event would still be helpful, because it'll arrive at 912 or 914. It's below your overall power level, but higher than your current helmet.

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Lastly, in previous seasons, players who wanted to get raid-ready as quickly as possible often used complicated processes to juggle gear between three characters. Basically, the trick is to get as much powerful gear as possible on one character, then transfer your highest guns to a second character. Because Power is the average of all your gear together, giving high-level guns to a low-level character boosts their power compared with the first character. Then you do all weekly Powerfuls again on the second character, which should get the second character higher than the first, and repeat with your third character--the one you intend to raid with.

This process still works in Shadowkeep and thanks to the changes in leveling, it's actually more effective than ever before. Those going for a day-one raid completion were spared this, because the "contest" modifier that was active for 24 hours starting from the raid's launch time on Saturday capped all players at a maximum level of 920 in the raid's final encounter. As a result, getting above 920 was completely pointless.

Every Source for Powerful Gear

Since many existing sources of powerful gear--including old raids, Menagerie, and Black Armory forges--have been deprecated, where exactly should you start looking for high-level drops once you pass 900 power? So far we've discovered the following sources:

  • Clan engrams: If you're new to Destiny or simply haven't joined a clan yet, go find one. Simply being in an active clan ensures you multiple powerful rewards per week. (The unofficial Destiny 2 PC LFG discord server is a great place to start looking for a clan.)

  • Challenges: Once you hit 900, you'll start to see icons over NPCs in various places, and on the destinations director itself. These icons give you objectives like "Complete 8 Vanguard bounties and speak to Zavala" or "Complete four Crucible matches," and they generally reward Tier 1 powerful gear. These are found all over the place, and will generally be your main source of powerfuls above 900. As a rule, you'll usually see one challenge per Vendor, as well as a separate Powerful challenge on an activity; you get one for Zavala's bounties and one for completing Strikes, for instance. And there are several new challenges on the Moon, including the Nightmare Hunts and a heroic version of Shadowkeep's opening story mission. It's also worth noting that Banshee-44 is now a source of a weekly challenge and a Powerful drop, requiring you to complete calibration bounties.

  • Prime engrams: Prime engrams are rewarded periodically as you play. Decrypt them in the Tower as soon as you receive them. Their Power number is set when they drop, so you want to get them on your character as quickly as possible before additional drops raise your Power level over that of the Prime.

  • Bungie rewards: Bungie will actually give you one free Powerful engram, sent directly to the postmaster on the platform of your choosing, simply for signing up for emails. Check the Bungie rewards page to claim yours.

  • Ritual weapons: In Season 8 (the current season), pinnacle weapons have been replaced by "ritual" weapons. You can pick up the quests to attain them from Zavala, Shaxx, and the Drifter in the Tower. Obtaining them is a grind, but might be worth it if you need more powerful rewards. (You'll also need them for certain Triumphs and a Seal, if you intend to complete those.)

  • New exotic quests: Shadowkeep introduces new Exotic weapon quests, some of which we likely haven't even discovered yet. For now, in these early days, you can start with the quest to obtain the Exotic rocket launcher Deathbringer, which will unlock through Eris Morn after you finish the campaign missions on the Moon. When you get to the raid, you'll also be able to chase down Divinity, its Exotic trace rifle, through a lengthy quest.

  • Valor and Glory rank-ups: Destiny 2's old competitive playlist has been replaced with a 3v3 survival mode that awards Glory points, and it still also gives Valor points, as well. Earning a new valor or glory title rank awards a powerful drop (the main titles like Brave or Fabled, not the ranks in between), so it's definitely worth jumping into the survival playlist as soon as possible to rank up both at the same time.

950 And Beyond

You can't just gather Powerful gear drops forever. Eventually, you're going to hit another soft cap--this time when your gear hits 950 Power. As before, this changes how you're able to continue the climb to become even more powerful, requiring you to take on Shadowkeep's toughest challenges.

Once all your gear hits 950, Powerful gear drops won't help you anymore. You'll now need something new: Pinnacle gear drops. These are only available from a handful of places, including the Garden of Salvation raid, the Iron Banner event in the Crucible, and earning 100,000 points in Nightfall: The Ordeal.

That gives you a very limited ability to keep climbing in Power as far as your gear is concerned, and there's another caveat: unlike with Powerful drops or other gear, Pinnacle drops only come one Power point above your current level. That means if your total gear Power is 950, your Pinnacle drop will be 951. And you need to get all eight slots to 951 before Pinnacle drops start to come in at 952, and so on. It's an intense grind that will take a lot of time and effort.

Fortunately, you're not stalled in the 950s completely at this point. The Seasonal Artifact continues to raise your Power level even if you keep winding up with gear repeats in other slots. Generally, though, this top-level grind is the toughest in Shadowkeep right now. If you can manage it, your gear will finally top out at 960. After that, all your Power comes from the artifact until the season resets.

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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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