Learn how to increase your power level in the Destiny 2: Forsaken expansion with our detailed guide! We go through the ins-and-outs of the process, detailing the differences between level and power level, the soft & hard cap, and how best to get your hands on Powerful Gear and Prime Engrams!
As a loot-based game, one of the main goals in Destiny 2 is to upgrade your gear. With the release of Forsaken expansion, pretty much every player started in the same spot, and the race began anew once all of the level caps were increased. Certain activities are gated behind a required Power Level, which means that in order to play them (e.g. Nightfall, Raid) or have advantage in them (Iron Banner), you want to have as high of a power level as possible. But while grinding to 500 (soft cap) is easy, it gets significantly harder after that.
In this guide, I'll explain everything you need to know about leveling in Destiny 2 Forsaken.
Level vs. Power (Light) Level
In Destiny 2, there are two kinds of levels - the main Level of your character, as well as the Power Level (which is sometimes called Light Level by the players, as it was back in the first Destiny, but we'll use the official name from now on).
In Forsaken, the regular level cap was increased from 30 up to 50. You will naturally get it as you play the game, as nearly every activity awards you XP. But you don't really have to worry about that one - it's mostly there so you won't be able to transfer a high level weapon to your alt character. Early levels are important, as they give you skill points, but once you unlock all of the skills, levels don't really matter that much. After you hit level cap, you can still level up, and each level will give you a Steadfast Engram with a bunch of Eververse items (Bright Dust, Shaders, Emotes, Ships, Ghost Shells, Ornaments etc.)
However, the more important level is your Power Level. This is the big number you see in your inventory, and what is provided by your gear. Each of your items has its own Power Level, and your total Power Level is roughly an average of those. To be precise, each weapon contributes roughly 14.3%, each piece of armor 11.9% and your class item - 9.5%. But that's not something you have to remember, as it won't really matter that much in the game (just keep in mind that weapons are most important when it comes to your Power Level). This is the most important number in Destiny 2. Each of the enemies in every single location has its own, (for the most part) static Power Level too. If you're lower, then you will deal less damage to them and take more damage from their hits. It also works the other way around, to a certain extent (the gains aren't as big as handicaps). If you face an opponent with a Power Level that's 50 higher than you, then it's completely immune to your damage.
Nearly everything in Destiny 2 is gated behind a Power Level requirement, which means that increasing it should be your highest priority. However, while it's very easy up to 500, it gets significantly harder afterwards.
Soft Cap & Hard Cap
In Destiny 2, there are two kinds of caps, and the general idea hasn't changed with Forsaken.
The first one is a Soft Cap - right now it's set at 500. Rare & Legendary gear will drop at a Power Level higher than your Power Level up to 500. It basically means that you can increase your Power Level with every random drop until 500. However, once you hit 500, Rare and regular Legendary items won't drop any higher. But that's only the beginning of your real grind.
The second one is a Hard Cap - right now it's set at 600. Hard cap is the maximum Power Level you can hit - after you're at 600, there's no way to increase it past that. In order to get from 500 to 600, you will need to get so-called "Powerful Gear." Once you hit level 50, you will notice that a lot of the activities start giving you these. These are the only way to level up past 500, but it will take some time. While the most hardcore players were already capped three weeks after Forsaken's release, most of the players are slowly progressing towards the cap.
Like I've said above, Powerful Gear is the only way to increase your Power Level past 500. In general, they drop between +5 and +8 above your Power Level. They take your "best" set of items into account - if you have a higher Power Level weapon in your inventory and you can equip it, but you don't, because you play with something else, it will still count. However, keep in mind that they drop in a random slot - if you have let's say a high Power Level Kinetic Weapon already, and you get another Kinetic Weapon from your Powerful Gear, it might be on the same or even lower level than the one you already have. In general, the more Powerful Gear you get, the faster you progress. You get Powerful Gear by completing all sorts of activities.
First, there are Challenges - Daily and Weekly. There are 4 different Daily Challenges that rotate out every four days - Crucible Match, Gambit Match, Strike and Heroic Adventure. It means that if you get one to complete Gambit match on Monday, you have four days to complete it, or else it will be be replaced with another Gambit daily on Friday. You can stack four different daily activities (e.g. Monday -> Thursday in the example above), but not the ones with same requirement (they just replace the one you already have). Each Daily Challenge gives you a Powerful Gear.
Weekly Challenges reset every Tuesday (10 AM PT, 7 PM CEST) and there are a bunch of them. There's a Flashpoint on a random planet (you need to finish activities on that planet, and you get a Powerful Gear once you hit 100% progress), 5 Crucible Matches, 3 Gambit Matches, 3 Strikes (with the same Light subclass as one of the Fireteam members), Nighfall Strike, Nightfall Strike with Score of 100k or higher, 3 Daily Heroic Story Missions, 2 Dreaming City Bounties completion for Petra, 20 Bounties completion for Ikora, and finally, 5,000 Clan XP for Hawthorne. Just like Daily Challenges, weekly ones also give you Powerful Gear, but this time you have an entire week to complete them.
Some of the Bounties give you Powerful Gear too - like the most expensive weekly bounty from Spider and Drifter, as well as Dreaming City bounties from Petra.
On top of those, there are four Weekly Clan Engrams - for Crucible, Nightfall, Raid and Gambit. Those activities need to be completed with half of the fireteam from your clan. They're all Powerful Gear.
If you're a more hardcore player, you can also get Powerful Gear from Raid bosses or encounters. Each encounter gives you a Powerful Gear once a week (you can complete the Raid a second time, but encounters you've already finished won't give you Powerful Gear).
As you can see, there are multiple ways to earn Powerful Gear. Ideally, you want to complete all of them each week, but despite them being labeled the same in game, one Powerful Gear might not be equal to another.
Powerful Gear Tiers
Remembering all of the above is already pretty difficult, but I'm afraid that it gets even more complicated. Powerful Gear comes in many different tiers. When you're at 500, it honestly doesn't matter, because every Powerful Gear drop will progress you by a lot. However, once you get closer to 520, it's no longer that easy. Here are the four tiers and rewards that belong to each:
Tier 1 - 520 Power Level
- Daily Challenges
- Weekly Challenges (Except Nightfall)
- Spider Weekly Bounty
- Clan Engrams
Tier 2 - 540 Power Level
- Nightfall Weekly Challenges
- Gambit Weekly Bounty (pick it up from The Drifter)
- Petra's Weekly Bounty to finish 8 Dreaming City Daily Bounties
- Dreaming City Quests
Tier 3 - 580 Power Level
- Dreaming City Ascendant Challenge Bounty
- Dreaming City Weekly Bounties completion for Petra (there were 3 weekly bounties at the beginning, but now there are only two)
- Shattered Throne Dungeon - Encounters 1 and 2
- Last Wish Raid - Encounters 1 to 3
- Iron Banner Bounties (pick them up from Lord Saladin when Iron Banner is up)
Tier 4 - 600 Power Level
- Shattered Throne Dungeon - Encounter 3
- Last Wish Raid - Encounters 4 and 5
Powerful Gear from each Tier drop at the usual +5 to +8 UNTIL that Power Level. Once you hit the cap, they always drop +1 or +2 from your Power Level (depending on the Tier). For example, after your Power Level hits 520, Daily Challenges will only give you 521 Power Level rewards. It means that you can still progress with them, but the progress is significantly slower. However, since Powerful Gear drops in a random slot, there's a chance that they are going to drop into a slot in which your Power Level is already higher or lower. E.g. if your Power Level is at 550, but your Kinetic Weapon is at 555, and you get another Kinetic Weapon from Tier 2 Powerful Gear, it will be at 552 (so 3 lower than what you already have). On the other hand, if your Energy Weapon is at 545 (in the same example), a new one dropping at 552 will be a significant progress. Still, after you hit 540 Power Level, unless you have a group to Raid with, your progress will slow down even more.
Another way to get extra rewards are Prime Engrams. They're new to Forsaken, so not everything is known about them yet. One thing is sure - you can't get as many of them as you want. In your characters screen, there's a "Prime Attunement" buff - as long as it's present, a Prime Engram can drop. Once it disappears, they can't. You definitely get a new buff at the daily reset, but the buffs can also stack - it's hard to say how much, as there is no counter. From my personal experience, I usually can't get more than one Prime Engram per day, but I had three drops on a single day too. So don't sweat it if you can't play one day, but if you haven't gotten any Prime Engram in a few days, I would go ahead and try grinding them for a nice boost.
There are two ways to get them - they can drop from Challenging enemies (orange/yellow health bar), or you can get them by playing Crucible. Since they only drop at the end of Crucible matches and those can last for a while, the best way to farm them is doing activities with many Challenging enemies. Escalation Protocol, Blind Well, Raid, or even Heroic Public Events (if you want an easier way) are some of the best ways to farm them.
Prime Engrams will always contain a random Forsaken Legendary item, and will drop at +5 or +6 of your Power Level, so they're a great way to grind your Power Level.
Keep in mind that unlike regular Legendary rewards, Prime Engrams DON'T automatically decrypt. You need to take them to a Cryptarch in order to do it. They land in your Inventory tab if you pick them up, or at the Postmaster if you miss them. Check out those regularly - you want to decrypt those as quickly as possible. Their Power Level is static - they won't get better as you level up, but opening them might increase your Power Level, making other sources of Powerful Gear more appealing.
Even more rare than Prime Engrams are Exotic Engrams. Their drop rate was lowered significantly in Forsaken, even the most hardcore players have only opened a handful of them since the launch. Bungie has addressed that and they might increase drop rate in a future patch (as well as make it less likely to get the ones you already own), but for now they're very hard to get. However, as you've probably noticed, they're in the Tier 4 of Powerful Gear, which means that whenever they drop, they will always be +5 to +8 of your Power Level, up until the hard cap. It makes them an incredibly valuable, albeit random way to increase your Power Level.
There is no best way to get Exotic items - most of the time they will drop randomly when you're playing. Grinding Heroic Public Events and activities such as Escalation Protocol or Blind Well can make it easier to obtain a bunch of them, but given a very low drop rate, it's probably not worth grinding specifically for them. There are, however, a few Exotic rewards from Quests, which you can control. For example, the Ace of Spades or the new Malfeasance. If you aren't in a hurry to get those items, try to finish those as late as you can - Exotics are worth more when you're already in a higher tier.
Best Way to Increase Your Power Level Past 500
As you can see, there are multiple ways to increase your Power Level and it's not really obvious what is the best way to progress. Keep in mind that no matter what you do, progress in Destiny 2 (just like in many other loot games) is based on RNG. Your Powerful Gear / Prime Engrams might drop into the same 2-3 slots over and over again, leading to no noticeable progress.
500 - 520 (Tier 1)
This is the easy part. You want to focus on Tier 1 Powerful Gear for now - grind the Daily & Weekly Challenges. They're easiest and will give you as much Power Level increase as anything else. Ideally, between the Challenges and some random Prime / Exotic drops, you should be able to get to 520 in a few days.
At this point, the list of things you can do is massive - just finish anything that says "Powerful Gear" and you will progress quickly.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you're close to 520 (e.g. at 515), and you have a lot of Tier 1 Powerful Gear available (e.g. it's Weekly Reset time), do them FIRST before proceeding into Tier 2 rewards. Try to milk them as much as long as they're relevant.
520 - 540 (Tier 2)
This is where things start to get a bit more complicated. First of all, you still want to do your Daily & Weekly Bounties, because despite them giving you only +1 items, you can still roll them into a slot that's lower, leading to more than a +1 increase (on the other hand, like I've said before, you might also roll them into a higher Power Level slot and gain nothing but some Legendary shards). However, the order at which you finish everything might be important. If all of your items are at roughly the same Power Level, then get the Tier 2 and higher Powerful Gear first. Grinding Tier 1 makes no sense, as you won't make almost any progress. Once you have a few higher Power Level items (e.g. 3 of them) that stand out, you overall Power Level should increase by 2-3, meaning that rolling even a +1 into any other slot than those will put you ahead again.
But in order to progress more quickly, you want to do the Weekly Nightfall milestones, Weekly Gambit Bounty as well as Dreaming City Weekly Bounties and Dreaming City Quests (they rotate weekly). While some of the Dreaming City stuff might be difficult, Bounties (including Lost Sectors), Quests and such should be solo-able, while you can group up for the Weekly Ascendant Challenge. Theoretically, you can also run the Dungeon & Raid, but they're well above your Power Level (enemies in the final stages might be even Immune, as they're 50 Power Level above you), so you need a group that will basically carry you through them. I would recommend finding a friendly clan with some high Power Level players, who can easily carry you through the first few encounters!
When you're out of ways to get Powerful Gear for a week (at least out of those which you can complete), there's also another catch-up mechanic - grinding Nightfalls, one that most of the players don't even know about. When you're doing Nightfall, Rare (Blue) and Legendary items will always drop at -10 to -5 of your Power Level. It might seem that it's impossible to progress when dropping rewards lower than what you already have, but that's not necessarily true. Sometimes, the Power Level spread between your items will be very high. For example, you might have most of your gear at 535, but your Boots might be lagging behind at 525 - it happens. If you have enough time, you might grind Nightfall even if you already finished the Weekly Nightfall milestone. After a while, some boots will eventually drop (even Rare ones), and they will drop at 525 to 530, meaning that you might progress without "using" any Powerful Gear. Ideally, grind as long as you get them at 529 or 530. If you don't have a group to run Nightfalls, you can actually do it solo - get into a Nightfall and run to the nearest Lost Sector. It will be more difficult than the regular one, but you should be able to finish it solo. It's the fastest way to grind the Nightfall loot solo.
The whole Nightfall "catch-up" works until 540 - after that, Rare & Legendary items will drop at much lower than -5 to -10, meaning that it won't make sense anymore. And given that it's an incredibly RNG method (first you need to drop the right piece, and then you need to get a good roll), I wouldn't bother with items that are at -7 or closer. You can theoretically get them to -5 (so 2 more Power Level), but unless you have A LOT of time on your hands, it's not worth the hassle. But if you have a certain part of gear that lags behind by a lot, then it might be worth it.
Ideally, you want to save your Exotic Quests for as long as possible, since Exotics will always be "Powerful" - they will always drop above your Power Level, up to 600. Of course, you probably won't want to save them all the way up there, but I would AT LEAST wait until 520 (and ideally until 540) before finishing them.
540 - 580 (Tier 3)
Once you hit 540, things get even harder. Now lots of the Dreaming City stuff, as well as weekly Nightfall milestones & Gambit Bounty will only land at +2 of your Power Level. It's still better than Tier 1 rewards, but not exactly the best way to progress quickly. Talking about Tier 1 rewards - yes, you still do want to do them, just like above. Follow the same guidelines, but now for the Tier 2 rewards too.
The best way to progress past 540 is all of the harder Dreaming City activities. The two easiest pieces of Tier 3 Powerful loot every week are from the Petra. You get one from the Ascendant Challenge Bounty (if you're at 540+ already, they should be soloable, but you might want to find a group if you're struggling) and a second one from completing two Dreaming City Weekly Bounties. After you get those, the best way to progress further is doing Shattered Throne Dungeon and Last Wish Raid - even the first encounters will give you Tier 3 Powerful Gear, and it's not hard to find a group for them now. However, the Dungeon will be on a 3 weeks rotation, meaning that Raid will be the only consistent way to get more easy Powerful Loot.
If you're more of a PvP fan, or you just want a fast way to catch-up, Iron Banner will be a good way to do it once it comes back. It's a time-limited PvP event, where Power Level advantages are activated. When you run other PvP formats, it doesn't matter if you're at 500 and your opponent is at 600 - you will still do the same amounts of damage to them as they do to you. However, in Iron Banner (just like in PvE), you will do less damage to opponents who have a higher Power Level, and vice versa. Iron Banner lasts for a week (the first one just finished on September 25), and they offer a bunch of bounties - killing opponents, taking control of the points, creating Orbs of Light and such. In the first Forsaken's Iron Banner, only two of those Bounties awarded Powerful Gear. However, that is going to change, and next Iron Banner will have easier bounties + all of them will award Tier 3 Powerful Gear. Which means that it will be a great way to snatch some sweet, sweet loot if you're willing to spend some time PvPing. It's unknown when the Iron Banner will come back, but there should be two, or maybe even three more before the next DLC.
580 - 600 (Tier 4)
After you hit 580, you have very limited ways to grind up to 600 quickly. One of them is a final encounter of Dungeon (Shattered Throne), but like I've said already, the Dungeon will be on a three weeks rotation. There are also two last encounters of Last Wish Raid - it's the fastest way to get to 600 quickly, but not necessarily the easiest one. You will need a solid Fireteam with a high Power Level - 580 is not necessary to finish the entire Raid, but it's definitely easier if you aren't underleveled. If your clan doesn't Raid, you can find random groups on LFG - keep in mind that the encounters are very difficult and you should learn the tactics first before jumping into some random group (not to mention that, like it always happens with PUGs, you might end up wiping a lot or even not finishing it).
Other than that, you might hope for a lucky Exotic drop or two. Exotic Quests for Malfeasance (Malfeasance Quest Guide) and Wish Ender (Wish Ender Quest Guide) can also speed up your progress if you haven't done them already. Even better if you managed to save your Ace of Spades quest (Ace of Spades Quest Guide) that long - but that's rather unlikely.
And if you run out of ideas, grinding lower Tier Powerful Gear is always an option. While they are very RNG and won't likely push you much higher, they can still give you a couple of Power Levels each week. You can technically get to 600 without even touching the Dungeon or Raid, but it will be a very long process.