Destiny's first major expansion, The Dark Below, hits tomorrow, bringing with it a lot of new content for high-level characters. But what if you've been nursing your Destiny fix and haven't quite capped out a character in the game?
Don't worry, we've all been there ... specifically, I'm there right now.
Destiny early going isn't the best experience. It's packed with forced cutscenes, plenty of hand-holding and lots of running all over the place. Between the Destiny Alpha and Beta, and both the PS4 and Xbox One versions, I've played through this opening four times now. To put it bluntly: It's not fun.
This weekend, I started over for the fourth time. My son owns an Xbox One and loves Destiny, so I knew the only way I could play with him was to bite the bullet and start over on a new copy.
After drudging through the first four levels, I started talking with the rest of team Polygon about how abysmal early leveling up is in Destiny, especially after you've played it a few times. Fortunately, there's a growing number of leveling guides out for the game.
I looked through a few of them and combined them with my own experiences to create this quickie how-to, to level up a new character from zero to, well, as close as you can get to a Light level 30 as possible.
First, here's a quick explainer about the game's level caps. Destiny technically maxes out character levels at 20. But you can still make your character more powerful by increasing their Light. Rare, legendary and exotic armor all have Light. Wear enough of it and it increases your character's Light level. For instance, the game requires 20 points of Light for level 21, and 32 Light to hit level 22. The Light level cap in Destiny is currently 30, which requires 120 Light. The Dark Below will raise that limit to 32. Level 30 also happens to be the level required to lead a fireteam in the expansion's new raid. However, lower-level players can tag along in the squad.
Destiny's opening, and its slow progression through basic gameplay elements and modes, will usually take your character to level three or four. There's nothing you can do to skip this, so just try to get through it as fast as possible.
Opening the planets
Once you hit level five, you'll immediately want to grab bounties from Xander 99-40 in the Tower. Make sure you choose wisely, because you can only hold a total of 10 at a time. Vanguard bounties are the best to grab early on, because you can accomplish many of them as you work you way through story missions and continue to unlock the planets. If you really don't want to go through some of those early story missions again, you can always focus on Crucible mode (player-versus-player) bounties. But that route will likely take you a lot longer to level up.
In his excellent leveling guide, Redditor GotProof suggests you always play story missions on the hard difficulty. That said, you won't want to overreach on those difficulty modes. Not only does it make it much harder to beat a mission that's ranked above you, it tends to slow your progress to a crawl as you try to survive your decision.
Maxing your character
You'll likely be in the teens with your character by the time you've unlocked all of the planets with story missions (Mars is the last one). Once you've done that, you'll want to shift completely to bounties. The drawback with this method is that while it's faster, you won't receive the end-game special weapon.
GotProof points out the website DestinyPublicEvents.com, which keeps track of public events you can drop into for maximum experience. Public events are basically global multiplayer cooperative missions that have players taking on a single objective. Those objectives include things like destroying a fallen walker, defending a piece of a satellite and killing a specific enemy target. They usually offer big rewards depending on how quickly they are achieved.
In another leveling guide, Redditor si5yphus writes that playing Crucible matches makes sense once you hit level 18.
Moving beyond the max
Once you've maxed out your character at level 20, your focus changes from bounties to hunting for better armor. You can get random armor through drops from enemies, or purchase armor.
To be able to buy the good stuff, you'll need to earn a Vanguard rank of at least 2, which requires 2,000 reputation earned through Vanguard bounties, patrol missions, strikes and strike playlists. Once you've hit Vanguard rank 2, you can purchase armor from your personal Vanguard, the person who gave you free armor at the start of the game. You buy armor from your Vanguard using Vanguard marks, which are earned by completing strikes and public events.
GotProof notes that all Vanguard armor, except the helmet, costs 65 marks. A helmet is 120 marks.
The final push
Once you hit level 25, your character will be able to take on level 28 challenges ... and die. So what you're going to want to do is team up with a group of more powerful friends so they can shepherd you through these difficult missions.
To hit level 28 you need to use ascendant materials to upgrade your gear of legendary (purple) rarity. There are two types of these: energy and shards. Energy upgrades weapons and shards upgrade armor. You can get this material through public events, daily story missions, in loot chests and by dismantling legendary armor. If you're lucky you might also get shards from legendary engrams.
The Vault of Glass raid runs in difficulty from level 26 to level 30. Finishing this raid delivers powerful loot once a week. It's also a great way to reach level 29.
Level 29, Redditor hazCode writes, is where most people get stuck. Making it to level 30 requires a character to have four fully upgraded pieces of raid armor (legendary), or three pieces of raid armor and one exotic piece. To get that armor, hazCode suggests raiding, raiding, raiding, and also points out that players can transfer gear between characters. In other words, fill up those slots with two other characters of the same class and make it to a high enough level to enter the raid — that will triple your chance to earn rewards from the Vault of Glass. Hand over the good stuff to your "real" character, and you'll ding level 30 just in time to have two more levels to pursue in The Dark Below.