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Destiny’s most annoying leveling quirk is gone in Destiny 2 (update)

Praise be

Destiny 2 - Guardian fighting a Cabal enemy with a bubble behind it Bungie/Activision
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Destiny was full of maddening design decisions, choices that seemed like they had been made to pad out a shallow game and extend its punishing grind (if not to actively frustrate its players). Thankfully, one of the more aggravating elements of the way Destiny handled leveling has been fixed for Destiny 2, developer Bungie announced on Twitter yesterday.

“PSA: In [Destiny 2] it’s no longer advantageous to equip your most powerful gear when decrypting Engrams,” said Mark Noseworthy, project lead on Destiny 2, on Twitter last night. “We check for your best possible loadout now.”

If you’re coming to the world of Destiny anew for the sequel, you may be confused by that tweet. What does that mean?, you might be wondering, or perhaps, Wait ... why wouldn’t it work that way in the first place? Let’s take a step back to explain one of the absurd quirks of how people got better gear in the original Destiny.

In Destiny, you received loot as rewards for completing various activities. Sometimes you would get a particular item — a specific weapon or piece of armor — and sometimes you would get an object called an engram. Available in various rarities from common up to exotic, engrams can be compared to loot boxes from Overwatch, except you have to bring them to certain characters in Destiny’s social spaces for “decryption.” That’s when you find out what you’re getting out of the glowing mystery box.

Thing is, Destiny’s grind was so incremental — and high-level legendary or exotic engrams so scarce — that you never wanted to risk having an engram turn into weapons or armor that wouldn’t provide at least a moderate boost to your Light. And the Light value of the gear you received from decrypting an engram was related to your character’s Light at the time of decryption: The higher your current Light was, the higher the floor would be for the Light attached to the new gear.

Destiny: The Taken King - character interface screencap 1920
The Destiny character screen as it appeared in 2015’s Destiny: The Taken King.

Your Guardian’s Light is a weighted average of the weapons, armor and class items that they have equipped at any given moment. In the original Destiny, the only way to give yourself the best chance of getting the highest-Light gear when decrypting engrams was to don your existing highest-Light gear.

This forced Destiny players to do a frustrating equipment dance. When you turned in quests, bounties and the like, you received experience points for your character’s subclass and the weapons, armor pieces and class items they were wearing at the time. So if you were working to unlock upgrade nodes in a particular weapon’s skill tree, for instance, you would have to equip it before submitting bounties in order to level up the gun. But if you then wanted to decrypt some engrams, you’d need to remember to swap out that weapon for your strongest one — and repeat the process for any other lower-Light gear you’d been building up.

All of that was just some of the copious busy work that Destiny required of its players, who were devoted to the game despite all of its impediments to fun. And it will no longer be an issue in Destiny 2. We’ve reached out to Bungie to ask if Destiny 2’s loadout check will also apply to gear that’s in a player’s vault or equipped on separate characters, and we’ll update this article with any information we receive.

Destiny 2 launches Sept. 6 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and Oct. 24 on Windows PC. For much more, check out our early impressions of the game.

Update (Sept. 2): Bungie provided further details on Destiny 2’s reward system in a blog post earlier this week.

The way things work in Destiny 2 is that a reward’s power — the strength of the item, whether it drops on its own or hidden inside an engram — is determined when the item drops, like at the end of a Crucible match or when you kill a boss. The power is determined by your current character’s level and by the “best possible gear” across all of your characters, said Daniel Auchenpaugh, investment designer at Bungie.

“When we say ‘best possible gear,’ we look at what the best scenario is for your character across your account,” Auchenpaugh explained. “This means that, if you are playing on your Hunter (like you should), we might use the Helmet you accidentally left in the vault, the Boots you just picked up but haven’t equipped, and the Auto Rifle that you forgot to transfer from your Warlock. Gear on other characters, in the vault, in your inventory, or currently equipped are all compared to find the best loadout you could have.”

The system is smart enough to give you gear that’s applicable to your current character, so you don’t have to worry about getting a legendary weapon for a Guardian who isn’t at a high enough level to equip it.

For engrams, Destiny 2 determines the item’s power separately from the act of determining the item itself. So the “best possible gear” calculation doesn’t take engrams into account, since an engram isn’t a definitive thing until the moment it’s decrypted. However, the power level won’t be invisible to you — you can simply hover over it and see a tooltip with the minimum power level of the item within:

Destiny 2 - legendary engram tooltip showing item with 210 power inside
Whatever is inside this legendary engram will drop at a power level of at least 210.

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