Destiny’s Levelling System Is Finally Fixed

Destiny’s Levelling System Is Finally Fixed

For the past week, I’ve done very little but play Destiny, a video game in which you travel through space lamenting that Destiny has gotten way harder to make fun of in the first lines of Kotaku posts because it’s so friggin’ good now.

This is not much of a change — I’ve been a Destiny addict for the past year — but things are very different now. For one, I no longer hate myself every time I play. More importantly, thanks to some crucial and brilliant changes Bungie made to the levelling system, I can do whatever I want and still feel like I’m making progress.

Last December, after the launch of the mediocre The Dark Below, I wrote about the fundamental flaws with Destiny‘s clumsy, confusing levelling system, which forced everyone to wear the same gear — first from the Vault of Glass, then from Crota’s End — if they wanted to keep up with the level cap. House of Wolves alleviated the problem by adding an item that could boost up any piece of armour to the highest light level, allowing players more flexibility with their gear, but we all knew that was a band-aid, not a solution.

Now, things are different. Though the new levelling system is still based on your gear and seems very similar on the surface — it’s still called your “light level”! — the developers at Bungie have made some smart tweaks that make progression feel like way less of a chore. Let me explain.

First, for any of this to really matter, you have to hit the current level cap, which is 40. This is super easy — you can do it naturally just by playing through all the story missions — and it’s essentially just a gate that opens up the endgame for you.

Then, your light level starts to make a difference. That’s the yellow number under the 40. Looks like this:

(That’s Kirk. 294 is pretty solid!)

Your light level is basically the REAL level of your character, as it’s the modifier that will affect how much damage you dish out once you start getting into high-level strikes, raids, and other endgame Destiny content. It’s a weighted average of the attack and defence values across all of your current weapon and armour slots — primary, special, heavy, ghost shell, helmet, gloves, chest, boots, class item, artifact — and it will grow and shrink based on what you’ve got equipped.

For example, a year-one 170-attack weapon might leave you at 279 when averaged with your newer stuff:

But equip something from year two and you’ll skyrocket to 294:

Sounds pretty similar to old Destiny so far, right? Here’s the cool part: when you get new weapons and armour, their attack and defence values are based on your current light value, rather than some predetermined number. So if you’re at, say, 250, you might notice that new gear drops range from around 240 to around 260. The higher level you get, the better gear you’ll find when you decrypt all those mysterious blue engrams at the Cryptarch, who used to be players’ greatest enemy but has now become an unlikely benefactor.

Bungie has also increased the engram drop rate big-time, so no matter what you do in the game, you’ll probably wind up getting a few blue engrams, and therefore making real progress. Want to do nothing but story missions? You’ll make level progress! Want to run crucible playlists all day? You’ll make progress! Want to just hang out in the Dreadnaught and kill random mobs non-stop? Progress!

Here’s the other cool part: you can now “infuse” legendary weapons and armour, feeding them higher-light gear to boost their own attack or defence values. In other words, if you find an auto-rifle with incredible perks that you want to hang onto forever, but it’s only 250 attack, you can wait until you get another primary weapon with higher attack and feed it to the gun you love.

This whole system works phenomenally and is one of the best things Bungie’s done with Destiny in year two. Levelling in Destiny suddenly feels like a rewarding experience rather than a gruelling chore. Goodbye, gates! Hello, Taken King. It’s good to have you here, even if you’ve struck a big blow to my snark potential.

Expect our full review of Destiny: The Taken King later this week.


  • Infusing is the best way to take that sword from short sword to Excalibur. It’s still grinding but it feels like progress is always being made so you don’t feel so bad about it.

    Oh and Destiny is still one of the prettiest games out there – I still stop every time I go outside the Dreadnaught to take in the vista.

  • The whole thing is what should have been Destiny from day 1. The fact that they released such a hashed up game has left a bitter taste in a lot of players, but TTK is a big improvement. Just because it’s close to the game (minus the story still) that we thought we were getting in the first place though doesn’t mean all is forgiven with Bungie & Activision seeing as some of us have spent way North of $200 for it.

    Hopefully the next DLCs won’t be minimal content for $25 again, but who am I kidding, of course it will be. $20 of that price will be a new dance move

    • Agreed, all is not forgiven for the travesty that was ‘year 1’ but TTK seems to have done the trick. I’m still not getting it, I’m not going to reward them for wasting my time on a broken release. Oh, and still no match making for raids….lame.

      • It isn’t worth $70 for the upgrade.
        Just wait a year when they bring the third game out and get every for $79 again.

        • Or heck, let’s just wait ten years until all the expansions have been released and buy them for $80, then we don’t need to buy the new content year after year and can play it all in one go.

          While we’re saving money, don’t buy new games on PC. Wait long enough and you can get them in a Steam sale for 99 cents!

      • Matchmaking for raids is now and will always be a terrible idea. Just tonight a group we pieced together from looking for group websites fell apart the second we struggled on a boss. People don’t say goodbye, they don’t explain themselves, they just leave. The thought of having a “better” team only a matchmaking screen away would turn the mostly awesome Destiny community toxic instantly.

      • I can understand the frustration at not having matchmaking for raids (or Nightfalls, which really should have it), but there are plenty of instances where I feel like playing with randoms would entirely fuck the raid experience. The first boss alone in the new raid needs everyone to be absolutely on-point the entire time, and having someone drop out because of a couple of wipes would make the boss impossible to beat. What do you do when someone goes AFK for a large amount of time and you need them to progress to the next section? How about when you get someone who doesn’t know the raid mechanics and won’t mic up and/or listen to instruction and stops you from being able to get anywhere? What if you get people who deliberately do that just to fuck you (and we all know that’d happen), as there are plenty of sections that can be wiped if only one person stuffs up? And if you are down a person for whatever reason, do any potential matchmakers need to have gotten to the same checkpoint as you to be added to your game, or do they get a free pass through a chunk of the raid (and potentially miss earlier chests that might have the gear they want/need)?

        I can understand the frustration for people who don’t have 5 friends available to do a raid, but matchmaking really would cause more harm than good. And people won’t blame their issues on the very nature of matchmaking for a type of game like this, they’ll just outright blame Bungie for their bad experience with matchmaking.

        • Those are all very fair points, but I still think chuck the option up there so full time working parents with children (and other busy folk) can have a crack on a casual basis (albeit an abysmal

    • Never fear, once you increase your rep with the Gunsmith to level 2, you’ll get a quest. Once you complete it, you’ll get a special secondary weapon specific to your character class with a light level of 280. My Titan received a special shotgun which is best paired with Defender/Ward of Dawn but is pretty decent.

      You also have a chance to receive legendary weapons or armor when you level up your chosen faction and vanguard. I’ve been lucky enough already to score a decent sniper and sidearm. It’ll be awhile before I’m as spoiled for choice as I used to be (down to having the perfect elemental loadout, etc) and letting go of some of my older items is tough, but I like most of the new weapons I’ve been handed so far.

      • It may have just been terrible luck, but I haven’t exactly been too friendly with the Gunsmith either. I shall keep that in mind!

  • HAHAHA You guys like Trailer Park Boys ??? That’s Awesome I could totally die in a crazy Drunk Cheeseburger Liquor Party

  • I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve had a lot of blue engrams decode into legendary gear. Anyone else? Or am I just lucky?

    • I’ve had a couple, but a minimal amount compared to the number of blue engrams I’ve received. In saying that, it’s more legendary chances than in Year 1.

    • Lucky I’d say. I’ve decrypted a metric ton of engrams and I don’t think a single one has turned into a legendary item yet.

    • I’ve had a few, but how it works now I’ve been getting the blues as higher light than the legendaries I’ve been decrypting. Yesterday I got some blue arms at 299…

    • Getting a few more than I expected turning into legendaries, but I’m wondering if it’s just down to the metric butt-tonne of blue engrams that drop now. Ie. if there’s a 5% chance to get a purple from a blue engram, decrypting 200 blue engrams will give around 10 purples while decrypting only 20 blue engrams might get you one.

  • This sounds pretty good but again I’ve got to caution people to wait until it’s had some time to sink in before praising it. The real test will be when the next DLC hits and it has to face a gear leap from itself. By the sound of it the long term impact is going to be that the only way to get rid of an inherently over powered item will be to nerf it into oblivion. There isn’t a ‘well, we just won’t add an item that does that and eventually players will have to decide if they want higher stats or superior functionality’. Once it’s in it’s part of end-game forever. Likewise players may find the game becomes stagnant because they aren’t pushed into changing the core of their build.
    It’s frustrating to have to switch to a Hand Cannon when you’ve got a sweet Pulse Rifle, but aside from forcing the players to mix things up and keeping things fresh it also helps make the minor progress players make during end-game feel significant. Those stepping stone items, the ones between clearly superior and best in slot, play a big part in the psychological side of progression. They create a feeling of momentum. That won’t be lost with this system but I’m curious to see how big an impact the lack of a setback has.

  • Improved for sure but I’m still not a fan of this complete rng to determine a weapon specs…be good if you could tweak some components like sights etc independent of perks…make them our weapons

  • It’s honestly not THAT different. It’s still a case of your actual level basically just determining what gear you can equip, it’s just been raised from 20 to 40. Your light level is still what determines how much damage you do/take.

    However, the fact the light level now scales to 310 instead of 34 does help a lot. It’s a smoother curve, rather than being a series of big steps. E.g. previously, you could be basically light level 33.9999999 but you’d still be treated as if you were a 33, rather than 34.

    Infusing is a nice touch as well. I like being able to keep gear I like based on it’s perks/looks, rather than simply being a case of “what will give me the highest level?”

    • Use them to infuse a legendary chestpiece to 280-290? That’s worth more than the exotic shard they’ll give you, in all likelihood…

  • So after hearing a lot of my mate’s disgust at this game (after their new game hype died down) and seeing how pretty, yet hollow it was (i spent a few nights watching mates play…yawn) i have completely avoided it but now they are loving it. Should i get on board or have i missed the boat entirely? Is it even possible to catch up now? I hear it now has story but is that retro-active too? Or am i gonna have to play through all the season 1 stuff before the actual storytelling kicks in? Not trying to be too negative but what i have seen has put me off, yet what they are adding is exactly what i originally wanted.

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