After writing a guide the other day about how to use light points to level past 20 in Destiny, I got thinking.  What is the best level to get to?  How far or hard should you push it?  What is the point in going past level 20?  Those thoughts led to this editorial about why you should, or should not, level past 20 in Destiny.

Note: For those of you that have not read the guide about Light Points and how they help you get past the level 20 soft-cap,
make sure you check it out here first: Getting Past Level 20 – A Guide to Light Points in Destiny.

What is Destiny?

Before getting into the whole level discussion, I feel it is important to consider what Destiny is.  That unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your view point) is a bit complicated.  It was marketed as a First Person Shooter / Massively Multiplayer Online Game or FPS MMO for short.  What it actually is, I don’t think many people are sure of. 

There are certainly elements of an MMO in Destiny, but to me they are very light. Sure there are different talents and gear options for players, but honestly not many at this point. Sure there are different classes, but they all play very similar and are all essentially DPS classes, there is no tank or healer class.  In fact you could not really tank as the agro system appears rather limited, and you could not heal as you do not get to see the health bars for the other players in your fire team.

Regardless of being very light on the MMO side, many players, myself included, still consider Destiny an MMO  of sorts and approach it in the same way as other MMOs.

Why level in an MMO?

If you consider Destiny as an MMO, then as in almost any MMO, the goal of a player is generally to level up so that they can play through new content.  Eventually this leads to reaching the max level and being able to finish the games current content.  What that exactly means depends on the player.  For me it means getting to the point where you can raid with a guild or clan and beating the raids in place at the end game.  For others it may mean finishing every quest, maxing crafting skills, or numerous other things.

Since Destiny has very few quests to complete, essentially just having the story mode, it is all about end game content.  Right now that means The Vault of Glass.

However, since the Vault of Glass does not use a matchmaking mechanic, some players may not know 5 other people that play Destiny, nor feel like finding new friends, and therefore will not be trying to beat it.  What should they do, do they really need to level up past 20?  Here are my thoughts.

What level should you reach in Destiny?

As I have tried to outline above, this is a really tricky question, as a lot depends on what you want out of the game.  The decision really comes down to what you want out of the game and how much time and effort you want to put into it.  Here are some guidelines based on my thoughts:

  • Level 20 - If you are simply interested in PVP and the Crucible, then the answer is 20.  Since everyone is essentially equalized, Light Points and the levels they provide make no difference to you at all.  You should still of course earn experience on your character so that you can gain access to all of your abilities, but actually getting past level 20 doesn’t help you.
  • Level 22 – If you want to run the Daily Heroic Story  to get some bonus marks and experience then level 22 will do just fine.  In fact its possible at level 20, its just a lot easier with a few more levels.
  • Level 26 – If you want to run the Weekly Heroic Strike, then you need to get to about level 26 and then you will be fine.
  • Level 28 - If you want to raid the Vault of Glass or complete the weekly Nightfall strike then you want to push to level 28.  You can do both slightly lower, even at 26, but it is much harder.
  • Level 30 - If you want to run it the Vault of Glass on Heroic Mode, then you need to keep pushing to 30.  Again, it’s possible at lower levels, but much harder to complete.

Once you decide what the highest-level content is that you want to run, then that’s the highest level you need to reach. There is almost no use continuing on, at least in my mind.

Why would you want to stop levelling in Destiny?

Let’s be clear, I am not saying that you should want to stop levelling up.  What I am saying is that the benefit of doing so, at least in my opinion, far outweighs the effort required.

What it comes down to for me, is this:

Right now my group has defeated the Vault of Glass on normal mode.  We have very little desire to complete it on the harder mode as there is no real benefit.  There is a “slight” chance to get an Exotic fusion rifle that counts as a primary weapon, but the odds are low, and none of the other loot is any different.  We could all continue to upgrade gear and push to level 29 or 30, but why?  We can defeat the content at level 28.

Getting ascendant shards is a long and difficult process, and if we spend them all now to get a piece of gear upgraded to full Light Point value to reach level 30, then we will have fewer left for the next upgrade required when new content and loot is released.

When that will happen, or what form new loot will take is anyone’s guess at this point. I feel it is safer to save up my materials than spend them now.  If the new content comes in the form of new gear that either uses new materials, or needs you to be at level 29 or 30 to reach the area it drops, then I will have the materials on hand already to upgrade my current gear right away and nothing has been wasted.  If the new gear is available in level 28 content and uses the same materials to upgrade it, then I will be far ahead of the game.  If I get to the point before that content / gear is released and I am overflowing with materials, then I will start upgrading, if not, I will hold off.

When you should NOT upgrade Light Points on gear

Going with the assumption that you are trying to reach level 28 or 30 so that you can complete the Vault of Glass on normal or heroic mode, there is still another consideration.  That consideration is, how many pieces of gear you need and of what type to reach level 30. This leads to many occasions where you should NOT spend materials to upgrade gear to gain additional light points.

Here are just a few examples of when NOT to upgrade the defensive upgrades on armour to gain Light Points, even when you are trying to advance your level:

  • Do not upgrade any rare (blue) items if you are already running strikes at level 20+ and aiming to get to level 26 or higher.  Sure it’s only glimmer for those upgrades, but you will replace them soon enough.
  • Do not do any upgrades that cost ascendant shards on any items until you have enough upgrades and materials available to get to the next light level.  This is so that you do not spend them, only to find a replacement item right after.  This slight delay causes no harm and can save you a lot of materials.
  • Do not upgrade any non-raid legendary or non-exotic item, if you are level 28 or 29. Currently to reach level 30 you need each of your 4 pieces of gear to be of either raid legendary or exotic quality.  This is because you need 120 Light Points and only those two item qualities can provide 30 points of light.  This means that if you are already at level 29 and have a piece of regular legendary gear that is not fully upgraded, then there is no reason to upgrade it any more, because you will have to replace it to reach level 30 anyway.  The one exception here may be if you are aiming to hit level 30 and upgrading that piece will get you from 28-29, it will make your time in harder mode strikes and the Vault of Glass a little easier while you work towards 30.

What happens when the level cap is raised above 30?

As mentioned above and in my guide to Light Points, no one really knows.  My thoughts outlined here though still apply, at least in my mind. 

To me the most logical level for new PVE content for Bungie to put out is level 26-32.  This is because getting to level 25 or 26 is pretty easy and does not require raid gear.  They can safely make the assumption that most people will be at this point when new content is released.  Therefore they can start it at that point.

Again some assumptions here, but I see the new content starting at level 25 and containing a few new story sections to do and then a strike and a raid.  Since Bungie will want players to be able to work through the new content, and for the raid to be harder than the Vault of Glass, I can see the story and strike parts granting gear that can upgrade to at least 30 Light Points. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new strike offers up gear that is pretty much the same as the Vault of Glass rewards, and maybe better.  I would suspect items that can get at least 30 Light Points and potentially 33, to allow players to get to a max level of 30-31 going into the new raid.  Then in the raid providing items that can upgrade by a few more points to allow players to reach level 32 or more.

Either way, I do not believe that Bungie will lock players out of new content simply because they did not do the Vault of Glass.  Nor do I believe they will make content easier that the entry requirement for Vault of Glass, or it would be ignored by too many players.

No matter what happens, as in any MMO, expect all your hard earned and upgraded gear to quickly be replaced when new content arrives.  This is what leads to my recommendation to pace your self, and to upgrade your gear wisely.


Hopefully this guide helps you figure out what level you want to reach in Destiny.  At the very least I hope it gives you something to think about as to why you may or may not want to push to the max level right now.  Either way I would be happy to hear your comments in the section below.


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Last Updated: Mar 18, 2016

About The Author

Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.