Is there anything gamers love more than making a number go up? Well, sure — compelling narratives, engaging action, and mindbending puzzles, I guess. But numbers go up and give good brain chemicals, though. Numbers have been going up in Destiny 2 for some time now, with each expansion and season offering players an even higher Power Level cap to reach. I say no more. It’s time to get rid of Power in Destiny 2. Society has progressed past the need for Power.
Previously known as Light Level in Destiny, Power is a general measure of a Guardian’s strength. Essentially, Power in Destiny 2 is the same as experience level in most RPGs, and used to be tied to it. But for some time now, experience in Destiny 2 has been a measure of progression on the season pass, rather than tied to actual strength. So now, Power is its own thing, which is raised by getting Powerful or Pinnacle gear drops and gaining XP on your Seasonal Artifact, which provides a boost that lasts until the season ends.
What is Power for, exactly? Historically, it’s served two purposes: the first is to give players a sense of achievement and progression. Making a number go up is a good way to feel like you’re achieving something, whether you actually are or not. Second, Power has been a gating mechanic that serves to lock players out from various parts of the game. These two roles interact — grinding your Power to be able to access Raids, Iron Banner, and other high-level content can make players feel accomplished and introduce them to the basics of the game they’ll need to operate in these activities.
There are a few problems here, though. The first is the Power is a blunt tool for gating content. It doesn’t feel good to have to grind out low-level activities just to be able to try Grandmaster Nightfalls, for example. And it’s been frustrating in past seasons to have to run older content in the game just to make a number go up enough to have a chance at succeeding in the newer stuff. Thankfully, in both Witch Queen and Season of the Haunted, Bungie appears to be moving away from this aspect of Power.
Playing through the Witch Queen Legendary campaign, for instance, rewards players with gear that will get them up to the soft Power cap. Each mission gives you enough drops that you’re prepared for the next one, and by the end, you’re ready for most other activities in the game.
More recently, Season of the Haunted made two major changes to Power. First, it set a Power floor on the new seasonal area of the Leviathan, raising Guardians’ Power up to ten below the recommended level. That means that any player can jump right into the new stuff, but that as the season goes one and players raise their Power past this floor, the activities will get easier to complete.
Second, Season of the Haunted also dropped Power completely from Iron Banner, which was previously one of only a small number of PVP modes where the mechanic was enabled. That means that anyone can jump into Iron Banner at any Power Level, and the mode is now much more based around skill than grinding out Pinnacle drops.
These changes lead me to suspect that Bungie is moving away from Power entirely. If so, that’s fantastic. At this point, I don’t think the Power mechanic serves any real purpose, and removing it wouldn’t change much in the game at all. Destiny 2 has been incorporating adjustable difficulties for Nightfalls, Raids, and Seasonal Activities for some time now, and locking them behind Power levels really only serves to pad things out. Some players might miss the sense of achievement that comes from making a number go up, but I imagine that many more would be glad to be able to play Destiny 2 — whether PVE or PVP — without having to worry about the grind. Besides, it’s not like there aren’t activities to grind out in the place of Power these days. Crafting weapons, running Lost Sectors for Exotics, and leveling your Season Pass are all similarly low-stakes activities that can take the place of the Power grind.
If Bungie is worried that removing Powerful and Pinnacle drops will devalue older content, then they could simply provide other rewards for these activities — crafting materials, more season pass experience, Bright Dust, etc. There are plenty of ways to rewards players in Destiny 2 beyond making a number go up, and I hope that the changes we’re seeing in Season of the Haunted are the beginning of the end for Power, a mechanic that has long outlived its usefulness. And hey, it seems like there might even be lore hints that we’re moving in this direction. As Ikora puts it in the Witch Queen Hidden Dossier:
There is no such thing as a “low-power Guardian.” There may be armor you can’t actuate or weapons mechanisms you can’t understand. There may be techniques you have yet to master and missions you dare not attempt. But the possibility of your Light is unlimited. I mean this very seriously. A novice go player has the exact same power to place stones as a 9-dan master. The only difference between them lies in their knowledge and ability to choose. This is my firmly held and personal truth: the only difference in “power” between you and me lies in what we have learned and practiced.