Destiny 2: Everything you need to know about armor, weapons, and infusion

At the end of the day, Destiny 2 is all about getting your hands on the best gear. Hitting level 20, completing the campaign, running around the EDZ for hours, it’s all about getting shinier pants that you can use to blind your enemies in the toughest challenges in the game. That’s not a bad thing, and it’s been the driving force for many an MMO and RPG in the past.

Getting better gear makes your character stronger, and allows you to tackle more powerful enemies, participate in difficult strikes and raids, and occasionally gives you a leg up on the competition in the crucible.

Of course, if you haven’t played a lot of Destiny, or MMOs in general, you might be a bit confused about what gear to use, what to dismantle, and what the heck your Power level even is, especially in a game like Destiny 2 that uses a decidedly non-traditional stat system.

So, let’s talk about everything you need to know to understand gear in Destiny 2.

Power by Numbers

Armor and weapons in Destiny 2 are broken down into categories based on rarity and a stat called Power.

Rarity is indicated by color, and you’ll always be able to spot a certain category of gear based on the color of its overlay, which tells us green is common, rare is blue, legendary is purple, and exotic is yellow.

Each tier of gear gets progressively more advanced, but that doesn’t always mean it’s going to be stronger than a lower tier, especially at lower levels. Instead, it means that each new tier will often give larger bonuses to your stats, carry unique perks, and come with an equally rare mod that changes the way it behaves on the battlefield. A bonus that’s especially potent with exotic gear, which will often come with armor or weapon perks that make them ridiculously powerful. Unfortunately, you can only equip a single exotic weapon and a single exotic piece of armor at any given time, which means you’ll need to pick your exotics carefully.

Meanwhile, Power is a calculation of the culminated strength of your character averaged across every piece of gear your character has equipped. Each piece of equipment has either an attack or defense value that indicates that gear’s overall Power level and therefore how much it’ll contribute to your overall Power rating. A higher overall Power theoretically means that you’ll be able to dish out more damage and take less damage in a firefight, increasing your odds of surviving.

It’s also important to note that gear drops based on your total cumulative possible Power, and every item drop has a chance of dropping anywhere from -2 to +4 from this value. For example, if your cumulative Power is 250, any gear drops you receive at this Power should fall with stats between 248-254. There are exceptions to this rule but usually only when the gear dropped is plot specific, or has a legendary +5 damage mod equipped, which gives a bonus +5 to the Power of a weapon, a fact that’s extremely important for infusing gear.  

Additionally, after level 20 you start to encounter specific Power walls based on the rarity of the item drops. Common green gear has a hard Power cap of 200, which means you’ll never find green common gear with over 200 Power. The same goes for blue rare items, which cap out at 260. In contrast exotic and legendary gear caps out somewhere above 300, but we won’t know for sure until the first raid’s release this week.

Practicality over Power

Unlike in the original Destiny, drops are no longer calculated solely based off the Power (Light Level) of the items you have equipped. Instead Destiny 2 tracks every piece of gear you have available for every slot, including those stored in your bank vault, and will generate a maximum possible Power rating that’ll serve as a guideline for drops. So the gear shuffle nightmare of the original Destiny should be dead and buried.

This is great, because in practice Power isn’t a direct translation to DPS and damage resistance, and you shouldn’t be forced to use a weapon with a high Power even if it’s terrible, with this new system you can use your favorite gear as long as it’s strong enough to knock enemies down, without worrying about whether you’re getting the best possible gear from events and engrams.

There are plenty of occasions when a piece of 260 gear will give you a bonus to cooldown times for one of your critical skills, and therefore improve how quickly you’re able to dodge or block incoming damage, an effect which makes it much more useful defensively than a piece of 265 gear without the bonus.

Likewise, some weapons just don’t feel as effective as others in terms of overall DPS despite a higher attack. Stats like range, magazine size, optics, and recoil can all play a role in how well a weapon performs in various situations. There’s times when a 265 sidearm is useless compared to a 260 scout-rifle, because the sidearm has such a short effective range and such a high recoil that hitting something beyond 20 yards is more trouble than it’s worth.

As a result, it’s often better to pick your gear based on how effective it feels on the battlefield rather than solely based on its respective Power level. Later in the game, when legendary shards are plentiful you’ll be able to infuse most of your gear to prioritize the stats and perks you value the most, but we’ll discuss infusion more in depth later on in this article.

Stats, Perks, and Mods, the Basics

Although simple at first glance, Destiny 2 has a surprising level of depth to their gear bonuses. Unfortunately figuring out each layer requires looking in just the right location, we’ll do our best to explain what we can, but if you want a chance to look at your gear in detail yourself, you can press triangle or Y while hovering over an item to open the details menu and see its specific bonuses.

Unlike a lot of RPGs/MMOs Destiny only has three primary stats that affect gameplay:

 mobility, resilience, and recovery. Mobility effects how quickly you move on the battlefield, boosting run and sprint speed, and increasing your maximum possible jump height. Resilience affects your player’s overall health, raising your maximum possible HP so you can take more hits before exploding into a sparkling ball of light. Meanwhile, recovery directly affects both the timer before your shield begins to recharge, and how quickly it recharges.

Each of these stats gets a single point for every 1/3 of a bar that’s filled on your gear, which means the max bonus a piece of armor can give to any one stat is +3, with a maximum possible bonus of +12 (potentially +15 if class armor ever begins to contribute to stat boosts).

Most armor and weapons also come with built-in perks, which control what kind of stat bonuses the armor offers, and often have an additional perk that you can swap to in the details menu if you want to tweak the stat bonuses of a piece of gear one direction or another.

For armor, this usually allows you to swap specialization between one of two stats, so if a piece of gear has a high recovery, but only a small bonus to mobility, you can often flip-flop the statistics so that the gear favors mobility instead. For weapons, this is where you’ll find tweaks that affect everything from recoil and damage, to fire rate and optics, allowing you to cater the weapon to how you want to see it perform.

Beneath the perks section in the details menu you’ll also find a submenu for infusion, applying shaders, and equipping specific mods.

Mods allow you to further customize your gear’s stats and work in more powerful bonuses like boosts to damage (and therefore Power), cooldown reductions, and even skills that instantly restore health when you score kills or deal damage with certain abilities. Mods also an essential tool for anyone looking to use infusion to boost their Power level, or that want to keep their favorite weapons and armor relevant.

Infusion

With mods in hand, it’s time to talk about Infusion. Infusion allows you to use Legendary Shards obtained from dismantling Legendary gear to boost the Power of a piece of gear by sacrificing an item of the same type but a higher Power level, which raises the Power of the first item to match the Power of the item sacrificed. This is best for either your favorite gear, gear that has the stats and bonuses that best fit your build, or exotics that you want to boost up to a level where they’re worth using on end-game enemies.

For the most part, Infusion is an end-game mechanic and you won’t really want to use it until you’re breaching 250-260 Power. Anything below that and you’ll probably find yourself wasting a lot of legendary shards because of the sheer speed you’ll be picking up and replacing new gear.

That said, Infusion can be used tactically to give your Power level a huge boost. With a little luck and the wise use of mods infusion can turn the jump from 260-270 Power a sprint rather than a marathon.

This is thanks to the way +5 damage mods work with the Power level of individual pieces of gear and exactly what happens when you infuse one item into the other. The important thing to remember is that Infusion only takes into account the base unmodded Power level of each piece of gear, which means that when infused, an item raises its base Power up to match the item you sacrifice, but a +5 Power legendary mod will still apply its effect, but only after the infusion raises the base level to match.

So if you infuse an item with a +5 damage mod equipped, it will raise that item to the level of the sacrificed item +5 extra Power from the mod. Allowing you to sacrifice a Power 265 item to boost up an item with a +5 mod to create a 270 Power weapon.

To demonstrate, this is my original Sunshot, the pistol I selected as my second campaign exotic.

As you can see above it has a base Power of 150 with a +5 weapon attack mod.  I’m about to fuse it with a Power 265 hand cannon I recently looted during a strike as you can see below.


This is the completed product, a Power 270 Sunshot, a great pistol for clearing out mobs because of its unique AoE effect, which is now relevant all the way up to Power 270 thanks to the +5 damage mod. It’s a neat trick, and if you’re only 260 or 265 light level equipping a Power 270 weapon is enough to boost you a few solid levels over one of the hardest gear gaps in the game. 

What to keep, what to Dismantle

With the basic secrets behind Infusion under your belt it’s finally time to talk about what gear you should keep and what you should dismantle for materials.

Dismantling gear is a source of two extremely valuable late-game resources, Gunsmith Materials, and Legendary Shards. You’ll snag gunsmith materials for dismantling any blue rare gear or above, and you can snag Legendary Shards from anything at or above the legendary purple tier.

Gunsmith materials can be used as a reputation token and turned in at the gunsmith at the Tower (or the Farm if you haven’t completed the campaign) for a random selection of Legendary weapons and a range of weapon mods. He also sells random weapon mods for glimmer, which is a great way to burn through some of that sweet blue cash if you’re close to the 100,000 cap.

On the flip side Legendary Shards can be used both to fuel infusion, and will also be the primary currency used to purchase exotic items from Xur, the mysterious merchant from the original Destiny, who will be making a reappearance in the coming weeks.

With these materials in mind, your goal as far as dismantling items is to maximize both your number of gunsmith materials and legendary shards without compromising your cumulative Power level or accidentally breaking down gear with mods and effects that you feel are essential to your character.

To that end, you always want to make sure you don’t dismantle the highest Power gear in your possession, even if you don’t plan to equip it because you prefer a different armor bonus or weapon, you should keep it around to make sure you’re maximizing the Power of drops while you’re out adventuring.

Any blue rares that lack interesting effects, or that aren’t the absolute best in slot item for your character should be dismantled. In contrast, any purple gear that falls below the highest Power level item for its slot deserves one last look before you dismantle it to make sure that it doesn’t have a legendary +5 attack or defense mod installed. If it does, you should save it to infuse with a more powerful item later, otherwise it’s safe to dismantle for Legendary Shards.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and it’s important that you keep any weapons or armor that you flat out really like to use, weapons in particular with interesting effects like exploding rounds, increased accuracy, or damage buffs for getting a kill are great to store for later if you plan on running some matches in the crucible. Although, weapon damage and armor stats are scaled for every player, weapon behavior remains the same. So if you have a gun that you can make sing a bloody battle cry, save it for a rainy day.