When selecting a story mission, I can choose between "Easy" and "Hard". Next to the difficulty, the game displays some kind of level. However, when you start the mission, you still end up in the common map area with other players.

What exactly changes when you select a higher difficulty? Is it possible to see other players playing on "Easy" when you select "Hard" before entering the mission zone where respawning is restricted?

  • From what I understand, everyone you interact with is also playing at the same difficulty. – NickSuperb Sep 10 '14 at 5:24

First off, the enemies rank that are encountered in the mission (not in the beginning of the map) are at the same level as the difficulty

Second, sometimes they offer more rewards. Weekly Heroic at lvl 26 would give you 6 strange coins, as oppose to at lvl 28 would give you 9 strange coins. Same thing can apply to others. Daily Heroic at lvl 26 would give you 1 ascendent material, as oppose to at lvl 28 would give you 2 ascendent energy. However, many of the standard missions that can have a heroic modifier but aren't weekly or daily, can be just vanguard bounty, and give you no more reward than when run at lower difficulty.

Third, Mission Modifiers are applied to make it even harder. These Mission modifiers can be:

  1. Angry, Minions of the darkness display heightened agression
  2. Arc Burn, Arc Damage from any source is greatly increased
  3. Epic, Heavily shielded and highly aggressive enemies appear in great numbers
  4. Heroic, Enemeis appear in greater numbers and are more aggressive
  5. Juggler, No ammo dropped for your equipped weapon
  6. Lightswitch, Minions of the darkness deal much more melee damage
  7. Nightfall, If all players die, you will be returned to orbit (<--- rough one!!)
  8. Solar Burn, Solar Damage from any source is greatly increased
  9. Void Burn, Void Damage from any source is greatly increased

Sorry this is in answer form and not a comment to @Eben's answer, I dont have enough rep to add a comment. But to add to what he said you also get bonus xp for completing the mission if you do it on the harder difficulty.


The harder difficulty level makes the enemies higher level. This means they'll give you more experience points and slightly better loot drops.

If no one on your team is more than one level lower than the hard level, you should do the hard level. You'll get better gear and level up faster. One exception to this is the Strike missions. If you're not familiar with them they can be really hard first time through and you probably want to do them on normal at least once.

  • Does this only apply to enemies inside the area where your fireteam is separated from the rest of the players on the map? – Batophobia Sep 10 '14 at 19:31
  • Yes, mostly. There a couple times when the "public" area isn't really public, but usually they'll be whatever level the public area normally is. Including having the possibility of world events happening while you're in them. – Eben Sep 11 '14 at 0:43
  • 2
    Also the couple of missions I've played on hard seemed to have "elder" bad guys who I've only seen on these hard missions. I'm not sure what that modifier does but I assume this is part of the difference between normal and hard. – Chris Sep 11 '14 at 16:00

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