In Destiny, once you reach the normal level cap of 20, you can start equipping armor that has a "+ Light" bonus stat that gives you additional levels above 20. I'm currently level 21 now.

How does this affect my gameplay, other than being an indicator that I have stronger gear?

Let me explain what I mean. The question is just the sentence above, however.

When I equipped the item that gave me enough total light to reach level 21, I'm still playing with the same weapons as I had before I equipped it. The armor piece I equipped was a lot better than the one I had, in addition to having light, so yes, I gained some survivability with the new item.

But let's assume I gain a few more armor pieces and reach level 22, still with the same green weapon from level 19, and try the level 22 strike missions, how did these items make me better equipped to handle the bosses in that strike?

Only survivability?

Or is resistance on the mob affected by level difference, meaning that if only my light level changed, I will still hit better as level 22 than as level 21, all else being equal?

Right now it only seems to be a gear score type of thing, and that can't be right. Can it?

  • If you attack an enemy of a higher level, there is some damage reduction applied (I've heard it's 20% per level difference but not from a reliable source). Being the same or higher level as an enemy removes this reduction. I'm not sure if being a higher level adds some sort of multiplier, but it's possible.
    – turbo
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 16:57

4 Answers 4


To directly answer your question instead of quoting long winded and confusing reddit posts:

No, upping your light level will not make you more effective in terms of damage on content unless you were previously underlevelled for it, assuming the same weaponry. Your weapon reaches its maximum damage the moment you hit the same level as the enemy upon which you are firing (unless you're using severely underlevelled weapons, see below), and it will stay that way against all enemies you are of equal or higher level to. The only way to increase your DPS is by upping your weapon's attack or getting higher attack weaponry (or I guess unlocking certain armor mods, but that's besides the point).

Sidenote: This does NOT apply to abilities, just weaponry. Your abilities increase in damage as your light amount goes up.

You will, however, benefit from the better abilities that are on those pieces of equipment and the increased armor rating, which will allow you to survive better. You will also presumably have faster recharging abilities due to the higher level of stats on better gear.

The only way level applies to damage, then, is down scaling due to being underlevelled. If your level is below the level of the enemy you are fighting, you take sharp damage penalties, at four levels below you are not damaging the enemy at all (its level will show ??). There's also a damage penalty if your weapon's "internal level" is much higher than the enemy you are fighting, but that's rarely very useful information. It does, however, mean that you won't suddenly do worse against low level content just because YOU levelled up, if you're still using the same gun.


As noted by Destinypedia:

Light is a player attribute that boosts the player's level past 20, increasing the damage done by subclass abilities against higher-level enemies. A player's Light can be increased by equipping armor that boosts it.

Because rare armor only gives a maximum of +15 Light per piece, the highest level attainable without Legendary or Exotic armor is 24.

Source: Destinypedia - Light

  • So that means that my weapon does not do more damage, but my grenade and super-attack does. Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 11:21
  • I took the liberty of editing your answer, since this is just a copy/paste from the given source it should be formatted as quotes. Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 11:23
  • I think this quote applied to the Beta but is no longer accurate. I know for a fact you can go above 24. I also think that Light contributes to the damage you do with your weapon since when I went from 23 to 25 just from changing armor I started doing way more damage to level 22 enemies. Also the item cap is at 20 because if you change armor with light it might drop you down to level 20 before you upgrade it, and it would just be cruel (and game mechanics awkward) to take away your weapons
    – Eben
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 0:22
  • 1
    @Eben It says max level 24 without legendary or exotic armor, so yes the level is higher than that and no this information is not incorrect/outdated. I wouldn't know about the weapon damage thing, I didn't test it. If you did, please share your results.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 7:11
  • 1
    Tested against lower level PvE enemies and light level does not change the amount of damage done.
    – Eben
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 9:47

This will shed light on the question at hand: http://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/2h9t6b/this_is_how_light_levels_affect_your_gameplay_and/

It's very simple, you do less damage and take more damage from monsters that are higher level than you. That is why it's important that you're at least lvl 28 when doing the raid, since the mobs are lvl 28, you will do less damage to them if you are below lvl 28

here's a very simple test I conducted (my guardian is lvl 28):

Buy or obtain white/green/blues so you can change your light level (in this case I had gear where I could change my level to 21, 23, 24, and 28)

Do any story mode at lvl 24 heroic (note, the mobs are lvl 24)

equip your gear so you're lvl 28, take ONE shot at a mob and note the dmg (383 with a legendary lvl 20 hand cannon in my case to an acolyte)

equip gear so you're lvl 21, take ONE shot at the same type of mob with the same weapon (I did 184)

equip gear so you're lvl 23, take ONE shot at the same type of mob with the same weapon (I did 261)

equip gear so you're lvl 24 (same lvl as the mob) take ONE shot at the same type of mob with the same weapon (I did 383)

final results doing damage with the same EXACT weapon at the same TYPE OF MOB (lvl 24 acolyte) by just changing my light level

Light 21: 184 dmg Light 23: 261 dmg Light 24: 383 dmg Light 26: 383 dmg Light 28: 383 dmg as you can see, your damage SCALES DOWN TO THAT OF THE ENEMY if you're higher lvl than it (that's why your bullet damage text is grey) and you do reduced damage if you're not the level of your enemy (the same goes for your armor, it scales down to your enemy and you'd take the same damage at lvl 28 as you would lvl 20 from a lvl 4 mob on earth, this is harder to test but trust me, I've done some visual tests and confirmed it)

you can only do damage to mobs that are no higher than 3 lvls above you and you take a penalty in damage for it (that's why you can't even choose a lvl 28 mission if you're lower than lvl 25, you wouldn't do any damage)

4 lvl or lower below mob: 100% damage penalty 3 lvl below mob: ~52% damage penalty 2 lvl below mob: ~42% damage penalty (guesstimate since I didn't have the gear to put me to lvl 22) 1 lvl below mob: ~32% damage penalty 0 lvl below or higher than mob: 0% damage penalty TL:DR your light levels affect BOTH your damage output and how much damage you take only UP TO the level of the mobs (i.e. if you're lvl 28, you'll do the same damage and take the same amount of damage from lvl 20 mobs as you would from lvl 24 mobs, there is ZERO difference)

so in conclusion that is why it's so important to be at least lvl 28 in raids and as I stated in my original post, lvl 20 bounties would be EXACTLY the same as lvl 4 bounties from earth... there is no difference (as long as you're lvl 20+)

this is also why those lvl 24 strike playlists used to be hard at lvl 22, but aren't anymore at lvl 24+, it's because not only are you taking less damage (capped at what you were taking at lvl 24) but you're also doing more damage even though you're using the same exact weapon

this is also why you die as fast doing earth lvl 4 missions as you do doing lvl 18 mars missions even though you're lvl 28 with 1400+ armor, it doesn't matter up to the level of the mobs

  • 1
    Please summarize the information at the link. It ensures your answer is still good if that site goes down (and it goes down often). Also, it saves people a click.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 11:59
  • I'm not sure why someone would downvote perfectly good information, only because someone (a new user) doesn't know it's better to add the information to the answer. Explaining and commiting an edit should be sufficient (as someone did with my answer as well).
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 7:18
  • I'm not sure I agree with the last paragraph. I die much slower on level 4 missions compared to level 24 ones, I'm sure (I'm light 26). Not sure how to test this though...
    – Chris
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 17:58

An important point which isn't mentioned by these answers is that you can only start missions, strikes and raids that you are within three levels of. This applies separately for each level of difficulty, IE a level 25 Guardian can participate in the level 22 and level 28 Weekly strikes, but cannot participate in the level 30 Weekly strike.

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