I've played this game for about a year now, and basically, I can't tell what the point of powerful gear really is in the game (and by "powerful" I mean the power level of gear). Note, I'm not particularly active in Strikes, Crucible or Raids.

From what I can gather, some creatures take reduced damage from either the difference between your level and them, or your power level and them. But once you're at sufficient level (or power level), everything still takes a "couple of hits" to kill off. Power level doesn't seem to make any difference at all. The basic mobs that you encountered at level 5 take just as many hits to take down at level 5 as they did at level 20 (and I'm only just now starting to play the Osiris, Warmind, and Forsaken). Things still take 1-2 headshots, and 3-4 body shots to go down with my level 325 gear as they did with my level 100 gear.

Google searches about "what does power level do" only result in "how to maximize your power level".

Is it really just a gating mechanic to prevent you from doing content unless you've ground long enough, and not just because you do less damage and take more damage?

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    At higher differences enemies are immune to your damage. For me being 65 levels low in the Blind Well, meant everything was immune, even to my super.
    – Neon1024
    Oct 8, 2018 at 8:13
  • OK. I gathered that when I found "immune" enemies as I wandered around. However, it seems a digital switch - namely you either do damage to them, or you can't. It's possible there's a sliding scale of damage that goes from "zero" to "full damage", but there's no "I'm 300 levels above the mob, so they take massively more damage" condition. This is speculation on my part, supported by some basic comparisons.
    – Jon V
    Oct 8, 2018 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


Power level can be quite confusing and when broken down doesn't get much simpler but it all mostly comes down to damage dealt and damage taken but also what you have access to doing.

First, the simplest thing power level does is cuts off access to higher level activities. These could be story missions, heroic missions/strikes/adventures, nightfalls, raids, and now iron banner and trials of the nine.

Second is damage, from this video that explains it great detail, when you are the same level as an enemy you are doing what is called "base damage". 1 power level above or below the enemy won't make much difference at all but it does being to scale more and more as you get higher/lower than the enemies. At 50 power levels above the enemy you are taking 40.9% less damage, at 49 power levels below the enemy you take 150.6% more damage and dealing 43.12% less damage. And at 50 power levels below you deal nothing and are instant killed by everything.

Now there is one other scenario, the damage you deal when above the enemy power level. This is slightly different, where before your overall power level affected what happened, damage dealing when higher is only changed by the power level of the actual weapon. Basically, if you're in a 500 power level activity, and have a weapon that's 600 then it won't matter what all your other gear is as long as you are above 500. That 600 level weapon will always do the same damage when above the enemy power level. The difference comes from if you have the EXACT SAME weapon but only a lower level on it, only then will THAT weapon's damage change.

Put simply,

  • Damage dealt when higher level is based on the weapon not the character
  • Damage dealt when lower scales down until 50 levels below and then it's 0%
  • Damage taken when higher scales until you take 40.9% less damage
  • Damage taken when lower scales quickly until 50 levels below and you are instant killed

So while you could be hundreds of levels above an enemy you aren't going to be unstoppable and kill everything with a single bullet, you'll have an advantage but there's a limit. Conversely, being hundreds of levels below will get you smacked down by the first enemy that sees you, if you're even allowed to get near that activity.

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    That's essentially what I had thought - sliding scale from you do 0 damage to you do full damage, and minimal "bonus" damage if you're significantly above the "full damage" point. It's a bit more nuanced than a simple linear scale (sliding linear scale is more correct), but ultimately, being significantly above an activity means that you take less damage, and do more damage, up to a point (50 seems to be the magic number in each case). Though there is some nuance with your weapon's power scaling somewhat independently of your overall power. Thanks! Marked as resolved!
    – Jon V
    Oct 9, 2018 at 1:12
  • Do you know if the same calculations are applied to Light-enhanced PVP, like Iron Banner? Oct 22, 2018 at 15:05
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    @Weaveworker89 No, they aren't the exact same calculations, they aren't quite as extreme or else there would be huge advantages to those at 600 power. There is power level advantages but it's not impossible to do damage at huge differences. Here's a video of almost 200-300 power difference and they are still getting kills but are getting killed very quickly.
    – Virusbomb
    Oct 22, 2018 at 15:24

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