All characters in Destiny 2 are centered around 2 main levels. Your character level and your power level. Both of these levels are combined to create a system that is a lot different to what we see in other games in this genre. Lets start by explaining what each type is.
Character Level – As you get kills, you earn xp and level up. The cap is level 20 and once you hit it, you still earn XP and instead of a level, you will gain a bright engram for completing the equivalent of levelling up. Character level will restrict you from equipping some gear if you are not high enough.
Power Level – Power level is a score that is calculated based on the gear that you have equipped. This is not a number that defines your protection or armor level. It is a more complicated calculation that is meant to be an accurate representation of your characters current strength and power in combat.
Understanding Character Level
Typically in an RPG style game, you earn XP and this will contribute to your level. When you level up, you gain a bonus to health, strength or some other key character value. In Destiny 2, your level has very little influence on the raw stats of your character. Instead, each level will simply allow you to equip better gear. A particular helmet might be locked to characters over level 10 or something. Once you reach this level, you can equip the gear. Each level you unlock, will also give you a skill point. You can use these to unlock skills that are unique to your character class. For example, you can unlock a different type of grenade, or a new shield ability etc.
So what is the point in this level if it doesn’t make your character stronger?
Everyone loves earning XP, it feels like you make progression with every kill. Your character level is there to slow the progress so you can unlock the skill points one by one until you hit the limit. After this you still earn levels and XP, but they earn you bright engrams instead of levels. This allows the game to keep XP and keep it useful, but it breaks the bond between character level and characters ability to perform in combat.
Lets say I play a game like Skyrim and I reach level 50. I take off all my armor and go into combat with my fists. Just because I am level 50 does not mean I will be any use. This makes level a poor representation of a characters current strength and ability. This is why the power level is Destiny 2 is so good and here is how it works.
Understanding Power Level
Power level is a metric that is calculated on your current gear that you have equipped. The value can go up or down. Since character level has no influence on your characters strength in Destiny 2, a variable metric like this is far more accurate. Using the same example from Skyrim, If you were to take off all your armor and run into battle, you will have a very low power level and will die instantly. Using this as a way to determine whether a character is ready for a particular mission is a far better way to judge things. Being level 50 with no gear, doesnt mean you will be able to handle a level 50 dungeon, but being power level 200 and entering a power level 180 dungeon does guarantee you will be able to handle it. If you remove your gear, you will no longer be power level 200 and no longer be able to handle this dungeon.