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All collectible items have a certain Rarity associated with them. The rarer an item is, the better, but also the more difficult to acquire. There are five levels of rarity in the game.
All low-level items are Common-level. These items are white in color and have no upgrades available. Disassembling them yields some Glimmer but no materials. All Common weapons do kinetic damage, except for Fusion Rifles. Common Engrams will stop appearing at higher levels.
The next level is Uncommon, which is green in color. Uncommon items have a few upgrades available, which cost some Glimmer. Disassembling an item will yield a single upgrade material. Some Special and Heavy weapons will have an Elemental damage modifier. Uncommon items cap off at level 18.
Rare start appearing at a higher level, and are blue in color. Rare items have many upgrades available, though some will require upgrade materials as well as glimmer. Disassembling an item will yield two or three upgrade materials. All special and heavy weapons will have an Elemental damage modifier (as do all Special and Heavy weapons in the above tiers). Rare items are still usable to a degree at higher levels, and Rare armor offers small boosts to light levels, but are typically outperformed by Legendary items.
Legendary items are more difficult to acquire. All Legendary items can be used at Level 20, but their maximum level will typically be close to the current Level cap. Legendary gear is more difficult to acquire because they almost always require Reputation to purchase first, and with the exception of gear from the Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris, they must be purchased with Legendary Marks. They have the most upgrades but also require Ascendant materials to fully upgrade, making them quite expensive. Disassembling an item will yield upgrade materials as well as Ascendant materials. In addition, Legendary items acquired in Raids tend to perform better than ordinary Legendary items, whether it is extra upgrades for weapons or higher Light levels for Armor. A few Primary weapons will also have Elemental modifiers.
Legendary weapons can be increased in attack value through Infusion: disassembling a more powerful weapon will increase the attack value of the currently equipped weapon.
Exotic is the highest tier of items available. Every Exotic piece of equipment has a unique ability that sets itself apart from every other item in the game. However, only one Exotic weapon and one Exotic armor can ever be equipped at any time. Furthermore, to fully upgrade an Exotic item, an Exotic shard is needed, which has to be purchased or acquired from disassembling another Exotic item. Xûr sells Fated Engrams weekly for the price of 97 Legendary Shards and other Exotics.
Masterworks is a special tier of items available. This tier of an item is almost functionally identical to Legendary gear but allows the Player to equip a single random stat increase to any of the gears attributes, the weapon will also track enemies eliminated or players eliminated depending on the type of Masterwork. With the introduction of Warmind, Masterworks are also available for Exotic weapons. In order to apply the Masterwork, the player first needs to find the responding Catalyst. The description will give a hint against where to find it. After the Catalyst has been found, a certain amount of enemies has to be killed with the weapon to be able to apply the Masterwork.
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