[[PlayerCharacter Video game heroes]] face a variety of threats, from GoddamnBats through human enemies to an EldritchAbomination or [[LovecraftLite ten]]. In order to survive these encounters, the hero is going to need [[UniqueProtagonistAsset something that makes him different]], a special ability that justifies why ''he'' is the one saving the day. If the game boasts a radical gameplay innovation, the hero's power is likely to be closely related to it, explored and upgraded throughout the entire game.

Some games [[PowersInTheFirstEpisode give this defining power to the player from the moment they take control]]. This trope is about the games that ''don't''. In these games, the first level is completely devoid of the game-defining power, instead [[TutorialLevel drilling you in its more basic mechanics]]. It's only after you've learned the fundamentals that you receive the shiny fun gameplay mechanic you've seen in [[TrailersAlwaysSpoil all the trailers]].

In terms of TheHerosJourney, this corresponds to the (belated) SupernaturalAid. Recent games (especially from the ScienceFiction corner) like to infect their heroes with TheVirus or TheCorruption in the end of stage one, which power their supernatural abilities for the rest of the game. Others don't use "powers" ''per se'', but give their heroes unique weapons, usually ForgedByTheGods, which give them an edge over the enemies that normal weapons can't and double as a SwordOfPlotAdvancement. The superpower variety is especially popular in {{RPG}}s, while unique and/or {{gimmick}} weaponry is commonly found in ActionAdventure games and shooters.

Compare/contrast EleventhHourSuperpower, which involves a sudden power-up right before the climax, and ATasteOfPower, which lets you have a (nearly) full set of powers for a while before taking them away.
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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Action Adventure]]
* ''{{HAWX}}'': Off Mode, which represents disabling failsafes in your plane to let you push its limits. It changes your view and subtly alters (increases) your abilities. Not really a direct increase in power, but qualifies as it's a game-defining ability given to you a while in, after the basic tutorials.
* In ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersiaTheSandsOfTime'', you shortly gain the power to control time after you retrieve the dagger.
* In ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersia2008'', you don't get the magic attack, DoubleJump, and auto-rescue from BottomlessPits until you actually team up with Elika by the end of the prologue. Thankfully, there aren't any instances where you would need them (especially the last part) until then.
* The monster detecting radios from the ''SilentHill'' series.
** ''VideoGame/SilentHillHomecoming'' combines this with ATasteOfPower. The opening level gives you both the flashlight and the radio, but since said segment is actually a [[ItWasAllADream nightmare]] Alex was having while being driven to his home town, you lose them once you wake up and find them both in Alex's house. Oddly, [[MindScrew you get to keep the combat knife and first-aid kits you found in the nightmare]].
* ''SecondSight'' plays with this one a bit thanks to the AnachronicOrder the levels are played in. In the first level you actually play, Vattic gains his basic powers as he needs them in the early levels (e.g. psyblast when he's caught by an armed guard, charm when he's about to be found, etc). But in the second level, which is actually a FlashBack, he's got no powers at all.
* In ''VideoGame/InFamous'', the game starts out right after the explosion, and Cole has to limp his way to safety without any powers. By the second level, he can shoot lightning out of his hands.
* In ''VideoGame/InFamousSecondSon'', Delsin doesn't get his powers until he's made a run across the shoreline to get to a party at his tribe's longhouse, pulling off potentially lethal parkour stunts in the process.
* ''[[MetroidPrime Metroid Prime 3: Corruption]]''. You start the game with the general Samus gear, but after the assault on Norion and Samus successfully saving the planet from destruction (for once), she gains [[SuperMode Hypermode.]]
* In the first ''BloodOmen'' game, you play for about two minutes as a human (literally as soon as you walk out of the first room, you're in a HopelessBossFight), then spend the rest of the game as a super-powerful vampire.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Prototype 2}}'', Heller doesn't get infected until after the tutorial level.
* In ''VideoGame/SaintsRowIV'', you gain the ability to sprint really fast and jump ridiculous heights not too far into the game. The powers are very useful, and remain so for the entire game.
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkBetweenWorlds'', the "merge" power isn't obtained until the first dungeon has been completed.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fighting Game]]
* In ''VideoGame/DuelSaviorDestiny'' Taiga starts off as a normal, athletic human and gets pitted in a fight against a thirty foot golem. While he does surprisingly well, there's no way he can win. Luckily, he gets to become the first ever male Savior Candidate when he summons a magic sword and blows it up.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Hack and Slash]]
* In ''{{Onimusha}}'', your attacks do hurt the demons, but won't kill them. You shortly later gain the Oni Gauntlet.
* In ''VideoGame/DantesInferno'', you kill [[TheGrimReaper Death]] as a tutorial boss and steal his scythe.
* The ''DevilMayCry'' games have the Devil Arms, which are acquired either through flashy cutscenes or defeating bosses. The main characters are superpowered already, but this makes them even more powerful.
** There's also [[SuperMode Devil Trigger]], which usually isn't acquired until you're a few missions into the game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Platform]]
* In ''ViewtifulJoe'', you don't get the [[TransformationTrinket V-Watch]] until shortly into the first level. Barely an example, but you do have to fight your first few enemies without it.
* ''VideoGame/SonicColors DS'' doesn't give you the well known boost (it's basically a pseudo-third installment in the ''VideoGame/SonicRush'' series with some alterations) until Tropical Resort Act ''2''. The first "real" wisp power after that (Red Burst) is at the start of the second zone, where once you've got used to the boost, the wisp powers really come into play. Additionally, the Wii version doesn't give you your first "real" wisp power (Cyan Laser) until Tropical Resort Act 3, but you get the boost from the start of the game.
* In ''VideoGame/MegaManZX Advent'', you don't get Biometal Model A until the beginning of the second stage. That means you are in your basic human form for the intro stage.
* In ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'', you don't get his signature Z-Saber until partway through the boss battle for the first stage (instead relying on the buster).
* ''[[JakIIRenegade Jak II]]'':
** The game takes a while to give you your first gun, and unlike in the Grand Theft Auto games it's mimicking, you don't have the option of finding some yourself before that point. Shooting hadn't had a major role in Jak's gameplay until then.
** Dark Jak can't be set off in the first mission, and triggers on it's own during the second, before giving you free reign. Indeed, since Jak is the only "dark warrior" by this stage, it is a much straighter example overall.
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'' doesn't give the feather power-up, which grants [[VideoGameFlight flight]], until the first level of Donut Plains (the second world of 7 in the main quest).
* In ''VideoGame/ESwat'', your character gets promoted after the first two level (or third, in the arcade version), giving you an heavily armed PowerArmor.
* In the first ''VideoGame/DisneysMagicalQuest'', Mickey won't get his first costume until the beginning of the second level. In the other two games, you won't get the first costume until partway into the first level.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Time Strategy]]
* In {{Achron}}, you don't get access to the time window until the second mission of the campaign.
[[/folder]]


[[folder:RPG -- Eastern]]
* In ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts'', you can't actually fight the Heartless until you gain a Keyblade.
* In ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'', Crono and the gang (besides Robo and Ayla) gain magic during their first trip to end of time, just in time to fight enemies that are nearly immune to regular attacks, but are vulnerable to magic.
* The [[LivingShadow Shadows]] in ''BlueDragon''. You're pretty much powerless in fights before you get them [[spoiler:and after you lose them at the end of Disc 2]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfDragoon'', you don't get the Dragoon abilities until a few hours in.
* ''FinalFantasy'' does this a lot. ''[[VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII III]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/FinalFantasyV V]]'' both give you the Jobs after the first major dungeon, and you don't get the Espers until pretty well into the story of ''[[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI VI]]'', though you have the advantage of each character's unique skill. The other games do similar things to varying degrees, but these are the most obvious.
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'', you don't get to even use the Gambit system until quite a bit into the prologue, and even then it's still a lot later before you actually get to customize them.
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'', all characters start at about the [[SuperWeight Iron Weight]] and don't receive any superpowers (including the much-advertised [[JobSystem Paradigm Shift system]] or, indeed, the ''ability to LevelUp'') until they get to [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu say "hello" to Anima]] [[ProlongedPrologue two prologue chapters later]]. He says "hello" back by [[SuperEmpowering making]] [[BlessedWithSuck them]] [[TheChosenOne l'Cie]], whose power grows almost exponentially with time. This is lampshaded right from the start, when the heroes discover that formerly-tough EliteMooks are little more than CannonFodder for them now.
* ''VideoGame/LegendOfLegaia''
** In the first game, each of the three main characters adventures with the party for a period of time before getting access to their Ra-Seru, which greatly increases their ATK stat and gives them access to magic. Particularly pronounced in Gala's case, where he will be very much TheLoad for the first two dungeons you explore with him.
** In the sequel, ''Duel Saga'', Lang doesn't gain access to his Origin, Galea, until about a fifth of the way through the game.
* This is relatively common in the ''VideoGame/PaperMario'' series. In ''VideoGame/PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'', the Star Meter abilities are only available after visiting the eponymous door for the first time, and in ''VideoGame/SuperPaperMario'' you get the 3D-flip ability halfway through the first level.
** Dates back to the first game as well. You start the game using basic attacks, and after visiting Shooting Star Summit for the first time, you get the Lucky Star, which gives you access to ActionCommands, a ''very'' important aspect of the games' battle system.
* In ''Franchise/DotHack'', Kite starts off as an average player, with nothing particularly special about him. After playing through a level or two like this, he gets the Twilight Bracelet, which allows him to fight hacked enemies, and thus makes him the only one able to take on [[BigBad Morganna]].
* ''VideoGame/WhiteKnightChronicles'': It takes about half an hour of gameplay that set off the chain of events that lead or Leonard obtaining the titular White Knight. Said chain of events includes the wine cart your party is delivering to the princess's ball being attacked by a troll, a palace guard leaving the palace's ''front doors'' open, an attack on the palace, [[FirstEpisodeSpoiler the king getting assassinated]], and TheHero taking it upon himself to get the princess to safety, respectively.
* ''VideoGame/WildArms2'' had the protagonist Ashley being able to transform into Knight Blazer, a SuperpoweredEvilSide armored guy and Ashley gains new attacks and a really awesome theme music.
* The ''VideoGame/MegaManBattleNetwork'' and ''VideoGame/MegaManStarForce'' games typically don't give Mega Man access to his SwissArmyHero abilities until he's beaten the first, second, or third major boss.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Neptunia}}'' games have a habit with doing this with the girls' [[SuperMode HDD transformations]].
** In ''mk2'', Nepgear gains hers at the end of the first dungeon.
** In ''Victory'', Neptune and Nepgear can [[ATasteOfPower freely use HDD to stomp on enemies during the prologue dungeons]], but Neptune first [[CrutchCharacter splits up with Nepgear]], then loses her HDD form for plot reasons until the end of the first chapter proper.
* During the first chapter of ''VideoGame/TheLastStory'', at the moment Zael thinks Syrenne was killed, the spirit of the Outsider gives him the Gathering power, which not only allows him to bring Syrenne back to life, but also attracts enemies to him to protect his friends. As the game progresses, this power becomes more influential for the success of the quest.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:RPG -- Western]]
* In the first ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'', you start off as just a Republic soldier on Taris, but become a Jedi shortly after that.
** In ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublicIITheSithLords'' , while you start as a Jedi, you don't get your lightsaber for the first few parts of the game, so it's similar if not exactly the same.
** Also done in both ''VideoGame/JediKnight'' and ''VideoGame/JediOutcast'', where you play the first few missions with neither force powers nor a lightsaber.
* In ''VideoGame/VampireTheMasqueradeRedemption'', you play through the first dungeon as a human, then spend the rest of the game as a super-powerful vampire.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Fable}} III'' you get your magic gauntlets and hero power during your escape from the castle.
* In ''VideoGame/DeusExHumanRevolution'', Adam only gets augmented after the first level, a case of WeCanRebuildHim. Similarly, J.C. is already augmented at the beginning of [[VideoGame/DeusEx the first game]], but it doesn't do you much good until you get your first upgrade canister at the end of the first level.
* Subverted in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'': after all the build-up to your PlayerCharacter's super-secret InitiationCeremony into the ranks of the [[TheOrder Gray Wardens]], legendary undefeatable warriors who single-handedly held back TheHorde for centuries, the actual ceremony doesn't give you any gameplay powers ([[GameplayAndStorySegregation not even the fabled ability to sense nearby Darkspawn]]), only plot-moving ones and an extra point to use on standard talents. It is later explained that the Wardens are the best warriors/mages/rogues of Thedas not because of some SecretArt but because they ''recruit'' only the best warriors/mages/rogues in Thedas.
* In ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim'', the main character gains the ability to use the reality warping [[MakeMeWannaShout Thu'um]] after completing at least one dungeon and defeating their first dragon in the storyline. In fact, depending on what quests you choose to do, you could play half the content before doing the quest that unlocks this ability.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Shooter -- First-Person]]
* The HEV suit and later the Gravity Gun in ''VideoGame/HalfLife2''. Not so much with the original ''VideoGame/HalfLife1'', though, where you get the HEV Suit around ten minutes in (after learning how to walk, push buttons, and chew gum), and it is upgraded for the third act.
* In ''[[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon FEAR 2]]'', after you fight through the first level as an ordinary soldier, you gain the power of Slo Mo after a surgery.
* In the new ''VideoGame/{{Wolfenstein}}'', it's B.J.'s otherworldly medallion.
* In ''VideoGame/TheDarkness'', Jackie gains the power of the Darkness only after he "dies".
* In ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'' and ''VideoGame/BioShock2'', you first start out with a basic weapon, but by the end of the first level, you gain a plasmid. It knocks you out, but you then have the ability to shoot everything from lightning to bees at your enemies.
* In ''[[VideoGame/{{Doom}} Doom 3]]'', the Soul Cube and the Artifact are second level superpowers, but never really get powerful or useful until a little bit later.
* In ''VideoGame/ProjectSnowblind'', the game seems to start out as a fairly generic shooter, but by the second level, you're rebuilt with as a supersoldier who can use Infrared Vision, has bullet time, Ballistic Shielding, Cloaking, and the power to shoot lightning out of his hands.
* In ''VideoGame/TimeShift'', you only receive your time controlling suit when you reach the second level.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Singularity}}'', you receive the Time Manipulation Device early on, which lets you control time to a certain extent.
* In ''VideoGame/TimeSplitters: Future Perfect'', you get the Uplink after you get to the rebel base.
* ''VideoGame/{{Resistance}}'' only gives you your health regeneration after you've beaten the first level. There aren't any health packs, so any bullets you take can't be healed for the rest of the level, making this section irritatingly difficult.
* In ''VideoGame/QuakeIV'', [[PlayerCharacter Matthew Kane]] doesn't [[spoiler: become Stroggified]] until the end of the first Act. This process is the reason that he's able to penetrate so much deeper into Stroggos than anyone else, as well as providing him with a higher HP limit and the ability to read Strogg.
* In both ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands}}'' games, the skill tree isn't available at all until you reach level 5. All character classes play exactly the same until that point.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Shooter -- Third-Person]]
* In ''VideoGame/DarkSector'' Hayden gains the power of the Glaive shortly after he gets infected.
* In ''VideoGame/PsiOpsTheMindgateConspiracy'', you start out the game with no powers, and it seems like a fairly generic shooter. By the end, you're a psychic god.
* In ''[[VideoGame/DarkForcesSaga Jedi Outcast]]'', you play two levels with Kyle Katarn as TheGunslinger of a garden variety, then he says "LetsGetDangerous" and pays a visit to Luke Skywalker for his lightsaber. After that, he's a Jedi.
** Pretty much the same in ''Dark Forces II''. Kyle has no Force powers until after he visits his father's workshop.
* In ''VideoGame/DeadSpace 1'' and ''2'', the plasma cutter, stasis module, and kinesis module aren't given immediately.
* ''AdventRising'' doesn't give Gideon any of his birthright superpowers until after his [[DoomedHometown Doomed Homeplanet]] is destroyed.
* ''VideoGame/KidIcarusUprising'' throws you into action with the most basic weapon you can possible get: a no-stats no-mods [[MeaningfulName aptly-named]] First Blade. After you clear the first chapter for the first time, say hello to nine different weapon types, with twelve weapon models in each type - including his signature [[NoArcInArchery bow]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Warframe}}'', you don't get to equip your first ability until you gain a level. It's a standard TPS before then.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Stealth-Based Game]]
* In ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'', the player starts out as Bruce Wayne, and needs to obtain the Batman gear.
* ''Franchise/TheChroniclesOfRiddick: VideoGame/EscapeFromButcherBay'', Riddick's eyeshine treatment could be considered this.
* In ''MetalGearSolid4'', Snake starts out with more or less nothing. After several sneaking levels, Snake meets the Mk2 Metal Gear and is given a proper weapon and any NewGamePlus weapons.
** Making the first part of the game somewhat more difficult than sections near the end where you can just tranquilise your enemies.
* Unlike ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedI'' that used ATasteOfPower, you start ''[[VideoGame/AssassinsCreedII 2]]'' as an Italian youth with just his fists. Ezio does not gain the Hidden Blade until some time later.
** There's a meta example here as well: At the end of the first game the ''series'' protagonist Desmond gains Altair's Eagle Vision, which leads to the first hints that he may have more of a role than as a LivingMacguffin. In the next game his acquisition of his ancestors' movement and fighting skills have a similar feel, giving little tastes of "real world" freedom and power.
* In ''{{Dishonored}}'', you don't get granted with supernatural powers until after you've escaped from Coldridge Prison.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Strategy Game]]
* ''ValkyriaChroniclesIII'': While you get Kurt's Joint Assault early, you don't get Imca's MacrossMissileMassacre and [[spoiler:Riela's Valkyria mode]] until well into the game. Getting that latest one [[GameBreaker turns the game very easy]], intentionally so.
* ''Franchise/FireEmblem: [[VideoGame/FireEmblemAkaneia Mystery of the Emblem]]'' and the remake hand Marth the title shield at the end of chapter 2. It's only in-game function is to open treasure chests, admittedly, but its storyline powers are rather more impressive.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Puzzle Game]]
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Portal}}'' games, the first few test chambers have no portal gun, and the next several use a gun that only shoots blue portals, with the orange portals being generated automatically.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Non-video game examples]]
[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Literature ]]

* The Stormbringer could be considered this for Elric of Melnibone in ''TheElricSaga''.
* The Sommersword in ''Literature/LoneWolf'', obtained in the second book where you quest for it. Also an infinity +1 sword.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* Series/KamenRiderWizard has the four Dragon Styles that Haruto unlocks as early as Episode 9, though he spends a few episodes gaining all of them, with the last one obtained by Episode 19. It's to the point where when it came time for him to gain a MidSeasonUpgrade, it isn't a shiny new form like the previous Kamen Riders (unless you count All Dragon as one), but rather a gadget that allows Haruto to split himself into four different copies, each in a different Dragon Style.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Table Top Games ]]

* Some WorldOfDarkness games suggested playing a prologue about your day-to-day struggles before the supernatural wrecks havoc on your life, making you a part of it. You're just a normal worker, student, or other person before you are changed forever. HunterTheReckoning might provide the best example. Starting as normal humans, the players encounter the supernatural and react - and develop powers there and then to use for exactly the reaction they're attempting.
* Functionally, this occurs in TableTopGames/DungeonsAndDragons and TableTopGames/{{Pathfinder}} for non-magic using characters. By fourth level or so, many can do things or survive wounds that would be virtually impossible for flesh-and-blood humans. Alternatively, a character could begin without any unusual powers and take a magic-using class at second level. Magic users start with supernatural powers.
** If the already superhuman abilities of TableTopGames/{{Pathfinder}} are treated as "Normal" for the setting, then the Mythic Adventures expansion allows "normal" Pathfinder characters to become mythic heroes who outstrip their vanilla kin. The Wrath Of the Righteous Path starts delivering these Mythic powers by the end of the first sixth of the adventure.
** Rangers in particular during 1-3.5rd Edition TableTopGames/DungeonsAndDragons and TableTopGames/{{Pathfinder}} have no obviously special powers, just lots of BadAssNormal skills, but after a few levels start gaining spells and mystical bonds.
** In the original ''DungeonsAndDragons'' releases (prior to 1st Edition) clerics didn't get a single spell until achieving second level, despite healing and buffing spells being the cleric's primary remit.
* Latent psychic powers could do this in TableTopGames/DarkHeresy and spin-offs, much to your later lamentation thanks to PowerIncontinence and BlessedWithSuck.
* TabletopGame/CallOfCthulhu can do this as well for a character who starts learning spells, and their fate will likely be as horrid as the DarkHeresy psychic's.
* Much like the KnightsOfTheOldRepublic games above under Western RPG, most StarWars games allow a character to be a latent Force user and eventual Jedi. In some eras of the game, this is the default assumption for would-be Jedi.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original ]]

* WebVideo/TheAngryVideoGameNerd was annoyed when an ''IndianaJones'' game did this with the whip.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfTheGalaxyRangers'': Zachary Foxx was an ordinary human, but the injuries he sustained in the pilot required an EmergencyTransformation to replace half his body with cyberware and add the Series 5 implant. Unlike the other three Rangers whose already-existing abilities are merely amplified by the implant, early episodes show Zachary as not quite at ease with his bionics.
[[/folder]]
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