Absurdly Low Level Cap
In games with Character Levels
, many gamers take pride in being able to reach the highest level possible. These games are not for those people.
Note that this is not
about games where the level cap is a low number, but rather about games where the pacing of experience means that you will reach the maximum attainable level long before the end-game. For example, if a game has a level cap of 10 but you only reach level 5 by the end of the game, then this trope does not apply. Likewise, if the level cap is 999, but easily achievable by the mid-point of the game, then this trope is in play.
Contrast Absurdly High Level Cap
, although the two are by no means mutually exclusive.
- In Zelda II, the only Zelda thus far with a level system, there are 8 levels in each of three categories. Between the very quick first few level-ups and the six palace crystals that each give you a free level, these go pretty fast — by the time you're ready to attack the last palace, you'll probably be maxed out. In fact, even speed runs of the game tend to get almost all the levels. Because palace gives an instant level up at the end, savvy players tend to level grind after beating the boss until they level up so that they can obtain the next level up instantly without wasting the free experience points that the crystals give. If the player is maxed out already, the levels are exchanged for 1-ups, which are rare.
- In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, You can usually reach the level cap of 18 before finishing the game, without much or any grinding. But once you beat it and want to start the game over in Hardcore mode, you will still be level 18 and can't level up any further.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy, being a fighter with RPG Elements, employs this trope, sort of. Your character's levels max at 100, and if all you care about is the regular storyline, then you can clear it at level 50ish fairly comfortably, much like in the rest of the series. However, the game has much more content than that—bonus story scenarios and gameplay modes with opponents at level 120 and climbing plus the vital PVP aspects plus the way ability acquisition works in this game means that in a sense, all the gameplay before level 100 was a preliminary, the game properly starts at max level.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
- By comparison to many games of its type, Brink has a multiplayer level cap of only 20 (increased to 24 with the free DLC pack)
- A close example occurs in the original Guild Wars, where you are expected to reach maximum level (which is level 20) before the last stretch of story quests. The expansions play this absurdly straight, almost to the point of not having levels at all. You are expected to reach level 20 by the time you leave the starter area. You only get stronger by accessing new skills (which aren't actually stronger per se, they just give you more options), and getting better gear. But even the best gear, stat-wise, isn't that hard to obtain. In the end, the only things that are particularly valuable is the gear that does nothing more than look cool.
- Warframe has a level cap of thirty for the titular Warframes and all weapons. It's quite possible to take a fresh Warframe with Level 0 weapons, and end up with all four items maxed out at the end of the week. However, once you reach level 30 on any frame or weapon, you are free to modify it once, which resets the level back to 0. Spamming Defense and Survival missions, its possible to bring a weapon from 0-30 in as little as half a day's grinding. When a weapon comes out, expect to see someone with a fully forma'ed version of it running tower 4 survivals in a week.
- Newer MMORPGs tend to have lower effective level caps and many older MMORPGs are being reworked so that their original level caps can be reached earlier. Guild Wars 2 is a good example of the former category in which a player who simply wanders around doing the first thing he or she finds can hit the cap of 80 long before seeing all of the game's 'leveling' content while in the latter category we have MapleStory where the newest versions allow players to reach level 100+ out of 250 (the level cap used to be 200) in the time it would have previously taken to reach 20 or 30.
- Super Mario RPG has a level cap of 30. If you make a habit of taking out every enemy you see as you travel, you're likely to hit it with all five playable characters just before you reach the Final Boss, even if you purposely don't go back and do any level grinding.
- In Sweet Home, the actual level cap (made more difficult to figure out due to the fact that you can't see your own level) of 20 can be comfortably achieved a little over halfway into the game.
- In the PC-98 Action-Adventure RPG Sword Dancer, the level cap is 21, and you will reach it sometime after the middle of the game.
- Fossil Fighters has a level cap of 12. More than that, you earn points towards leveling up not just by fighting but also by cleaning fossils; the way it breaks down is that 50 points earns a levelup, battles are worth 1 to 10 points on average (more for bosses) while fossils can score between 50 and 100. Each vivosaur has four fossils to it, meaning up to 400 points or level 8. Then there are red fossils granting 25 bonus points, a whole set of those can give you two more levels for 10 out of 12. (The catch? Fossils aren't completely cumulative; if you score an 80 on a T-Rex skull but already have a 75-point T-Rex skull, you'll only gain the 5-point difference.) Stick with a few favorites and you should max out their levels easily, but this is balanced by the fact that you need to max out all 100 vivosaurs to get a Bragging Rights Reward. The sequel raises the cap to 20, which is better but you can still get halfway there from fossil cleaning.
- In the Dragon Quest Monsters series, due to the varying experience point curves and level caps (Lv 25~99) between individual monsters, it is entirely possible to have certain monsters reach their level caps before you're even a quarter of a way through the main story. However, these monsters tend to be the initial monsters obtained at that point in the game and are often very weak, especially in comparison to the cream of the crop found near the end-game and especially so in the post-game content.
- Similarly, Dragon Quest V has several recruitable monsters that hit a level cap fairly quickly, though these monsters are mostly Com Mons that exist to fill out your party early (unless, like for slimes, they are meant to exhibit Magikarp Power).
- In the Mass Effect series:
- Mass Effect 2 had a level cap of 30, a half of what the first game had. Combined with the new quest-only experience gain mechanic, that was quite reasonable (up to 5 levels as Old Save Bonus plus 20 for recruitment+loyalty missions plus 2-3 for sidequests)... without the DLC missions. With DLC missions, you could hit the cap before you even finished recruiting your team, let alone embark on the Suicide Mission, wasting all the late-game XP. If you imported a level 60 character from Mass Effect 1 (resulting in you starting at level 5 in Mass Effect 2), you had the DLCs, and you had already beaten the game once (granting a 25% bonus to XP on all subsequent playthroughs), it was very easy to hit level 30 by Horizon, which was more or less the halfway point of the game's story.
- In Mass Effect 3, multiplayer characters have a level cap of 20 (as opposed to 60 for single-player), because each of the six classes level up separately, and players are encouraged to trade in level 20 characters for War Assets in single player.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition has a level cap of 27. It's not (quite) possible to reach this in the core game itself, but if you also have all DLC expansions installed, you will reach it well before the Final Battle and the Trespasser epilogue. Also, the title organization's level is capped at 20, which you'll reach about 2/3 way into the game, wasting all later Influence gains—additionally frustrating, since there are a total of 34 unlockable Inquisition perks.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a level cap of 50. It is not an exaggeration to state that you can reach this level without even completing half the game, and it's extremely easy to do so.
- Fallout 3 has a level cap of 20. Unless you make a concerted effort to do as few sidequests as possible, you'll reach it well before the end of the game. The Broken Steel add-on increases the cap to 30, but even then it's absurdly easy to hit (especially if you haven't played through the other add-ons).
- Fallout: New Vegas starts with a Level 30 cap, but the four add-ons raise it to 50. Amusingly, one of them adds a trait, "Logan's Loophole", that makes you immune to drug addiction... at the cost of setting your cap back to 30.
- There's enough content in both games that many popular mods adjust your experience gain down to two thirds or half the normal rate.
- Crystalis has a level cap of 16. Not only is this easily reached by the end of the game, but it is required in order to have enough attack power to damage the final boss.
- The platforming-RPG crossover The Magic of Scheherazade is divided into 5 chapters, in which your levels are micromanaged. In the first chapter you're capped at level 5 (which you'll probably hit midway unless you run from most battles), and in the second at level 10, etc. Furthermore, if you manage to end a chapter without hitting the level cap, the final boss pushes you up to the max level for that chapter!
- Ingress had a cap of level 8 that can be reached in under two months of active play, in a game that has been around since November 2012. With the right geographical location (i.e. living close to a "portal farm") and your teammates providing you supplies to help you level up, the process can take less than a month. With increasing numbers of portals and players reaching level 8 within a week or two is more or less the norm. With teammates helping, it has been accomplished in one hour. However, a 2014 update extended the level cap to 16, with each successive level requiring (generally) double the amount of AP the previous level did and earning badges, this trope is no longer in effect.
- Some players found the level cap of 20 in the original Knights of the Old Republic to be a bit low; though it was enough for most players, meticulously levelers could reach it well before the Point of No Return, let alone the final dungeon. Worse, this effectively limited how many levels you could gain as a Jedi (as opposed to your original, non-Jedi class) which encouraged serious players to deliberately not get levels during the first planet, followed by heavy grinding to make up for it. In response, the sequel simply let players begin as a Jedi and gave an Absurdly High Level Cap of 50.
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning could really have stood to bump up the cap with its DLC, as both DLC packs (particularly The Legend of Dead Kel) give a pretty healthy pile of experience and can bring you racing up to the cap well before you've reached Klurikon - or even before you've finished Rathir and Adessa - if you're a rather thorough player.
- The first Ys game has a level cap of 10, which you should reach in the mines, the third dungeon in the game (there are only four dungeons, but the fourth one is extremely long and can take hours to finish). This also means that levels give massive stat boosts: often, you'll struggle to beat an enemy, and then gain one level, after which the enemy becomes easy to fight.
- Iji: In Ultimortal difficulty (the maximum* difficulty level), the inability to improve any other stat than Health makes 9 (accessible at the end of sector 3) a de facto level cap: You can actually reach higher levels (up to 30, slightly more with supercharges), but they bring no improvement.
- South Park: The Stick of Truth has its level cap at 15, which can be easily reached by the halfway point of the game before the player gets to Canada. Even then, the enemies in Canada give so much experience, you'll definitely hit the level cap by the time you leave.
- While Pillars of Eternity as it currently is isn't too bad with this, as released it wasn't all that hard to hit the level cap of twelve before the third act of the game even began, let alone before you get to the final dungeon. Quest XP reward adjustments in later patches alleviated this, however, and while the two-part expansion brought enough new content to make it fairly easy to get to level twelve before the third act again, put together it also increases the level cap to 16.
- Anti-Idle: The Game requires you to reach level 9000 to ascend and "beat" the game, and you can get to 9001 but it will take 120% of the EXP needed to get to 9000. But even if you do aim for 9001, you will likely not have your Features maxed out yet. Perhaps to prevent players from just sitting at 9001 forever, there's Ascension, which is a New Game+ with perks for resetting back to level 1 that can stack up.
- Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons included a level cap for some race/class combinations, but not for others. This was apparently an attempt to balance powerful combinations, but it's unsuited to that purpose, since it means those characters are not nerfed at all until they reach a certain point, at which time they become entirely nerfed.
Wide Open Sandbox
- The Disgaea series has both this AND an Absurdly High Level Cap. On one hand the level cap is 9999, on the other levels 101-9999 fly by hundreds at a time once that level 100 barrier is breached. Of course the series maintains its grind-tacular credibility with four weapons to each unit, each weapon able to be raised 1-300 levels itself depending on which game of the series you are playing (And each weapon a vastly harder task to max out than any unit) and the reincarnation system allowing level 9999 characters to effectively have 196,999 levels worth of stats when completed. The absurdly low level cap is hardly the end of the power grind in this case.
- Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV have a level of cap of 50. If you're making a habit of using the collectible tracker to get all the various pickups during regular play, and you're doing various missions and special activities as soon as they're available, then it's quite easy to hit that cap by the game's halfway point.
- Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden has a level cap of 15, achieved due to Anti-Grinding, as enemies do not respawn. Battles are mostly fought through skills instead of stats, so it's not too much of a problem.
- Many players feel this way about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as you could theoretically reach the cap by the time you leave the tutorial dungeon, or simply by running to the holds instead of fast traveling, Leveling was made to take longer in Skyrim to fix this but some players still think it's too easy to hit the cap, which is why the legendary skills were added via DLC.