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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 not about games where the level cap is a low number, but games where the pacing of experience and level gains means that you will reach the maximum attainable level long before the end-game. A game could have a level cap of, say, 10, but if you only reach level 5 by the end of the game then this trope does not apply. Likewise, if the level cap is say 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.

Examples:

  • 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. Likewise its Spiritual Successor, the first Paper Mario. The level cap is 27, which is easily reachable by endgame even considering the fact that most enemies give out fewer Star Points the higher your level is.
  • In Realm of the Mad God the maximum level is 20. This can easily be achieved within as little as 30 minutes of play. Maxing all of your stats however, will take far longer but still a relatively short amount of time compared to many other MMORPG'S. And, of course, you're almost guaranteed to not keep it for long, so having an Absurdly High Level Cap would make it nigh-impossible to get powerful enough to see endgame material.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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 (Lv25~99) 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sudeki doesn't have a conventional level cap so much as the point where you run out of places to put upgrade points, somewhere in the 50's. It still falls into this, at varying amounts for different characters. Tal, who spends most of the game in the active party, will max out easily if the player does most of the sidequests with a little grinding for the others to keep up, and Elco can come startlingly close by the end of the game thanks to getting several late-game solo segments, both playing the trope straight. Ailish and Buki, thanks largely to sitting out the last fifth or so of the game thanks to plot reasons, won't come close by the time the final battle arrives. Even your temporary allies get in on this, joining at a slightly elevated level compared to your characters at the time, and gaining several more before they leave.
  • Similar to Dragon Quest Monsters above, 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 removed the level cap. (Well, technically it does have a cap, 50, but it's effectively unlimited.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Angry Birds Epic has a level cap of 25. However, playing the soft release averts this, since it was released before the international release.
  • 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.

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