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Absurdly Low Level Cap

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In some games, you hit the level cap well before the end. Many gamers take pride in being able to reach the highest level possible. These games are not for those people.

An Absurdly Low Level Cap occurs when a level cap is easily reachable before the end of a game. Whether it's because the enemies give a ton of experience, an Ability Required to Proceed is obtainable from these levels, or the game doesn't give that much of a reward for leveling up in the first place, hitting the maximum level is not only to be expected, but so easy to do that a player wouldn't have to go out of their way to reach it.

Note that this is not just level caps with a low number - if the highest level in a game is Level 1000, but it's easy to reach Level 1000 by the halfway point, it's still an Absurdly Low Level Cap. Conversely, if the level cap is 10, but it's a struggle just to get to level 5 by the game's end, that's a different, contrasting trope.

See also Anti-Grinding, where the game makes it hard or impossible to get your levels to the cap.


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    Action-Adventure Games 
  • Zigzagged in Assassin's Creed Origins, in that Bayek stops levelling at 40, but still gains experience and ability points, he just doesn't level up any further. The Hidden Ones raises the level cap to 45, while The Curse of the Pharaohs further raises the cap to 55.
  • 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.
  • Iji: In Ultimortal difficulty (the maximum non-joke 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.
  • In Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, the maximum level Red can reach is Level 20, and chances are you won't even need New Game Plus to even reach that.
  • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the only Zelda thus far with a level system, there are 8 levels in each of three categories (Attack, Magic and Health). 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.

    Fighting Games 
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy, being a fighter with RPG Elements, employs this trope. 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.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Levelling up to the maximum 60 (or 70 with the expansion) in Diablo 3 essentially acts as the tutorial, and is easily possible before finishing the story mode. Adding paragon levels with a later patch turned it into an Absurdly High Level Cap in theory, but these act more as a Skinner box for grinding rather than real levels - at 60/70 you already have all skills and access to all items, paragon levels just add very minor incremental stat bonuses and are really there to give players the impression that they're still making progress.

  • 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.
  • Lord of the Rings Online typically releases one to two Quest Packs for regions between major expansions, although the level cap is usually only increased during the expansions. So, you'll get new content to explore but your end-game characters will already be maxed out when they start it.
  • Warframe: There is 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. Character level also maxes out at 30, but since the only way to raise it is to master weapons and warframes, it can take a very long time to max it. In fact, in 2018, after five years, the effective maximum level was only 26 because there simply weren't enough weapons and warframes to get any higher.
  • 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 'levelling' 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.
    • This is an explicit goal of rebalancing every time a new expansion is released for World of Warcraft. The developers feel that the time taken to get to maximum level was good to start with, and want to keep it constant so new players don't get overwhelmed with the amount of content, while old players don't get bored replaying all the old material for every new character. Each expansion therefore comes with increased experience gain for old content, so hitting level 120 after the seventh expansion should only take as long as hitting 60 did originally.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Warcraft III:
    • Heroes have a standard level cap of 10. While this is generally reached in longer games with multiple players (up to 12, originally), one patch increased the number of players to 24, ensuring that playing with a full house would see every surviving hero hit the level cap long before the game ended (or even long before encountering every enemy player).
    • The expansion's orc campaign increased the cap to 15. However, one of the heroes you get is unable to use his abilities to the fullest once he reaches the cap.
    • The expansion's undead campaign has an inversion- while every campaign usually lets the hero(es) gain one level per mission, Arthas starts out at level 10 and loses levels with every mission as the Lich King's power falters. Only in the last mission can Arthas finally gain levels normally, up to 10.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • 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.
  • Avadon has a level cap of 30, which can easily be reached well before the ending of each game by paying attention to sidequests.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Dragon Quest Monsters series, due to the varying experience point curves and level caps (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.
  • 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).
  • The Elder Scrolls: The bulk of the series falls under Absurdly High Level Cap for the reasons listed on that page. However, there are a few situations in which the cap can feel rather low. To note:
    • In Oblivion, it is possible to use quick-leveling exploits to max out all of your favored skills (the ones which need to increase in order to level up) before even leaving the tutorial. This obviously takes a lot of time and, due to the game's flawed Level Scaling system leading to a Parabolic Power Curve, isn't really beneficial.
    • While Skyrim has the highest natural level cap in the series to day (81), some players still felt that reaching it was too easy. Bethesda responded by adding "legendary" skills via DLC, which allow you to reset maxed out skills in order to keep leveling up. Now there is no true level cap, although the game will crash if you have 255 unspent perk points.
  • 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, which add extensive extra areas to the game with their own quests, but do nothing to the level cap).
  • Fallout: New Vegas starts with a Level 30 cap with a similar amount of experience given, but it's still relatively simple to reach by the end of the game. The four add-ons raise it by 5 levels for each one installed, to a maximum of 50, which is about how much you'll gain therein. 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.
  • The captured Mons that serve as your third party member in Final Fantasy XIII-2 have a variety of different growth rates which affect their level cap. "Late Bloomers" cap between 70 and the traditional 99, but "Early Peakers" cap at a measly 20.
  • 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 is that 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.
  • Many games in the Gold Box series, due to being based upon the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rules, will have level caps for the non-human races like elves and dwarves. Not such a big deal with the first games in each series like Pool of Radiance, but absolutely crippling in later games such as Secret of the Silver Blades or Pools of Darkness. You'll have your characters start at a number of levels lower than their human compatriots, and never be able to advance any higher, potentially making the game unwinnable.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (since you have to complete a short tutorial mission on a starship and then a whole planet before you became one) and how useful teammates could be (since they join at whatever level you're currently at, which can handicap the ones you get past the opening if they join you at level 19), 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 has players begin as a Jedi, has allies join you at level 1 with retroactive experience to bring them to your level, and has an Absurdly High Level Cap of 50 that simply can't be reached without abusing specific instances of Respawning Enemies for hours.
  • 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!
  • In the Mass Effect series:
    • Mass Effect 2 has a level cap of 30, half of what the first game had. Combined with the new quest-only experience gain mechanic, this is 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 finish recruiting your team, let alone embark on the Suicide Mission, wasting all the late-game XP. If you import a level 60 character from Mass Effect 1 (resulting in you starting at level 5 in Mass Effect 2), own all the DLCs, and had already beaten the game once (granting a 25% bonus to XP on all subsequent playthroughs), it's very easy to hit level 30 by Horizon, which is 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.
  • The level cap for all playable characters from Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is 10. Since each character is only playable during their corresponding chapter (except during a brief sequence during the last chapter when they make a return), they need to reach the cap before facing the chapter's boss, as their level can be as high as 15; defeating them requires good preparation.
  • The demo for Monark caps you at 20, whereas the full game goes as high as 99.
  • 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.
    • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire has a cap of 20. It worked pretty well for the original game but became the trope after release of three DLC packs. Interestingly, it seems that without the cap a multiclass character could get just enough XP to fully develop both of their classes.
  • Played With in QUESTER: While you start you with a level cap of 20, it can easily be raised by successfully defeating bosses. This naturally encourages players to explore the ruins and challenge whatever bosses they can find, ideally before their party members actually reach the point where they start running into the cap.
  • 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.
    • In South Park: The Fractured but Whole, the level cap is also at 15. However, due to the way that leveling up works (you gain XP from completing milestones on your character sheet rather than completing peoples' quests, along with combat), you level up at a much slower rate, but even then, the max level you need to reach in order to unlock all 8 Artifact slots is level 9.
  • In Sweet Home (1989), 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.
  • In Tricked Three, Antoine/Jamesters/Jujimufu will all max out at the highest level far before the final dungeon from all the random encounters. The sole purpose of grinding at that point is to stockpile health items.
  • In all adaptations except the TurboGrafx-16 version (which merges it with the sequel into one continuous game), Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished ~ Omen 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 a specific type of enemy, gain one level, and suddenly start mopping the floor with them.

    Simulation Games 
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, posting a crewmember to a certain system will guarantee that they will earn 2-star ranking (the maximum) well before the final sector. Justified by the fact that it's possible to lose crew members at any point during a run and you might have to train a new one back up from scratch.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • At launch, Splatoon had a level cap of just 20, which can be reached in about a week or so of solid play. A couple of months after release, however, this cap was raised to 50, becoming an Absurdly High Level Cap instead. Nearly everything of note is still unlocked by level 20, with everything past that being a Bragging Rights Reward. Furthermore, past level 20, the way you gain experience points is modified, meaning it takes much longer to gain new levels.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • The Steven Universe video game Attack the Light has a level cap of 9030 for the Crystal Gems, but they start at 9001. Steven originally capped at level 20, but thanks to a glitch that would let him level up to 21 (albeit very slowly), it was changed so he caps at level 22. Reaching the cap for all four is doable before you beat the final boss, provided you've done all the optional material along the way.
  • The level cap in Crystal Warriors is just 9, which can be reached on Iris and some other characters before the three-quarters point of the game. Level 9 characters can still gain up to 9 points of EXP, but won't level up again.
  • Fire Emblem games have most characters cap at Level 20, until they promote which gives them another 20 (or 10 in the case of Genealogy of the Holy War) levels to gain. This can be particularly troublesome for Lords, whose promotions tend to be plot-linked and are very prone to hitting the cap long before that point. In some games, certain characters and classes can't promote, which tends to be trouble for their long-term usability. Very early games in the series also didn't scale XP gain to a unit's level, meaning that even promoted characters could usually cap out before long.

    Virtual Pet 
  • Lorwolf: During Early Access, wolf and companion levels were capped at 10. Enemies encountered on campaigns during Early Access could go up to Level 14 for bosses and it can be easily reached before finishing the campaigns.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Agents of Mayhem has a level cap for your agency (which unlocks upgrades) of 20. It's easy to hit this cap before completing more than about 25% of the game if you focus on doing side missions. Your agents cap at level 20, then can be raised a further 20 levels by spending upgrade cores. The only difficulty there is getting enough cores for all your agents. If you care about leveling all of them that much. Most likely, you'll just get your three favorite agents up to 20, then spend the 60 cores needed to boost them all to level 40 and then focus on the story missions rather than continually replay the repetitive side content. Again, this will likely happen by about 25% of the way through the game.
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 has a rising level cap, starting at 10 and then raising by an additional 10 at the beginning of the second and third chapters plus another 5 for Malhalla. Given the fact that the player gains EXP for enemies that NPCs kill in addition to the ones they fight themselves, they are all but guaranteed to be within 2 levels of the cap by the time of each of the bosses. Furrowfield is a prime offender here, as players will most likely hit Level 10 halfway through the chapter, especially if you bother to explore at all. This switches over to Absurdly High Level Cap in the post-game, where the cap instead becomes 99.
  • The level cap in Maneater is 30. If you are diligent when it comes to side missions and collectibles in each zone, as the game heavily suggests you be (as progression is tied to such), you will probably hit the level cap about two-thirds of the way through the game.
  • 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.
    • The 2022 reboot is worse in this respect. The level cap is a measly Level 20, but to compensate for that, each level now grants upgrades that had to be purchased in SR3 and SR4 (i.e., increasing your maximum health). As you can imagine, you can easily reach the level cap well before even the halfway point if you tackle the side content first.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
  • While there is no true level cap in the second game of Destroy the Godmodder, players stop getting Special Attacks at Level 10, and if a player has been around for long enough and consistently does high-damage attacks, they can reach Level 10 fairly quickly, while the game is still in full swing.