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"The reason I can wield this blade as my weapon is that I can break it with my own hands. That's all I have to say about power."
Kevin Kaslana, Honkai Impact 3rd

In games like MMORPGs, powerful items (looted or not) often come with additional character requirements that must be met before they can be used. These requirements—which can include level, class, stats, fame, and even karma—prevent players from purchasing massively overpowered gear and spoiling the challenge, and as such are the bane of the Munchkin.

Games with these do generally have a few rare and powerful items, which may actually be more powerful than a higher-level but more common item. The Infinity -1 Sword will almost certainly be such a weapon, although the Infinity +1 Sword is more likely to be "honest". Such items are generally denoted with odd-colored flavor text or some similar effect.

A game-specific subtrope of Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements, and a form of Double Unlock unless the loot is received at the start of the game. Compare with Power Equals Rarity, Stat Sticks, Arbitrary Equipment Restriction & You Have Researched Breathing. See also Class and Level System, An Adventurer Is You, and Infinity Plus/Minus One Sword. Not to be confused with Awesome, but Temporary, which is loot that's only accessible in a specific segment of the game.

Note: Since this is such a common trope, please only list aversions, subversions, or interesting variants.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    MMORPGs 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The fact that gear in Final Fantasy XI had level requirements to equip isn't surprising for an MMO, but this came with some serious problems. In FFXI you lose EXP when you die (you can regain some by having Raise cast on you), and can actually lose levels through death. Thereby making newly equipped gear suddenly unwearable till you got the level back. A bigger problem until the 4th expansion was level capped fights. Several bonus bosses and virtually all story bosses in the 2nd expansion reduced the player's level to a fixed max. Any gear over that level was unusable in those fights, so players doing such fights had to keep low level gear on hand (and the game was notorious for very limited inventory). The 4th expansion implemented level scaled that allowed gear to get around this by scaling its stats.
    • Final Fantasy XIV follows the same gear restricted trend as Final Fantasy XI did, but without the threat of EXP loss and having mechanics for scaling down your gear's stats for level-capped fights from the beginning, thus the only restriction you'll really face is the time needed to level grind to use gear locked for higher level characters. Gear also has item levels (or ilvl), where certain end game content will be locked off to you unless your average item level meets the minimum requirements. The game also adds on restrictions of this nature for using glamour prisms to make gear look like other gear - one item can only be made to look like another item if A) the player is of the right level to use the second item normally, and B) the gear you're actually using is restricted to the same or a higher level than the gear you're making it look like.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has stat requirements for equipment, but in the earlier days of the game, there were no such requirements for consumables. This made it possible to skip from level 1 to level 4 immediately after a New Game Plus by simply eating some of the best food in the game at the time, so it was eventually Nerfed by adding level requirements for consumables.
  • Mabinogi mostly averts this. Though a lot of gear is species-specific, the game relies on price or difficulty of acquisition to keep the heavy stuff out of the wimps' hands. However, many enchantment effects activate at a certain level, and if you rebirth they become dormant until you reach that level again. Enchantment-effect triggers can also involve age and skill rank.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 seals equipment based on character stats, just like the first Phantasy Star Online. Unlike the first PSO, however, you can't trick the game into allowing you to equip much stronger gear by equipping weak gear with a stat boost first, as equipment bonuses are kept separate from your base stats, which are the stats that are actually used to determine which gear you can equip. However, you can still manipulate the system by directly influencing your base stats in ways other than leveling up, such as leveling up your MAG and investing in stat boosts on the skill tree.
  • R.O.H.A.N. Online allows players to wear much higher level equipment but imposes stat penalties that may end up making the gear less powerful than what the player is qualified to wear.
  • Vindictus has the usual class and level restrictions, and also has a set of Proficiency skills that allow you to use higher-grade gear of a particular type (e.g. battle scythes, plate armor, secondary weapons, etc.)
  • World of Warcraft restricts both gear and consumables by level. Yes, this means your character needs to learn how to eat anything besides stale bread and tough jerky. Averted with specific items meant to facilitate the levelling of alts which can be handed down from a high to low level character, but even those don't give you more stats than a good level-appropriate level gear piece would because they scale with character's level and increase in stats only when you do. The upside is, you don't need to upgrade them until maximum level.
    • A few items are actually unusable AFTER you reach specific levels. These are typically remnants of buff mechanics from previous expansions, such as sharpening stones, wizard oils and drums, which were discontinued in new content due to complaints about excessive grinding required to obtain them. Thus they cannot be used in content that isn't balanced around them being available.
    • Some classes learn how to use a heavier armor class at level 40, locking them out of using heavy armor before that point. While this isn't too bad for Warriors and Paladins since you'll barely find any plate items before that point anyway, Hunters and Shamans aren't so lucky.
    • Some beast families are effectively locked until a Hunter reaches a high enough level to tame the lowest level beasts of that family, with a hard lock placed on Exotic pets (you need level 69 to learn how to tame these). Everything else needs level 10 to learn the Tame Beast skill, except for the beast hunters start out with (depending on their race).
    • Classic had an interesting, if brutal, variation. PVP gear was tied to the player's PVP rank. Ranking up meant the player could buy a higher tier, but also had to be that rank or higher to equip it. The prototype PVP system calculated rank weekly and assigned ranks across the server based on how much a player PVPed compared to all others and their win/lose ratio. To achieve a higher rank the player had to exceed their own achievements the previous week while still be competitive against all other players, and failing to do so would result in lose of rank. For the players who managed to reach the highest ranks they then had to virtually PVP as their full time job (8+ hours 7 days a week), and never slack for even a week, or they lost access to everything they had worked for.

    Real Time Strategy 

    Role Playing Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Prior to update 2.0, some weapons and equipment were locked off until your stats reached a certain level. This included heavy weapons that required a high enough Body level to carry, cyberware that required a high enough Intelligence level to use, and a host of others items which you couldn't buy from vendors until you had sufficient street cred.
  • Dark Souls, much like its spiritual predecessor Demon's Souls, uses stats to determine the effectiveness of weapons. Any player can equip any weapon, but if the player character doesn't have the minimum stats to properly wield it that weapon's performance will be severely penalized.
    • This tradition continues into Spiritual Successor Elden Ring. One of the Legendary Armaments, the Sword of Night and Flame, is even located in a relatively early game area (Liurnia, the second biome most characters will encounter), but requires 24 Faith and intelligence. Almost zero builds use both stats (they affect scaling of the two types of magic with no useful passive traits), effectively locking it behind being a level high enough to invest about 14 levels in a stat just to use the Sword of Night and Flame.
  • Diablo:
    • Almost all of the items in Diablo have statistic-based restrictions: melee weapons and armor require strength, bows require dexterity, and books require magic. However, rings and amulets never have restrictions, which means that a beginning character can easily be given jewelry that adds 15 or more points to all of his stats.
    • Diablo III has "reduced level requirement" as a possible random ability on some gear, making level 60 kit that you can wield at (say) level 46 that still has the stats of level 60. The gap between 46 and 60 is a lot bigger than that between 32 and 46...
  • Divinity: Original Sin II:
    • Most equippable items, especially later in the game, can only be used by a character with a minimum score in a given ability, like Intelligence for Magic Wands or Strength for heavy armour. If a Status Effect drops that score below the minimum, the equipment will fall off mid-battle.
    • Zig-zagged regarding Character Level. Characters can wield items of a higher level than them — this heavily penalizes attack accuracy, but many builds focus on Always Accurate Attacks, so they get the equipment's powers and stat benefits with no drawback.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, armor and most weapons have strength requirements. Daggers and bows have dexterity requirement instead. Some equipment is also restricted to specific classes or specializations, and some personal items are restricted to specific characters (including the Player Character).
    • Dragon Age II had two-stat requirements (e.g. strength and dexterity for swords and armor) but because most loot in the game scaled with the player's level, you would rarely pick up items that you couldn't use right away or within a single level-up.
    • Loot in Dragon Age: Inquisition is level-locked, but crafted equipment isn't.
  • Downplayed in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as weapon/spell/armor effectiveness scales with relevant Skills.
  • In Fable, it's possible to carry and even equip a weapon you don't have enough Physique for, but if you do so you end up dragging it laboriously along the ground and being completely ineffectual in combat.
  • Fallout
    • In both Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 3, you need to undergo the requisite training to use Power Armor, which generally doesn't occur until late in the game. This is meant to prevent a common situation in the first two games where you'd find power armor early on, then the vast majority of enemy could not damage you at all. Although power armor isn't nearly as effective in the 3D games, especially 3, so this ends up being somewhat redundant.
    • New Vegas has a slight twist on the trope: you can use weapons tiered above your skill level or strength level, but this causes a penalty to range weapons accuracynote  and non-range weapon attack speed proportional to how far below the requirements you are. The penalties don't come close to matching the benefits of a stronger weapon, so it really shouldn't keep you from using them.
    • Played with in Fallout 4. Mostly averted; weapons and armor have no stat requirements and use leveled loot tables so they wouldn't drop before you could use them anyway. Power Armor is a specific exception. While still leveled, even the basic T-45a suit that you're given at the beginning of the game is head and shoulders above top tier unpowered armor. The catch is that Power Armor alone has item durability and also requires a steady supply of fusion cores. Pieces break off of their durability reaches zero and need to be repaired with copious amounts of steel. Fusion cores are relatively expensive (a few hundred caps) and you can't use VATS or walk faster than a slow trot without one. This means that the player will be gated out of Power Armor for all but the most dangerous encounters until they have the cash flow and scrap economy to keep their suits fed and repaired around the midgame.
  • Fate and Torchlight:
    • Both games have a whole slew of character, stat and feat requirements for any equip you care to name, and the Legendary gear in FATE also requires a high Fame level. It's possible to remove an item and have several others unequip themselves because they were depending on its stat bonuses...and in your adventuring career this will happen at least once.
    • Torchlight 2 plays with this a bit, as items can be locked by class(es) (e.g. only the Outlander and/or Engineer can use it), by level, and by stats - but the latter two are generally either/or requirements in that you either need to fulfill the minimum level or minimum stat requirements, not both. This lets builds with a touch of Crippling Overspecialization use certain items well in advance of when more evenly-spread builds would normally be able to.
  • The Free/Libre Action Roleplaying Engine's default campaign has minimum stats required to use each piece of gear. This is important since there's a shared space allowing different playthroughs to pass items back and forth; without the restriction, a character could reach the end-game and then flood a new starter with massively overpowered gear making everything easy. It's still possible to donate a Rare Random Drop that you don't need, but only if the recipient has played far enough that theoretically they could have obtained it themselves. (Mostly the shared space is useful for items that aren't locked, like healing potions.)
  • Knights of the Old Republic: There aren't any level restrictions, but there are a few items that can only be used by a light- or dark-side character.
  • In Path of Exile, equipment can have not only level requirements but also Strength, Dexterity, and/or Intelligence requirements. Yes, this means that it is possible for a character to not be smart enough to wear a pair of witch's boots (maybe the lacing is really complicated?). Some unique items are given absurdly high stat requirements to equip or a stat threshold for effects to balance out their power.
  • In Phantasy Star Online the different kinds of items are restricted by different stats: armor is level-restricted, blade weapons are restricted by your attack strength, guns are restricted by your accuracy, and wands are restricted by your mental strength. Your other equipment is counted for the limit, and your stats are only checked when you first equip the item, so if you equip an item that increases your accuracy you can equip better guns than you normally could.
  • Downplayed in both the Pok√©mon seriesnote  and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: In both games, shopkeepers offer high-power equipment that they, theoretically, have on hand at all times. The catch is: in the former, the shopkeepers don't offer them until you have enough badges while in the latter, you are kept out of the shop itself by a Bouncer. The downplay is the fact that this doesn't prevent you from using such items if you can get them off the street,note  it just prevents you from buying them.
  • SoulBlazer ties a level to each sword you find. You're free to equip them whenever, and you can hold them out while crabwalking for a continuous weak attack, but if you want to actually swing them, you need to meet the minimum level requirement.
  • In Summoner, ability to use weapons is dependent on whether to character has the right weapon skill (and whether it's explicitly character-restricted), but gear for everyone but Rosalind is also dependent on their Heavy Arms skill.

    Other Video Games 
  • In the Borderlands games, guns, shields and (in Borderlands 2) relics have a level cap, although it's hard to find an item above your level outside of the early game if you're not in an area you're not supposed to go to yet. You can share the stuff you can't use yet with your multiplayer pals, and you can challenge them for a duel in case they find it too awesome to give it back to you.
  • Fire Emblem games use the weapon rank system, where every weapon but the basic ones (Iron, Bronze or Slim, depending on game) requires a certain amount of experience with this particular type before a character can use them.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • For given definitions of "level", The Legend of Zelda won't even allow Link to pick up the White Sword or the Magical Sword until he has five and twelve heart containers, respectively. The old man's comment of "Master using it and you can have this" doesn't make the connection clear.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is unique among the Zelda games in that there's not some specific set of tasks required to obtain the Master Sword. Link can attempt to claim it anytime once its location is discovered, but doing so will drain his life, killing him if he hasn't collected a sufficiently large number of heart containers. And trying to fool it with buffs that grant bonus hearts doesn't work.
      • Related to this, in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, retrieving the healed Master Sword after it's sent 10,000 years into the past to heal it after it was shattered by Ganondorf's Gloom in the prologue requires two full green rings of stamina.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2es has a unique relationship between gear and player in which it is possible to equip any of your gear at any given point in time, but based on your Level in relation to the power of the equipment, the stats of the equipment is scaled down proportionally if you are not strong enough to achieve maximum stats on the equipment. For weapons, if there is also a Class mismatch between you and the weapon, the required Level to reach the weapon's maximum stats is much higher than if you were the same Class as the weapon; in a lot of cases involving endgame weapons, it is impossible to hit max stats with the wrong Class.
  • In Shop Heroes (in which you supply the equipment rather than use it), you can technically defy this, but it's impractical. Heroes can be equipped with items above or below their level, but doing do substantially increases the chance of the item breaking, since the heroes are either putting too much pressure on cheap gear (if they're over level) or don't know what to do with it (if they're under level). This means that if you mismatch gear and hero, you'll just end up having to replace it (and although you're a shopkeeper, you aren't allowed to tell the heroes to pay for those replacements, since you're the one wanting the quest done).
  • In Soulcalibur VI's Libra of Soul mode, all weapons you acquire have level restrictions. Those you can't use will be greyed out in your inventory until you reach the proper level to use them.
  • In the Splatoon series, you always start off with a basic shooter called the Splattershot Jr. If you want to start using not only different shooters, but also different weapon types and their multitude of variations, you'll need to increase your level through playing Turf War and ranked modes. With each level, more and more weapons are unlocked for purchase in the store, with the final ones being unlocked at Level 30.
  • The most valuable trade goods in Star Traders: Frontiers are effectively soft-locked, inasmuch as you need to both acquire a series of trading permits (with higher grades unlocking more valuable goods) and find worlds with lax enough planetary regulations to buy and sell them legally. Downplayed inasmuch as any Star Trader with money, influence, and the right connections can either purchase whatever permits they need or simply go through the Black Market.

    Non-Game Media 
Fan Works
  • Dungeon Crawler Katia: Katia is given a joke reward by the system AI: the "Cloak and Boots of Elvenkind", granting an excellent set of skills and stat boosts but requiring a whopping 150 Dexterity to equip. She munchkins her way into extracting some of the skills from them, at least.

Literature

  • The Gam3: Most weapons and armor we see the description for have a list of abilities required to use the item, effectively preventing a new player from finding the Infinity +1 Sword and becoming God. Some also have a second list of recommended abilities, which unlocks extra uses of the item or makes the item more effective.
  • Ready Player One: Gear in the OASIS often has a minimum avatar level requirement in order to use it. One guy calls IOI's tech support line because a sword he bought in an auction isn't working, only for it to be pointed out to him that the minimum level required to wield the sword is ten and the guy is only level seven.

Live-Action TV

  • Kamen Rider Build has every Transformation Trinket built around the user's ability to absorb Nebula Gas, referred to as their Hazard Level, a skill that can be physically trained or increased through intense emotional surges. The Build Driver requires a Hazard Level of at least 3.0 to use, the more powerful but more dangerous Sclash Driver requires 4.0, and the alien-made Evol Driver requires 5.0, the highest level a human can hit without life-threatening methods.

Webcomics

Real Life

  • Every proper military has this in the form of certain pieces of the uniform. For example, to wear the beret rather than the cap you might need to first complete a challenge to prove you're worthy of it, or complete a specific level of your trade's training to wear that trade's cap badge. Some even require you to regularly do these, such as regularly parachute from planes to have the paratrooper patch or regularly score a certain level on the rifle range to have the marksman badge, and you'll lose the patch if you fail to do so. Wearing one of these pieces of the uniform without having earned the right to do so is considered shameful and dishonorable on par with civilians who steal valor.


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