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When should you hit max level?


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There are many progression methods to leveling up.  Some games have skill trees, others have an automatic process as you gain experience, others make you quest for each new ability...... the list can go on forever.  For the sake of this thread, let's assume that every game lets you level up to 100.  At endgame, what level should the game expect you be?  Should you be able to beat the game at level 50?  At level 100?  Or maybe you should hit max level halfway through the game?  I only know of Far Cry 3 that did that (provided you were diligent) and I thought it was really cool.  The second half of the game was just you being awesome and you know what?  I'm going to start up a new game right now.  All too often, games only allow you to be able to get the best gear or hit the max level right before the final boss and that really gives you no room to take in the glory of your long hours grinding.  What level of progressing do you think works best in which circumstances?

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I think max level should be a result of effort rather than story progression. In Final Fantasy VIII, you can hit max level at the beginning of the game just by killing the same duders in the training area of the garden. It takes a long time, but it can be done. But FF8 was one of the best RPGs ever for its progression systems. You could hit max level, but the enemies also scaled up with you, so the game never got boring from you being more overpowered than every enemy, unlike say FF7 which is just a walk in the park. Having to junction your magic to unlock your real strength is the truly great thing about FF8. Most people consider that a flaw rather than accepting it as the one true good progression system. 

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But the problem is I know how to cheat the system. I can beat the game at minimum level with stats maxed out. All you need to do is max out your SeeD level allowing you to buy 30 tents which allow you to convert to 300 curagas that you can junction to your HP. Then convert Diabolos card into 100 black holes which you can concert into demi spells which are amazing for junctioning to strength. Convert Quistis' card into 3 Samantha Souls which can be converted into 60 triples apiece which is amazing for junctioning to both magic and speed. After that, junction Diabolos Encounter-none ability and you only need to fight bosses the rest of the game. And since the game's enemies scale to your level, they will all be weak while your party is severely overpowered. So no challenge there. I guess that since you need to play through the game a few times to be able to figure all this out, it can get a pass though.

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5 hours ago, Brandon Strader said:

the one true good progression system. 

Haha you are absolutely insane! I did like maxing out my FF8 characters on the islands closest to heaven/hell though (hopefully I'm remembering that correctly).

I liked that in Super Mario RPG the level cap was low as shit. I think it was 30. That made it feel a lot more rewarding to gain levels. Oh and selecting those bonus stat increases <3

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1 hour ago, Thin Crust said:

But the problem is I know how to cheat the system. I can beat the game at minimum level with stats maxed out. All you need to do is max out your SeeD level allowing you to buy 30 tents which allow you to convert to 300 curagas that you can junction to your HP. Then convert Diabolos card into 100 black holes which you can concert into demi spells which are amazing for junctioning to strength. Convert Quistis' card into 3 Samantha Souls which can be converted into 60 triples apiece which is amazing for junctioning to both magic and speed. After that, junction Diabolos Encounter-none ability and you only need to fight bosses the rest of the game. And since the game's enemies scale to your level, they will all be weak while your party is severely overpowered. So no challenge there. I guess that since you need to play through the game a few times to be able to figure all this out, it can get a pass though.

holy crap ...i feel like i need to try this on my next run through.  

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On 4/28/2016 at 7:26 PM, Thin Crust said:

All too often, games only allow you to be able to get the best gear or hit the max level right before the final boss and that really gives you no room to take in the glory of your long hours grinding.  What level of progressing do you think works best in which circumstances?

You should hit max level on your second, New Game+ playthrough of the game because the entire concept of "leveling" in terms of stats is outdated and a sign I'm playing another generic "teenagers save the world", combat is like the menu at a burger-joint, Japanese Role-Playing Grindfest.

I think games like Deus Ex or Vampire: Bloodlines get it absolutely right. You get EXP to spend on unlocking new, useful but optional abilities for your character and maybe a bit of a stat boost here and there, but the game is beatable without doing any/most of that because it has actual gameplay. Also, I believe in both it is not possible to max out your character.

I am at the end of a NG+ of the new Ratchet & Clank. When Ratchet levels up, he just gets a bit more health but the true leveling is in making your guns better. You spend raritanium to make your weapons have better rate of fire, wider spread, more ammo, etc. and it's impossible to get the fully upgraded, omega versions of the weapons on your first playthrough thereby adding replay value to the game.

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9 hours ago, Thin Crust said:

But the problem is I know how to cheat the system. I can beat the game at minimum level with stats maxed out. All you need to do is max out your SeeD level allowing you to buy 30 tents which allow you to convert to 300 curagas that you can junction to your HP. Then convert Diabolos card into 100 black holes which you can concert into demi spells which are amazing for junctioning to strength. Convert Quistis' card into 3 Samantha Souls which can be converted into 60 triples apiece which is amazing for junctioning to both magic and speed. After that, junction Diabolos Encounter-none ability and you only need to fight bosses the rest of the game. And since the game's enemies scale to your level, they will all be weak while your party is severely overpowered. So no challenge there. I guess that since you need to play through the game a few times to be able to figure all this out, it can get a pass though.

I'm actually streaming FF8 right now, never beaten it. Might take some cues from this post so thanks for the tips lol

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I figured out some junction cheese the first time through FFVIII, no guide or anything.  Not quite as optimized as what Thin Crust described, but I still found pretty much the whole game trivially easy, except for the endgame sequence in which that all goes away.

I thought it was an awful system.  Leveling had essentially no effect since all the enemies scaled, and in fact, since all your strength came from junctions, gaining levels actually made battles harder.  Encounter a new enemy and spend the next 10 minutes sitting there and drawing up to 99 out of it for all 3 characters.  Or spend ages playing the card game and mulching the cards into spells.  You couldn't ever actually cast spells because your stats would take a hit and you'd have to hunt down the enemy that provided the spell you used up to max out again.  Characters who didn't have a junction for a given stat were basically useless (e.g. characters with no Strength junction might as well just not attack).  And then when you get a full set near the end, you need to sit down and make a chart to make sure everyone can junction every stat.  Just awful.  The only worse progression system in a Final Fantasy game was FFII, in which you built up your stats by beating up your own party members, and your skills by repeatedly selecting and canceling attacks.

To answer the original question: Part of it depends on when you're expected to be 100% done with the game, and part depends on what you get for leveling.  If it's a pure story game (e.g. Grandia II), and you mainly just gain stat increases for leveling, maxing out right about at the end of the game works well.  If there's postgame content, you should have to do some extra steps to get there, and you should probably have to be at or near max level to beat the hardest optional boss.  If there's an NG+, then I'd say you should get there at about the end of the second playthrough.

That being said, you should definitely have some time to play around with the best toys.  You shouldn't earn some powerful, interesting ability when you hit max level in most games.  Unless the whole point of leveling is to earn new abilities, not stats.  Zelda has a good model for this, usually giving you about 1 1/2 dungeons to use all the stuff you've gathered throughout the game, and at that point you're not gaining anything but maybe a heart or two.

I don't think grinding should be substantially rewarding.  If the player finds it boring, it's rewarding the player for not having fun.  If they enjoy the grinding, they'll do it without being rewarded.  Many games actually penalize you for grinding--if you hit level 99 at the beginning of FFVIII, it's a substantial penalty, since enemies have scaled up and you still have crappy junctions.  FF Tactics was worse, since your gear would be underpowered.  Tactics Ogre had a huge problem with this, since enemies would scale to your highest-level party member, and one or two levels made a huge difference.

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To be fair, the "cancel/select" method in FF2 was removed in later versions because it was never meant to actually be a thing. And taking points away from a game for cheesing it in ways the devs never meant for you to cheese it isn't exactly fair to the devs lol

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32 minutes ago, Mirby said:

To be fair, the "cancel/select" method in FF2 was removed in later versions because it was never meant to actually be a thing. And taking points away from a game for cheesing it in ways the devs never meant for you to cheese it isn't exactly fair to the devs lol

It is if you ever tried to play that game without cheesing it.  I did.  It resulted in essentially no stat gains at all until you ran into enemies you just couldn't get past.  And since they were in a dungeon instead of near a town, the process consisted of trudging through the wilderness beating trivial encounters and gaining literally nothing, then doing two or three fights in the dungeon, improving a tiny bit but getting your butt kicked, then returning to town (slowly) to repeat.  Horrible.

Also, cancel/select still worked in the GBA re-release (Dawn of Souls, I think?), which is what I finally finished it on.

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I dunno, my fiance and I have both beaten FF2 without having to resort to that. Yes it can be grindy but you hardly need to resort to that.

Also according to everything I could find, the cancel/select bug was removed in the GBA version so I have no idea how you managed to trigger a bug that was removed from the version you played it on.

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FF8 was a system that forced you to learn it's mechanics well, and punished you for trying to do things the old fashion way (that is, grind, baby, grind!). I actually kind of like the anti-intuitive method behind that madness.

Also, jeez guys, Curagas and Demis? You're thinking too low, there - Flares, Tornados, Pain, Full-Life - get all those to 100 by playing the shit out of the card games. REACH FOR THE GODDAMN STARS!

Didn't think to do the no-encounter thing, though - a good idea, indeed.

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On 5/1/2016 at 11:55 PM, Mirby said:

I'm actually streaming FF8 right now, never beaten it. Might take some cues from this post so thanks for the tips lol

Nnnnooo don't cheat on FF8.. yes I'm calling it cheating.. of all the FF games this is the one FF game you can actually play for a little bit of a challenge instead of over-leveling everything. Don't worry about grinding unless you wanna unlock a certain ability, GF ability,  or something else... Draw the magics when you can. Do it to 100 and you don't have to worry about it, replace stuff when you use it, or just Draw > Cast from enemies instead of using your own stock. 

Play LEGIT!!!!!!! The game is worth it and you'll only mess up your experience if you start looking for exploits. FF8 is the only FF game I ever got all characters to max level and it's because the progression system was so balanced and well-made. 

FF1 and 2 on GBA were great. A lot of people seemed to agree with me. Leveling up in those games is pretty easy because on GBA you can just set it aside while you're working on something or who knows what. Early grinding is good, especially in FF1, it'll help you a lot, but I found myself too overpowered too quickly in that game because of grinding. 

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The extent of the tips I took from that are what spells work well for junctioning. Haven't modded that Diabolos card, instead used Time Mag-RF to turn an item I had into 30 Demis and used that.  And yeah, I've been leveling a bit, makes the game a bit more difficult but I enjoy that factor lol

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Usually the hardest fight in the game is with that demi boss early on in order to get that GF. I didn't even know you could turn cards into magic. I like how FF8 isn't just holding down X to win like it was in some other rpgs. Enjoy the difficulty even if you die a couple times here and there :) Just remember to save. 

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There are many approaches to this "problem", but I think in most cases it's best to 75% of max level is enough for the final boss. But I feel that it's very important to be able to get powerful attacks and skills regardless. I always like it when it's enough to be good at one particular thing to beat the game, but when it's possible to become a master of everything through grinding.

This thread gave me an idea though. I think leveling systems that are integrated in the story instead of being purely a gameplay element could be very interesting. I could very well imagine a final boss where the main character finally surpasses the "max level" to beat him. But that would only be possible if max level is something that the player must have in order to beat the boss.

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