Straight Story Playthrough - Scaling Test

I decided to use a loot mule character to do a playthrough where I only do story mission objectives and skip all side missions, crew missions, and spawnable named enemies to see just how under-leved I would be before farming XP became a necessity.

No golden keys for loot, or Banked loot, just the Sanctuary vendors and the Gun-Gun.

Doing this in normal mode & normal difficulty seemed like a fair test of the basic scaling of the core game.

I used Fl4k with Rakk Attack, swapping pets based on elemental and range needs and made it to Agonizer 9000 just shy of Level 27 and it at level 31 and got cheap-shotted and fast-counted in FFYL enough that I had to return to Sanctuary to buy on-level gear since all the vendors were above my level in all the current Pandora Maps. Rerunning the Guts of Carnivora I hit level 27, attempted the fight with level 26 gear, and came close only to suffer defeat yet time and time again.

I decided to backtrack to all the Gun vendors on Eden-6 to look for on level guns at that point, and they were underlevel, level 26, or 28+.

I returned to Sanctuary and used the vendors & Gun-gun to get on level 27 gear, reran G.O.C. and by the skin of my teeth to L upon L due to rapid bleeding out in FFYL during the boss fight.

I tapped out for the night, came back today, and decided to run Bloody Harvest to get to level 28 and try again. I ran Ascenion & fought Mouthpiece to collect thr items for Maurice and gain XP and hit level 28.

Marcus’s vendor provided a level 28 Thunderball Fists and Corrosive Vladof Sniper. I ran Heck and Haunt dropped his corrosive legendary shotgun ( he has yet to drop it for my level 65 Fl4k at Mayhem 1 with lootsplosion* ).

I hit level 29 rerunning G.O.C. to get to Agonizer 9000, still under-leveled below enemy and vender loot. This time I melted him. Having the legendaries and purples made a big difference after getting closer to being on level for the area. Damage reduction truly made it feel like a traditional boss fight. Crits and element matching were a must, and I was spec’d to the Capstone in Fl4k’s Hunter Tree and didn’t make an effort to take advantage of any calculations or synergies outside of best bonuses available at the time the skill points were unlocked for standard gunplay. I relied on shields, Broodless, and my class mod for any defensive/ health buffs.

I’ll continue on from there but I find it interesting that I hit the wall at about the same level the main boss fights happen in the previous installments. In the case of the Destroyer and Warrior their knock back ability and one-shot dots were the biggest nuisances (and Jack’s Surveyor and Turrets).

The Sentinel’s biggest chore was the arena wide AOEs that either required tanking or platforming, and sneaky sniping from airborne guardians out of your field of view.

All that said, in previous games the walls usually hit on mobbing maps where you at least gained xp working through the map (Bloodshot Stronghold, Overlook Beacon Escort, Sawtooth Cauldron). If anything this was like fighting RK5 in the Presequel on my first playthrough, while using Wilhelm.

Anyone else done this to see how far they could manage to get? How fun or frustrating was it when you hit your wall, if you even hit one?


I did this when i originally started my moze last year (about this time) from what i can gather, on your post; the scaling has been brought in check a bit, as i finished the whole story (no sides at all) at level 27 - i may even have the relic for proof still;
Editmust emphasize this was with og “brittle bear” - as current buffs would make for a much easier playthrough **
All in all it was fun pushing that gear as far as i could; I had began an amara after that; although i lacked the enthusiasm to continue - shes still down at 24


Interesting, I should try it one day, though generally speaking in story mode the boss that one shot me is… Boredom :sweat_smile:


I wouldn’t mind if the story just scales to the character. Right now if I start a new character I can’t do any of the DLCs without coming back and being overlevelled :man_shrugging:


Being able to start in TVHM but starting at level 0 would be a nice perk to having beaten the game once.

I just finished NVHM at 35.4, and didn’t have to farm any, though I did realize I had two Lyudas at level 31 in the Bank and did use them. The level 28 Thunderball Fists made it till about level 33 and then I was better off using an on level fore weapon for all the good it did.

I hit 35 running through Pyre of the stars. Typhon soft locked at the Tandem door so I did have to clear that area of guardians twice.

Since I waiter for steam, out of the box the level cap was 50 without TVHM or DLC. My first playthrough I forget what I maxed out at, and I did every side mission save for maybe one of the Burger deliveries.

I was somewhere in the 40s maybe when I finished up maybe???


I had the exact same issues with Agonizer with my very first character when the game came out, and about the same level iirc.

Curious to know if you checked out Earl’s vending machine during the process at all? I’m wondering how it handles mission reward items if you’re still levelling and haven’t completed all the missions yet.


I did, and I the amounts needed for the useful rewards outpaced the eridium I incurred in the flow of gameplay and the items of the day were of little use (Omniloader mainly, Traiter’s Jakobs).

I used the gun gun instead and relied on the cash from selling to Marcus on sanctuary.


Agonizer always was a wall with the four VH I fully leveled up. From doing every side quest to rushing the story. Less so with the later ones but still.

Seem like a fun way to level up new characters. Might try it someday. I may cheat a little and stop by DLCs thou. Rewards are better. :wink:

The biggest tip-off the the scaling jump is that starting a new character with an add on Puts you in at level 13 and that matches up with your first Promethea missions but when I did story only missions for two Vault Hunters just to get them on Sanctuary III to be loot mules they were both level 8.

A few of us here on the forum kinda did this with BL2 some time ago: start a fresh character and speedrun as fast as we could through the story gaining as little XP as possible to the end. It was fun and had some really nasty moments lol.


Some really nasty moments? :sweat_smile:
I was leveling up my VHs at the time so didn’t participate but had a lot of fun reading you misadventures. There was some crazy gameplay too!

I thought you were a bunch of nut jobs for even trying it but now I’m tempted… :thinking:
BL3 is a whole different beast and I think it’ll be easier. Maybe. There’s more bosses thou.


Ooo interesting. I’m tempted too, maybe set up a new character when the new trees come out. Not sure going purely down any of the trees would be a good idea though. Amara, Moze and Zane all lack life steal skills while Fl4k’s seems to lack damage :thinking:

Still, a challenge would be really nice.


Yeah BL2’s scaling was steeper so the more underleveled you were, the more dangerous. :smiley: Looking through BL3’s mission flow I suspect things would start get really nasty around the time you get to Eden 6 and have to fight Aurelia and Graveward. :smiley:


Aurelia wasn’t so bad, I may have gone down once. I Did a Rakk Attack Fl4k and capped that tree and added the tier 1 cooldown skill from the other tree.

Graveward wasn’t much trouble because his mobs rarely interfere with the fight and his attack pattern is easy to discern and avoid.

BL3 is definitely easier in that regard. I’m pretty sure I did this myself on my second character (Amara). I remember wanting to know how far I’d get.

I say “pretty sure” as it was a while ago now and I can’t be 100% certain anymore, but reasonably confident that I didn’t have to resort to any XP farming. It is possible I used some gear inherited from my previous character, though, but all in all I do remember it being definitely easier than either BL1 or BL2 in that regard.

There’s a difference between rushing the story / not farming XP and purposely avoiding gaining XP. The goal was to finish the story at the lowest possible level. Or maybe I should say lowest impossible level :smiley:

Here’s the “original” challenge for those interested.


I hit Level 28 a little bit before reaching the Agonizer with a “start add on” level boosted Fade Away Fl4k (a skill I rarely use like Phasewalk & Deception before it). So from starting on Promethea at 13 vs. 8, the difference in levels gained was only two, and I had far fewer respawns from self-damage, nor need to rerun Guts of Carnivora. Also credit to my Jabbermon for helping me up most times I did go for broke and crap out.

As for avoiding XP, Fade Away and speedy Zane seem best built for it. I am just doing the requisite amount of combat needed to advance the story and proceeding.

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Yes I was trying to complete at the lowest possible level. Wanted to see how low I could complete the game at. Can’t remember the results anymore unfortunately but do remember that although there were occasional stumbling blocks it wasn’t that hard overall.

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Thanks for posting that, that was some gooood times… /scooter :slight_smile:

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On my first character, Moze, I did everything. Then when I decided to bring the other 3 along, I wanted to leave a lot of the side content alone. I just bulldozed the main story, and I don’t recall hitting a wall of any kind. The mission level was always in line with my own.