Phantasy Star Online 2: Level Cap, Sub-Class Level Cap, and earning EXP explained
Like any massively multiplayer RPG, Phantasy Star Online 2 is largely driven by character progression - you're constantly driving to become more powerful and obtain better skills and gear in order to be more useful in encounters.
Also like most RPGs, PSO2 features a hard level cap. In the original Asian release of the game this level cap has moved over time -- and the western release has gone for its own unique configuration, with a little room for growth. Here's all about the two key PSO2 level cap restrictions you need to know about...
What is the Level Cap in Phantasy Star Online 2?
Currently, the level cap in the official Western release of Phantasy Star Online 2 is level 100 as of the February 03 update - which equals the likely level cap of 100 in the Japanese version of the game, which got bumped from 95 in December 2020.
Once you hit it, progression shifts over to worrying about things like enhancing your weapon and units, build and subclass, angling your character to be optimized for the endgame. Specifically, leveling up an addittional time will earn you a Class Ex-Cube, which can either be traded at the swap shop, or given to your class NPC (such as Marlu for Forces and Techters) for additional Skill Points.
Speaking of the subclasses system, your subclass of choice also has a level cap - which is also important. A little more on that below...
What is the Subclass Level Cap in PSO2?
In Phantasy Star Online 2, a major part of your character is your choice of subclass: a secondary class chosen by the player to grow your ability set and support the play-style of your chosen primary class.
Your subclass will unlock a second skill tree and photon arts set, massively opening up your abilities if you can lay your hands on the necessary weapons. It also bequeaths your character some handy stat bonuses depending on the chosen subclass. To access the Subclass, you'll need to reach level 20 with any main class and then earn the Sub Class Permit by finishing the Sub Class Permit Trial Client Order with Officer Cofy, who's just to the right of Rebecca, the main Quest clerk.
Your chosen subclass will level up with experience and quest completion, earning 10% of your total EXP. However the subclass level cap in PSO2 is Level 70 as of Episode 5 - at Level 70 your subclass will cease gaining experience. This might be bumped to 80 as of Episode 6, but at that point you're really better off leveling it as a main class.
You can, of course, level up your subclass further if you wish: but you'll have to switch it to your main class to do so. You can do this at the Class Consultant NPC located in the Gate Area 1st Floor. If you do this, that class can then be leveled up all the way to that cap (currently 80) - but as a subclass, the maximum level is currently 60.
How to Earn EXP & Level Up Fast in PSO2
After starting Phantasy Star Online 2, you'll earn your first several levels rather quickly, but it'll slow down fast. Once you find yourself around level 30 or 40, you'll be wondering what to do to earn EXP the most efficiently.
Complete Main Missions First
Before worrying too much about Experience, you should at least follow a handful of ARKS Main Missions to get a lay of the land. You can see what these are by selecting ARKS Missions from the Quests menu, or by pressing ESC/F1 and then Shift (you can also set you own hotkey.)
These missions will walk you through basics like Expeditions, equiping gear, and more, so it's best to clear some of these out first. At least up to the point where you're asked to start clearing Exploration Quests.
No Matter What, Use Boosters!
No matter which manner you use to earn EXP, you'll want to make sure you have Experience Boosters in place. There are several sources of Experience Boost to keep track of:
- Use an EXP Earned +XX% Consumable item, which can be bought from other players at the Visiphone, earned from Missions/Titles, or swapped for at the Photon Drop Exchange Shop located at the Shopping Place 2nd Floor, or bought at the AC (Cash) Shop.
- Use a Triboost +XX% Consumable, which includes a stacking Experience bonus. These can be earned from Dailies, Campaigns, and earning Titles.
- An inherent Triboost +50% is also baked in for anyone with an active Premium Set Pack.
- Each booster only lasts 30 minutes and can typically be stacked up to 2 hours, but luckily the timer only runs when in an active quest.
- Play in a Party! - Partying up with randoms can be frustrating, but at teaming up in a full party of 4 gives a flat +40% EXP boost for all party members. This should at least be done for Urgent Quests. The Party Beacon can be used to team up with nearby players from the Quick Menu (Mouse Button 3 or F9).
- Keep your Daily Boost up - By completing Daily Client Orders at The Daily Order Officer, Tina, located near Hans. Certain quests will give a 5% bonus named 'Daily Boost', which can stack up to 10 times for a maximum +50%. You can effectively 'overcap' the limit up to 15 to buffer against the daily decay of the Daily Boost bonus.
Those three are the key ways to earn the most from your earned EXP, but if you want to go even further, there are a couple other things you can do:
- Shifta Drinks from the Gateway Ship Console or Medical Staff NPC have a chance of giving an EXP +10% random effect, or EXP +15% if using the Shifta Drink Premium 2 with an active Premium Set.
- You can earn an additional stacking Triboost effect from watching Concerts when they occur in the Shopping Area.
- A Photonic Effect from your Alliances Photon Tree can be another boost to your EXP gains.
Start off with Client Orders
We've already shown off Cofy and Marlu above, you should always make sure to keep on top of Client Orders for Cofy and your Class NPC as they will help familiarize you with the sorts of quests you'll be doing on a regular basis. You should also be aware of Hans and Lavere, two NPCs located on opposite sides of the Gate Area 1st floor. These two will offer generic Client Orders asking the player to defeat specific monsters or bosses in exchange for Meseta (gold) and Experience.
Now you don't have to do these one by one. In fact, there's a system in place to accept multiple client orders at once. Once you select a specific Quest from Rebecca/Anneliese at the Quest Counter, you can select Client Orders from the globe icon in the menu, followed by 'Orders That Can Be Accept in the Fields of Ongoing Quests' (phew) to bring up a list of all the available Client Orders that can be completed at your destination. You can add Client Orders any time between accepting a quest and heading to the Gateway Ship.
Complete Dailies and Weeklies
This one is pretty simple. Logging in to complete Dailies and Weeklies is an easy way to earn a decent chunks of EXP for free. Completing one Daily Order Expedition with a Drink and Booster is enough to complete the full suite of Dailies, which you can then accept the reward for at once. You can even change classes before accepting the reward, making this a nice casual option to boost some of your less-used classes.
Weeklies are similar, though they will typically ask you to earn Meseta, enhance a weapon, run a Time Attack Quest, or other tasks. Both Dailies and Weeklies will also reward Bonus Keys, which can be used to run Bonus Quests, another great source of EXP:
As of Episode 4's Release, Run Bonus Quests
Bonus Quests are a type of Quest introduced into the NA version of the game alongside Episode 4. Bonus Quests are basically hand-made to offer you gobs of EXP and Meseta, as well as a pile of rare items, but they can only be run a limited number of times based on the number of Bonus Keys you have on hand.
Bonus Keys can be earned by doing Dailies, Weeklies, and Recommended Quests also have a slight chance to drop Bonus Keys. Combined with the above, a nice casual way to earn exp is to simply run a set of Dailies and then one Bonus Quest each day using the key you earn. If you want to keep grinding out levels past that point, well, read on...
Start Running Advanced Quests at Level 40
Once you reach Level 40, you'll unlock a type of quest known as Advance Quests. These start out at the 'Very Hard' difficulty rating, and increase to the 'Super Hard' rating once you reach Level 55. Advance Quests require an item called Advance Capsules to run, with Very Hard needing Advance Capsule A, B, or C, and Super Hard requiring D, E, or F.
The game will give you some free capsules to start off, but otherwise they can be purchased from the Item Shop, Casino, or earned through playing Advance Quests. Playing a region requiring Advance Capsule As will reward Advance Capsule B as drops, and so on. Thus you'll effectively cycle through from A to B to C for Very Hard quests, or from D to E to F for Super Hard. Completing Advance Quests will increase your 'Threat Level' up to a maximum of +50, which resets each week, increasing the difficulty of the quest but also the EXP earned. You can spend more Advance Capsules up front to immediately boost the Threat Level as well, or simply ramp your way up by cycling through the quests.
It takes a bit of hands-on to learn how it all works, but basically running Advance Quests repeatedly will reward Capsules and increase your Threat Level, or you can shortcut to the max Threat Level if you spend more Capsules up front.
Playing with a party is preferable here, since not only will you earn that +40% EXP for having a full party, but you'll be more likely to trigger PSE Bursts, which will spawn waves of enemies which can be killed quickly for lots of experience. Advance Quest EXP farming is a pretty ubiquitious method for several players in-game, often shortened to VHAQ or SHAQ, often with the Threat Level attacked as well, such as VHAQ+50.
Some people recommend to continue to run VHAQ even after unlocking SHAQ since enemies will die faster despite giving less EXP. As best as we can tell, it comes down to personal preference of the group.
Ultimate Quests are an option at Level 70
Once you reach level 70, you'll have the option to undertake Ultimate Quests. Unlike Advance Quests, enemies in Ultimate Quests will keep respawning infinitely, including boss enemies with a chance of dropping rare weapons such as the Nemesis series, some of the best in the game at the moment.
Normally when running an Ultimate Quest, you'll encounter players jumping in and out of the quest on their own schedule, and while you'll be tasked by the game to actually finish the quest with a boss encounter at the end, most of the time players will treat Ultimate Quests like a treadmill, running and killing enemies for as long as desired. It's not as quick as running Advanced Quests for Exp, but can be used to more of less mindlessly farm without ever leaving the quest area, and you might get some good loot to boot.
Finally, whenever you hear the notification for an upcoming Urgent Quest, you should put aside what you're doing and run it for the duration it's available. Not only are they often unique boss fights you can't do outside of the Urgent Quest window, but often also have a chance for unique drops, and lots of Experience. Not all Urgent Quests are made equal, but for the most part, they're easily worth doing.
Starting in Episode 5, Buster Quests become a decent option for earning experience, though there is a little bit of a ramp you have to climb. Early on, you'll only be able to take on Grade 1 Buster Quests, until you earn enough Buster Points to work your way up the ranks. Keep playing 'Main Match' Buster Quests until you reach Grade 3.
It's also important to note that playing 'Free Matches' won't improve your Grade or earn you any points, but you'll earn Buster Medals which can be traded for useful things like Advance Capsules. You'll also earn a Main Match Boost Effect for your next couple of regular Buster Quests, giving you a stacking Triboost +100%, so it's a good idea to filter in some Free Matches between Main Matches to keep this boost up. You'll also earn Cleasis and Schvelle Boosters, which are used in high-end weapon crafting, so Buster Quests are a good deal all around.