What factors determine enemy levels or: How do enemy levels scale to the player character's?

  • When I finished Normal Mode at around Level 30 and went back to the Southern Shelf (still at Normal mode), I found that all enemies there are now very easy to kill, meaning they didn't level up (or hit a level cap).

    When I went to Oasis (Captain Scarlett DLC location) as a Level 36 character in True Vault Hunter Mode, I noticed that the enemies are the same level as me.

    What factors determine enemy levels?

    Specifically, I would like to know:

    • Are enemies affected by what level a character accepted a mission?
    • Or is it what level a character is when they first entered an area?
    • How does Normal Mode, True Vault Hunter mode, and the Ultimate True Vault Hunter Mode affect enemy levels?
    • Are there enemies that will scale to the player level, as the player levels up?
    • Any enemy leveling differences specific to the DLC areas?


    • There is now an answer that explains how this works generally: "In playthrough 1, outside of the DLC, there's no such thing as scaling. Enemy levels are determined solely by the area they're in and your mission." Can anyone expound on that, and comment or provide an answer on what are the specific enemy levels on specific areas and/or missions?

    • This answer states that "enemies do not actually "scale", or at least from what we know of..." and lists specifics for enemy levels on certain areas in the game (sans DLC areas). Can anyone expound on that and/or add specifics for enemy levels in the DLC missions or areas in TVHM (PT 2.0) and/or UTVHM?

    • The Ultimate True Vault Hunter Mode update has just been released, can anyone provide info about enemy levels on that mode, including the DLC areas or missions?

    In Borderlands 1, the DLC always scaled to your character level when you first visited it. The Borderlands 2 DLC seems to behave the same way.

    @Philipp: I'm not sure. I played today in Playthrough 1 as a 37 and enemies were 30. There might be limits or ranges?

    @Philipp At Oasis, will the enemies there be stuck to the character level when you first visited the area, or will they level up as you do?

    What do you *need* to know the general ranges of specific missions for? The current missions specifically state what level they are and future missions aren't significantly above either: your current level or the level of the preceding story mission.

    @BenBrocka It would be nice to know the relative difficulty (level of enemies and their equipment) of specific missions or areas, compared to the player's level. If a player currently has a lot of missions, this could allow him or her to better select which mission they're gonna go for.

    @BenBrocka In my case, my wife has done a good bit of playing in the game without upgrading her gear most of the way. I can't remember which areas have gear available for purchase that is level-appropriate for her. A list would be handy.

    @galacticninja I think that only works if they've been in the room recently, for some interpretation of "recently" that's hidden in the SE secret sauce recipe. Otherwise, you have to be a mod to "super-ping" a user.

    @Iszi perhaps a specific question for the scenario you propose would be more answer-able. Something like "I'm level 25 using level 15 weapons, where should I get better gear?" You wouldn't need a list to solve that problem.

    @DavidB I'd say that's really close to being too localized though - definitely would be, for me. I'm pretty sure that, by the time I'd get a decent answer, I would have progressed enough levels to make any answers fairly irrelevant to me anymore.

    @Iszi It's no more localized than a question about a particular boss.

  • In playthrough 1, outside of the DLC, there's no such thing as scaling. Enemy levels are determined solely by the area they're in and your mission (certain missions effectively "level up" areas, notably Sanctuary and The Dust). You can easily check the level of an area by checking out the vending machines in the area, they sell items scaled to the level.

    DLC in playthrough 1 scales to your level...ish. It maxes out at level 30. I played the DLC as a level 34 character and was disappointed to see everything was at level 30 in playthrough 1. Not sure if it has a minimum level it scales to.

    Playthrough 2 works the same way until you beat the Final Boss; then everything in that playthrough scales to your level (except mission rewards for missions picked up before the final boss).

    Playthrough 3 works the same was as Playthrough 2 after the final boss: Everything scales to your level, period. In team play, it will always be scaled to the highest level player's level. And you have to be at least level 50 to unlock it, so enemies are effectively level 50-61 at all times. Though if you take a mission before leveling up, the mission will still stay at that lower level, as always.

    Basically the game works like a standard RPG without level scaling until you A) beat the game twice (because you should be maxed out anyway) or B) enter a DLC (because you can do that at any time so a preset level would be a really bad idea)

    Does that mean, that in my True Vault Hunter mode playthrough of the Captain Scarlett DLC, all enemy levels will be stuck at the level my character entered Oasis (level 36)? (That is, until I finish the game twice.)

    No; it seems that the enemies scale, until you're over level 30, which is where they stick.

    @KBKarma The enemies I encounter in True Vault Hunter Mode at Oasis are the same level as me (level 36) - Does that mean that they'll scale with me until level 50 (current maximum level cap)?

    @galacticninja I'm unsure. I was working off Ben Brocka's answer there. I've not got to Oasis yet, and the Borderlands wiki doesn't seem to mention True Vault Hunter mode at all. From what I've read on this Neoseeker post, it seems they should scale when you enter, but that should be all. As I said, I've no idea.

    @galacticninja that I'm not as sure about, but I assume so. TVH only scales to level 50 after beating the main story, *but* the DLC scales by default. Since TVH starts around level 35 it seems silly to cap it below level 50. Scaling doesn't appear fixed to one level but to your current level; as you level up in the DLC (up to the max, if any, in your playthrough) new missions/enemies should scale up too. Not 100% sure on that but I definitely noticed levels increasing as mine did.

    I'm almost positive that every area (not just the DLC) scales to your level but has a hard level cap. My friend who we boosted to level 40 said that enemies in the first area were around level 10 during his first playthrough.

    @Kotsu If they do, it's so low as to barely matter...like, a variance of less than 4 levels in most cases. Leveling up is universally helpful in the first play through, best I could tell, where if there were areas scaling (more than a single level) you'd easily notice that leveling up isn't increasing your level relative to the others

    @Kotsu If you can elaborate more on that or give examples, could you post another answer? I'm interested in knowing more about that.

    @galacticninja I'll see if I can make time to collect more concrete examples and post an answer, but as far as I know, each area's monsters are scaled to your character's level or your game host's level, but there is a cap to how high enemies' level can raise. For example, when we were fighting Flesh Stick in playthrough 2, restarting the game after we all gained a few levels resulted in the area scaling, and Fleshstick also noticeably increased a few levels as well. However, he stopped scaling with our characters at level 41.

    @Kotsu This question has just been given a bounty. Now might be a perfect time to write that answer. =)

    DLC3 and DLC4 will not scale well to your level, they will always be at least Level 30.

    I can confirm that some scaling is going on at the lower levels. In the last couple of days I've played Bad Hair Day twice, once with a level 4 character and once with a level 9, and the enemies were at level 4 and level 9 respectively. I would *really* like to see this post updated, since this caused me a lot of confusion because I'd read the post but not the comments. (I didn't think a top-voted post could be this wrong.)

  • To address OP's edited question, enemies do not actually "scale", or at least from what we know of. In PT 1.0, enemies do not scale, and are based in the areas where you can find them (in terms of storyline progression), and so is PT 2.0, where enemy levels are based on area. Only in Playthrough 2.5 will enemies "scale", to level 49 (bosses 52).

    On average, most players finish PT1.0 around level 30-32, so when you start TVHM (PT2.0), the enemy will "scale" with you, starting at level 33. Ironically though, they do not actually scale in PT 2.0, instead, increasing in level until a cap of 52 in order of storyline missions. Here's an example:

    This is the basic route they expect you to follow for most of the main storyline:

    • Windshear Waste (Claptrap's Place) - Starts with enemies level 33
    • Southern Shelf - Liar's Berg
    • Three Horns - Divide
    • Sanctuary
    • Frostburn Canyon
    • Three Horns - Valley
    • The Dust
    • Bloodshot Stronghold - Enemies here are around level 36
    • Bloodshot Ramparts
    • Tundra Express
    • End of the Line
    • The Fridge
    • The Highlands - Extraction Plant - Enemies here are around level 42
    • The Highlands Overlook
    • Thousand Cuts
    • Opportunity
    • Wildlife Exploitation Preserve
    • Control Core Angel
    • Eridium Blight - Enemies here are around level 46
    • Sawtooth Cauldron
    • Arid Badlands - Boneyard
    • Arid Badlands - Badlands
    • Hero's Pass
    • Vault of the Warrior - Ends with enemies level 52

    Basically, based on the areas that Gearbox expects you progress through the storyline, the enemies will increase in level up to the warrior. This creates the basic assumption that to actually kill the Warrior at the end of PT2.0, you'll be around the range of level 49-50.

    Once finished with the storyline twice through, you unlock Playthrough 2.5, where enemies now scale with your level. Since your expected level is around level 50, enemies will also spawn at level 49-50.

    In terms of equipment, equipment generally spawns at the same level you will find enemies in that area. If you have finished the storyline twice and unlocked PT2.5, the level of weapons will scale to your level.

    In UVHM, enemies will always spawn 2 levels higher than you, and in multiplayer sessions, will scale based on the HIGHEST LEVELED PLAYER. Meaning, if you have a party of level 50s, and a level 61 decides to join in on the fun, and you're in UVHM, all enemies will instantly become level 63 (highest lvl = 61 + 2 = 63).

    @Iszi I've added an answer.

    Do you have any info for enemy levels in the DLC missions or areas in TVHM (PT 2.0) and/or UTVHM?

  • Playthrough 1: Normal as you would expect. Enemies scale in area from 1-32.

    Playthrough 2: This is where it gets interesting. Enemies start in the first area as 33 and scale up to the Warrior fight at 52. However, when you beat the game, all enemies would be 49~. Enemies don't scale to your level in any part of Borderlands 2. However, they go to 50 after you have finished the main quest-line on TVHM.

    DLC enemies have a specified level range. They do not scale depending on your level but on the quest and area you are in.

    The DLC quests *do* scale to your level, within a range : see this answer

    This is a bit too general to address the OP's edit and bounty request. We're looking for a per-area accounting of expected enemy levels, not a summary of the playthrough levels.

  • Ben Brocka's answer above is incorrect: enemies do scale, at least in some circumstances. Where they scale, and between what levels, seems to vary however.

    Some examples:

    • I started the Symbiosis mission when I was level 4. Both the Bullymongs near the entrance of Southern Shelf - Bay and the four or five enemies I killed in the town when starting the mission itself were level 3 or 4.

      Just after I'd reached Sanctuary (but before I did any missions or other activities there) I returned to Southern Shelf - Bay as a level 9 character. Both the Bullymongs and the enemies in the town were now level 7 or 8. The loot (excepting cash) and gear sold by the vendors was consistent with this.

      Returning to Southern Shelf - Bay again as a level 12 character, both the Bullymongs and the enemies in the town remained around level 8.

    • As a level 12 character, returning to the Soaring Dragon (Captain Flynt's ship in the Southern Shelf), the upgrade seemed uneven; the enemies were mostly levels 7-9, but there were still a few level 2 shotgun midgets and the like kicking around.

    • The enemies in the initial part of the Southern Shelf don't level at all, excepting the Bullymongs just outside the passage to Southern Shelf - Bay, which level the same way that the enemies in Southern Shelf - Bay do.

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