Acheron after a massive attack in Honkai: Star Rail
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Honkai: Star Rail Needs to Slow Powercreep — or Turn It up to 11

Powercreep is a fact of life for gacha games, but is Honkai: Star Rail going to fast? Or should they go even faster with it?

Powercreep is a fact of life for gacha games, but an ongoing discussion in the Honkai: Star Rail community is just how fast the game seems to be experiencing it. It’s been especially with the characters that released in and around the 2.0 update, and today, I’m here to demand that the game either tone it back or turn powercreep up to eleven. Throw balance out the window.

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Powercreep Needs to Slow Down in Honkai: Star Rail

Firefly and the Trailblazer in Honkai: Star Rail
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Powercreep, or seeing newly released characters get stronger and stronger compared to those to come out previously, is both a business decision and a possible death knell. If the latest event banner characters are demonstrably weaker or less interesting to play than in the last patch, players are much less likely to spend money to get them. Honkai: Star Rail‘s problem is the speed of this process, with characters like Aventuring and Acheron almost always vastly outperforming other characters in their role.

The answer to the problem is simple: HoYoverse needs to slam the brakes on making new characters capable of outperforming their top-tier options. That will have multiple effects: DPS characters will do proportionately much less damage than Acheron, sustain characters will be a bit less effective than Aventurine at keeping your party alive, and buffers won’t provide as much benefit on a one-turn basis as they do now.

There’s a business reason for powercreep, as well. With Acheron and Aventurine at the tippity top of their categories, when their banners rerun, many more people are liable to spend for them during a rerun. That also creates a problem. While a rerun of Aventurine, Acheron, or whoever creates a short-term gain, light, and medium spenders might choose to forgo swiping in the weeks and months leading to The Meta being available again.

Then there’s player sentiment to think about. A character like Firerly or Jade, or any long-awaited addition to the roster, will inherently create demand, either for their story, aesthetic, or some other reason. But then, if they come out and seem to be worse than characters people already have or want, there’s a massive loss of incentive and an increase in player discontent. It’s happened before. If you were around for the hype and release of Dehya in Genshin Impact, then you understand how it feels for a character to have so much potential and then immediately disappoint.

I’ve watched a fair bit of Firefly closed beta footage, and based on the comments I’m seeing, community sentiment is trending in that negative direction. That’s not to say Firefly is bad, but she doesn’t seem to be nearly as effective or straightforward as Acheron, Jingliu, or even Dan Heng, Imbibitor Lunae.

On the flip side of the coin, Firefly might find herself in a Topaz situation, where she’s one of the first in line for a new meta, this time centered around Break Effect. Topaz came out in a time where her follow-up attack speciality didn’t have nearly as much support as it does now. And if Firefly and the Harmony Trailblazer are the true beginning of a separate top-tier lineup, I’m all for a downturn in starting power for later value.

What if Powercreep Went to 11?

Aventuring Ult splash screen in Honkai: Star Rail
Screenshot by GameSkinny

HoYoverse could easily take the opposite tactic and, rather than slowly ramp the Honkai: Star Rail powercreep down, they instead turn it up. As crazy as that sounds, I don’t necessarily think it’s the worst thing they could do. They’ve proven that they can create content that even the biggest spenders can struggle with, namely in the Simulated Universe.

Firstly, it would ensure that new players always had a top-few-in-slot character to try to pull for in the limited character banner. That way, they’d have a much better chance of getting off to a strong start. It might also push HoYoverse to adjust or rework older characters to keep up, helping even the launch roster keep pace with current content.

There’s some precedent for characters in HoYoverse games getting that kind of treatment, though it’s rare. One of the most famous is likely Zhongli, who started out as less than stellar but, after being updated, remains one of the strongest supports in Genshin Impact.

A constantly increasing power curve beyond what we have now also forces new metas into fashion. Hunt gave way to Destruction, which gave way to DoT, which got sidestepped by a follow-up attack, which now is being superseded by Break. Sure, HoYoverse will run out of new mechanics eventually, but as they showed with the Harmony Trailblazer, they’re perfectly happy to introduce new ones.

Most importantly, from a dollars and cents perspective, if we always knew the next character would be straight-up better than what we have now, there’d be more incentive to pull for them. In the absence of additional work on older members of the roster, previously S-tier units would more quickly go to A and B-tier, but they do so anyway, just at a slower pace. Plus, our teams are already so incredibly powerful that almost no content in the game can stand a chance if we invest enough time. Things could eventually devolve into chaos, but they don’t necessarily have to.

Don’t take my pushing for a possible massive increase to powercreep here as an equally large endorsement of the idea. I think things are moderating precisely because Acheron and Aventurine are so good that to powercreep them is to shatter any semblance of difficulty left in the game. At a certain point, enemies would have to do so much damage so quickly — or have just this side of BS mechanics — to even threaten dedicated players. I just think it would be interesting to ask how, if powercreep in Honkai: Star Rail now were to go into overdrive, we and the developers would deal with it.

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John Schutt
John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.