This is a topic that comes up a lot in gaming, especially in card games, and most definitely in Otogi. What I want to talk about here is (after an introduction in case anyone doesn’t know what it is) why it exists, what effect it has and essentially how Mitama are doing it and is it right, so let’s get into it
What is it?
Power creeping is the process by which cards, or in this case daemon, get stronger over time. I like to think of there being 2 types of power creep – indirect or “passive” power creeping vs direct or “strict“ power creeping.
This is where cards just naturally get stronger over time. Two damage dealing daemon might not have the same skill sets, or even be the same type, but the newer one simply just does more damage overall and so has essentially power crept the old one and becomes the damage dealer of choice. The best example of this is probably Sola. The level bonus she provides to others is unique in the game, but it just so happens that it’s incredibly powerful. Because of this ability she is the best healer/support in the game and so power crept everyone before her.
This is where one daemon of the same type and doing the same job as another daemon simply beats it out in all departments. We have just been given a massive example of this in Poison S. Brew [Valentine’s Day 2], and this is also what prompted me to write this. Poppy is a strict upgrade of Holy Grail (okay with the minor exception of the HP stat). Better autos, better skill heal, better crit buff, better crit damage buff and a team passive on top. Essentially if you have Poppy and Grail at the same level there is no reason to ever use Grail over Poppy. Poppy is strictly better and always preferred
Why does it exist and what does it do to the game?
I believe that power creeping is essential for games like Otogi (gacha/collector games in general) it’s how it is carried out that makes the massive difference. Simply imagine the opposite world where every new daemon that gets released is either weaker than or only as good as the first daemon available. After a while the game would become dull and people’s incentive to rank or even just play will wane very quickly. Power creeping is essential to keep players interest, make them want to play and rank to constantly improve their teams, and even from a company’s perspective to have players spend more in ranking/summoning. Of course there is more to it than just this, for example having beautiful art on daemon can also influence players, but power creeping is definitely a main ingredient for longevity of gacha games.
However whilst it may be essential it does come with problems that need to be addressed. First is balance which in turn influences meta, and also influences the second issue which is speed of power creeping. Balance is important to stop domination by certain daemon which in turn makes for dull/repetitive teams and can also cause divides in the player base. Continuing with previous examples Sola is a good example of a probably badly balanced daemon. Her power level is simply too high. By outclassing all other healers/supports by such a significant distance she just becomes an automatic first pick for leader slot in every team (and coincidentally also in turn blocks all other leader abilities from other daemon). With only 4 slots in a team already, instantly filling one of them every time leads for less variation in teams. The meta becomes easily defined this way which can make the game dull – Add Sola, add 1 buffer, add damage dealer, complete! Maximum damage, minimum thought required. The divide in the player base then comes from players who have Sola, and those who don’t. Having such a powerful necessary daemon means players without it can feel left out or simply unable to compete causing them to lose interest whilst those who did rank for her simply plough on with massive damage.
The second issue is speed which needs to be controlled over time. It is much better to have gradual increases in power over time than to have sudden massive power spikes that can potentially cause damage. In this case Poppy is actually an example of a good power creep. Is she strong enough to be called the best crit buffer in the game? – yes. Is she so strong that you would never use another crit buffer? – definitely not. Yoritomo is fantastic to target everyone and Book of Five Rings is also in the permanent pool as a 2 target buffer that’s fantastic as well, both options providing something that Poppy does not which is more targets. Sure Poppy might kill off Holy Grail (issue 3), but don’t forget that Grail was released nearly 18 months ago, which in daemon lifespan is pretty damn old! It’s fine to add better versions of older daemon, it’s not so good to add a new daemon that’s twice as strong as everything else.
The final issue – although it’s more minor – is strict power creeping can kill the weaker versions off. As I said before if you have Poppy and Grail you will simply never use Grail again. I think this is fine though so long as in line with issue 2 it is done at the correct speed. You don’t want to strictly power creep something that is only a couple of months old which can easily irritate players who spent resources to get the first daemon (Quiver into Amanojaku anyone? Literally a month apart and whilst you could argue Quiver’s 14% Crit Rate to Anima ability was actually a reason to use her she eventually got killed by Sola taking the slot. I’m sure loads of people loved Amanojaku’s initial release…).
Is Mitama doing it right?
Honestly I think for the most part it has been “okay” but there have been daemon which I don’t think have been helpful at all. The 2 biggest culprits have already been mentioned in Sola and Amanojaku. Both of these on release were literally double the strength of their comparators (and Sola still is). Amanojaku nowadays at least has multiple competitors, although two of these have only been released in 2019, 10 months after Amanojaku’s initial release which is too slow. The introduction of Amanojaku and her subsequent competitors has also meant that any daemon with a single target nuke but without an additional damage increasing ability is essentially useless (Leonardo, Nekogami, Amor, etc). As I see it there are 3 things that Mitama has to consider going forward if they want to encourage longevity:
1) Power Spikes
I say this because the other reason I wrote this article is two upcoming assist daemon in Stella: Leo and Cheshire Cat. For anyone who doesn’t read leaks (credit to https://m.blog.naver.com for the leaks) Leo is the next Mochi exchange who will (if not changed…) give your 2 highest ATK allies 50% crit dmg (that’s right, almost 50% more than Saigyo…and to two targets…and can be used in reserve), whilst Cheshire Cat provides the daemon it is attached to 50% skill dmg AND 50% crit dmg. These are significantly more powerful than currently available assists and can cause the issues I described above as they are a massive power spike. There are ways around it however, the best of which I think is to release more cards in the near future (not next year…) at a similar power level but with different abilities. This would mean that while the overall power level has increased dramatically there is at least still variation in selection which allows for a diverse meta rather than being locked into using these two assists for the next year instead.
2) Damage Caps/Boss HP and balance
Mitama will never change previously released daemon and I don’t wish them too, but as it stands overall damage has gone through the roof in the last 12 months. World boss damage has gone from 4 million to 20 million as a maximum, and with the two upcoming assists it’s not going to slow down either. My issue is it’s already easy for high levels to hit the damage caps all the time. I understand why they were introduced for Endless mode – 1 shotting everything in every wave would be a bit awkward and unrewarding – but they also put these caps in all events. Conquest is far too easy for a lot of people now as well thanks to constant power increases. Level’s 1-120 are fought with 4-8 SE at most now which is absurd, and it can only get worse. I think as power creep continues Mitama needs to consider rebalancing the events, and/or changing/removing the caps. Scale the conquest bosses HP to make later levels harder? Nerf wave stacking abilities for Endless and rebalance HP? There’s no definitive answer just suggestions to be made but something needs to change
3) Actually introducing new abilities
For the final suggestion…I suppose one can dream hey? They probably never will but there’s more than one way to power creep creatively. The IAS/Auto attack meta never came and my 7 page list of daemon suggestions never really happened (okay they took 2 ideas but not really as I intended them and they were the least creative suggestions). Mitama could add more mechanics which in turn allows people to create multiple team options that do similar damage. This leads overall to more fun and creativity in the game as well as increased discussion on strategy and meta.
So that’s my ramble complete to be honest. I don’t really know what else to add! I would love to read other people’s thoughts and suggestions to Mitama in the comments as well!
All the best 🙂