As of Version 1.3, a new mode in Simulated Universe, Swarm Disaster, is permanently available to play in Honkai: Star Rail. It honestly makes normal Simulated Universe feel like a cakewalk. Though difficult, Swarm Disaster provides some more lore for the Genius Society and the Aeons, and it is generally a good time. Surprisingly, at the current point of the game, it feels like Swarm Disaster is the perfect difficulty level to bridge the differences between F2P players and whales. We’re all equally having a terrible time on Herta’s Wild Ride.
Swarm Disaster differs from normal Simulated Universe in that you navigate from room to room in a board game-like screen (complete with bonuses you get via a dice roll), compared to how Simulated Universe only gives you two options to choose from. There is a countdown for every step you take (unless you’re on the Abundance Path). Once the countdown reaches zero, all of the enemies gain a power boost for each additional step you take. It adds a certain level of strategy as you move through the rooms because you want to balance getting enough bonuses and Curios for the final encounter against the Swarm, but you also want to make sure you don’t take too long or else you’ll end up overwhelmed. It adds a higher level of replayability than normal Simulated Universe and feels like a good evolution of the existing system.
What makes Swarm Disaster difficult is in the eponymous Swarm itself. The bugs are tough, can increase their numbers during battle, and can inflict a lot of annoying debuffs. Wind Shear and Outraging are not fun. Considering how many buffs you can get on your characters through the Blessings and combined Path Resonances, it makes sense why the enemies have to be so difficult. Once you know kind of what Path works for your party and what Blessings you want to prioritize (as well as know what the Swarm is capable of in the final battle against them), it gets much better. I’m not going to lie and say it gets easier. But you certainly don’t find yourself going from full health to an annihilated party in the blink of an eye as often just because you couldn’t prevent Swarm Onslaught in time.
I’m going to straight up admit that Honkai: Star Rail is the only game I really whaled in. It’s terrible. But even I have quite a bit of trouble in Swarm Disaster. My usual party consists of E6 Dan Heng Imbibitor Lunae, E6 Yukong, E2 Gepard, and E0 Luocha. Even then, without Abundance Path Resonance (mostly for Yukong’s sake), I don’t think I could have cleared Difficulty IV. I’m willing to listen to boos for this opinion, but I actually think Swarm Disaster is a great olive branch so far between the F2P and whale community. We’re all having a difficulty time right now and I have a theory as to why.
It’s pretty common knowledge that a 5-star character is probably going to have a better kit and stats than a 4-star character you build normally. A common complaint in Honkai: Star Rail is that it takes a lot of time and resources to build a character properly. Although the maximum amount of Trailblaze Power is higher than the maximum amount of Resin you can have (in Genshin Impact), it still feels faster to build someone in Genshin because you get more drops in Domains and Ley Lines. Even when I use up all of my Trailblaze Power on a Destruction Calyx, I might only get enough to level up a single Trace for Dan Heng Imbibitor Lunae (though I admit that I’m talking about going from level 11 to 12).
Whales definitely have the problem of having too many mouths to feed and not enough materials to feed them with. We have the characters, but we don’t have the Trailblaze Power to make them good. That’s not even taking into account Relic farming. This is how Swarm Disaster is tripping up whales who otherwise have little issue clearing normal Simulated Universe or some of the earlier Forgotten Hall stages, It’ll probably get better as more time passes and whales gather more resources for their characters, though. On the flip side, F2P players likely aren’t pulling as often as whales, which means that they have less characters to invest in. This in turn insures that the characters they do invest in get all of their time and resources. Because their play style is more quality over quantity, a F2P player’s Serval (for example) might be better than a whale’s Serval.
Since Swarm Disaster is still fairly new and people are still testing out the various Path combinations and party comps to bring in it, it’s hard to say if things will remain the way they are. It kind of feels like the Lord of the Rings meme where Legolas and Gimli are talking to each other in the last battle of Return of the King. I don’t think F2P players ever thought they would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with whales in having trouble with content in this game. I personally quite like it because it takes away the pay-to-win aspect that is only a portion of what makes gacha games a problem. I’m paying to winning, for sure. But am I really winning if I have to rely on Yaoshi to keep my party from getting swarmed?