With over 20 million downloads globally on the day of its release, hotly anticipated doesn’t even begin to describe Hoyoverse’s new gacha title, Honkai: Star Rail.
Its turn-based RPG might seem to be a step behind popular predecessors. Genshin Impact You can also find out more about the following: Honkai Impact 3rdEven a brief look at the engaging fighting mechanics and the awe inspiring animation will reveal that this game has a futuristic approach, which is in line with its sci-fi theme.
Hoyoverse’s Space Opera
You can also find out more about the following: Honkai: Star Rail, You take on the role as Trailblazer. An artificial human that was created after being injected with a Stellaron. This mysterious power is related to Aeons, godlike beings within the Star Rail Universe, and it has the potential to cause great destruction and tragedies. After being saved by a second group of trailblazers, from an Antimatter Legion invasion, you travel with them in the Astral Express on a journey across the galaxy, learning more about Stellaron to discover your true origins.
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While much of the story unfolds dramatic space opera themes, what’s endearing about Honkai: Star Rail is that the game clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, at least in its English translation. The writing is a bit off. Star Rail It is a light-hearted comedy, with jokes about pop culture and references to things such as Bloodborne, Final Fantasy, Fight Club. Even a jab at the buzzwordiness of ‘metaverse’ has a clever double entendre.
Cutscenes remain unskippable – which has been a large pain point for Genshin players. But Star Rail sees Hoyoverse greatly improve on its storytelling, what is being said, and the way it’s delivered, to great benefit.
The World of Honkai: Star Rail is made up of self-contained maps that require you to navigate through a series of zones, with plenty of ways to interact with the environment whether that’s breaking objects to obtain items, looting chests or battling monsters.
It isn’t a true open world, but still feels richly detailed. Each story arc seems set on taking you to a new planet or colony, and they’re dense enough to satisfy any itch for exploration – sometimes surprisingly so. In one entertaining example, ‘talking’ to enough trash cans in the Administrative District zone of Jarilo-VI earns you a trash can icon that you can use as your player avatar, an entertaining acknowledgement that most players will have a tendency to try to interact with everything.
The Turn-Based Combat System of Honkai: Star Rail The game is similar to the classic Japanese RPGs but with a twist. Enemies are equipped with both a health and shield bar. To break through the shield bar, characters must exploit elemental weaknesses.
There’s an engaging element of strategy when it comes to pairing the right characters and their elements, to fight the right opponent. Adding another interesting layer of complexity are the ‘Paths’ of each character – similar to classes – which determine their role on the field.
For example, ‘The Destruction’, ‘The Hunt’ and ‘The Erudition’ are a team’s main DPS dealers, playing the role of tank, single-target offense and area-of-effect damage respectively. ‘The Preservation’ and ‘The Abundance’ are shield and healing-based characters while ‘The Harmony’ and ‘The Nihility’ buff the party and debuff enemies. Once you factor in each character’s unique play styles and skills, the sheer variety of ways you can build a team for battle is what keeps Star Rail It is a very exciting and diverse world.
It is enough to have a team with a mix of Paths and elements. For harder modes such as Forgotten Hall, (a similar battle format to Genshin’s Spiral Abyss), building specific teams that cater to the enemy’s weak points is a key consideration.
At the time of writing, during the game’s launch window, everything in Honkai: Star Rail It feels balanced. The eight characters that you get for free by playing the main quest are a large part of the reason. These characters are worth building, unlike many gacha games. However, as is the nature of the genre, there is always a risk of ‘power creeping’ in future. The future will tell if new characters or items make this roster obsolete.
The characters themselves are interesting, flaunting flashy designs that wouldn’t look out of place on a techwear runway. There’s Dan Heng, cool and composed with a bit of snark; March 7th, the bubbly Zillennial equipped with a camera for taking selfies along the way; and Himeko and Welt Yang, the wise but sarcastic ‘parents’ of the Astral Express.
You get an even stronger sense of their personalities in battle as every character’s Ultimate comes with some incredibly detailed animations. From Himeko’s tea-sipping and destructive ‘Heavenly Flare’ Ultimate, to Natasha’s healing skill that playfully launches a teddy bear piñata in the air, it’s clear that a lot of care has been taken to fill these dynamic scenes with character.
What about the Gacha?
Hoyoverse has a history of predatory games. This being said, As of the date of this article, Honkai: Star Rail seems to be the most subdued iteration of the Chinese company’s gambling-adjacent tactics geared toward getting more out of player’s pockets.
There are many and wonderful free characters, so there is less pressure to gamble in order to win five-star banners. Star Rail’s beginner’s banner also has discounted pulls that can be redeemed with in-game content, with a guaranteed five star character by your 50th pull. As a veteran Genshin Impact player, it’s possible I may be more resilient to the allure of gacha – but it does feel like there is less of a compulsion to gamble for my 2D waifu or husband.
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Honkai: Star Rail feels like the sum of Hoyoverse’s tenure, in that regard. It has all the developer’s hallmarks of impressive voice acting, unique character designs and compelling gameplay loops, while also addressing many of the biggest criticisms concerning its previous games. There’s a reduction in the daily grind, less exploitative gacha mechanics, and the absence of a hyper-annoying sidekick.
Knowing how to do something is a great way to start. Genshin Impact There are some traps that can be avoided when a company manages its content. Star Rail might still run into – the ancillary gacha of farming for items to find one with the right stats and substats you’re looking for will likely rear its punishing head, once the game and the players hit more advanced strides.
As the mobile gaming genre evolves, a more relaxed game will likely be accepted by players.
Honkai: Star Rail is just that – a beautiful and highly appealing game to be played while waiting in line or while commuting. And there’s certainly something romantic about escaping your own boring train ride in exchange for the Astral Express, voyaging through the stars, planets and the great unknown.
Honkai: Star Rail
Platforms: iOS, Android, PC
Release Date 26 April 2023
This review was first published on 11 May 2023.
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