Written in the Stars
After three years, Hoyoverse finally released its newest title, Honkai: Star Rail to PC, Andriod and IOS. Hoyoverse is well known for creating one of the most successful gacha games ever developed, Genshin Impact. Genshin Impact revitalized the gacha RPG genre by showing what an open-world and visually stunning gacha game could look like. The game was a global phenomenon. Unsurprisingly, all eyes are on Honkai: Star Rail to see if it can produce the same magic.
Along with Genshin Impact, Hoyoverse is also responsible for the Honkai series, their most popular being Honkai Impact 3rd. Even though both games share the same name as their predecessors, they are not sequels. Each Honkai game has its own story to follow. In Honkai: Star Rail, you play the Trailblazer, a created being made with a Stelleron by the Stelleron Hunter Kafka. Stellerons are seeds of destruction that unleash global catastrophes upon worlds, such as extreme climate changes and summoning monsters to destroy worlds. Kafka’s intentions for creating you with a Stelleron remain a mystery that gets fleshed out as the story progresses.
In the meantime, the Trailblazer joins a group known as the Nameless aboard the traveling space train, the Astral Express. The group set out to purge different worlds of Stellerons to prevent them from destruction. The game contains lore and connections to previous Honkai titles. Almost all the characters are alternate-universe versions of characters from Honkai Impact 3rd. And one character is even from the same universe. It is gratifying to learn all about the story and lore, especially since I have never played Honkai Impact 3rd. Honkai: Star Rail‘s story can be beaten to a certain point. However, updates to the game will continue and bring new planets and characters to help save along the way.
Can I Drive the Train?
Honkai: Star Rail‘s gameplay is turn-based rather than the live-action that Genshin Impact implemented. For me, it is a welcome change, but for some, it will be an instant skip because of this change. Even with turn-based action, the game involves complex strategy and a steep learning curve that will have you looking up team compositions for mid and late-game encounters. Each character has elemental class types like fire, wind, normal, quantum and more that help break an enemy’s break meter. Once broken, the enemy takes massive damage, is vulnerable to all attacks and can have a delayed turn.
Elemental effects will also implement on specific enemy weaknesses. One of the most prominent that I experienced was freeze which delayed an enemy’s turn. Other effects include fire, shock or quantum damage with inflicted damage over time. Enemies can inflict these effects on you as well. Where the gameplay shines is team building. Players can cruise through most of the game with the right team composition. Placement matters, healers and defenders are a must and upgrading your characters with light cones and relics is all part of what makes this game so interactive.
Honkai: Star Rail also has different game modes. One that stands out is the simulated universe, where the game becomes rouge-like. You build a team and take them through this simulated universe where you get upgrades every time you beat an enemy. You continue until you complete it or die and start all over again. This rewards you with upgrades, materials, summon tickets and light cones. It is one of the most addicting game modes of Honkai: Star Rail, and one thing that helps with the experience is the auto-battle feature. Since the game is turn-based, it can become an auto-battler to help casual players knock out dailies and play without being entirely focused on the game.
Show Me the Worlds
The worlds are also much more linear in Honkai: Star Rail. Once again, it is a welcome addition, but many will skip it due to this fact. Most worlds start with an open-world hub where players can shop and interact with other characters. Once you begin exploring the world, players will go through dungeon-like areas where it feels like a corridor to the objective with enemies and loot along the way. There is some rest in between, with mini-hub-like areas that act as a way to interact with civilians for side quests. This works so well because some might be looking for a much more casual experience just by going from point A to point B.
Where the game falls a little short is some of the side quests. Most are fetch quests. At some points, I skipped over the dialog to finish these questlines. And there is no fast way of skipping dialog either. You must sit there and just tap until you are done talking and doing the quest. Unfortunately, sometimes you are forced to do a side quest since in-game progress relies heavily on your astral rank. Astral rank is the overall rank you get from completing tasks like daily quests, playing different game modes and completing main and side quests. You must focus on your astral rank to progress the main story.
Graphically, Honkai: Star Rail is beautiful. Each world is different and unique thus far, and the bright and vibrant colors help exemplify that. The character design is top-notch, and the animations are just amazing. Especially, each character’s ultimate animation, which has all been a treat to watch. I just want to collect all the characters for my team and journey. The gacha aspect is one-for-one, exactly like Genshin Impact. It costs tickets to summon characters; you need Stellar Jades to get more tickets.
As a player experiencing the game somewhat free-to-play, you get a guaranteed five-star character on the starter banner. I already have four five-star characters, including the main character, and enough Stellar Jades for 50 summon tickets. Also, the starting cast is mighty on their own, and players can beat the game with them if they choose to. The game could be more generous, and some will get luckier than others, but the game can be completed without spending a dime.
Honkai: Star Rail is a welcomed surprise from Hoyoverse, and if updates are executed correctly, they might have another unique gacha game on their hands. The story is compelling, the gameplay is engaging and the game looks impressive on any mobile device. Dailies and side content will keep players involved until they release more content, but take your time and enjoy the game for what it is. I cannot put this game down, and I plan on continuing my journey to discover new planets and save them from destruction.
Is it Hardcore?
Hoyoverse has done it again with Honkai: Star Rail, showing they can make AAA gaming experiences on mobile devices.