MiHoYo/HoYoverse — the company that created Genshin Impact — released Honkai Star Rail in late April this year. Given the company’s reputation, the game has already had a stellar launch, and it’s not hard to see why. From level one, the game pulls us in and introduces us to a vast universe with lots to explore, without many barriers keeping players from playing for hours on end. As far as gotcha games go, it’s a treasure trove. It’s been a month since it launched, so how does it hold up? Is it worth playing? Here’s our review!
What is Honkai Star Rail?
The story starts on a space station where the player character, the Trailblazer, is woken up by a crisis alert. Disoriented and missing their memories, the trailblazer is tasked with resolving the alert. Joining him is a group of merry misfits. Right away you’re given March 7th, a spunky girl with ice and shield magic. Then you have Dan Heng, a scholarly, soft-spoken man who wields a spear that’s as deadly as he is handsome. That’s the game’s prologue.
Then it’s time to board the Astral Express — a space locomotive that can hyper-warp across the vast universe. The Trailblazer and company set out to new planets, searching for artifacts called Stellerons and bringing peace to damaged worlds. Experience this universe with the game’s 3D explorative RPG system, which utilizes an elemental-focused and turn-based battle system. After ten characters are achieved through story events, all additional party members are obtained through gotcha summons.
Full steam ahead!
Is it Worth Playing?
I only picked Honkai Star Rail up out of curiosity. After finishing the Star Ocean franchise I needed something to scratch my sci-fi/space exploration itch. Honkai Star Rail arrived right on time and delivered more than I had hoped.
Most gotcha games tend to rely on stamina-based systems that limit your playtime. Often they back the player into a corner with difficulty spikes and force them to spend real-world currency on the randomized summoning system to get better characters and weapons. Honkai Star Rail is generous to players for a sizable duration of the game, gifting free summons to players until Trailblazer level 35. Completing certain side quests grants several forms of in-game currency for summon tickets or enhancement items. The only form of Stamina is Trailblazer Power which allows players to enter extra stages. Said stages grant specific treasures needed to level up characters beyond level 30.
Honkai Star Rail offers loads of content for players to tackle every day. Between the main story, side dungeons, daily missions, companion missions, and adventure missions, it’s easy to get drawn in and spend several hours a day playing. This becomes a bit of a double-edged sword though, as we’ll see in a bit. Although you obtain the best characters via summoning, you can make it pretty far using just the free characters.
Honkai Star Rail delivers a lot of fun character designs. Inspiration comes from classic space opera aesthetics, high fantasy, and Chinese cultivation fiction. Each character introduced has their place in the story (as of writing this) and holds some significance to the over-spanning plot. Or at least a focal point for a particular episode. That makes for a well-rounded, diverse, and memorable cast of characters.
The graphics are polished, fluid, and all-around pretty. It’s dripping with charm and cute factor in every aspect from character models to environmental designs, with flashy battle sequences.
Maps have a lot of explorative elements which keep players engaged outside of battle, and the occasional humourous easter egg. Each planet has its own selection of field puzzles that always lead to worthwhile treasure.
Each planet tells a different, intriguing story and focuses on a new cast of characters. Moreover, they all connect for a grander plot and a common villain. It’s charismatic enough to keep players interested.
There are far too many daily tasks to keep track of. Each day you’re given a single daily mission and tasks for the Nameless Honor, Training Quests, and weekly rewards for the Simulated Universe. In addition, each planet has its own form of currency for its rewards shops. All of this can become overwhelming. On the upside, it leaves you with several hours of gameplay daily. It’s nice to have this much content to enjoy, but it could certainly be organized better.
Too many quests also come with too many rewards going into building characters. There’s a lot to it besides each character’s level. You also have to keep track of their light cores (powerups, essentially), six pieces of equipment, and ability trees for every character. Even those who farm exp items will find it difficult to keep more than five or six characters balanced past level thirty. You’ll likely build your main party of four with two characters on the side for specific situations. Unless you have abundant resources, you won’t bother with anyone else.
Fights aren’t challenging and are annoyingly drawn out. While you’ll use the auto-battle feature to get around this, story-significant battles have the auto-battle feature disabled. These fights last far longer than needed. The lack of diverse boss mechanics makes almost every fight feel repetitive.
Or you’ll do what I do and mooch off that one friend who has the (current) strongest character (Seele, in this case) at max level and watch her solo entire bosses on auto-battle while you read a book. There is no in-between.
Light cores have an 85% drop rate, minimum. You’ll likely pull 10-packs of them several times in a row before getting a character. God forbid you pull a duplicate. Those who have bad luck with their gotcha pulls will most likely think about uninstalling the game.
The paywall is so high that it is downright laughable. First-time purchases get double currency bonuses. After that, ten summons cost a minimum of thirty dollars. Given the poor drop rates, I’d rather spend my money on an indie game or a AAA game that happens to be on sale.
Honkai Star Rail is a gotcha game with a fun RPG trapped inside. Blocking better characters behind paywalls irritates everyone. It’s the bane of every mobile gamer. Still, Honkai Star Rail is off to tremendous and profitable success. It has grossed over forty million US dollars within just the first week of its release. For a game as detailed as this, it’s disappointing that it wasn’t a fully realized AAA title instead of a freemium episodic mobile game.
Game lovers in need of more sci-fi/fantasy fulfillment, get your hands on the new Sword Art Online – Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night Blu-ray. The Collector’s Edition comes with the film soundtrack and the light novel the film was based on.
Download Hokai Star Rail today from their official website for PC or your smartphone from the App Store and Google Play.