Honkai Star Rail review: Fight for all that is beautiful across galaxies
Honkai Star Rail is the latest entry from HoYoverse, which is an exciting step forward for the company. With heavyweights such as Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd under their belt, Star Rail is something new, which most of us did not expect. After several hours into the abovementioned games, I was primarily excited about the multiple references instead of the core mechanics at the title's center.
However, that notion quickly passed, as I wanted to fight more enemies with each hour I played. HoYoverse and its community are no strangers to beautiful character designs and storytelling, as more units are planned for release. Multiple new locations with sci-fi and fantasy elements create a diverse plot, allowing the developers complete freedom over their craft.
The result? A polished release with a fair number of characters, quests, locations, and much more that creates HoYoverse's latest Magnum Opus. The only major issue that you might have is the overall combat, as it is fair to say that turn-based isn't for everyone.
Since all of HoYoverse's successful titles have relied on traditional hack-and-slash combat, multiple fans turned up blind to the concept. Honkai Star Rail deserves a chance, as the game excels in numerous departments, and HoYoverse's attempt at improved animations clearly shows at all times.
A new world of technologies in Honkai Star Rail
Upon launching the game, you're met with familiar figures and a brand-new location. Kafka's and Silver Wolf's attires look the furthest from any medieval fantasy era. Their clothes give off completely different vibes, alongside the Space Stations players spawn in. Hence, Honkai Star Rail introduces us to a tech-heavy generation with an improved civilization, thus giving everyone an idea of the world's state.
With trains that warp between galaxies and multiple new characters, Honkai Star Rail has always felt like a completely new game from the core. While HoYoverse has implemented minor movement animations from their previous titles, alongside the loot system from chests, the transition from exploration to combat is different.
You will see multiple enemies roaming around the tilesets, coming your way during exploration. Like any JRPG, you can avoid fighting them or initiate a combat sequence by hitting them with your character's attack. This gets tiring quickly, as you're not getting anything besides Credits. However, enemies that are guarding chests are a different story altogether.
You will find a variety of enemies with weaknesses that allow you to test your built characters. While each enemy can look out of place compared to the biomes you're in, the combat more than makes up for it.
Speaking of varieties, once you complete a story arc tied to a specific planet, you will move to a different one, per your Trailblazer job description. I liked Honkai Star Rail's idea of switching locations that couldn't be more different.
While the first arc introduces us to an indoor environment within a space station, the second arc leads us to a steampunk-inspired city with Victorian architecture. The third location is based on a Chinese Metropolis, which instantly became my favorite out of all of them.
As mentioned earlier, there isn't a chance of a seamless open world. However, each compact tileset consists of themed structures and a specific type of biome, making them explorable. The semi-open world feature follows a traditional JRPG world alongside the ones in Honkai Impact 3rd, including Kolostein, Post Honkai Odyssey, Sakura Samsara, and more.
Warp in your companions and utilize them in battle
Aside from being beautiful on the outside, Honkai Star Rail is a Gacha title, as multiple aspects of the game will depend on your strong character. However, it doesn't thrive on taunting players to spend on the Gacha system, as standard characters are just as good.
I have already mentioned how HoYoverse have mastered the art of attracting players with their character designs. Additionally, skill animations and artworks play a massive part in it.
Honkai Star Rail has many characters, each with a unique attire. I even got a 4-star and a 5-star character mixed up since HoYoverse left nothing short while designing characters from either rarity. Additionally, every character has its ultimate animation.
Hence, owning a 4-star standard unit is just as important as owning a 5-star for damage, aesthetics, or support.
I also enjoyed the chemistry between the Trailblazing crew and how quirky some of the main character's dialogue options are throughout the game. HoYoverse stepped up their game when putting humor into situations, although sometimes they feel unnecessary. However, it can be excused since there are other options/answers that players can choose from as well.
Every character is explored through dialogue or side quests, giving us an insight into their backstories and personalities. Lastly, all the playable units are heavily involved in the story in one way or another, which doesn't make them irrelevant or a filler.
Take your turn at your own pace
It's time to address the elephant in the room, which comes in turn-based combat. While Honkai Star Rail is HoYoverse's first attempt at a dynamic turn-based combat system, it was satisfactory. However, it is easy to say since I'm accustomed to hundreds of JRPG games over the last decade.
Let us review how the entire system might feel for someone experiencing turn-based for the first time. Honkai Star Rail allows a party of four characters at a time during combat or exploration, and each character has three sets of attacks/skills based on their roles. While the term "seamless turn-based" can be used here, fans of HoYoverse's previous games will also like the idea of ult animations.
Everything looks good, with every character, their elements, and roles synergizing perfectly against the enemy's weaknesses. However, the topic of turn-based isn't easy to talk about. The entire system can feel tiring for players, and it isn't for everyone. On top of that, HoYoverse is coming out of two major titles that rely on their hack-and-slash playstyle, which fans are accustomed to.
Hence, it is only fair for everyone to give the company a chance and try something new. Quality-of-life features are added to the combat, allowing everyone to speed up the fight and set enemy encounters to autoplay. This makes for a somewhat relaxing experience for those who want to grind for a substantial amount of materials.
The fights aren't easy; enemies tend to get tough as you level up. Like any RPG game, leveling your characters and equipping them with the correct gear pieces is recommended. Perhaps then, the satisfaction of defeating high-tier enemies might help the combat grow on reluctant players.
Simulated Elysiun Realm?...or the Forgotten Abyss?
Like any Gacha game, Honkai Star Rail also has an endgame in which I found myself testing my characters and grinding them for rewards. It is also a great way to progress since each stage will lay out the required level of enemies. Based on this, you can prepare your party and farm for materials across multiple activities.
Completing endgame modes will further grant Gacha premium currencies and ascension materials as rewards, proving an excellent incentive for players. While I haven't invested much time in the endgame activities, I recommend everyone use the Simulated Universe and Forgotten Hall as benchmarks for creating their characters.
As I mentioned, Honkai Star Rail's endgame activities act as an excellent progression guide for players, forcing them to build all sorts of characters to gain an advantage in battle. Since you will be locked behind level caps as you progress, do not waste your stamina on farming for relics and ascension materials.
This is where the repeatable grind comes in, which, although it might feel tedious at first, is one of the basic requirements to become strong in Honkai Star Rail.
Everyone has a path to take and a role to fill
The concept of "paths" in Honkai Star Rail is probably one of the best features that have been implemented. It made me care about combat even more, as I had to create my teams carefully based on the allies' paths and the enemy's weaknesses. There are plans to add more classes in the game as each update releases, giving players more chances to experiment against more challenging enemies.
This system also forces players to invest materials into properly building a fair number of characters and parties, most of which can handle a little bit of everything.
Due to this, everything can be a meta in Honkai Star Rail, and nothing is "too weak" or "useless" as long as you have the correct Light Cones and Relics.
Performance and Controls
Honkai Star Rail is a reasonably optimized game, as it can run efficiently alongside previous-generation hardware. While HoYoverse has plans to release the title on PlayStation consoles, this review has been done on the following setup:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
- GPU: GTX 1060 6GB
- Ram: 16GB
It's easy to run the game in maximum settings at 60 FPS locked, which is pretty much everything you need to experience the beauty of all the characters and their skills. Additionally, having the game auto-play on your phone isn't a bad idea if you're looking to farm materials while busy at work.
Honkai Star Rail consists of almost every ingredient players might be familiar with, based on HoYoverse's previous titles. However, it does its job well when it matters, especially selling a character design and their skills, paired with addictive and dynamic turn-based combat.
Fans of both Gacha and anime-styled games will have a field day in Honkai Star Rail, while everyone can enjoy a bit of everything except the occasional hack-and-slash.
Honkai: Star Rail
Reviewed On: PC.
Platforms: PC (EGS and official client), Android, and iOS.
Release Date: April 26, 2023