Geek Preview: ‘Honkai: Star Rail’ Is A Turn-Based Cosmic Fantasy RPG That Will Turn Your Galaxy Upside Down

Honkai: Star Rail is the newest free-to-play space fantasy role-playing game in the Honkai series by HoYoverse, in an attempt to mirror the overwhelming success and popularity of the developer’s other game, Genshin Impact.

Honkai: Star Rail‘s gameplay is noticeably distinct, even while sharing several similarities with Genshin Impact, thanks in part to the game’s creative use of turn-based combat where players battle enemies in a party of four. Dungeon exploring, puzzle solving, and even spectacular animations as characters use their individual ultimates are all included in the game.

Set in a separate universe of Honkai Impact 3rd, the game features a fresh roster alongside existing franchise characters, as well as a brand new story centred on a new protagonist referred to as the Trailblazer. 

Here are some first impressions and notes after exploring the world of a new cosmic fantasy role-playing game (RPG).

Game Exploration

Much like Genshin Impact, players are given the chance to explore the three starter planets, including the icy Jarilo-VI. The presence of alluring background music makes this planet appear great not only for exploring in search of enemies, but also for taking in a little atmosphere. Feel free to battle difficult foes to obtain precious riches as well.

Destructible items, such as metallic cylinders or health-restoring canisters, are scattered throughout passageways and can hold credits or crafting supplies. Chests are also harder to locate in this game, blending into the background and being easy to miss. Some are locked behind puzzle-solving mechanics or specific quests, but the game makes it easier to keep track of the yet-to-be-found chests with a counter that appears when the map is pulled up. 

The mini-map visible at the top-left corner of the screen assists players in navigating levels and discovering these side pathways. Fast-travel features ensure that players can always go back to these hallways to investigate any hidden passageways. Unfortunately, the characters can’t jump, hence limiting their ability to move around on what is essentially a 2D plane. On the bright side, that means there’s no longer a need for the stamina wheel like in Genshin Impact, so players can make their characters sprint as long and as far as they want.

Game Combat

Since Honkai: Star Rail features turn-based strategic combat, players will enter a turn-based combat encounter when they strike an enemy or an enemy strikes first. Against a single adversary or a group of enemies using AoE (area of effect) attacks, players and their party of four characters can use a combination of Basic, Skill Attacks, and Ultimate abilities in this situation. 

Basic Attacks earn Basic Attack Points, and Skill Attacks are more potent and require Skill Points to execute. The Ultimate can be triggered at any point during the player’s round, which essentially gives them another turn to use that select character. As per most turn-based games and similar RPGs, the Speed of a character or enemy determines who gets to attack first. 

Fans of Genshin Impact will have no trouble grasping the various elements of Honkai: Star Rail though there is at least one clear distinction – elemental elements do not interact in the same manner. Since each character has an associated element out of the seven different sorts, having a diverse crew in your party is crucial because all adversaries have some elemental strengths and weaknesses.

Fortunately, the game highlights the elemental symbols to indicate which opponents the active character is effective against, and displays each enemy’s elemental vulnerabilities just above their health bars. Striking foes with the corresponding element will reduce their shield points, eventually leading to a Shield Break and inflicting momentary stun. Enemies can even be inspected for a fast overview of their level, skills, and status effects.

Game Characters

Honkai: Star Rail offers 26 characters to obtain, with half of the characters being 5-Stars and the other half 4-Stars. Several of the 4-Star characters can be acquired during the game by meeting specific narrative objectives, and fans of Honkai Impact 3rd will find some familiar faces within the mix, such as Himeko, Bronya, and Welt Yang. 

Seven elements are available to characters, namely Physical, Fire, Ice, Lightning, Wind, Quantum, and Imaginary, with seven different paths to follow: The Destruction (general DPS), The Hunt (single-target DPS), The Erudition (multi-target DPS), The Harmony (buffers), The Nihility (debuffers), The Preservation (shielders), and The Abundance (healers). Players may see the role a character performs in the party by looking at their paths.

The game’s starter characters include the Trailblazer (The Destruction), March 7th (The Preservation), and Dan Heng (The Hunt). To level them up, players will have to use various EXP materials and upgrade them to the maximum level, after which they can be Ascended to the next level cap, a la Genshin Impact

Like HoYoverse’s earlier games, Honkai: Star Rail offers a variety of intriguing and distinctive characters that may be unlocked through gacha. Pull 300 times, and you’ll be able to choose your desired permanent 5-star character to join the team; alternatively, there are several additional characters who automatically unlock as you advance through the story, which is a relief for free-to-play players who do not wish to spend money to obtain certain characters. 

With the gacha mechanic, you can also roll items referred to as Light Cones, weapons of particular paths that boost a character’s stats while also giving them a passive ability, such as raising their ATK or boosting their defence. These can be improved to increase the stat boosts and are also found in-game through various side quests or activities. Additionally, duplicates can be Superimposed, which increases the impact of passive powers or utilised as a resource to level up and gain experience for other Light Cones.

Other Gameplay Features

With a large part of Honkai: Star Rail dedicated to adventuring and combat, there are other means for players to get their share of fun. The side quests flesh out more of the narrative world, while dungeon exploration offers more combat variety. Similar to how Genshin Impact has incorporated additional game systems like the Spiral Abyss and Boss Domains, the upcoming RPG introduces the Simulated Universe and Forgotten Hall, which rewards players for completing stages of increasing difficulty. 

Available in two modes, Exploration and Challenge, the Simulated Universe is an independent virtual space that randomly generates virtual enemies and maps. Upon entering, the player chooses to start out with a random level one Blessing that gives a specific buff, or with more virtual currency, which can be exchanged for better Blessings as they progress.  The experience consists primarily of battling foes, with periods of respite in between where characters can be healed up, and Blessings can be bought or upgraded. Emerge victorious, and you’ll earn points for the Ability Tree, a feature that grants permanent stat boosts to your team. 

In comparison, the Forgotten Hall is a lot more straightforward – all you have to do is to pick the right team and defeat the boss monster, which becomes progressively tougher with each successful stage. In both cases, players will be able to preview the enemies before diving into combat, so there’s room for some planning beforehand.

Final Verdict

Honkai: Star Rail seems to be one to keep an eye on, whether you adore Genshin Impact or are just searching for a new game to get addicted to. The upcoming RPG is currently completing its final closed beta test, with a full release on PC and mobile devices listed for 26 April 2023, though an official date has yet to be announced. 

Already, HoYoverse announced that Honkai: Star Rail has reached the five million pre-registration milestone, unlocking all tiers of the reward system that includes the four-star character Serval and 20 Star Rail Passes. Serval, who belongs to the Lightning element and follows the Erudition path in the game, deals AoE damage in team compositions. The Star Rail Passes, meanwhile, are used to pull for characters under the gacha system, with every 10 rolls guaranteeing a four-star character. 

Check out Honkai: Star Rail‘s official website for more information on the coming game. Honkai: Star Rail is now available for pre-registration.