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Honkai: Star Rail shows the value of walking the same path twice

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In space and in anime, almost anything can happen. You’ll meet a girl named March 7, who wields a comically long bow that fires shiny, bunny-shaped snowballs. Secret organizations would steal the memories of strangers and wrap them in membranes that looked like bubbles. You’ll step into the shoes of the Trailblazer, not a person but a physical being of a mysterious cosmic force that can bring disaster to entire planets. But even in the flurry of its confusing early moments, Honkai: Star Rail presents a fractured sci-fi world that shimmers where it breaks.

Honkai: Star Rail marks another massive release from Hoyverse, the studio behind the breakout hit genshin impact And Honkai Impact 3rd, Honkai: Star Rail It’s currently available to play on mobile devices and Windows PC (where I played it for this review), and will be coming to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 eventually. while fans of genshin impact and will recognize many systems in similar mobile games star railIts designers take the game in a new direction by blending turn-based combat with more linear dungeon exploration instead of giving players an open world.

You start off playing as Trailblazer, a man who has had a cosmic power called Stellaron inserted into his body by a mysterious woman named Kafka. After the insertion process, Trailblazer forgets everything about his past except Kafka’s name. They wake up on a space station, where they meet Dan Heng and March 7, two characters who travel from world to world on an interstellar train called the Astral Express.

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As the Trailblazer, you help both fend off the robotic enemy threat on the space station, and the leader of the Astral Express – a female Greek goddess named Himeko – invites you to join the team in hopes of You can uncover more about your past. You accept, and your new coworkers welcome you to a boogie luxe lounge car presided over by a bunny mascot named Pom-Pom. Eventually, the train becomes a snag on an icy planet named Jarilo-6.

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An image of the hook from Honkai: Star Rail runs around the city of Belobog.  Just ahead of it is an ornate building like a government building.

Honkai to Hook: The Star Rail runs around the city of Belobog.
Image: Hoyverse

The adventure that unfolds next is a classic RPG plotline: catastrophe has struck the planet and turned its mild climate into a nearly impossible winter hellscape. Now, its people live in a single steampunk-esque town called Belobog. Some residents manage to lead a prosperous life on an otherwise barren planet, but only because of class divisions. The city is physically divided into two discs: the top disc houses the more affluent population of administrative offices and city leaders known as architects, while the lower disc is home to the miners who extract an ore that feeds the lower and Provides power to the upper two. parts of the city. (Any final fantasy 7 Fans will recognize this common ground.)

Space exploration in the game follows a much more linear format than the adventure genshin impactOpen world of forget climbing or jumping star rail, You’ll teleport from map to map, using the game’s ample waypoints to walk to a set point on each. Some areas, such as the lower deck of the space station, will spawn enemies. Others function more like town centers where you can obtain resources and talk to characters to complete quests or fulfill requests. Each map gives players a bite-sized adventure in a variety of settings, from a section of an underground mine with glowing orange-yellow ore, to the interior of a sprawling building, to an empty rooftop fit for Star Wars, a To the sunny but cold city. Center in a Russian-inspired town square.

As you explore the space station, your characters – you’ll start with three, whom you can switch between – can attack monsters roaming the overworld, or they can collect buffs and other aids before the battle begins. Can use a technique to give. Once you start a battle, you’ll engage in turn-based combat, during which all characters have three primary moves: a basic attack, a skill, and an ultimate. To win a battle, you must engage a variety of characters who have different roles, called paths, as well as different combat types, which act like an elemental type, some Combat types combat each other. Although battles are turn-based, back-and-forth battles are ping-pong so fast you can zoom through matches. There are also settings that allow you to speed up gameplay and auto-battle in a battle, further reinforcing how fast the pace of battle is.

Screenshot of battle in Honkai: Star Rail.  The main character, Trailblazer, stands on the battlefield with a bat in his hand.  The icons of his four companions are at the bottom.

A photo of the battle in Honkai: Star Rail.
Image: Hoyverse via Play Gamez

Building these characters into a formidable fighting team, and understanding what goes into their stats, is far more complex than the turn-based combat mechanics. Your characters’ strength and overall effectiveness in combat is determined by your character’s level, their weapons (star rail they are called Light Cones), their weapon level, sets of equipped items called relics, the stats of those relics (which are randomly assigned), relic level, Additional boosts from a skill tree called Traces, and the number of Eidolons a character has (which are powers and boosts granted when you roll multiple copies of a character). star rail It’s also a gacha game, which means you’ll be able to earn an in-game currency called Stellar Z to spend it on random occasions to get better characters.

Reading that description can seem overwhelming. How does the Relic system work, you may be asking? And what if you can’t grind enough Stellar Jade to get the characters you want? In practice, it’s not that bad. Even within the short review period the process of leveling up characters felt like a reasonable system as the game mechanics encourage building multiple characters rather than investing more in a single team. You don’t even need to go into all the mechanical details if you want to focus on the story. Regular players will be able to overcome all these different gameplay elements over time and build a strong team.

star rail Combines its combat system with a stunning animation style, which at points looks like it’s almost straight out of an anime. Hoyverse goes full force for the ultimate move animations of the various characters. Some are grand: Trailblazer wields a bat that has a stunning sparkling visual effect as it vibrates with neon blue, yellow and black electrical pulses. Others are whimsical: Natasha, a healer, tosses a teddy bear into the air and shoots it with a grenade launcher, after which it rains down that heals allies. And some are just plain over-the-top: Himeko calls upon a satellite death laser that annihilates enemies while sipping tea.

Honkai: An image of Himeko's final move in Star Rail.  As she casually sips tea, a satellite fires a massive death laser at the opposing team.

Hail Himeko, the queen of Honkai: Star Rail.
Image: Hoyverse

Each animation shows us a lot about each character and their story. For example, when the characters first arrive on Jarillo-6, they end up on the lower disc, where they meet a young girl named Clara. She is small and unassuming, but determined to make a difference, repeatedly advocating on behalf of a band of misfits living in the undercity. And on the battlefield, she powers through enemies by summoning her friend Svarog, a giant robot fit for a mech anime. During his final attack, a spectacular up-and-down camera angle shows Clara crouching in fear beneath Svarog as he leans over to protect her as she slays him, her glowing red eyes fixed directly on the enemy. Are. It’s amazing to see how young Clara looks in this moment, and how dangerous her protector becomes when she charges up for a laser attack. This shows how much Svarog cares for her.

I played through the game’s story until the end of the characters’ journey on Jarilo-6, and it’s a relatively interesting plot, but what’s more notable is the general tone of the game. Although genshin impact Sure it has its esoteric moments, it concerns itself with weighty themes, telling stories of gods that take on a kind of mythological quality. star rail Has a much lighter note that sounds more youthful and less serious.

For example, several characters note how strange Trailblazer talks, as he sounds like an internet-savvy person from the year 2023 on Earth. The Trailblazers eventually find a phone, which they use at one point to text another character “Beg me~”. Objects in the game sometimes have funny details; Checking in as a mailbox isn’t just a mailbox, you may discover that someone has stuffed a sausage into its narrow slip, perhaps mistaking it for a dustbin.

Best of all, I cannot stress enough how much better March 7’s mate and Dan Heng are at this game than Paymon. genshin, March 7th is the perfect girlie pop who just wants to take cute selfies with you and she’s not afraid to call you out if she thinks a dialogue option you’ve chosen is stupid. Meanwhile, Dan Heng is a cold and calculating type, adding some welcome tension to the party, even though I personally think he is too tough on March 7th.

Honkai: A text conversation shared between Dan Heng and Trailblazer in Star Rail.  Dan wrote in the text:

A written conversation was shared between Dan Heng and the trailblazer after he asked about dad jokes.
Image: Hoyverse via Play Gamez

But before bonding with those new friends and beginning their journey to Jarilo-6, the game offers the trailblazer a choice: board the Astral Express, or stay on the space station. If you continue to talk to Himeko, it appears that your insistence on talking to her about everything comes across as reluctance to join the Trailblazer’s journey. I tried to pressure him at this point, asking him what it would mean to be a member of the Astral Express and the Trailblazers. She tells me that traveling isn’t even about visiting new places. “Treading the same path over and over again will never be the same, there will always be something new. That’s what trailblazing means,” she tells us.

Her comment captures the feeling of enduring a journey that feels simultaneously new and familiar at the same time. In this, forging one’s own path does not mean treading new ground, but retreading a path and uncovering something new. Her comment – perhaps intentionally – neatly captures the current moment of sport as a product. Honkai: Star Rail Hoyverse is the third major release and yet another mobile game in the studio’s ever-growing list of games. Hoyverse is on the same path again.

in many ways, Honkai: Star Rail Shows a refinement of Hoyvor’s work up to this point. Sport escapes the excesses of an ever-increasing world genshin, instead creating tightly designed, linear worlds and dense systems from start to finish. You’ll fight to save the world alongside the shiny snow bunnies and send messages to your new friends in the process. Instead of restricting developers and their vision, star railThe design leaves enough room for them to create other aspects of the game. Combining a sophisticated, turn-based system with a humorous, light-hearted writing style, star railThe future of The Road looks like it will be a smooth ride.

Honkai: Star Rail was released on April 26 on iOS, Android and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Hoyverse. Vox Media is an affiliated partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Play Gamez’s ethics policy here,

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