Honkai Star Rail Preview – Genshin Impact meets Star Ocean in style

I went into Honkai Star Rail unaware of the fact that it’s a turn-based RPG. I’m not really sure how I managed to miss something so integral, but I guess I just assumed it would be another action game, given that both Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd, the two other best-known games from Hoyoverse, are action games. Instead, after getting through the beautiful intro sequence where a woman conducts music as monsters attack a starship, I found myself learning about how to juggle normal attacks, special attacks, and ultimate attacks, but in turn-based fashion. Honestly, it’s a nice change of pace, and it means it’s going to be a lot easier for me to commit to as a Genshin Impact fanatic.

Honkai Star Rail is set after Honkai Impact 3rd in a parallel universe. That’s somewhat irrelevant if you’re new to Hoyoverse games, but basically, you play as an amnesiac with a mysterious device implanted in your body, and you get to ride around space in a train visiting other planets and trying to help them. It feels a lot like a Star Ocean game in that respect, and I couldn’t love that more.

Combat has you balancing skill points gained from normal attacks with using those points for your special attacks, and also trying not to die. You also generate energy for your ultimate attack as you battle, with each character having their own selection for each of those things. Some characters can create shields for others or heal, while others might buff you and debuff the enemies, while others are standard DPS characters. The fun comes in trying to balance different elemental characters and find synergies between different team setups. Even in the beta, there’s a lot of potential for very silly teams here, and it’s fun to mess about with.

You can then further customize your characters with different Light Cones, which are a bit like weapons that all have varying passive effects, and Relics, which give different stats and more passive effects. Much like Genshin Impact, the aim here is for you to find your own strategy and min-max the hell out of it, but it feels a bit more impactful as you can’t just skillfully dodge through attacks, because you literally have to let enemies hit you.

The story so far feels great; the voice acting is good, the music is sublime, and the gameplay is wonderful. You can put battles on double speed and auto-battle too, which I’m a huge fan of in turn-based games, because fighting fodder is rarely exciting. It’s all just very good, and I’m looking forward to jumping into the full release, which is currently rumoured to be in April.

Is it like Genshin Impact?

That’s all the gameplay stuff out of the way, so if that’s what you’re interested in, you’re golden. I just want to quickly talk about the gacha systems in play here too, because they are a part of the game, even if you can ignore the desire to spend money.

In short, it’s a lot like Genshin Impact. You can spend money to get currency to turn into warps, which are this game’s wishes, and can also get a battle pass of sorts which will give resources. You’ve also got energy for resource-earning activities, which you can spend currency on to restore. I don’t think you’ll need to put money in to enjoy the game, and I spent most of my time with the game with basic units you get for free as you play the game and was having a fine old time with it.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that these kinds of in-app purchases mean that Honkai Star Rail isn’t going to be for everyone. If you’re the kind of person that avoids gacha games because you’re inclined to making impulse purchases or any other reason, this will be the same. Even if you don’t need to buy anything, you will probably end up wanting too. I don’t know how much everything is going to cost, but it’s not really important at the end of the day. The key thing is the temptation will be there too, so only go into this if you’re someone that can deal with that.

Prepare for boarding

I’ll be jumping in for sure, because I think it’s going to be a very good game, but I’ll be doing my best not to spend too much money. The whole package is already a huge amount of fun, and being able to play this on the go and then switch over to my PC is just too convenient to avoid. I think Honkai Star Rail could be something very special, and I’m excited to find out if I’m right or not.

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Jason can often be found writing guides or reviewing games that are meant to be hard. Other than that he occasionally roams around a gym and also spends a lot of time squidging his daughter's face.