Honkai: Star Rail Review – A rocking space opera


It’s hard to underestimate how popular Genshin Impact still is. HoYoverse was put on the map by the Fantasy Gacha game, which had 65 million active players as of March this year. Not only does Genshin Impact have one of the highest player bases of any game right now, but it attracts a huge fanbase that extends to people who have never played the game.

Personally, I couldn’t get into it. I’m currently installing the game for the third time, and I haven’t made it past the first region in the game yet. While I’m not a big fan personally, I can see why many aspects of the game that I don’t like would appeal to others. The game uses a fairly generic fantasy setting and formula from the isekai anime which is very popular, but I personally have never really been interested in it.

I had a little hope for Honkai: Star Rail because of this, and boy did HoYo make me feel stupid.

Honkai: Star Rail is the culmination of everything HoYo learned from his success in Genshin Impact. However, unlike many companies in the industry, HoYo didn’t just copy their proven successful formula. While Honkai: Star Rail has some similarities to Genshin, the game takes chances and isn’t afraid to stand out from its famous predecessor.

For those who haven’t followed our coverage of the game, Honkai: Star Rail is the latest game from Genshin Impact developers HoYoverse. The game is free, and it is basically a turn-based RPG that features a steady paced storyline, digestible world building, and great characters. Some of these characters from previous Honkai games return, though they are now set in an alternate universe along with a slew of new characters, all available for collecting through the game’s Gacha system.

For those unfamiliar with Gacha games, it is a type of compilation game that Eastern video games are known for and in large part Genshin Impact itself. The term refers to Japanese Gacha games, which are dispensed randomly into vending machines, so you never know what you’ll get when you turn on the machine. This is similar to the gameplay of Genshin Impact and Star Rail, with playable characters unlocked by purchasing and using chance-based drops.

The gacha system, along with the character progression and item equipment systems, are the ways in which Honkai: Star Rail is most similar to Genshin Impact. While these systems are nearly identical to Genshin’s, the rest of Honkai: Star Rail plays very differently from its predecessor.

Honkai Star Railway character screen image
Photo: HoYoverse

For starters, the anime that both Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact took inspiration from has now broken away from the Star Rail movie that takes a very different tone on Genshin.

Honkai: Star Rail is inspired by the Space Opera anime, a beloved genre primarily remembered from the 80’s and 90’s. Space Dandy, Cowboy Bebop, and Captain Harlock are all inspirations you can feel in Star Rail’s darker, more violent, but not so humorous setting. Character dialogue and motivations feel right at home in these darker tones, while the flashy, explosive combat animation reminds me of Gurren Lagaan and Mobile Suit Gundam.

Honkai Star Rail March Utility Picture
Photo: HoYoverse

The characters in Honkai: Star Rail are, in my opinion, leagues higher than Genshin Impact’s. The character’s motivations feel realistic and mirror their personalities, which on average are a bit more gritty and avoid the cutesy trap I feel many Genshin characters fall into. Even our bubbly characters, wonderfully named March 7, are kind of airy sassy at occasions and not overly cute at all times, which is an anime character that I personally can’t stand.

The biggest way Honkai: Star Rail separates itself from Genshin is in the gameplay. Honkai: Star Rail is a turn-based strategy game, which requires some planning and combos executed on a turn-based basis to win encounters. However, if you’re like me and get a little bored in most turn-based games, don’t worry: Honkai: Star Rail’s turns move incredibly quickly, loaded with plenty of flashy animations that make the pace of battles feel much more like a free-to-play action game.

Honkai star rail battle photo
Photo: HoYoverse

RPG fans may be a bit disappointed by this, as it means there really isn’t much to do at every turn. Characters have basic attacks, skills that require a resource built up through basic attacks, and an ultimate. Enemies have basic weaknesses that some characters can exploit, and your ultimate can be used at any time – apparently even during an enemy turn (I’ve had mixed results with this, as sometimes it happens during the turn and other times it waits for the enemy’s turn to end.)

Because of this, there isn’t much to do during a turn, and you’ll spend most of the time hitting your auto attack to build up resources for a skill or to take some damage. Fans of large, drawn-out games based on a lot of micro and macro planning will not find it in Honkai: Star Rail.

Honkai Star Rail's farewell trip farewell photo
Photo: HoYoverse

Honkai: Star Rail’s presentation is exceptional for selling the game’s atmosphere, making the game truly feel like the action-packed space opera it was meant to be. Every move you make in battles is accompanied by beautiful animation and flashy effects, with your ultimate ability to take it a step further with full screen action. A cutscene that makes your character feel like an absolute badass.

Honkai Star Rail's photo by Han Outlimit
Photo: HoYoverse

Another unexpectedly good thing about Honkai: Star Rail that surprised me was the soundtrack. Star Rail’s OST is filled with music that will be right at home in the anime-inspired genre of the game. Sometimes the game calms you down with Lo-Fi electronics accompanied by soothing electric guitar music, other times it’s high energy EDM with remixed piano chords.

The Celldweller-like sounds and cinematic fight scenes had me gasping for my first in-game encounter, and from that moment on I knew HoYo had given me something special.

The last word

Honkai: Star Rail is a gem I didn’t expect. While the Gacha system may turn some players off, the new setting and tone of HoYo’s latest title will appeal to both Genshin fans looking for a change of pace, and gamers like myself who couldn’t get into the previous game.


Honkai: Star Rail has been reviewed on PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the game reviews section of our website! Honkai: Star Rail is available at HoYo websiteAnd epic gamesthe Google play store And Apple App Store.


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