With the release of Honkai: Star Rail, you probably have tons of questions about HoYoverse’s new gacha game. Questions like “Is it connected to Honkai Impact?” Or “What kind of parent names their kid ‘March 7th?!'” are just some of these. But the most important one would be what is Honkai: Star Rail?
Those who have played Genshin Impact ought to be familiar with it by now and would need no introduction. But the HoYoverse community is always keen on welcoming new blood while chanting, “One of us! One of us!”
That’s why we’re here, to answer your biggest questions about Honkai: Star Rail.
What is Honkai: Star Rail?
Honkai: Star Rail is a live-service anime gacha game from the same developer and publisher as Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact — and it met all of our expectations.
For the uninitiated, ‘live-service’ for Honkai: Star Rail means the game’s story or main content has yet to be concluded, and the developers will add more content as updates over the months and years.
It’s a common release format for a lot of free video games in order to hold the player’s attention or keep them coming back to the game.
Gacha means a significant chunk of the game’s gameplay loop revolves around collecting rare characters, weapons, or items. It’s derived from Japanese gacha slot machines where you feed it a token, and you get a random mini-figurine. The same logic applies to Honkai: Star Rail and other gacha games like Wuthering Waves, but it’s all digital.
How much does Honkai: Star Rail cost?
As we mentioned earlier, it’s free. You can even download it on mobile, which we highly suggest since this game is one of the most anticipated mobile releases of 2023. The game earns its revenue by selling premium currency that you can use to “roll” for some of the rarest and game-changing 5-star characters or weapons (called Light Coils in-game).
However, there’s no pressure to spend real money to try for characters or weapons here, like in most gacha games. Honkai: Star Rail gives its players plenty of opportunities to earn that premium currency for gacha rolls through events, quests, and freebies.
You can get by just through hard work and determination (both will require lots of free time and attentiveness), as is the case with Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact.
But if you want significantly better chances of getting a favored character or weapon, then you might feel inclined to spend real money. Each rare or 5-star character or weapon has a low chance (0.6 percent) of dropping upon a “Warp” or what the game named its gacha pull.
There’s a pity system in place for when you’ve attempted a set number of gacha pulls. Once you’ve gone 74 attempts without winning a 5-star character or weapon, the 75th attempt has a higher chance of granting a 5-star item; this chance increases incrementally until it peaks at 100 percent on the 90th attempt.
Is Honkai: Star Rail just Genshin Impact in Space?
It can look like that to certain people, particularly those who haven’t tried it, but there are some differences that separate it from Genshin Impact.
The biggest one is the combat or gameplay. Honkai: Star Rail is primarily turn-based once the swords clash. It’s similar to games like Persona, where your characters and the enemies take turns dishing out damage or activating abilities.
Thus, combat is more strategic here, with players who plan carefully to reap the most rewards. There’s also luck involved here due to the turn-based nature of the combat.
What genre is Honkai: Star Rail?
Apart from the gacha and live-service format, Honkai Star Rail is mostly an RPG. Players pick a character (male or female variant) and mainly control that character along with three others in a four-man party to help in combat (party members can also be controlled). Some characters from previous Honkai games have been added, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
When not in combat or not exploring, players can talk to other characters with pre-set dialog options for their replies. The replies are mostly inconsequential, and the dialog system isn’t as deep compared to heavier RPGs such as Dragon Age or The Witcher. However, it still gives players a chance to roleplay their character based on the responses.
Players sadly can’t customize any character’s hairstyle, clothing, or general appearance (yet), but weapons, skill trees, and abilities can be customized to a certain degree.
Each character belongs to a class that determines their role in combat or exploration. They have weapons (called Light Coils) that are limited to their class though other classes can use them minus the significant class-based bonus.
Moreover, every character has a unique set of abilities. There’s a basic attack, a skill, a burst, a passive, and other auxiliary effects to make them more special. You can also customize these abilities via a manageable skill tree for each character.
And like Genshin Impact, you strengthen your characters by leveling up their skills, abilities, and their weapons using finite resources that are rewarded in quests, dungeons, freebies, and other in-game activities.
If players manage to win a duplicate character or a weapon in a gacha roll, they can use the duplicate to strengthen the original character up to six times; this can unlock a unique perk that augments their combat effectiveness, similar to the Constellation system in Genshin Impact.
What’s the gameplay like?
Honkai: Star Rail mostly plays out like an RPG. It’s heavier on its story compared to Genshin Impact, whose main loop or focus is exploration and its wide open world.
Players and their characters usually travel via the Astral Express to different planets and locales while finishing different types of quests or dungeons.
Since exploration is more of a peripheral aspect of the game compared to Genshin Impact, there are more opportunities for combat here. And combat encounters usually take longer to resolve due to the turn-based structure.
Another incentive to play through the game and to keep coming back for more quests and more events is, of course, the premium currency which allows players to roll for rare characters and weapons.
Each content update introduces new characters, quests, dungeons, and events, giving players a constant stream of activities to finish before the next cycle of updates.
What’s the story and setting?
As we previously mentioned, Honkai: Star Rail is set on the Astal Express. It’s a space-faring train that jumps from planet to planet, seeking answers about the nature of the Stelarron (which the game dubs as Cancer of All Worlds).
It just so happens that players and their main character is an experimental beings infused with a Stellaron, allowing them to see visions of the future and unleash a destructive force among many other abilities. To that end, it’s quite similar to Genshin Impact’s premise with the Traveler– where the protagonist was marooned to another world with special powers, putting him above the other normal beings.
The story is not yet complete due to the live service structure, so you can expect more about that narrative to unfold in the coming months.
But speculations point to the Stellaron players being an apocalyptic force that can decide the fate of the world or, in this case, the in-game universe.
All of this takes place in a sci-fi space opera setting, which is quite similar in premise to something like Star Trek. Also, keep in mind that this game isn’t an open-world title; the levels are more linear and disconnected.
As far as its connections to Genshin Impact, there are none at the moment (albeit with some suspect references and parallels). But Honkai Star Rail is directly connected to Honkai Impact and can be considered a sequel to that title, complete with some familiar faces for those who have played the latter.
Is there multiplayer in Honkai: Star Rail?
Right now, there’s no full-fledged multiplayer, and given the turn-based nature of the combat, it could be difficult to implement. However, the game will still require you to be online all the time, and you will also be able to add friends via the Main Menu under the Friends tab.
Once you’ve added a friend, you can then “borrow” some of their designated Support characters for game modes such as Calyxes and Caverns of Corrosion. That’s currently the extent of Honkai Star Rail’s multiplayer component.
Don’t expect a co-op similar to Genshin Impact; no gacha dates with an e-girl or e-boy sadly. Still, don’t let that put you off; there are plenty of other things to like about Honkai Star Rail that outweigh its limited multiplayer capacity.
It’s free anyway, so feel free to give it a try. Honkai: Star Rail has been out since April 26, 2023, and is available right now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Android, iOS, and Microsoft Windows.