Honkai Star Rail 2.0 Review – Dreamlike Adventuring

Honkai: Star Rail is nearing its first anniversary, and the array of quality-of-life enhancements and fixes that developer HoYoverse has implemented since its launch in April is astonishingly extensive. Fast-forward to the present: the game’s first major update, Version 2.0, has been released. This update introduces a new planet, story, and characters. So, let’s board the Astral Express once again and draw back the curtain on the next phase of the Trailblazer’s odyssey.

Reflecting on Honkai Star Rail’s Narrative

Just a reminder: in Honkai: Star Rail, you assume the role of the Trailblazer, who is embedded with a Stellaron. Having aided the inhabitants of the Herta Space Station in repelling monstrous invaders, they receive an invitation to the Astral Express. Their mission? To demystify the enigmatic Stellaron and uncover the identity of the elusive Aeons.

The Trailblazer’s voyage has so far spanned three significant locales: the aforementioned Herta Space Station, the frigid planet Jarilo-VI, and the silkpunk marvel, the Xianzhou Loufu. Each destination boasts its unique ambiance, and the Trailblazer has gleaned much about the perilous potential of the Stellaron. Our current stop? The Planet of Festivities, Penacony.

Honkai Star Rail’s Persistent Omission: Cutscene Replay

From versions 1.1 to 1.6, numerous new quests, known as the Trailblaze Continuance, were introduced to move along the narrative. Amidst this plethora of branching quests, the innovative Fate’s Atlas feature emerges as a beacon of clarity. Within the Quests interface, it presents a meticulously organized timeline, mapping out every Trailblaze, Companion, and Event Quest in a tree diagram, accompanied by succinct summaries.

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Yet, Honkai Star Rail continues to lack a crucial feature: the ability to replay cutscenes. This was a primary complaint when the game debuted. Unless players resort to external platforms or create new accounts for a story replay, rewatching a cutscene remains impossible.

This omission feels particularly glaring within the newly introduced Fate’s Atlas. It’s a missed opportunity, especially since the Penacony narrative’s cutscenes are captivating. But without recording them, they remain elusive. Note that accessing Penacony requires navigating through three entire planets, a task that’s anything but trivial.

Penacony in Honkai Star Rail: A Visual Delight

What draws us to Penacony? The tale kicks off with the Astral Express receiving an invite from the Family, proprietors of the opulent Reverie Hotel, to the much-anticipated Charmony Festival—a luxurious beacon for all planetary tourists.

Yet, Himeko and Welt, veteran members of the Astral Express, sense an anomaly with the Family’s invitation, especially given their historical reticence in extending such invites. This unfolding narrative, set from Version 2.0 through 2.3, mirrors HoYoverse’s typical game roadmap. Initial impressions suggest Penacony conceals more beneath its surface, hinting at a “dark side of paradise” ambiance.

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The planet’s design exudes luxury and dreaminess, reminiscent of iconic casinos, yet with a toned-down approach to curb overwhelming glitz, a considerate nod to those with mild photosensitivity. Compared to previous planets, Penacony represents HoYoverse’s pinnacle of artistic creation.

Character Development in Honkai Star Rail: A Smoother Experience

While the combat mechanics have mostly stayed constant, the developers have fine-tuned numerous subtleties. Not to overlook the introduction of new characters like Black Swan and Misha, each infusing the combat dynamics with their unique flair. Black Swan’s abilities trigger varied effects based on the Arcana stacks on the opponent, while Misha’s Ultimate scales with teammate skill usage.

Considering character enhancements? Version 2.0 makes it substantially simpler. A refined Filter feature streamlines Relic organization, allowing for specific stat targeting. Moreover, as players progress in character development, Honkai: Star Rail now aggregates popular relic data, offering a Recommended Relic set—a godsend for those pondering the optimal set for a particular character.

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Remarkable Evolution of Honkai Star Rail in Mere Months

It’s remarkable how Honkai: Star Rail has evolved in just under eight months. HoYoverse has introduced a plethora of quality-of-life improvements and actively heeds player feedback. The narrative continues to charm with its blend of twists and humor, and while the combat system has seen little alteration, its refinement is evident.

The momentum doesn’t seem to be waning, as HoYoverse persistently unveils enhancements, elevating the Honkai Star Rail experience for all. The anticipation for future revelations along the Trailblazer’s path is palpable.

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A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Honkai: Star Rail Version 2.0 (PC)

It’s truly amazing how much Honkai: Star Rail has improved over the course of just shy of eight months, adding many quality of life improvements and listening to player feedback. The story continues to be a treat for those who like its balance of twists and comedic banter, and while the combat system remains largely unchanged, it has seen a ton of optimization from HoYoverse.

The Good

  • Artistic Excellence: The planet Penacony is a visual delight, showcasing HoYoverse's artistic capabilities with its luxurious and dreamy design, setting a new standard for the game's visual presentation.
  • Extensive Quality-of-Life Enhancements: The game has seen a remarkable array of improvements and fixes since its launch, showcasing the developer's dedication to enhancing the player experience.
  • Character Development and Combat Refinement: The introduction of new characters with unique combat dynamics and the simplification of character enhancement processes contribute to a smoother and more engaging gameplay experience.

The Bad

  • Repetitive Combat System: While the combat system has seen refinements, its core mechanics have remained mostly unchanged, which may lead to a feeling of repetitiveness for some players.
  • Absence of Cutscene Replayability: Despite the introduction of Fate's Atlas, the game still lacks the crucial feature of cutscene replayability, which is a missed opportunity for players who wish to revisit key moments in the story.