With the outstanding success of Honkai and the rise of Genshin Impact, it’s understandable that the developers at HoYoverse would try their hand at making new experiences. Recently, I had the opportunity to try out the second Closed Beta of Honkai: Star Rail, the spiritual successor to Honkai Impact 3rd, and I was very excited to try it out, especially after the positive comments I heard from close friends who had participated in the first beta.
Honkai: Star Rail immediately starts you off with a mysterious duo who call themselves the Stellaron Hunters. After passing through the space station’s defenses, they implant a Stellaron on a host…or in other words, you, the protagonist of the story, who then awakens remembering nothing more than your own name. After saving the space station from its mysterious invaders, you are invited to join the Astral Express, a group of trailblazers who travel through space in order to find who they truly are.
Playing through the story was really enjoyable, especially with the dialogue. The character interactions in Honkai: Star Rail carry a lot of flavor, and the liberties the translation team have taken with modern references made me crack a good laugh or two. Some people might find the “joke options” annoying, but personally, I enjoy this light-hearted style of writing that focuses on the characters’ own quirks. The cutscenes were also really well-done.
The only things that need improvement are some text bugs and sometimes rather literal translation on some lines, but they were within the typical “beta” margins of error, I would say, and didn’t hinder my experience too much. In the first beta, the developers chose a font that was incredibly thin and hard to read, especially on white backgrounds, so I’m glad they went with a more bold typeface and darker UI elements, because that was the most common complaint I heard from it, so I’m glad they took the feedback.
One thing that immediately stood out to me however, was just how similar the UI and mechanics look like the ones in Genshin Impact. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but compare the two, because even after a few days playing, very few mechanics felt “unique” or “different”, such as the fact that combat is turn-based, instead of a real-time open world one, and that an item called Light Cone is interchangeable instead of weapons.
I’m not exactly against the reuse of assets in this context because unlike your typical “knock-off” context, this time they actually own those assets and thus, they are free to do whatever they want with it. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, as the saying goes. But when 80% of the mechanics end up being just re-skins, that can come with its own problems, particularly with the audience that would’ve preferred something completely different from Genshin Impact, or wanted a completely original experience.
Speaking of the gacha system, the gacha animations are…severely simplistic. Way too much, even. The animation between different rarities of cards barely changes, and the same sound effect is applied for all, too. I understand that not many people are attached to the gacha, but still, it would be nice if the animations had some extra “pizzazz”… such as louder sound effects when getting a 5-star unit. After all, the whole point of gacha is to make you feel excited for it, and this…doesn’t excite me. At all.
Honkai: Star Rail has certainly come a long way compared to the screenshots I have seen from the first closed beta, but there’s still a lot that must be done, such as improving the support for controllers, and the usual crash fixes, because the game crashed on me more times than I could count. In my opinion, the developers should have included more unique mechanics rather than reskinning ones from Genshin Impact. However, I enjoyed every single moment I spent clearing the content that was available in this second closed beta, and I certainly cannot wait to join the Astral Express crew when the game officially releases worldwide.
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