It feels like forever since the last closed beta test for Honkai: Star Rail. To me, it was as if the moment it ended, information about the title started to drop rather quickly, leaving players starving to know how development was progressing. But now, eight months later, we are at the final closed beta, and if the developers’ track records are anything to go by, I will wager this is our last stop, and the official release shouldn’t be too far off.
Firstly, a recap is in order. In Honkai: Star Rail, you play as a Trailblazer who awakens inside a space station thanks to the Stellaron inside your body. After being rescued by March 7th and Dan Heng, you are taken to the Astral Express and go on a journey to find your true self, as every member of the Express has a burdened past and secrets they’re willing to keep sealed.
Compared to the second closed beta, the main story is identical at its core during the opening moments. Although the main story and its side content remain mostly the same as before, with maybe a slightly better translation, now the text is more readable thanks to the addition of a visible stroke in the dialogue font. Perhaps one thing that intrigued me was finding that several puzzles from the second closed beta were completely removed.
Most notably, puzzles that involved hitting pillars with the required Element seem to have been replaced with broken automatons that require the player to repair them by aligning the correct segments so that you can then follow it and claim your treasure chest. Additionally, while the presentation and UI at first glance seem to have distanced the design language further, it’s still relatively easy to tie similarities to some of HoYoverse’s other games, though not as much as before.
The majority, if not all, mechanics share a common similarity with Genshin Impact. For example, light Cones are basically your weapons; Eidolons are just another name for Constellations, and Relics are your Artifacts (and yes, those contain the same degree of random stats, for better or worse). Again, this is not a critique, but it is something to keep in mind if you were looking to distance yourself, though I personally didn’t find this an issue. In fact, I loved the character designs, and despite seeing some familiar faces, it still felt fresh.
Now let’s talk about the new planet. Or, to be more precise, the ship of Xianzhou Luofu, which is opened right after Jarilo-VI. In a manner of speaking, this will be the second main story chapter and features its own set of puzzles and unique design, with inspiration being taken from a futuristic Chinese ship. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can say about it, mainly because the story ends on a cliffhanger, and overall there’s not much to do other than explore the town and its mazes.
A minor complaint, but I can’t fault the title for doing so, is how it felt like a chore to get to the new content of this closed beta. To access this new location, players must reach Trailblazer Level 29, which, mind you, requires an Equilibrium Quest to reach, as the initial level cap is 20.
Furthermore, it was also a bit of a chore to switch back and forth between character elements because battles can take a long time to clear if your team does not have any of the elements the enemies are weak against due to the turn-based nature making Element Matchup even more important. Fortunately, upgrading your characters is a seamless process, and with Auto Mode, you can easily streamline and let the game run in the background. You can also exchange and craft the necessary materials relatively easily.
And before you even start to ask: No. Honkai: Star Rail plays nothing like Persona 5. It’s just a standard turn-based combat system with unique skills. The protagonist doesn’t summon something out of thin air, and each character has their own set of skills with varying effects, with even those from the same Element having a different set. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we need to distance ourselves from putting every turn-based game under that umbrella. It’s getting tiring.
Previously, one of my main critiques of the second closed beta was around how uninteresting and simplistic the gacha animations were. Nonetheless, the developers have created a neat animation where you insert the Star Rail Pass and then wait for Pom-Pom to open the door to your prize. I’ve also noticed that certain sound effects change if you’ve obtained a 5-Star, which is precisely what I’ve desired from a gacha system.
Honkai: Star Rail has truly progressed quite well in its eight months of development since the second closed beta, improving on nearly every aspect, and while it’s still got its fair share of issues, they’re all small, and I’m sure it won’t be long until they are sorted out, and the Astral Express is all set to welcome a new wave of Trailblazers into this sci-fi realm.
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