A Review of HoYoverse / MiHoYo’s Newest Game, ‘Honkai: Star Rail’

The video game studio HoYoverse / MiHoYo’ has released the new game ‘Honkai: Star Rail,’ a sequel to ‘Honkai 3rd Impact,’ seven years after the original release.


When players first start the game, they are given a five star character, ‘Trailblazer’ (pictured), who is designated as the main character. Photo Credit: JR Salazar / Flickr / Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

HoYoverse, commonly known as miHoYo, known for their creation of hit games ‘Genshin Impact’ and ‘Honkai Impact 3rd,’ recently released a sequel to the latter, named ‘Honkai: Star Rail.’

After the immediate success of ‘Genshin Impact,’ a game that earned well over $2 billion in the first year alone, HoYoverse released more games, but each one fell short of HoYoverse fans’ expectations. 

One of these follow-ups, ‘Tear of Themis,’ is not your conventional HoYoverse game it is an otome (a dating simulator), not the RPG (Role Playing Game) that HoYoverse usually develops, hence why it was not as popular as ‘Genshin Impact.’

As time passed and players delved deeper into the lore of ‘Genshin Impact,’ passionate fans, particularly those who were well-versed in the game’s backstory, began to find themselves bored with the lack of new content. 

This is where ‘Honkai: Star Rail’ comes into play. 

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

The Plot of ‘Honkai: Star Rail’

‘Honkai: Star Rail’ is set in a science fantasy universe where humanity follows different paths represented by beings called Aeons. The player takes on the role of Trailblazer, whose name and gender are chosen by the player. The Trailblazer wakes up on a space station without any memory and discovers that they possess a powerful Stellaron, a disruptive cosmic entity that is spreading across the universe and dubbed “the Cancer of All Worlds.”

Joined by a group of adventurers known as the Trailblazers, the player character embarks on a journey aboard the Astral Express, a space train that travels across the universe on the Star Rail. The crew consists of characters March 7th and Dan Heng, who the Trailblazer meets upon awakening. 

Together, they face various threats encountered along their travels. During their quest to uncover the Trailblazer’s origins and eliminate the remaining Stellarons, the crew encounters Himeko, the engineer of the Astral Express, and Welt, an interdimensional traveler from the Honkai Impact third universe. Determined to handle the remaining Stellarons and uncover the truth, the Trailblazer and the crew depart on their mission. 

The Trailblazer first arrives at Jarilo-VI, a planet buried by layers of snow, developing an inhospitable winter caused by the blistering Everwinter caused by the appearance of a Stellaron.

As they approach the planet, they discover that the Astral Express is unable to leave until the Stellaron threat is dealt with. From this point onward, the story unfolds as the Trailblazer and their companions face numerous challenges and mysteries tied to the Stellaron and their forgotten past.

Review of ‘Honkai: Star Rail’

‘Honkai: Star Rail’ separates itself from any game I have experienced before from HoYoverse, primarily due to its distinctive and less prevalent combat style.

Unlike ‘Genshin Impact,’ which features real-time combat, ‘Honkai: Star Rail’ is a turn-based game. Because of this, players have to use their characters wisely, so as to not squander any crucial abilities that could prove pivotal to their overall success.

Despite the many differences between ‘Honkai: Star Rail’ and ‘Genshin Impact,’ users still find the game familiar. Kazuki Kobashi ’24 said, “I’m not too far into the game, but I enjoy it for the same reasons as ‘Genshin Impact.’ It offers all it should, the main difference being the turn-based combat and less of a focus on the open-world environment.”

However, it is this familiarity that makes the game feel derivative, hindering the overall experience. Kobashi continued, “However, the main problem is that the game is too similar to ‘Genshin Impact.’ It’s less fulfilling to play a game that already has a more established, higher budget, well known, and more developed counterpart.”

Every character has their own elemental power, either Physical, Fire, Ice, Lightning, Wind, Quantum, or Imaginary. The player places characters with different elements, or not, together on their team, in hopes of breaking the enemy’s weakness, allowing them to go more turns — and do more damage. This essentially forces players to pay attention to all of their characters, since in some scenarios, a certain element would be more effective than another. It makes the game all the more interesting given that there are a myriad of characters available to utilize. 

Many users started playing the game solely because of its cast of characters. “I love the game for its characters. My favorite characters so far have been the Astral Express crew [Welt, Himeko, Dan Heng, March 7th]. All their interactions have been incredibly wholesome, and I am looking forward to how they develop more in the future,” said Shelley Yang ’24.

Every character has unique abilities, with mesmerizing art and graphics to accompany them. Despite the high quality of the graphics, many players, myself included, dislike how they have to sit through every animation without being able to control their character whenever the ultimate, a type of character skill, attack is used, waiting around five seconds for their character to finish. Ivan Cheng ’24 agrees, lamenting, “The animations are cool and all but seeing the same animation pop up every time I [use an ultimate] is kind of annoying, and it gets boring over time. I hate how you cannot skip the animations, either.” Cheng’s frustration is corroborated by other avid players — five seconds for every character’s ultimate with a set team of four that uses countless ultimates per round can get time-consuming.

‘Honkai: Star Rail’ works on a gacha system, where players can obtain in-game currency — in this case, Stellar Jade — through gameplay or spending real-world money to “roll” for characters. To be put simply, it is a gambling/lottery system in which luck plays a massive role. 

Around every update, there is a new character, with a banner duration of around 20 days, letting players earn Stellar Jades in hopes of getting the newest five-star character. The game ranks both materials and characters based on a star system, with five stars being the rarest. The most recent addition to the game’s five-star collection is Jing Yuan, an Electro character. 

Daniel Kim ’24 said, “With miHoYo [HoYoverse] being very popular and well known for their elaborate cutscenes even on mobile devices, I find Jing Yuan’s ultimate to be particularly lacking. Other ultimates of characters even in lower ranks tend to be more dynamic following the generic trend of build-up and a climax. These are generic because they are amazing. These ultimates take great advantage of camera angles and dynamic camera movement whereas Jing Yuan’s is simply a perspective trick. His ultimate animation also lacks the big climax that I am looking for.” 

Like the seemingly never-ending fights, the game itself is lengthy. However, those who have already caught up to the stories in the game find that once they are done, there is not much left to do, often uninstalling the game in the end. Rachel Li ’24 said, “Although the game is fun for the first week or so, you run out of content quickly, and the turn-based combat gets repetitive. I might still log in once in a while to check out new characters and events, but I don’t see myself consistently playing one year from now,” said Li.

If players dedicate themselves to finishing the game by spending countless hours a day, the amount of game content runs relatively low, as the game has just been released, thus boring players. However, with seemingly endless content for those who play bit by bit and the amount only increasing as the game updates, the game should keep players interested and hooked for days, weeks, and even months if they spread out their playtime. 

‘Honkai: Star Rail’ is set in a science fantasy universe where humanity follows different paths represented by beings called Aeons.