Yeah, the thread title should probably be updated to Honkai: Star Rail, which is the full title.
I’m extremely allergic to gacha-based games, something about them just shuts my brain down and I can’t get any enjoyment out of them at all. But, if there’s anything that’s going to work on me, it’s going to be this, which really does feel like a full-on JRPG. The combat is simple, but fairly satisfying so far. In brief, each of your 4 units has a basic attack and a special attack. Basic attacks recharge a “special” point, and specials deplete one, so you need to balance their usage a bit, while obviously preferring the damage / effects of the special attack. Each character also has an “Ultimate” attack, which triggers immediately when you activate, it. That is, it can be triggered out-of-turn order. There’s a poise / stagger system in addition to health, and a 7-part elemental weakness system, so triggering ultimates out of order to stagger / cancel enemy attacks, or kill off a low-health enemy is a legit tactical decision.
The graphics are quite nice, even on mobile. The simplified combat plays pretty well on a phone screen. In general, Star Rail just oozes production values.The voice acting is surprisingly good…better than many console games.
It’s also…quite funny? The whole thing is kind of just littered with jokes. There’s a quest line called “Everwinter Nights”, and Achievements named things like “The Cold Equations” and “A Song of Vice and Dire”. When a character is musing philosophical gibberish at you and asks what you think about it, one of the responses is “42?”, including the question mark. And then there’s the trash can
They’re just very aware that they’re making a premium product, and aware of who their market is. What I assume is some of the end-game grind content is a sort of Hades-like roguelike dungeon where each encounter gets you a buff themed around one of the “gods” in the world, and you try to get progressively farther using the various blessings. There seems to be an embedded “pipe dream” minigame that you can do for…reasons that are yet unclear. There’s little environmental navigation puzzles just like a traditional RPG. There’s also just tons of little interactables in the world. There’s even a pettable dog. And MiHoYo is unparalleled at designing waifus, if that’s your thing.
I haven’t crested the initial Gacha curve yet, which is where a lot of friction starts showing up. At a certain point, if the power curve starts just looking like a big old micro-transaction dead-end, it will lose a lot of its luster. There’s already obviously too many currencies, too many widgets and gewgaws to collect and combine, and the overall character progression system seems pretty opaque, which is all part of the gacha experience. If this was a single-player standalone purchase RPG, with some of those excesses edited out, it would be brilliant. As it is, I’m enjoying what I’ve seen so far immensely, but ready for the other shoe to drop.
It’s hard for me not to think about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 while playing this, as that had a very explicit gacha-vibe (and system) built into a micro-transactionless game. So, this is really just going that last little step from XC2. It’s interesting to think about the differences and similarities.