HoYoverse has just released its latest gacha game, Honkai: Star Rail, and this latest space adventure has met endless comparisons to its sister gacha, Genshin Impact. After spending dozens of hours trailblazing through Honkai: Star Rail’s galaxy, I’ve experienced and combed through a huge number of different systems and mechanics. Here are some things I’ve learned after making numerous stops with the Astral Express.
Players familiar with HoYoverse’s gacha game emporium will notice Honkai: Star Rail shares some similarities with Honkai Impact 3rd. But if you’re stressing out over any missed story beats or characters between the two games, don’t. Honkai: Star Rail, an RPG, is not a direct sequel to Honkai Impact 3rd, and is more of a spiritual successor. There are some alt-versions of characters, and Welt has a complicated history. But for the most part, you can rest easy knowing Honkai: Star Rail is a completely new experience.
HoYoverse has borrowed many systems from Genshin Impact, including a number of treasure chests you can find for some Stellar Jade and other materials throughout the game’s many zones. But unlike Genshin Impact, HoYoverse makes it significantly easier to track your progress, showing how many chests you’ve collected and how many are left in the top-left of your overworld map.
Gacha game veterans are probably well-acquainted with the sad yet consistent trait of your main character being a hot pile of garbage compared to some of the other characters in the game. (Even Genshin Impact’s main character, while not terrible, pales in comparison to many of their compatriots.) I’m glad to report this isn’t the case with Honkai: Star Rail’s main characters, the Trailblazers. Like in Genshin Impact, they have numerous forms, and the Preservation-path Trailblazer in Honkai: Star Rail is particularly powerful. You’ll want to invest in your main character, which is a win-win.
I imagine that there’s a lot of crossover between the Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact playerbase. And if you aren’t really into Genshin Impact, chances are, you’ve probably dipped your toes into the game, at least. Fortunately, the transition to Honkai: Star Rail becomes a bit easier once you realize all of the systems and mechanics the two games share.
Leveling characters, advancing their talents, and farming for Relics are some of the few systems that carryover from Genshin Impact. Characters gain strength from Relics, which are similar to artifacts. And enemies get stronger as you advance your Equilibrium Level, which is the equivalent to your World Level in Genshin Impact.
Undying Starlights are special valuables that you can earn after getting a duplicate unit or Light Cone while warping. You can spend these Undying Starlights on units, free pulls, and other special items. But I would play the long haul and try and save up on these crystals for a free 5-star Light Cone instead. These Light Cones are tailor-made for some of the standard 5-star characters, such as Welt and Himeko. This is the only way to reliably get this weapons as of now without having to rely on luck.
Generally, spending Stellar Jades on anything else other than Warps is a bad idea and will only set you back in getting your favorite 5-star character. There are some bundles in the shop that are terrible value, and you can refill energy with Fuel instead of Stellar Jades. To go even further, you really shouldn’t use Stellar Jades for the Standard Banner, neither. Limited Event Warp banners are the best way to spend your Stellar Jade so you can obtain new and limited 5-star characters.
Puzzles are an important way to scrounge up a little bit of Adventure EXP and Stellar Jade, and you can find the location of puzzles you’ve passed by while checking your overworld map. Each planet, whether that be the Herta Space Station or Jarilo-IV, has different puzzles for you to seek out and solve. These puzzles do range on the easy side but are an easy way to get some of that good premium currency.
Healers are almost a necessity in Honkai: Star Rail. While you can feasibly get away with running zero Abundance characters if you run double shielders, as content gets harder and enemies grow more threatening, making sure your characters are at full HP will be important. Fortunately, all players will get a free healer, Natasha, who is a serviceable healer for all players.
Honkai: Star Rail has a fairly generous pity system while you try and Warp for some 5-star characters. Essentially, you’re guaranteed one free 5-star character every 90 Warps you do. This is separate for the Standard Warp and Light Cone Warp banners. There’s also a soft-pity system that kicks in at around 70 pulls, so realistically, it will probably take you around 80 pulls on average instead. Use this knowledge to plan out your Stellar Jade funds so you can get the characters you want.
Gacha games are designed to exploit and drain your wallet with the allure of hot anime characters and increasing power levels, but HoYoverse has been pretty good at allowing some of the weaker characters to still perform well in some of the harder content in the game. In Honkai: Star Rail, this extends to the free characters as well, which include March 7th, Dan Heng, Natasha, Serval, Asta, Herta, and Qinque. (Oh, and the Trailblazer as well, of course.)
In particular, Natasha is a capable healer, important to raise for anyone without two healers. Dan Heng, Qinque, and Serval are all decent-to-good DPS characters, while Asta is a great buffer. March 7th can dish out some meaty shields, and Herta...well...she’s an L, but that’s okay.
The Simulated Universe is one of Honkai: Star Rail’s endgame activities, and puts you in a roguelike experience where you gain buffs while fighting numerous bosses and enemies. Generously, the Simulated Universe drops an in-game currency, Herta’s Passes, that you can use to buy a free 5-star Light Cones for the Destruction, Preservation, and Hunt path. These are excellent choices, especially for free-to-play players who don’t want to shell out a ton of cash for some of the other premium offerings.
Honkai: Star Rail’s main character has an odd obsession with scourging through trash cans on the planet Jarilo-IV. As you progress through the world of Honkai: Star Rail, you’ll notice it’s not just trash cans the Trailblazer has an affinity for. Many ordinary-looking objects can be interacted with, and they often lead into fun little scenes that not only are really funny, but fleshes out the game’s universe and the main character’s personality. (My personal favorite: climbing into the closet of your hotel room to scare off a passerby.)
If Genshin Impact got you excited for another gacha game you can play with your friends, you’ll have to temper those expectations. Honkai: Star Rail has no co-op mode where you can enter your friend’s world and challenge boss fights together, and there’s very little social connectivity altogether. You can still add friends and even bring one of their characters into certain fights as a “support character.” And in Version 1.1, we’re at least getting a chat feature so you can communicate with said friends. But that’s the extent of it, and it’s a bit of a bummer. At least turn-based games are more of a single-player experience, so it doesn’t sting too much.
When you hit Equilibrium Level 4 and begin to raise your characters to around Level 70, there is a huge jump in the materials and Credits you’ll need to advance your characters. It’s a little overwhelming, especially as the number of materials you get from farming Calyxes could stand to be improved. Your heart will shatter when you see your Credits slowly falling to zero, but don’t be alarmed. This is a normal process. I recommend spending your resin at this point just getting Character EXP materials and Credits, while also aiming to get your DPS characters to Level 70.
Pom-Pom is the game’s bonafide mascot, and I’m sorry, but this little guy blows Genshin Impact’s Paimon out of the water. They don’t intrude in important conversations, they mind their own business, and they’re cute comic relief when they need to be. Remember to pay it forward and help Pom-Pom out while visiting the Astral Express. He’ll often have some tiny side quests for you to do for some inoffensive rewards. We gotta treat our favorite HoYoverse mascot.