Honkai: Star Rail beginner’s guide: What you need to know before starting the game

When going on an interstellar adventure on the Astral Express, it's best to go prepared.

Honkai: Star Rail is set to take players on an interstellar adventure when it launches on 26 April, here's what you need to know to be prepared for this exciting new journey. (Photos: HoYoverse)
Honkai: Star Rail is set to take players on an interstellar adventure when it launches on 26 April, here's what you need to know to be prepared for this exciting new journey. (Photos: HoYoverse)

Honkai: Star Rail is all set to launch on 26 April, taking players on an interstellar journey across many worlds alongside a colourful cast of characters.

But before we can set off on this new adventure, it’s best to be prepared. After all, a journey across the universe will surely lead to countless battles against a wide variety of enemies.

Honkai: Star Rail is the latest title in HoYoverse’s Honkai series and is the spiritual successor of Honkai Impact 3rd.

However, this new entry differs from its predecessor in that it combines elements of open-world exploration, roguelike dungeon traversal, and turn-based RPG combat.

With that in mind, read on for everything you need to know before you set off on your interstellar adventure in Honkai: Star Rail!

Know your characters

Honkai: Star Rail’s playable characters are the game’s heart and soul.

While the player will have a stand-in character in the form of the protagonist, called the ‘Trailblazer’, they can also take control of any characters of their choosing in a party of four if they have them unlocked.

There are two main ways to get new characters. First is by completing certain quests. At the start of the game, the player is able to control the Trailblazer, March 7th, Dan Heng, and Asta. Others like Herta, Natasha, and Qingque are acquired after completing certain quests or challenges.

Additionally, players who pre-registered to the game were given the character Serval for free.

The second way is through the Warp, the game’s gacha system. We’ll talk more about this system below, but it should be noted that characters are divided into two rarities: 4-star and 5-star. Generally speaking, 5-star characters are stronger than 4-star characters but are more difficult to acquire through the Warp.

That aside, each character is able to wield an element and follows a certain ‘Path’.

Elements are easy enough to understand. Honkai: Star Rail has seven elements: Ice, Fire, Wind, Lightning, Quantum, Imaginary, and Physical.

Enemies have certain elemental weaknesses that are indicated when in battle, so make sure to use characters of the right elemental type against certain enemies to make fights easier. Starting battles with a character using an element that an enemy is weak to will also give you an early advantage in the fight.

Aside from elemental types, another defining characteristic of characters is their ‘Path’, which denotes their role in a party. There are seven Paths in Honkai: Star Rail: 'The Hunt', 'The Erudition', 'The Destruction', 'The Preservation', 'The Abundance', 'The Harmony', and 'The Nihilty'.

Here's are the roles each Path correspond to:

  • The Hunt: single-target damage dealers

  • The Erudition: area-of-effect damage dealers

  • The Destruction: generalist damage dealers

  • The Abundance: healers

  • The Preservation: Shielders and defenders

  • The Harmony: buffers

  • The Nihility: debuffers

You should always know what role your characters play in your party and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Make sure that your party has at least one damage dealer, one healer or shielder, one buffer or debuffer, with the fourth spot being flexible.

For example, a good composition for general use can have one character from The Destruction Path as your sole damage dealer alongside an Abundance, Harmony, and Nihility characters supporting them.

Alternatively, you can have go all-in on aggression with a duo of Hunt and Erudition characters being supported by Abundance and Harmony or Nihility characters. When facing single unit bosses, you can opt for one Hunt character supported by Abundance, Harmony, and Nihility characters.

Feel free to mix and match your compositions depending on what you’re up against.

While characters are strong enough on their own to take down most enemies, you can further enhance their strength by giving them Light Cones and Relics – the equivalent of weapons and artifacts, respectively, from Genshin Impact, for reference. With that said, you don’t have to worry about these when you’re just starting out.

Know your enemies (and their weaknesses)

Combat in Honkai: Star Rail features a strategic, turn-based combat system with stylish animations for character attacks and abilities. (Photo: HoYoverse)
Combat in Honkai: Star Rail features a strategic, turn-based combat system with stylish animations for character attacks and abilities. (Photo: HoYoverse)

Being victorious in battle takes more than just knowing the characters in your party, you also need to know your enemies and what you need to do to defeat them.

As mentioned above, every enemy has certain elemental weaknesses that are indicated by the symbols above their HP bars. Alongside an enemy’s HP bar is a 'Toughness' gauge, which appears as a white bar.

All attacks will reduce an enemy’s Toughness, with attacks of the element type that enemy is weak to draining it faster. Fully draining the break gauge will trigger the ‘Break’ effect, which will have different effects depending on the element that triggers it while also causing that enemy to take additional damage.

Here are the different effects each element will trigger when breaking an enemy:

  • Ice: Applies Freeze, dealing Ice damage over time and preventing the enemy from acting

  • Fire: Applies Burn, deals Fire damage over time

  • Wind: Applies Wind Shear, deals Wind damage over time

  • Lightning: Applies Shock, deals Lightning damage over time

  • Quantum: Applies Entanglement, dealing Quantum damage over time and delaying enemy actions

  • Imaginary: Applies Imprisonment, dealing Imaginary damage over time and delaying enemy actions while reducing their speed

  • Physical: Applies Bleed, deals Physical damage over time

If you know your enemies and what their weaknesses are, then you’d have won before you even strike your first blow.

Know the order of battle

Combat in Honkai: Star Rail. (Photo: HoYoverse)
Combat in Honkai: Star Rail. (Photo: HoYoverse)

Honkai: Star Rail is a turn-based RPG, so both the player characters and the enemies they’re facing will take turns dishing out attacks. When in battle, the turn order for both your characters and enemies will be shown on the left side of the screen.

During your character’s turn, you can do one of three actions: perform a normal attack, use your skill, or unleash your ultimate.

Performing a normal attack makes your character attack a single target or multiple enemies, depending on their Path. A character’s normal attack also deals elemental damage, making it your primary method to drain an enemy’s Toughness. But the most important thing about normal attacks is that it gives your character energy, which lets them use their skill and ultimate and is indicated by the counter to the left of their skill and ultimate buttons.

If you have at least one point of energy, then your character will be able to use their skill and what it does is often dictated by their Path. For example, characters of the Destruction Path can use their skills to deal more damage while Abundance characters can heal teammates with their skills.

Building up enough energy will let your character use their ultimate, which is indicated when the circle beside their portrait at the bottom of the screen starts glowing. Just like skills, what a character’s ultimate does will depend on their Path.

One thing to keep in mind about ultimates is that you can use them anytime, even if it’s your enemy’s turn, as long as you have enough energy. With that, using your ultimate at the right time can turn the tide of battle.

For example, your damage dealer can finish off a wounded enemy even after they’ve finished their turn by using their ultimate. You can even save characters in a pinch by using your healer’s ultimate to heal them right before an enemy can strike a lethal blow.

This now leads us to arguably the most important stat in Honkai: Star Rail battles: Speed.

A character’s Speed determines how often they can have a turn to act in battle. Characters with high speed stats can act multiple times before slower enemies can even have a turn!

Since normal attacks are so important in keeping up the flow of energy to use skills and ultimates, high speed characters will have more chances to use their skills and ultimates as well as perform normal attacks to recharge their energy.

With that in mind, try to give your characters as much Speed as possible. Most damage-dealing characters have innately high Speed stats, but support characters can also give their teammates speed buffs, with one example being Asta’s ultimate.

If ever you get bored of micromanaging your party through every encounter, fret not, as Honkai: Star Rail has a very good auto battle feature that can be toggled on or off at will. From what we've seen so far, the AI for this feature is very competent, doing what is needed to win the battle while making sure the party survives.

Explore, explore, explore!

While we’ve talked about battles in length, there’s more than just fighting to enjoy in Honkai: Star Rail. The game lets players explore a wide variety of worlds and dungeons if you feel more like having a leisurely stroll instead of whacking enemies.

However, the game’s exploration aspect is more than just a way for players to have fun taking in the scenery; it’s also one of the primary methods to acquire Stellar Jade.

Stellar Jade is a form of in-game currency to purchase Star Rail Passes and Star Rail Special Passes, which can be used through the Warp to acquire new characters and Light Cones and are priced at 160 Stellar Jade each.

Stellar Jade can be acquired by many means, but they are most often given as rewards for opening chests or completing quests. With that in mind, explore as much of every world you go through as you can. There will always be a chest or a quest-giving NPC tucked away in some corner to give you precious Stellar Jade.

Spending Stellar Jade on Star Rail Passes in Honkai: Star Rail's gacha system is a different beast altogether, so check our guide on that soon!

Honkai: Star Rail will officially launch on 26 April on PC, Android, and iOS. The game will also be made available on PlayStation some time after release. You can download the game here.

For everything you need to know about Honkai: Star Rail, check here.

Yan Ku is a full-time dog parent, part-time (gacha) gamer, and part-time writer.

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