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Honkai: Star Rail’s second closed beta phase ended on Thursday (15 June) after having been active for three weeks.
From what I've seen of the game during the closed beta, there's a lot to be excited about Honkai: Star Rail once it's fully released.
We'll be doing this overview of the Honkai: Star Rail closed beta spoiler-free, but you’re free to look up streams and let’s plays if you already want to see what the devs let beta testers know about the game’s plot so far.
For those unfamiliar, Honkai: Star Rail is the latest installment in the Honkai series of games made by HoyoVerse.
Although it exists in the same shared universe as its predecessor, Honkai Impact 3rd, Star Rail is its own narrative driven by a desire to explore the universe.
And you can see from the get-go that Star Rail is indeed its own story, while retaining the spirit of the Honkai series.
While Star Rail's Stellaron is a similar grave threat like the titular Honkai of Honkai Impact 3rd, the difference is that the Honkai is a cyclical natural phenomenon meant to reset the universe.
In contrast, the Stellaron is a 'Cancer of All Worlds' threat with an unknown origin meant to destroy said universe.
Plot aside, there is also a sense of wonder you can get from the striking visuals that Star Rail has to offer that wasn't quite there in previous Honkai games.
The vast expanse of outer space and the greater universe beyond are readily seen through Star Rail's start screen, where the titular Astral Express serenely cruises against a beautiful backdrop of a planet floating in a sea of stars.
Don't get me wrong, Honkai Impact 3rd's 'captain on the bridge' start screen will forever remain iconic. But I can't deny that Star Rail's start screen quickly grew on me.
The signature HoYoverse anime style is also a welcome sight in Star Rail that makes it feel familiar and not too foreign for Honkai or Genshin Impact players like myself who were interested in the game.
I was also happy to see familiar Honkai Impact 3rd characters incorporated into the game.
Although they aren’t really my beloved Valkyries, but another version of them in this universe, it felt bittersweet to see Himeko again.
Seele and Bronya were also present and with different characterizations, while Honkai Impact 3rd NPCs like Sushang and Welt Yang are also now part of the roster of playable characters we could choose from.
The environment is also amazing.
The first city I encountered in game called 'Belobog' is a visual spectacle.
It’s like Genshin Impact's Mondstadt if Barbatos were like Rex Lapis. The cobbled steps and sprawling European-inspired architecture is reminiscent of the city of freedom, but bigger and more technologically advanced.
You could even see a tram go by on the street (and if you’re wondering, no, they can’t run you over.)
Although the maps aren’t as explorable as in Genshin Impact's, interacting with objects can yield you comedic interactions among your characters, or even salvaging some hidden treasure at the bottom of a garbage can.
You can also get materials through breakable boxes and treasure chests – with some chests locked away behind puzzles that aren’t taxing to do.
But what takes the cake for me was the breath-taking designs of the enemies I faced during the time I was able to play the beta.
The aliens from the Antimatter Legion (where the enemies come from) were reminiscent of the angels you would have seen featured in the cult-classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion — which served as inspiration to Honkai Impact 3rd — or even the shadows from Atlus’ Persona series.
But this fits perfectly with the kind of game Honkai: Star Rail is, the literal otherworldly and uncomfortably unnatural design gives the game its signature sci-fi feel.
Another aspect of the game that’s worthy of much praise is the character ultimate animations.
Since the turn-based mechanic means that the battles in-game is systematic and, personally, a little restrictive (a far cry to the hands-on gameplay we’ve gotten used to with Honkai Impact 3rd and Genshin Impact), it’s safe to assume that the devs have more than made up for it with the breath-taking ult animations.
And unlike Honkai Impact 3rd and Genshin Impact, every character in Star Rail gets to have an ult animation, even the main character. Aether and Lumine must be rife with jealousy.
And speaking of Star Rail's turn-based mechanic, it’s not really difficult to catch on.
The mechanic is similar to other games that employ it, and it would honestly be a little bland if there were no ult animations.
Think of it this way, the mechanic is the cake, and the ult animations are the exquisitely detailed icing decoration on top.
Overall, Star Rail's second closed beta was great.
HoYoverse never disappoints when it comes to the rich story-building and amazing design for their games, and the music was also pure ear candy.
I’m for sure playing Honkai: Star Rail once it’s officially released (though HoYoverse has yet to announce a release date for it yet) and will recommend it to fans of the Honkai series or Genshin Impact, and even to players looking for a fresh turn-based RPG experience.
Yan Ku is a full-time dog parent, part-time (gacha) gamer, and part-time writer.