Ready for a galactic journey aboard the Astral Express, Trailblazer? HoYoverse, the studio behind Honkai Impact 3rd and Genshin Impact, is working on a new game called Honkai: Star Rail. This turn-based space adventure is currently in its second closed beta phase, and while staying true to the studio’s signature art style and four-character teams, Honkai: Star Rail features its own planet-filled universe, a new cast of colourful characters, and a massive space train.
As the developers describe, Honkai: Star Rail will “continue the consistent spiritual core of the Honkai series, showing the symbiosis and confrontation between human beings and destiny.” Do not mistake Honkai: Star Rail for a direct sequel to Honkai Impact 3rd, though. It has a standalone story with (mostly) new characters, new places, and new lore. Asked about their inspiration for the game, the developers explain that they followed the classic sci-fi theme of “venturing towards the stellaris”. Honkai: Star Rail tells the story of a hero implanted with a “seed of ruin”, a Stellaron, who travels the galaxy while resolving disputes, unearthing secrets, discovering what lies beyond the stars, and meeting new companions.
Turn-based return ticket
And guess what? Many of those companions are found on board a large train, as part of a group of space-travellers called the Trailblazers. So, while saying that Honkai: Star Rail is all about trains would be a bit of an exaggeration, the Astral Express and its Star Rail have a big role to play as the protagonist’s main means of intergalactic transportation. Thanks to the success of Genshin Impact, HoYoverse has received plaudits for its skillful application of real-time combat within an open-world, however, with Honkai: Star Rail, HoYoverse returns to the studio’s turn-based roots, calling it its “first attempt at a turn-based strategy game in many years.”
The reason for creating a turn-based combat system, it turns out, is twofold: “First, we hope to continue to develop products of different varieties to improve the player’s experience and choice, and attract more people to try HoYoverse games, and the turn-based strategy genre is one of the areas we wanted to explore. Second, we believe that turn-based strategy is still a very engaging game genre.” With that, HoYoverse reckons turn-based combat has its own unique charm. “The excitement comes from careful planning, thinking, and defeating the enemy. Despite being easy to get started, it allows diverse and flexible playstyles and strategies.”
“Even for the same stage, different characters may make varied combinations. Therefore, turn-based games are not only very friendly to casual gamers, but also provide space for expert players, allowing them to gradually form a playstyle that suits their own pace and personality.”
In Honkai: Star Rail, HoYoverse continues to use the four-character party system. As seen in their previous games, characters are categorized under specific types of damage, and here there will be a total of seven such elements, with attributes like physical, fire, and ice. But that’s not all: “In addition, there are Aeons [incarnations of universal principles, such as Destruction] in the universe of Honkai: Star Rail who are in charge of various Paths, such as: Erudition, Trailblaze, Harmony, Nihility, Preservation, Propagation, Voracity, Hunt, Beauty, Abundance, Destruction, and Elation. These elements will play a crucial role in the development of characters and the matching of battles.”
Himeko, is that you?
The developer isn’t ready to disclose too much about the rest of the gameplay just yet, but it does confirm that Honkai: Star Rail features a “maze exploration experience”, as well as roguelike elements. The roguelike gameplay is part of the primary development directions: “We plan on incorporating them deep into the flow of the game instead of simply in the form of stage challenges.” While that concludes our intel on the combat system, let’s not forget that an important chunk of the development process consists of creating Honkai: Star Rail’s musical score. As expected, the music in Honkai: Star Rail will be produced by their in-house music studio, HOYO-MiX. The developer adds: “We have always believed that music is an important part of enhancing the immersion of a game and a significant part of the player’s gaming experience.”
Honkai Impact 3rd players may have already noticed a familiar face in the closed beta trailer. As HoYoverse confirms: “Some of the characters from the Honkai series will appear in Honkai: Star Rail, [to give] some surprises to the old players of the series.” While we didn’t get a list of upcoming cameos, we do have happy news for Himeko and Seele fans: the red-haired St. Freya Academy teacher and the orphan with the split personality are already part of the second closed beta, both equipped with new identities. Don’t expect every character to be present at launch though. Like previous HoYoverse games, Honkai: Star Rail will have a “long-term operation plan”, which means that new characters, storylines, and gameplay elements are added through regular updates.
For now, Honkai: Star Rail is still in its second closed beta stage on PC, iOS, and Android. We don’t have a release date to share just yet, but HoYoverse ensures us that the development is “progressing smoothly”. The dev adds: “We will first focus on improving the turn-based strategic combat and maze exploration experience features,” they say. “In this closed beta, we look forward to feedback from players around the world to help us further refine the product experience and content.
Still plugging away at HoYoverse’s last game? Check out these Genshin Impact tips for an extra hand.