Honkai Star Rail

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Honkai Star Rail

Post by raisinbman »

Honkai Star Rail

So, I've reached the point where I'm content complete in HSR, and I've got some things to say.

Obviously, this is the follow up to the wildly successful Genshin Impact, and the immediate shortcut you might make is 'it's Genshin Impact in space'. I've never touched Genshin Impact but I do know there's quite a bit of exploration as part of it, so I imagine it's not 1 for 1 even if you kept that perspective.

In the intro, we're thrown into things en media res, and get introduced to some sexually charged heroines. You(yes, you are in this game, even if you aren't a white-skinned brunette person), and you're quickly put in danger's way despite strangers telling you you'd be ok. It turns out you're Michael Morbius...or something, because you don't die when you should've. It was at this point I wished for a skip button(WHICH EXISTS IN THE GAME BUT YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO USE IT UNLESS YOU'vE ALREADY SUFFERED THROUGH A SCENE) especially to circumvent March 7th's annoyingness. I really don't enjoy the story, as 'we're space adventurers fighting the evil' is pretty milquetoast(combined with the first mission you go on to dethrone an evil monarch, take a drink), and I question them even using this theme. The latter story gets much more interesting involving rebirth, unknowable forces, and more-or-less gods plotting and jockeying for control. It makes one wonder if they just felt 'we needed a gimmick to attract people initially'.

I very soon turned off the audio, mostly because I listen to podcasts or music, but even over the long weekend, I loaded this game on my tablet which didn't carry over my settings, and I stand by my decision to turn off the audio. The characters one liners and quips are nonsensical to the point of being annoying, which I definitely got the vibes from the dialogue and overall writing style.

The visuals are ridiculously pretty, to the point the only thing I've seen that might be considered underachieving was in one cutscene, the water looked pixellated and repeated itself, looking uncanny.

I will criticize the aesthetic, though. While I can understand why if you were a space troupe, you may not want to go for Star Trek's uniformity, the characters are lavishly designed, and there is alot of white on their outfits. While I think a character like Serval or Kafka are well done, I'm not really sure they fit a specific aesthetic. If I were reaching, I'd look at them similarly to something like Star Ocean, but even then, they seem like they're drawn to be in their respective worlds. There's also just some...weirdness. Blade is a sacrificial anime boy who's actually a sword? I don't really get that vibe from how he's presented. The MC looks like the game took a look at Robin of Fire Emblem fame, made the outfit less practical, and that was good enough. Herta is controlling a doll that's of a purple aesthetic, yet she's ice element? I might be diving a bit too much into this, but it feels alot less like these people are from a particular planet or with the Astral Express, and more in a mobile gacha game(duh!) or in some sort of 'Supermodels fight evil' game.

This might be how little I venture into the cutting edge of the gaming sphere, but I remember being amazed and playing World of Warcraft, and it's clear with games like these, the traditional MMO has in large part become phone games. I can pretty much stop anywhere, and my progress is saved(not dialogue, and it will 'rollback' some things, but they're usually minor. It's pretty amazing game devs have gone from assuming you're cheating, and giving you a penalty for not finishing your tasks in game(Marvel Puzzle Quest), to this game, where's there's almost no 'punishment'. In fact, it makes me question why your characters even stay damaged in the field, when you can just teleport to heal them. Unless I've overlooked some hidden survival game mode, this just feels like a overlooked decision as the actual flow of the game was decided on. It feels like credits are in the same boat, as you'll never run out of them(unless there's some endgame thing I'm missing) and it's a nominal tax to the point it seems like they should take credits out.

Additionally, nothing you ever get is really 'wasted' - armor can be broken down or fed to better armor, mats can be ranked up or exchanged for different mats. This is really refreshing as you may pull a new character and completely have to switch gears from making a lightning character to making a wind one. I think this is ultimately represented in the fact that anything you do nets you experience. Even mundane tasks can help you ascend the ranks of your trailblaze level.

Speaking more on gameplay, that is where I can recommend this game without caveat. It's funny how people say they don't like roguelike elements when they make so many genres and games better - like the Simulated Universe. The Simulated Universe is a series of roguelite stages that culminate in a boss fight against a familiar face, where you build up a 'path' along with various other goodies you find along the way. I felt compelled to try again and again, even if if I had done my weekly alotment because I wanted to try again, or try something different. There is a bit of a flaw in Sim because Occurences and Encounters don't let you preview the possible fight that you're getting into, which often gave me an abrupt(and I'd argue unfair) end. Considering these fights are some of the hardest in the game, it seems strange to not let you prep for Unknown Unknowns. Also, curios and the 'path choices' you get after a battle are a bit too random. Your only real objective is to get 13 of a 'path', so that your path resonance(read: BFG) is fully juiced. So if I'm forced to take a wax seal of Abundance because the other choices for curios are horrible, you almost may want to scrap that run and start over. Choosing a path also is supposed to increase your chance of getting that path's blessings, but either that chance is too low, or it needs to be less 'random'(some paths practically require certain blessings to make sense to take in the first place). And don't get me wrong, there are some pretty nice effects(remembrance is a good secondary to Nihility) but you're forced to be on one path, effectively, so you can't be creative if that's your thing.

Auto-battle AI is fairly smart, though there are fights you'll have to assume control of.

The game is heavily reliant on types(will we ever escape Pokemon's spectre?) and staggering your opponent by emptying their stagger bar, as many games have chosen in recent years. I did find some late game bosses to be ridiculous, taking a week or so to take down(real time, no money involved), but considering they were at the tail end of the story, I imagine they'll either be toned down or players will have an easier time with them as the game naturally builds around them.

If you have any semblence of strategy, you probably won't die unless in some of the abovementioned fringe cases, which felt really good. There's definitely alot to dive into in terms of character growth, and the confusingly-named aspects of that don't help. I will also say if you're used to games like this, you might think armor(relics in this game) will only get you so far, but armor in this game is RIDICULOUS. It'll often have PERCENT increases, and not just static increases, which is absolutely wild to have 35% increase to HP on some crappy helm.

Additionally, when you weakness break an enemy, it can be visually hard to see what they're weak against as their weaknesses are no longer in color.

As I mentioned a little earlier, this game has a confusing naming convetion that REALLY should've gotten a second(or third) run through. Armor is called relics. Your Talent Tree is...traces? And Your 'artifact/ring/accessory slot' is called...can you guess? A Light Cone. Insert skull and bones emoji. This isn't just through this, either. Even in dialogue, characters are constantly speaking in Proper Nouns to the point a character will say a thing, and a second definition(which still doesn't make much sense) will appear under it. The game is MUCH too verbose for it's own good. Take for instance, Bailu's ultimate - Felicitous Thunderleap - let's translate that to actual english - Happy Leap(thunder doesn't mean anything as far as I can tell). Sometimes, less is more in this case as it simply could've been titled 'Healing Waters of INSERT PROPER NOUN HERE', or in the case of Natasha's ultimate, it has 'rebirth' in the name, yet does NOT revive your characters. One of the worst things you can do to a player is have them think something does one thing, when it doesn't, many times resulting in their death. Let's compare this to Magic the Gathering - while there's tens of thousands of cards, they still often use one or two word names for their cards - Shock, Counterspell, Meathook Massacre. Even just from hearing the card name, you can probably imagine what a 'Shock' does, or in reading a card like 'Disnformation Campaign' after 2016, you can understand the flavor it's trying to invoke.

Minigames are inoffensive, and actually, there are a number of sidequests that range from Phoenix Wright to Evil Genius. Seeing this sort of not only variety but production value gives me hope we'll eventually get an in-game card game(the ultimate minigame). It's also a good sign that I didn't sigh or cringe when presented with these challenges. Also some of the sidequests get pretty close to 'dank', so clearly, someone was having some fun(also some achievement names I'm surprised they were allowed to use). Puzzles are pretty inoffensive, though there is a 3D cube set of puzzles, and I know certain people think differently so choosing 3D cubes(though overall the puzzles are simple) could really frustrate some players.

You can get lost in menus pretty easily as well.

Also, I've stayed out of the community reception for most of it, but the first 'world' you explore is pretty fun and aesthetically, makes alot of sense. I personally enjoy when games give me robots that for some reason someone decided to model after human body parts, because it's so impractical. But in moving to the second world, I do worry a bit about the direction of the game for a number of reasons. The second world clearly is inspired by China, and the company is chinese so I'll have to trust their judgement, but it starts to get weird(and not in a good way). We saw pretty standard 'frost world with some cyberpunk leanings' in the first world, but in the second we start seeing...animal people, and child-adults? In particular, there's a very strange light cone description where a child-adult gives someone a massage. Just makes my spider sense tingle. Additionally, the actual gameplay of the second planet starts to get annoying. In the second world, you start to see ressurections, massive damage increases, summoning, and kamikaze opponents. Some of these mechanics are normally saved for endgame content(or as a 'punishment'), as they can be extremely challenging to deal with, any in particular w/ ressurections, make combat artificially longer. In the first world, there were enemies that would explode, but that would be to YOUR advantage and damage your enemies. So while I'm not 100% sure, it feels as if the 3rd world, whenever that drops, could have even more annoying enemies with abilities that are player-unfriendly.

I haven't said much about monetization because I haven't encountered it. With their drive to name things weird proper nouns and the dearth of menus, it seems to have an unintended effect that I'm not actually being advertised to. I don't know if Mihoyo is rich enough that people will just dig through menus and max out their credit card versus getting 5 popups as soon as I open up Marvel Snap trying to make me buy something I more or less don't need. It isn't necessary, and I can't tell you if it's worth it. Might be worth noting the game is connected to Amazon Prime in some aspects.

One last thing I'd like to mention is the navigation system needs to decide how helpful it wants to be. You can pretty much teleport anywhere, and though I haven't played WOW in a long time, I know quality of life elements popped up wherein even quests would update as you would complete them, even without returning to the questgiver. The game seems to be undecided on whether it wants to directly teleport you to things, or if you need to walk there: Oftentimes, there will be 2-3 nodes on top of each other, and quest navigation MAY give you a message saying 'You're not here, would you like to teleport the the closest safe point?', or it may not. But it's ultimately silly if they DON'T let you teleport places, because with 2 more clicks, 90% of the time I've teleported there even if they didn't want me to initially. There are also some areas where you can be teleported into enemies which, again, seems bad.

In summary, if you need a game with TONS of content, a solid gameplay loop, and can suffer through some generic anime setup, you've quite the recipe to enjoy yourself.

Grade: 8/10
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