There are a lot of excellent turn-based RPGs out there, from older Final Fantasy titles to Pokémon to Persona, and it’s a genre I’ve loved since I was a kid. Even out of all these titles, none have made me chuckle quite as much lately as Honkai: Star Rail. Genshin Impact developer HoYoverse is just back at it with brilliant comical writing and dialogue options. All the way through to literally being able to clear content by slamming a big ol’ chicken butt down on my foes, Honkai: Star Rail has given me many a laugh-out-loud moment.
Early on in my playthrough of Honkai: Star Rail, I earned a bunch of free Star Rail Passes to use in the gacha system. My first lot of passes didn’t net me much, but I did get a brand new 4-star character, Sushang, whom I immediately added to my roster to try out. I leveled her up to par with my other characters and went into the next mission with her. Got into battle and thought, “Okay, this is it, let’s see what she can do.” Regular attack was just a sword strike — that’s fine — skill attack was a fancier acrobat strike — that was cool — but then her ultimate popped up as ready to use.
All my other characters have pretty sweet ultimate attacks; the main character has their “baseball player on galactic steroids” swing that hits so hard it appears to rend space and time. My other main attacker, Dan Heng, goes into a cool Zen state and uses the power of his chill vibes to launch a mega spear strike that deals a bajillion damage. Sushang probably has some wild sword swing that splits the heavens and ends the monster’s whole career, right? Nope.
Much to my surprise, after starting her ultimate she held out her sword, channeled the power of Colonel Sanders, and summoned the largest and plumpest chicken I’ve ever seen. It proceeded to spring towards the enemies, launch itself into the air, and perform a nuclear booty slam on the target enemy that promptly wiped it from existence. I couldn’t stop laughing that my ultimate attack with Sushang was to summon an overweight chicken to smother enemies with its feathery rump. It was just such a satisfying ultimate ability to use and really solidified my newfound addiction to Honkai: Star Rail.
HoYoverse is no stranger to making awesome, addictive games. Genshin Impact was a smash hit, and it still has a massive player base thanks to its Breath of the Wild-style world and unique character-switching elements. It’s an action adventure role-playing game with great storytelling and characters and is free to play thanks to its gacha elements bringing in the revenue. Honkai: Star Rail follows this formula with a lot of similarities that Genshin Impact players will immediately pick up on, including the same gacha system, similar character leveling and gearing systems, and even similar endgame content like the roguelite Simulated Universes in Honkai: Star Rail and the Abyss system in Genshin Impact.
Where the games really differ are the worlds that they’re based in and the style of gameplay. Genshin Impact has a fantasy world setting that focuses on exploring, solving puzzles, climbing, flying, and fighting your way through the massive open world. Honkai: Star Rail takes a very different approach with its sci-fi setting, strategic turn-based combat with flashy (sometimes chicken-based) character attacks, and an overworld to explore. Although, that world functions more like in Persona 5 where you explore and travel between different areas, and engaging with enemies in the overworld launches into a battle.
So while they share a bunch of similar systems, they are very different games in how they actually play, look, and feel, and both are excellent in their own right. What really set Honkai: Star Rail apart for me though at first was how incredibly unique and useful each character felt. It really made me want to go out and play hard to save up for Rail Passes to spend on attempting to unlock as many new characters to try as possible. I identified on a spiritual level with the character Himeko who calls down orbital bombardments while sipping a coffee. I also wouldn’t let anything get in the way of my nice, hot, milky bean juice.
With the brilliant characters, over-the-top ultimate abilities, funny writing, and spectacular art style, I think it’s well worth trying out Honkai: Star Rail. It’s one of the most compelling and enjoyable turn-based action games I’ve ever played, and if you’re worried about the gacha system, it’s not that bad; you get plenty of rewards while playing that will help you get a whole bunch of characters. Legend has it, if you eat some KFC first, you’ll pull Sushang and can enjoy the way of the thick chicken cheeks like me.