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Honkai Star Rail explained, including gameplay, gacha, and open world details

What you need to know about HoYoverse's newest game.

Honkai: Star Rail is the newest live service offering from Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd developer, HoYoverse, but it's not quite the same as either game.

With the release date for Honkai: Star Rail coming up soon, you can prepare for its launch by reading the short explainers below in the meantime.

For more in-depth details on systems, features, daily activities, and how Star Rail plays, you can check out our Honkai: Star Rail preview from our time playing the final closed beta.

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Cover image for YouTube videoFinal Closed Beta Trailer – Space Comedy | Honkai: Star Rail
Final Closed Beta Trailer – Space Comedy | Honkai: Star Rail.

What is Honkai Star Rail?

Honkai: Star Rail is the newest live service game from Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd developer, HoYoverse, that will be available on PC and mobile devices when it launches, with a PlayStation version in development. It has a futuristic setting that sees you travel to different planets in a very convenient space train, the Astral Express, that takes you across the universe.

It will have full cross-save support at launch, meaning you can pick up your save and start playing the same save file on mobile or PC anytime you want. We don't know if this will apply to the PlayStation version as well.

As for the gameplay, it's entirely different to anything HoYoverse has done before, as Star Rail has a turn-based combat system - but with some modern improvements, such as auto-battle and the ability to fast-forward during combat.

The rest of the gameplay resembles Genshin Impact more than Honkai Impact 3rd, involving travelling to specific locations to battle enemies for gear and resources. However, this has also been improved, letting you auto-battle during the fights, transporting you right to the fight's location, and letting you queue up multiple battles to spend most of your daily currency at once.

Although the main and side quest system is almost identical to Genshin Impact, there is one big difference to exploration...

Is Honkai Star Rail open world?

No, Honkai: Star Rail is not an open world game. Instead, it has small areas that you can explore, but these aren't connected like they are in Genshin Impact's huge regional map.

This is most likely because you're exploring multiple planets in Star Rail, not just the one area, like Teyvat in Genshin Impact.

Instead of exploring one large map for treasure chests, puzzles, and other items, you'll come across these in the smaller areas of each planet. This makes for a faster-paced gameplay session, letting you instantly transport to almost anywhere and explore it quickly.

Version 2.0 with Black Swan and Sparkle is here! So make sure to redeem those new codes for Stellar Jade if you want them or future characters - and check all characters out on our regularly updated tier list. For everything else, we have pages on the next Banner, Ministry of Education quiz answers, how to get more Star Rail Passes, and an English voice actors list.

Is Honkai Star Rail a gacha game?

Yes, Honkai: Star Rail does have a gacha feature, but just like in Genshin Impact, it's an optional element to the game that you can save up free currency to spend if you want to.

In fact, the gacha system seems almost identical to Genshin Impact's. As of the final closed beta, Star Rail has the same pull rates for 4-Star and 5-Star characters and weapons, and has both event Banners and a set standard Banner that doesn't change what you can get from it.

The only differences seem to be that you can actually save up to buy 5-Star weapons by taking part in optional activities like the Simulated Universe (a sort-of rogue-like gameplay mode), and the names are different.

Stellar Jade is the currency you need to use on a Banner, and the process is called 'Warping', reflecting the sci-fi setting.

Is Honkai Star Rail a sequel connected to Honkai Impact 3rd?

Yes, it's the fourth in the Honkai series, so Honkai: Star Rail is technically a sequel to Honkai Impact 3rd, but it is set in an alternate universe with (mostly) alternate versions of previous Honkai characters.

So, while it is connected to Honkai Impact 3rd, it doesn't look like you have to have played it to understand the story and lore of Star Rail. However, there are nods to previous characters and events for those who have played previous Honkai games.

We've also only played up until the beginning of the Xianzhou Luofa area in the final closed beta, so there may be larger story elements that connect the two games in the future.

Honkai Star Rail's returning characters explained

While most of Honkai: Star Rail's characters are either new, or alternate versions of previous Honkai characters, it seems that Welt is the same version as found in Honkai Impact 3rd. Talking with Himeko on the Astral Express more than hints at his past in the final closed beta.

Welt is the only character we've come across so far that is the exact version found in a previous Honkai game.

characters posed in front of a space backdrop, including the male and female trailblazer, kafka, himeko, welt, march 7th, and dan heng
Image credit: HoYoverse

Here's a list of every alternate version of a returning Honkai character in Honkai: Star Rail:

  • Bronya
  • Himeko
  • Kafka
  • Seele
  • Silver Wolf
  • Sushang
  • Natasha
  • Welt (same character seen in Honkai Impact 3rd)
  • Yanqing

If you've decided you want to play Honkai: Star Rail when it releases, make sure you visit our 1.0 Banner and events hub, and pre-register for some helpful rewards available when it launches.