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Honkai: Star Rail’s Free-to-Play Design Wastes Your Time
May 17, 2023

Source: MMOWTS

Honkai: Star Rail looks nearly the same as a big-budget RPG. Its character models are crisp, its battle animations feature dynamic camera work and contain copious levels of dialogue. It includes a large cast of anime-ass characters with funny little quirks, and also the comedic writing is hilarious. Unfortunately, the places it differs in the RPG formula are also the places it fails.

Honkai: Star Rail’s Free-to-Play Design Wastes Your Time

In most RPGs, you level up by playing the sport. You can grind being more powerful if the sport is too difficult or avoid combat if you wish to speed things up. Fundamentally, experience is straightforward to understand and performs many roles at the same time. If you were likely to replace this technique, you should be careful.


In Honkai: Star Rail, you will get experience by spending items that represent experience. On its own, that doesn’t sound bad. You collect experience items by completing quests, running daily battles, and often through regular combat. It’s an unnecessary extra step, and also you’ll sometimes need to grind for added XP items since you end up needing lots of experience — however, you could do the same for traditional experience systems. The real issue comes from using the level cap.


For every 10 levels, you’ll need to use specific items based on your character type to permit your character to level further, known as “Ascending” your character. These items, obviously, aren't things you’d generally manage playing the storyline quests. No, they’re almost entirely limited to repeatable fights that cost “energy” that replenishes in real time. Once you perform a few of these battles and exhaust energy, you have to spend resources, wait each day, or pay real cash in order to continue grinding out materials to level up your characters.


It’s even more complicated if the computer has to be since there are so many damn items. You’ll need nine elemental materials, in addition to a less rare material obtainable by beating up certain enemies. You’ll have to check which materials you'll need and in what quantities, then grind it. But wait, you’re not done, since there are seven “paths,” each using their own upgrade material that you’ll have to upgrade your character’s skills based on which path they follow. Each character also requires a Light Cone, and you know what, these have level caps too! You’ll have to spend experience with components of a different kind, in addition to many from the same ascension materials in line with the seven paths.


This is just magnified by the fact that Honkai: Star Rail is really a gacha game, and you're simply encouraged to keep accumulating new characters. I actually have 13 characters from a possible 22, and each time I get a replacement, I have to decide whether I want to feel the tedium of leveling them up. It’s ideal to possess at least a character of each and every element, however, you also might train a weak 4-star character before you roll a 5-star — and then wind up having to train both. Every character you unlock is exciting, because of the low drop rates, but additionally locks you into more grinding.


The ascension product is, to become frank, a confusing and terribly designed system. It’s time-consuming, highly specific, can make you use several amounts of menus, and enables you to grind while using daily energy. It makes each new character a laundry listing of menu clicks and grinding and reduces party flexibility if you don't prepare to grind.


The point of this isn’t really to become fun. It is designed to become time-consuming and money-hungry. If the sport keeps you playing longer and keeps you returning every day, they are able to sell you more things, as more gacha pulls for the new characters the developer intends to release.


These kinds of tedious and confusing leveling mechanics aren’t unique to Honkai: Star Rail. Similar mechanics appear in Genshin Impact, another of HoYoverse’s titles; Dragalia Lost, which ended service this past year; Fire Emblem Heroes, a Nintendo mobile game; and a large number of other games. This is basically the modus operandi of free-to-play games: Make things worse purposely to squeeze money from you.


There are several additional hurdles to preparing a character in Honkai: Star Rail, but I think I’ve made my point. I could describe the leveling system on most RPGs inside a paragraph or two, plus they might even involve interesting choices about how exactly to build your character. Honkai: Star Rail is much more complicated and less interesting.


With everything I’ve said, you can find the impression I despise the sport, but it’s more that I’m disappointed to determine such a fun game made worse purposely. The combat system includes a focus on using elemental weaknesses to interrupt the enemy’s guard, but it also includes a speed-based turn order and unique character abilities that lend the sport some satisfying depth. It’s less than like any other turn-based RPG combat systems I’ve played.


On the surface of the combat, the writing is genuinely outstanding sometimes. While the overall plot is really a bit predictable, the sport is packed with hilarity which makes the characters shine. You’re often given multiple dialogue options, with a minimum of one as being a sharply written joke, and investigating objects within the environment can lead to discovering the protagonist’s affinity for bins or getting wistful in regards to a fence. There’s a cute little system that rewards you for doing good deeds by having an item representing your high morals, which you'll then trade away to do such things as ransack an abandoned suitcase or steal from the wishing well.


The battle animations, while perhaps not fast enough without leaving them on double speed, perform a great job of both communicating characters looking cool. One character sends out an enormous chicken-like phoenix for his or her ultimate, and another calls down a satellite laser. The game is ridiculous and fun sometimes.


But despite everything I love about this, Honkai: Star Rail is hamstrung by its gacha mechanics and it is the poor leveling system. I can’t in good faith recommend anyone play Farmville because it is attempting to exploit you, also it does so by intentionally being worse than other RPGs you can play.


There is a more method to strengthen your characters: If you unlock them with the gacha seven times, each duplicate increases your character’s strength. While this doesn’t seem essential to me at this time, its likely future content might be difficult enough that it’s needed. That’s a terrifying thought considering the fact that 5-star drop rates are between 0.6% and 1.6%, and that's further split between eight 5-star characters at the moment, with this number certain to increase. Getting any specific character is really a nightmare and may easily cost 1000s of dollars — or thousands of hours of grinding.


You know, it’d apt to be cheaper to purchase every Shin Megami Tensei game released because of the PlayStation 2. Maybe I’ll go finish a few of those instead.

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