Honkai: Star Rail’s 2.0 replace kinds one other glittering jewel in Hoyoverse’s already illustrious crown of achievements. The brand new patch takes the already spectacular base sport — which pairs beautiful animation with zippy turn-based fight — and kicks all the things up a degree. It introduces Penacony, a area that pairs an intriguing story of a dream world set on a former penal colony with an artistically formidable world design that’s like a golden fever dream of a spot, one way or the other capturing the sensation of a theme park and on line casino rolled up in a single. Even smaller particulars, just like the replace’s minigames, present a degree of polish and consideration not seen in earlier Honkai: Star Rail variations or in Genshin Affect. The patch represents the end result of years of Hoyoverse’s expertise in sport improvement, however there’s one drawback: You’ll should play a ton of quests to get to it.
Honkai: Star Rail is a free-to-play gacha sport that follows a gaggle of explorers referred to as the Anonymous who journey from planet to planet. Prior adventures have despatched its protagonist, the Trailblazer, to desolate snowy worlds and to spaceships the dimensions of total cities. Now, with Penacony, you’ll be capable of discover a complete metropolis that you simply go to by going to sleep and connecting to it by your character’s desires, Matrix-style. Total, this dreamscape has the look of a gaudy, packed metropolis that marries futuristic aesthetics with a form of Twenties retro vibe. Its streets tower with big, bulb-lit billboards and bustle with automated, floating transportation that appears impressed by a brass horn. Stroll down its mall and also you’ll be handled to sights like human-sized champagne glasses and a ceiling lined with glowing celestial frescoes, and treats like floating ice cream and self-playing musical devices.
The world seems to comprise nods to Disney. Penacony’s mascot is an anthropomorphized clock that appears prefer it’s from a Fleischer animation and has a voice that’s eerily just like the nasally tone of Mickey Mouse. What’s extra, the creator of this world, a person referred to as the Clockmaker, is well known as an individual who was in a position to carry creativeness to life — a price echoed in numerous Disney attractions and marketing.
Penacony’s general setting seems like for those who mixed a decadent celebration from The Nice Gatsby with a on line casino, however then reimagined all of that as an anime sport with sci-fi components sprinkled in. Upon getting that, infuse that total idea with the identical feeling that you simply get whereas strolling by a Disney theme park and you’ve got Penacony. Weirdly sufficient, all these components come collectively in a manner that makes it really feel surreal, relatively than overwhelming.
When you dive into this world, what you find out about it makes all the things even weirder. Earlier than it turned a go-to interstellar vacationer vacation spot, Penacony truly was a large jail. So we mainly get a situation of this excellent however ominous dreamland that’s hiding its darker undercurrents. From the get-go, this units us up to consider what’s being hidden on this seemingly excellent world, and units up the story for a scrumptious sense of stress the place we’re cautiously exploring a prison-turned-Disney World-type place.
Moderately than feeling like methods to waste time and maximize how lengthy individuals play the sport, every minigame feels thoughtfully crafted. There’s a stunning isometric puzzle sport the place you organize blocks to create a path for a toy to stroll. There’s a noir minigame the place you discover as a tiny detective. Exploration puzzles, the place you possibly can alter the surroundings by zooming out and taking a top-down view of the town and your character, work and don’t burden gamers with overly difficult guidelines. Moments like these actually make 2.0 really feel like the perfect model of Star Rail we’ve gotten but, and spotlight the refinement of concepts from Genshin Affect. I bear in mind fiddling for hours with finicky perspective puzzles from Genshin Affect’s 2.8 Golden Archipelago occasion.
Developer Hoyoverse has hit its stride with Penacony and flexed a sport that far exceeds my expectations. On this sense, Honkai: Star Rail’s 2.0 replace represents a key turning level for the sport towards the higher. Nevertheless, it’s been a few yr for the reason that 1.0 sport got here out, and a couple of.0 marks a time the place the sport hits a difficulty that so many live-service video games do. The actually nice bits come only a bit too late within the story.
In the event you’re a brand new participant, going to Penacony will likely be locked behind the mainline quests for 2 total worlds that we explored within the 1.0 patches. It’s arduous to say simply how lengthy reaching this level will take for those who beeline it, however you positively received’t be wrapped up in a matter of hours. It’s simply too lengthy of a time dedication to suggest to people who aren’t already within the sport. Whereas some residing video games have launched quality-of-life options to assist gamers get to the perfect content material, the Honkai: Star Rail builders haven’t introduced something alongside these strains at this level. All in all, I’ve been extremely impressed with this newest iteration of Honkai: Star Rail, nevertheless it’s an enormous bummer that it comes after all the things else.