Honkai: Star Rail is making the jump from Version 1.6 to Version 2.0 with a new playable area to explore. As someone who played Star Rail at launch but dropped it soon after, I wanted to see if it was worth revisiting. Luckily, I was granted access to a preview of Honkai: Star Rail’s newest update, so I hopped onto the Astral Express to check out the new area: Penacony, the Planet of Festivities.
A bit of background about me: I’m a Genshin girl. I started playing Genshin Impact on release day in 2020, and I’ve been smitten with Teyvat ever since. So when HoYoverse’s newest game, Honkai: Star Rail, debuted in April of last year, I eagerly waited at the login screen, rushing in just as the servers went online.
After completing the Trailblaze Missions available at launch, however, I was left twiddling my thumbs. Sure, there were events and repeatable combat activities, but without a massive open world to draw me in, Honkai: Star Rail lost me after a few weeks. That was Version 1.0, though. Now, in the advent of Version 2.0, Star Rail deserves another look. Penacony’s dreamscapes are enchanting, and the witty writing is a reminder of just how entertaining Star Rail can be.
Upon arriving in Penacony, I sat through a few cutscenes and then entered a shared dreamscape called Golden Hour — which truly feels like navigating through a dream. You can walk on walls and ceilings. Objects float in the air, often upside down. I attempted to eat an ice cream cone, only for it to start pleading for its life. Being the kind soul I am, I spared it, and it gave me a hamburger in return.
It’s even possible to enter another dream within this dream, Inception-style. The dream-within-a-dream I experienced was about trash cans, and at one point, I even transformed into a trash can myself. While I didn’t need Star Rail to tell me I was garbage, I couldn’t help but laugh my lid off.
This is what I love about Honkai: Star Rail: its writing. The dialogue contains plenty of fourth-wall-breaking jokes, yet they never feel excessive. There are running gags that weave their way into missions and environmental details, like the Trailblazer’s inexplicable fondness for trash cans. The wit and humor in the Trailblazer’s lines make me wish Genshin Impact’s Traveler got the same treatment. Honkai: Star Rail’s 2.0 update takes the charming absurdity that was already present in the game and turns it up to eleven. In the dreamscapes of Penacony, anything can happen!
Of course, no new update would be complete without new characters. Honkai: Star Rail 2.0 introduces newcomers Black Swan, Sparkle, and Misha. While I’m no Star Rail theorycrafter, I can at least attest to how fantastic these new characters look. Black Swan floats in the air with a menacing grace, surrounded by a halo of tarot cards. Misha leans into his role as a hotel busboy, dealing damage by crashing his luggage cart into enemies.
The flashy, theatrical performances from the Star Rail roster is another one of those HoYo signatures, adding some extra flair that’s distinct from Genshin’s. Star Rail employs turn-based combat compared to Genshin’s real-time combat, allowing Star Rail to showcase more elaborate Ultimate animations without disrupting the flow of combat. These animations are truly works of art and a delight to behold, even at 2x speed.
Is Penacony enough to bring a Genshin Impact loyalist back to Honkai: Star Rail? As a Genshin diehard, I say yes. Even if you don’t commit to Star Rail long-term, it’s definitely still worth giving it another shot. Compared to its state at release last year, the game has seen significant content additions. While there are still missions and events that encourage daily logins, I find Star Rail demands less of your time than Genshin does. At the very least, you can progress through the main story missions and auto-battle your way through the combat sections.
If you worry that you’ve missed a lot of past events, there’s good news! Honkai: Star Rail allows you to replay flagship events from past Versions, and these never expire. You’re free to play through them at your convenience whenever you wish, though you still don’t get the limited-time rewards from when the events were live.
While I may always prefer Genshin Impact due to its stunning open world and plethora of activities, I’m warming up to Honkai: Star Rail as well. I probably won’t play both games every day, but I’ll definitely check in on Star Rail from time to time. Both games are free to play, with no paywall for story content, so it costs nothing to experience new missions and events before logging off until the next update. Whether you’ve been logging into Honkai: Star Rail every day since launch or you’re a returning player, Penacony has something for everyone. Version 2.0 is out now, so happy dreaming, everyone!
The post Honkai: Star Rail’s Penacony is a playable fever dream appeared first on Destructoid.