It has been about five months since Honkai: Star Rail officially came out and enough time has passed that I think I can say what a lot of others have been thinking: what is up with the story updates? While I legitimately enjoy the characters and story of Star Rail, I can’t help but wonder why every patch so far feels so dissatisfying in terms of the story content. Version 1.3 in particular was disappointing, as we waited about a month and a half for, like, about an hour of the story.
Since the game is still in its infancy, it may be easy to write off Honkai: Star Rail’s story issues as growing pains. So let’s take a look at Genshin Impact, which is HoYoVerse’s other major title. The reason why I didn’t choose to look at Honkai Impact 3rd is because it feels like the development team for Star Rail took lessons from Genshin Impact in particular to make the game.
Here was the main story content in Genshin Impact from launch till Version 1.3:
Version 1.0 “Welcome to Teyvat”
- Archon Quest finishes up Mondstadt’s storyline and starts Liyue’s with the death of Rex Lapis, as well as the introduction to both Zhongli and Tartaglia
- Character quests for each individual Knight of Favonius (including Klee), Venti, Mona, Xiangling, Diluc, Razor, Xingqiu
Version 1.1 “A New Star Approaches”
- Childe reveals his evil plan and we fight him, and then the big showdown against Osial happens, and then we learn about what’s happening in Inazuma
- Character quests for Zhongli and Tartaglia
- Unreconciled Stars event introduces Scaramouche and lore hints about the sky
Version 1.2 “The Chalk Prince and the Dragon”
- Character quests for Albedo and Ganyu
- The Chalk Prince and the Dragon event introduces Dragonspine and Albedo
Version 1.3 “All That Glitters”
- Bough Keeper: Dainsleif World Quest introduces him and moves forward the twin storyline
- Character quests for Xiao and Hu Tao
- First Lantern Rite event featuring Xiao which also serves as an epilogue for Liyue
Here was the story content in Honkai: Star Rail from launch till Version 1.3:
Version 1.0 “The Rail Unto the Stars”
- Trailblaze Mission introduces us to Herta Space Station and then we sort of save Jarilo-VI. On the Xianzhou Luofu, we learn about the Sanctus Medicus and the Ambrosial Arbor revives
- Simulated Universe (Aeon and Genius Society lore)
- Companion Missions for Arlan, Asta, Hook, Natasha, Clara, Serval & Gepard
Version 1.1 “Galactic Roaming”
- Companion Missions for Silver Wolf, Yanqing, Luocha, and Bailu
- Starhunt Game event
- Everwinter City Museum Ledger of Curiosities event
Version 1.2 “Even Immortality Ends”
- Blade unlocks Dan Heng’s Imbibitor Lunae form and Dan Heng parts the ocean to reveal the Scalegorge Waterscape, leading to a showdown against Phantylia
- Companion Missions for Kafka and Yukong
Version 1.3 “Celestial Eyes Above Mortal Ruins”
- We prepare for a mass funeral and spend time learning more about who Tingyun was when she was alive
- Companion Missions for Dan Heng, March 7th, Luka, and Lynx
- Aurum Alley’s Hustle and Bustle event
When you look at the two games in comparison, it might be easy to see why Genshin Impact felt like there was more content. At launch, you had character quests for so many characters that some players might have been finishing them even an update later. Each main story update guaranteed about two to three hours of play time. Every update also consistently either moved the story forward or introduced new elements.
So what’s the issue with the story in Honkai: Star Rail?
The problem with Honkai: Star Rail being sort of minimalist with its story is that unlike Genshin Impact, there is no exploration element. You can’t waste time in the game trying to climb the tallest mountain you see in Liyue or watching enemies drown themselves in the water because they’re trying to get at you. In Honkai: Star Rail, once you’re out of Trailblaze Power and you’re done your allotted Simulated Universe or Forgotten Hall challenges, there’s not much else you can do in game. This makes the lack of beefy story content feel like each update is only “fun” for a short period of time before you go back to the usual routine.
I want to say as a disclaimer that I put in my time in the Fate/Grand Order mines. I know what it’s like to play a gacha game where you can go months without any new story content at all. The Honkai: Star Rail setting, lore, and characters are all really good! It’s so exciting to see what stories HoYoVerse will tell us with everything they’ve got going on. But it’s hard to maintain that hype when we keep getting scraps of plot every month and a half. I’m a huge fan of the Xianzhou Luofu characters. Even so, I felt genuinely surprised at how little we got in Version 1.2, which was arguably the update for me. How does someone who doesn’t care to watch Dan Heng and Blade stare at each other feel about these story updates? Are you guys alright?
Let’s take a step back and look at Genshin Impact again. Every story update gave us something new in terms of information. It might be confusing and not very well-executed, but we can say that each update meant something and did its job of moving the plot forward. There was no Liyue epilogue but the first Lantern Rite served to show us Liyue shifting away from relying on the Geo Archon. It also showed Xiao and Ganyu’s feelings about living on the fringe of this new society, yet bridging the difference through the festival. It was an event, but it still felt more long and interesting than spending an hour talking about Tingyun. If Tingyun turns out to not even be dead, I think I might actually dislike her for wasting our time like this, I’m sorry to say.
Another thing that I personally hope will be fixed in the future is the lack of a resolution in basically any world. The story isn’t just short. Nothing feels finished. Jarilo-VI still suffers from the Fragmentum and environmental issues. The Antimatter Legion still haunts Herta Space Station. Blade and Kafka just dust off their hands and go home after they go Extreme Makeover on Dan Heng. Nothing feels finished and there’s very little tension throughout despite the build-up. The Ambrosial Arbor comes back but most of the Xianzhou Luofu NPCs didn’t even seem to care. We didn’t even cut down the tree or deal with the Stellaron, did we? Maybe HoYoVerse plans on returning to past planets in the future and so they’re leaving plot points like this on purpose to continue later? I sincerely hope that’s the case.
What happened in Version 1.3’s story?
Between four Companion Missions, the massive Simulated Universe: Swarm Disaster update, and the Aurum Alley event story, I can understand why Version 1.3’s Trailblaze Mission felt so short. In my opinion, I feel like the Tingyun stuff could have just been in Version 1.2 rather than making us wait for it.
I also feel like feedback to Genshin Impact’s story is affecting the way the Star Rail team is handling content. Genshin Impact’s cutscenes feel very long since you can’t skip them and you have to wait out the character’s animations. They’re very wordy too. This isn’t just a localization issue. I’ve played Genshin Impact in the original Chinese (as I do Star Rail) and the wordiness issue persists there as well. This might be why Honkai: Star Rail’s writing feels a lot tighter and snappier. That’s great and I legitimately enjoy that. I agree with the philosophy of quality over quantity. But for a live service game in an environment with lots of other games clawing for player attention and time, I wonder if this is the best stance to have.
Hopefully, as the story continues, we’ll get more content per patch. I legitimately enjoyed the Xianzhou Luofu story and it would be sad if it’s a mere stepping stone or foundation for more Xianzhou Alliance content in the future. Honkai: Star Rail has a lot of potential in its story. However, I worry for the future of the game and its player base if the main story updates continue to be minimal and disappointing.
Honkai: Star Rail is readily available on mobile devices and Windows PC.