All aboard the waifu express, it’s time for our review of Honkai: Star Rail.

It would be easy to just say that Honkai: Star Rail is just more Genshin Impact. That said, Genshin Impact may be the biggest game in the world that the average player knows nothing about. Released in late 2020 by relative unknown Chinese developer miHoYo, it became one of the major success stories of the pandemic/lockdown era.

Genshin Impact quickly became one of the biggest games in the world thanks to its combat that harkens to Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's also a free-to-play game that ran incredibly well on multiple platforms.

But we know the real reason Genshin succeeded: Waifus. Oh, the waifus. Waifus every which way. A veritable cornucopia of waifish doting anime girls begging to be leveled up to their maximum.

MiHoYo has applied this tried-and-true gacha game formula to a new genre with Honkai: Star Rail. While it has many of the same weaknesses as its HoYoverse sibling, the shift in gameplay style makes it stand out in a crowd of free-to-play games.

Here's our Honkai: Star Rail review. We hope you like the silence of space. And waifus.

Honkai: Star Rail review: Ticket, please

If you weren't aware, the Honkai series dates back almost a decade at this point. Set in a future, anime-styled universe where Earth is corrupted by a force called the Honkai. It's a franchise that's seen a number of gameplay genre shifts. For those expecting more Zelda-like adventures but in space will be disappointed, as Star Rail is a turn-based RPG with 3D exploration elements.

I'm not trying to be mean here, but to be blunt: It's the Persona series but in space. 3D dungeons with enemies you can slap pre-battle to get an advantage. Once you enter combat the Persona comparison is even more evident, as Honkai: Star Rail uses a four-character party setup that will feel familiar to fans of the Atlus series.

Each of your waifus is associated with an element that gives advantages over enemies. In turn, this allows you to break shields and disable opponents for a short time. However, unlike the Persona series the characters in Honkai: Star Rail feature much more streamlined kits, all possessing a basic attack, skill, and ultimate technique.

Much like Persona, combat feels tight and wonderful when you're hitting elemental breaks, interrupting combat with your ultimates, and cuing the game's flashy and fantastic attack scenes over and again.

She's a looker

And let's not mince words: Honkai: Star Rail is a fabulous-looking game. The art aesthetic of Genshin Impact carries over well to Honkai's cosmic world. The game runs smooth as silk no matter your game platform. The character designs verge into generic anime territory at times, but this is usually trumped by each one having distinct personalities.

And trust me: This game will hook you by throwing that one anime girl or boy at you that speaks to your inner soul. I was completely bored by my available character choices until an opportune gacha pull landed me a winner in the rock and roll space goddess Serval.

Rocking a literal electric guitar and shock status effect abilities, Serval is but one of currently 24 playable characters. However, and as is the rub with gacha games, those good boys and girls don't come free. Feel free to take at look at our guide on how to get around 80 free gacha pulls. You'll need them, especially if you're looking to level up your favorite waifu all the way to the moon.

A stats-based explosion

Speaking of leveling up, Honkai: Star Rail features a stats and leveling system that won't confuse Genshin Impact players. In the tried-and-true free-to-play style, players will use a combination of leveling up via gaining XP and found items, all to get levels for their favorite character. Much like Genshin, Star Rail features a similar problem. Both contain a number of skill trees, stat sheets, and systems that are confusing at first blush.

And, sure, there are plenty of tutorials. However, the game doesn't do a great job of explaining how systems such as the Light Cones, Eidolons, Relics, and Traces all work. There's a lot of trial-and-error involved, which may scare off players less inclined to read a bunch of text than they are to just play the game.

This also leads to another problem: Honkai: Star Rail does a poor job of explaining its combat systems. While the Persona-esque turn-based combat feels self-explanatory, it's more often that Honkai: Star Rail hides things such as what abilities even do. At any time during combat you can pull up a character's stat sheet by hitting a button. But it takes multiple screen transitions to do so.

Given that the charm of Star Rail is trying out different character combinations, it sometimes feels like the game punishes me for trying a new party. Why not just tell me what an attack does before I use it? I can only assume this was a choice to save screen space for those playing on mobile. Which, fine, but it doesn't make the choice a good one.

Honkai: Star Rail review: Point of attack

A lot of the game's menu clunkiness is forgiven for a combat system that legit feels good. All too often in free to play gacha games the combat feels like an afterthought. Part of why the game succeeds is that there's satisfaction in finding the perfect element combinations in your party.

Combined with a stellar--hah, space joke--soundtrack, Honkai: Star Rail does so much to win over players that didn't vibe on Genshin Impact and the Breath of the Wild of it all. Related: those calling it "Genshin Impact in space" aren't wrong. It definitely leans on those exact same strengths and weaknesses. Use that info how you will.

Is it worth my time?

Honkai: Star Rail strikes an interesting balance between feeling like a big-studio RPG while bringing the strengths of a free-to-play game along for the ride. If you're the kind that likes pages upon pages of statistics and system then you'll find your home with Star Rail. But, hey: It's a free to play game, so just give it a shot and see what there is to discover among the stars.

Just kidding, we already know what's out there. Waifus.

Stay tuned to for esports news and Honkai: Star Rail info.