Genshin Impact developer's next game draws 2M sign-ups as its launch nears

Honkai Star Rail beta - protagonist holding object
(Image credit: MiHoYo)

Take Genshin Impact, make it turn-based, and crank the anime dial up to 11 and you have Honkai: Star Rail, the next game from MiHoYo.

The free-to-play game just entered its final beta and the dates on its Apple App Store and Google Play Store page suggest it might release in April. The game's final beta started on February 10, and over two million people have pre-registered (basically wishlisting) for the final game on PC and mobile.

Honkai: Star Rail guides

Honkai: Star Rail Silver Wolf

(Image credit: Tyler C. / HoYoverse)

Honkai: Star Rail codes: Redeem for free currency
Trailblaze EXP farming: Easy ways to level up
Trailblazer builds: Strengthen your main character up
March 7th builds: Power up the pink archer
Dan Heng builds: Sharpen that spear

Before MiHoYo made Genshin Impact, it was making Honkai, a Evangelion-inspired sci-fi action series in which Earth is stuck in a battle with a malevolent cosmic force of the same name. Honkai: Star Rail continues after Honkai 3rd and borrows a lot of the successful parts of Genshin Impact's design.

You play as one of two main protagonists and explore planets with a crew of four characters. Each character has elemental attacks and plays a particular role within your team comp. It's a gacha game, so building a strong team to face harder and harder foes as you complete story and event missions is the whole deal. It even has Genshin Impact's artifact system (called Relics), incentivizing you to craft and grind for better and better gear.

I played some of the previous beta and was floored by its impressive combat animations. Very early on in the game you recruit Himeko. Her ultimate causes the camera to tilt upward as she looks to the sky and sees an orbital strike pierce the clouds. Honkai: Star Rail makes the flashiest Genshin Impact attacks look tame. If the gacha systems aren't too awful, I could see this game becoming an exciting alternative to MiHoYo's action game. 

The fact that it's turn-based helps elevate its flashy battles. Genshin Impact's most difficult fights are frantic and you start to value character abilities over the characters themselves. In what I've played of Honkai: Star Rail, you spend more time with each character as you build up to your strongest attacks. Enemies have elemental weaknesses and you have to plan out your abilities to weaken them before you set off your powerful ultimates.

Honkai: Star Rail isn't open world; instead, it lets you explore portions of a planet as you progress through the story. There are chests and lore documents to loot, but the focus is on its cast of space explorers and the looming threat of the Honkai.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.