Soapbox: Hear Me Out! Honkai: Star Rail Is One of PS5's Better Roguelites 1
Image: Push Square

Roguelites are so universally popular these days that you’re beginning to see the genre bolted on to cinematic action games, like God of War Ragnarok’s recent Valhalla expansion or the upcoming No Return mode being added to The Last of Us: Part 2 Remastered. While both great examples of the formula, I want to talk about Honkai: Star Rail, which in my opinion is one of the better roguelites you can play on PS5 right now.

Those who’ve made it through the free-to-play gacha game’s wordy introduction will have happened upon the Simulated Universe on Herta Space Station, which is where the roguelite mechanics come into play. There’s a whole bunch of lore which explains exactly what the Simulated Universe represents in the fiction – honestly, we’d argue probably a little too much text at times – but for the purposes of this article, all you need to know is that it’s the release’s own attempt at a roguelite.

And as the headline’s probably already given away, I think it’s superb. In its default mode, there are multiple different worlds, each composing of random zones which include enemies, resources, and more. Each battle you win rewards you with Blessings which buff your team in a unique way. You’ll also choose a Path at the start of each run, which will likely shape your tactical approach.

Soapbox: Hear Me Out! Honkai: Star Rail Is One of PS5's Better Roguelites 2
Image: Push Square

Honkai: Star Rail, like Genshin Impact, is all about character compositions: you need to think about the type of elements your units use, how they can effectively support each other, and whether you have the right mix of offence and defence to overcome impossible odds. Obviously, this aspect is further accentuated by the roguelite aspect, where the buffs you select can markedly improve your squad.

As a live service game, developer HoYoverse incentivises weekly engagement with a rotating rewards track which resets every week. This enables you to earn in-game currency and other important items, which you can then spend on new characters et al. It’s also the only way to earn specific Relics, which are crucial to character building.

However, in recent months, the developer has layered in new content, which it describes as DLC. It’s important to stress that this is an in-universe term, so it doesn’t actually mean downloadable content in the premium sense – in fact, it’s free content that’s available to everyone. But what it does do is expand upon the existing systems outlined above to incorporate more variables.

Soapbox: Hear Me Out! Honkai: Star Rail Is One of PS5's Better Roguelites 3
Image: Push Square

In the latest version, Gears and Gold, you’re able to unlock dice face pieces. This dice is rolled at the end of each zone you complete, and it includes a unique outcome. These can range from simple buffs – like entering the next area with 10% more health – to more complicated gameplay concepts, like changing the gameplay type of upcoming zones. Phases adopt a grid-like format in this mode, so you can choose whether you want to get more health or take on a tough enemy, for example.

There’s always jeopardy, though. A countdown means you need to reach the final boss in a certain number of turns, otherwise the strength of the enemies you encounter will get progressively more difficult. All of this is offset by the inclusion of persistent upgrades, which you can purchase using currency you unlock in-game.

It’s a fantastic experience that really elevates the already excellent team-building aspect of Honkai: Star Rail, and gives you tons of incentive to try out different teams. There are times where you’ll find yourself hilariously overpowered thanks to some good strategic thinking, and that’s rewarding; other times things won’t work out so well, so you’ll either rue your luck or be forced to adapt your strategy moving forward.

Soapbox: Hear Me Out! Honkai: Star Rail Is One of PS5's Better Roguelites 4
Image: Push Square

Like all HoYoverse’s games, there’s a bit too much backstory for the mode’s own good, but a quick tap of the DualSense's face buttons will get you through the text. All that aside, though, Honkai: Star Rail isn’t really a roguelite by trade, so it’s perhaps testament to how well the Simulated Universe is executed that it feels like it can stand side-by-side with some of the best the genre has to offer.

Have you tried out Honkai: Star Rail and its Simulated Universe mode yet? Pick your Blessings carefully in the comments section below.