The advantage of single player live service games like Honkai: Star Rail, for all the criticism they receive from enthusiasts, is that the action never ends. That makes updates like the enormous v2.0, which takes the Trailblazer to a new planet named Penacony, possible – and this is Chinese developer HoYoverse at its absolute best.
Penacony is a former intergalactic prison colony turned luxury hotel, where various glamorous individuals from all over galaxy are gathering for the Charmony Festival. As with all gacha games, the writing in this new location is so obsessed with lore that it borders on gobbledygook at times, but all of the new characters introduced are awesome – and unsurprisingly you’re going to want to roll for them once their banners arrive.
The new location itself is divided between reality and the dream-world, with the latter being a BioShock-esque art deco acid trip where you navigate it by pinballing yourself between key locations by setting up bounce pads. There are also illusion puzzles where you use your mind’s eye to pave paths between buildings that only exist from specific perspectives – fun stuff.
All this, of course, is backed up by turn-based battles against soda-guzzling robodogs and cyborgs with television screens for faces. HoYoverse’s artists have had an absolute field day with this new urban location, which shows giant billboards running 1930s-style cartoons – and there’s even a mascot character named Clockie who’s effectively the outing’s own version of Mickey Mouse.
While the core campaign does deviate all over the place a bit, the character writing is sharp and there’s more than enough to carry the five to six-hour adventure, which will continue in future updates. There are also tons of side-quests and secrets to uncover, including one mechanic which sees you manipulating the mood of NPCs in order to get what you want from them.
The addition of Penacony obviously represents a major milestone moment for Honkai: Star Rail, as it’s unlikely the Trailblazer will be travelling to a new planet for several months now. That it’s so beautifully realised, and thematically interesting, is a positive, then – we’d grown weary of the Xianzhou Luofu, for example, and its overly complicated space politics.
If you’re new to Honkai: Star Rail, then it’ll take you approximately 30 hours to reach the new location if you rush, but one of the game’s big advantages is that none of its story-based Events are removed – unlike Genshin Impact. We’d recommend putting in the time, because we think HoYoverse is going to have a lot of fun expanding on the activities in Penacony – and we already can’t wait to see what’s next.
Are you planning to set a course for Penacony as part of your Honkai: Star Rail adventure? How are you enjoying the plot on this new planet? Clockie would appreciate your comments below.