Today marks the launch of Hoyoverse’s latest update for Honkai Star Rail. This new update takes players to the world of Penacony, a world of dreams where almost anything is possible. In the latest update, HSR turns the world quite literally upside down, with plenty of new characters to meet, and a land full of fantastic mini games to occupy your time.
It has been a hot minute since I’ve spent time in HSR. Since I left, there have been quite a few developments with our Trailblazer and the Astral Express crew. The story has evolved over the course of several updates and as you are now entering Penacony from Xianzhou, Hoyoverse isn’t diluting any of the story elements. On the contrary, Penacony introduces a whole new cast of characters, and even brings back the visage of some from your past.
A Story Of A Dream
If story is your bag, HSR has it in spades. For my part, it was a little overwhelming to come back to such a rich story, which takes you into a Dreamscape where you meet a curious “local” of the dream world, Firefly. You will spend a lot of time in the Reverie Hotel which is the gateway into the Dreamscape, and holds its own hidden secrets that you’ll uncover through some unusual traversal mechanics.
Between the Family that essentially runs Penacony and the treacherous Masked Fools that you’ll meet, what unravels is just the beginning of a mystery that leads to questions about some behind the scenes machinations, and whether the Dreamscape is actually a safe space after all. You’ll even shapeshift into a tiny gremlin-like creature in Hanu’s Adventure, and meet Clockie, a cartoon character that feels like a mix between a Cuphead character, Miss Minutes from the Marvel series Loki, and a voice that’s suspiciously similar to Mickey Mouse.
I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the story, but what I can say is that I was ambivalent at the beginning, but by the end of the story I was hooked. My mixed feelings initially came from the slow story that seemed as though it was the meat and potatoes of the upcoming journey, but quickly felt a lot more potatoes than meat. The roundabout camaraderie of the crew and each character’s idiosyncrasies get tiring, and when focusing directly on the main story, you spend far more time watching than you do playing, as some cutscenes can’t be skipped.
Eventually you hit a turning point where you’re battling and traversing the crazy Dreamscape world and suddenly the story is unfolding in interesting ways. You’re not sure who to trust, and everyone you meet seems suspicious. Penacony also introduces you to several new playable characters, including a mousey four-star ice destruction character named Misha, and the insanely powerful five-star nihility wind character Black Swan.
Some Sweet New Characters Join HSR
Luckily the press account we were provided gave me access to all of the characters, except for Sparkle, who is a 5-Star character that won't be available until the next banner after the 2.0 launch. I was quickly drawn to Black Swan, who turned out to be insanely powerful.
While she doesn’t have follow-up attacks per se, she does employ a talent where an enemy receives damage over time at the start of their turn. If the enemy is inflicted with Arcana, the damage is multiplied. Once I began using Black Swan, my battles rarely took more than a single round. By the time all my damage was dealt, and my adversaries’ turn began, they just exploded, one after another, rarely surviving the damage to ever attack me.
As expected, new light cones were also added to the game. If I’m being completely candid, this is still one of my biggest gripes about Hoyoverse games. While a case can be made that their gacha system is at least somewhat friendly due to the pity system, after months of playing I got to the point where it was just far too expensive to obtain the characters I wanted, and that was only compounded if I wanted to max out their eidolons. As often as poor rolls push me away, fun characters can pull me back in to rolling again, even if it’s just temporarily, and I fear Black Swan might do that for me here.
Even if I decide to forego spending anything on HSR this time around, Penacony is full of a lot of fun minigames that I really enjoyed. Hoyoverse makes really engaging puzzles and minigames, and version 2.0 has some of the best puzzles I’ve had the chance to enjoy recently.
Puzzles And Minigames Are Half The Fun
The Dream Jigsaw is an actual jigsaw puzzle, where you’ll have to move pieces and rotate them to complete the picture and earn your prize. However, sometimes the jigsaw itself is only half of the puzzle. When you attempt a jigsaw, sometimes a few puzzle pieces will fly off in multiple directions, requiring you to first find the pieces before you complete the jigsaw.
The Dream Ticker is another puzzle that blew my mind. At first it looked like some strange version of Tetris, with L and I shaped pieces situated throughout the level. You need to move these pieces to make a path for Clockie. You must look at the level both 2 and 3 dimensionally, as you build a path that reaches the gear. Once you reach all of the gears, you fix the Dream Ticker, and earn your rewards.
This is similar to the Dream’s Eye, which is a new view mode that grants you a bird’s eye view of a level. You have to envision the 3D level as a 2D one, where you move pieces around to create a path for yourself to traverse to new areas. You’ll also run into situations where you need to play Bubble Pinball, which requires you rotate plates to create a successful trajectory, bouncing you to your destination.
Finally, Penacony is a topsy-turvy world where you’ll eventually obtain golden bubbles which grant you the ability to walk up walls or ceilings. You have a limited number of golden bubbles, which results in a traversal puzzle of its own. You’ll find yourself trudging up and down walls as you defeat monsters, open chests, and find hidden origami birds.
Penacony is Honkai Star Rail’s best update yet. There’s so much to do in 2.0, even if you choose not to spend on some new characters and light cones, you can still jump in to catch up on the story and experience the abstract Dreamscape for yourself. If you’ve taken a hiatus from the game like I have, this would be the time to come back. Honkai Star Rail 2.0 is available on iOS, Android, PC and PS4|5 now.