genshin impact vs honkai star rail

Genshin Impact vs Honkai Star Rail

When Hoyoverse released their much-awaited turn-based RPG, Honkai Star Rail‘s release, hordes of Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd fans quickly rushed to download and try the game. But not even a week after its release, all the fandoms of the aforementioned games engaged in heated arguments about which game was superior.

People who have tried out multiple Hoyoverse games are no strangers to these debates. Since Honkai Star Rail is a role-playing game like Genshin Impact, comparing the two is natural since the same company created them.

Genshin Impact can be considered Hoyoverse’s first AAA title, and it continues garnering thousands of new players yearly. Its accessibility, its Legend of Zelda-like visuals, and the fact that it’s free – makes the game quite appealing.

Honkai Star Rail looks like Genshin Impact, so it’s unsurprising that it hit 10 million pre-registrations just before its release. Though some players weren’t impressed by its gameplay, many stuck around for extensive worldbuilding and attractive visuals.

Can Honkai Star Rail ever surpass Gennshin Impact in all aspects? Are there any similarities between both of them, or are they fundamentally too different from each other? Let’s try to find out in this Genshin Impact vs Honkai Star Rail guide.

genshin impact landscape

Main Differences Between Honkai Star Rail vs Genshin Impact

The main differences between Honkai Star Rail vs Genshin Impact are:

  1. Though both games are essentially role-playing games, Genshin Impact is considered an Action and Adventure RPG. Meanwhile, Honkai Star Rail is a turn-based RPG.
  2. Genshin Impact’s narrative, at its core, leans towards the fantasy genre. Honkai Star Rail has magical elements similar to Genshin Impact, but its outer space setting makes the game fall in the sci-fi genre.
  3. Genshin Impact’s multiplayer mode may have limited features, but you can still visit the open world of other players and play with them. Honkai Star Rail lacks such solid multiplayer mode. The only interaction you can have with your friends is through the chat feature, slated to release in future patches.
  4. You can borrow other players’ characters while farming for materials in Honkai Star Rail. No such feature is available in Genshin Impact.
  5. Since Genshin Impact is exploration-oriented, it has many huge maps like Teyvat, Enkanomiya, and Chasm for players to explore. Meanwhile, Honkai Star Rail has small, interconnected maps unsuitable for exploring for hours.
  6. Honkai Star Rail has specialized classes called Paths, besides the regular elemental classes related to fire, air, and other similar elements. Meanwhile, Genshin Impact has only six elements and no specialized RPG classes.

Visuals and Presentation

Genshin Impact

gavireh lajavard region
The visuals of Gavireh Lajavard region.

Visuals can easily be considered Genshin Impact’s strongest suit. Though the game primarily employs a stylized anime art style, it uses cel-shading to make the characters, cutscenes, and background elements pop out more. The result is a world that makes you reminiscent of the breathtaking sceneries from The Legend of the Zelda franchise.

The game world consists of four regions so far. We begin our journey from the sunny grasslands and hills of Mondstadt, a relatively small region. However, Mondstadt acts as a warm-up since the following regions have a harsher geographical makeup.

But gazing up at the vortex of thunderous clouds of Inazuma, navigating through the scorching deserts of Sumeru, and scaling the mighty cliffs of Liyue just made me realize how much work Hoyoverse put into shaping the environment of this game. Even a tiny rock lying on the side of a road is crafted with care, changing its colors depending on the time of the day and weather.

The character designs are nothing to laugh at, either. The outfits of every character are intricate and draw inspiration from the clothing of cultures all over the world. Ayaka’s summer skin, for example, is inspired by the dresses women wore during the Meiji period. But over-detailing has made some clothes seem impractical. A case in point is Tighnari, whose color palette and accessories lack harmony.

ayaka's summer skin
Ayaka’s summer skin.

Watching the characters fight is a sight to behold. Characters’ ultimate attacks showcase various visual effects, such as glowing spirits, fireworks, flashing lights, and even meteor crashes! However, it’s difficult to visually enjoy the animations of these attacks since they end before you can even enjoy the visuals.

My only complaint is that the game’s brightness is too high, which makes the characters’ skins glow like an LED light bulb. Besides, the load of the graphics can make your game lag, especially if you are playing it on your phone or a low-end device.

Honkai Star Rail

Jing Yuan’s Ultimate, Lightbringer.

Honkai Star Rail’s graphics keep up with Hoyoverse’s incredible visual legacy by utilizing the same non-realistic cel-shaded art style as Genshin Impact. The anime-like action cutscenes outshine the battle sequences of the most well-known anime.

The characters’ appearance suffers from too much intricacy, similar to Genshin Impact’s characters. But it’s easy to overlook that if you focus on other aspects of the character design instead, such as the characters’ ultimate attacks. Unlike Genshin Impact, animations of ultimate attacks last longer, and every single one is aesthetically pleasing.

To give you an idea about how these animations look, Jing Yuan, a 5-star character, summons the spirit of a Lightning God during his ultimate attack. As drums beat in the background, it hacks all the enemies with a Guan Dao. Truly chilling, isn’t it?

However, Star Rail is a bit lacking in the department of environment design. Sure, all regions are distinct enough from each other. Belobog lies in a fortress buried in snow, similar to the last human settlement in Attack of Titans. On the other hand, Xianzhou Luofu is simply a collection of beautifully designed spaceships suspended alone in space.

But the buildings and other architectural structures don’t stand out much from each other, even if they belong to different mini-maps. One sub-region of Herta Space Station looks the same as another sub-region. Such creative direction is understandable since you aren’t meant to explore the regions for a long time in the first place. If you enjoy perusing breathtaking sights while exploring, this game is not for you.

Gameplay and Combat

Despite looking similar visuals-wise, Honkai Star Rail and Genshin Impact couldn’t be further apart when the gameplay is concerned. They share a few similarities since the same company created them, but they belong to different sub-genres of role-playing games.

Genshin Impact

spiral abyss
The 12th Floor of Spiral Abyss aka Genshin Impact’s true end-game battle

If you have been playing Genshin Impact for some time, you will notice that the gameplay is tailored for casual players who aren’t exactly looking forward to challenging themselves. All you need to do is to use characters who wield different elements to create elemental reactions and beat your enemies.

Sure, team synergy, the game’s metaverse, and the overall build of your characters play a significant role in determining the battle’s outcome. But unless you are attempting end-game objectives such as Spiral Abyss or Weekly Bosses, you don’t need to concern yourself with building the perfect character or team. You can easily beat most mobs with average builds.

While this may seem like good news for casual gamers, those who like a bit of challenge can feel bored. Moreover, end-game battles are dominated by meta, which can sometimes be unsatisfying, especially if you want to try non-meta characters.

Building characters isn’t challenging, either. But it doesn’t mean team building is hassle-free since character builds have accessibility issues. New players who have obtained a 5-star character from late regions, such as Sumeru and Inazuma, struggle to build these characters since their building materials are locked. These characters are practically unusable until you reach these regions and unlock the materials.

However, exploration still exists even if you quickly run out of challenging content. As I had already established earlier, Genshin Impact is an exploration-oriented game. You have to search every nook and cranny of Teyvat to hunt down treasure chests, oculi, and cooking items. Exploration not only involves just walking around the grasslands or climbing the mountains, though.

connecting the electric beam
Connecting the electric beam to the circuits is a puzzle unique to Inazuma.

During exploration, you will encounter many puzzles that can unlock treasure chests. What I like about these puzzles is how there are different sets of puzzles with unique mechanisms in every region. Inazuma has puzzles that involve connecting circuits with electricity.

Meanwhile, Sumeru’s puzzles require the players to activate torches with flying seeds and interact with nurseries. This novelty of mechanisms is refreshing, and tackling each of these puzzles is challenging yet satisfying.

Furthermore, Genshin Impact also offers a wide array of minigames that are either time-limited, like event minigames, or permanent, like Genshin Invokation TCG. All in all, even though the game fails to provide a good challenge most of the time, you will never run out of things to do.

Honkai Star Rail

honkai star rail combat
Classic turn-based combat in Honkai Star Rail.

Honkai Star Rail has classic strategy turn-based gameplay, but it’s a bit more complex than Genshin Impact. Its characters have elemental classes quite similar to Genshin Impact but also have clearcut specialized RPG classes that determine the overall team composition.

Team synergy and properly building characters matter even while grinding or tackling main quests, since it’s possible to die while attempting these battles. For example, I have lost battles several times despite using 5-star meta characters like Jing Yuan and Seele because they didn’t have full builds.

Honkai Star Rail also offers two dungeons to players who want to challenge themselves: Simulated Universe and Forgotten Hall. Forgotten Hall is similar to Spiral Abyss, except it has 25 stages instead of just 12. But what interested me was the Simulated Universe, inspired by the Elysian Realm feature of Honkai Impact 3rd.

In Simulated Universe, you must fight various mobs and ascend floors, until you face a powerful boss on the final floor. The roguelike elements of this feature amp up the challenge. Though I had to experiment with various team compositions and buffs a million times, beating the final boss with a non-meta F2P team was satisfying. Besides, Simulated Universe resets weekly and has several difficulty levels so that you can tailor the battle perfectly to your tastes.

simulated universe
Simulated Universe with adjustable difficulty levels

Another interesting feature of Honkai Star Rail worth mentioning is the 2x speed and autoplay modes. Sometimes, I let my resin cap in Genshin Impact because I am too sick of grinding. But Honkai Star Rail speeds up this process by increasing the battle’s speed and letting the AI battle the opponents for you. With this feature, you can easily grind daily while completing your chores.

The only drawback Honkai Star Rail’s combat has is the lack of exploration features. The maps are big enough to explore freely, but sometimes they feel too small for my taste.

Furthermore, there are only under 15 chests per map. So, once you finish collecting all the treasure chests, there is no point in exploring the area except farming for character ascension material readily available through other sources.


Genshin Impact

unknown god
The Unknown God, who kick-started Traveler’s journey

Genshin Impact tells the story of the Traveler traveling through the land of Teyvat in search of their face sibling. When you start playing the game for the first time, you are immediately forced to battle an unknown powerful God, who forces the twins apart and separates them.

But the sense of thrill and constant adrenaline boost offered by the narrative doesn’t stop after our first battle. As the story progresses, you even get to fight a rogue dragon and fight alongside literal gods.

The overall pace of the narrative slows down eventually, and the urgency of finding the traveler’s sibling wears off as the Traveler is dragged into inconsequential matters which don’t contribute to the main storyline. Though the decision to stray off Traveler’s original goal might seem like a recipe for disaster, these fillers add substance to the game by offering tidbits of lore and backstories through time-limited or permanent quests and events.

Besides events, you can learn more about the lore through books and documents found in places like the Akademiya, the ruins of Enkanomiya, or other similar places. It’s interesting to see how not a single artifact set, item, or book isn’t out of place in the Genshin Impact universe and contributes to the overall narrative.

Hangout Events and Story Quests do a great job of fleshing out the personalities of every character. Unfortunately, some characters, like Kirara and Heizou, feel like a collection of tropes rather than solid characters.

Besides, the narrative lets Paimon overshadow the Traveler by letting her interact with other characters directly and barely letting the Traveler speak.  Even if you get a chance to express their feelings, your dialogue choices don’t impact the flow of the conversation. Eventually, the existence of the Traveler resembles that of a ghost.

Honkai Star Rail

trash cans
The Trailblazer having a heart-to-heart with the trashcans are some of the funniest moments of the game.

While Honkai Star Rail contains fantastical elements like magical powers and mighty gods who bless a few chosen ones, the story is sci-fi at its core.

Our journey in the game starts in a space station, where a couple of wanted criminals seal a corrupted power called Stellaron in the Trailblazer’s genetically modified body. I had no space to breathe during the entire main quest, since the Trailblazer got dragged into the conflicts of one region to another.

Though the story has a dark tone and several character deaths occur throughout the story, the interactions between the characters are hilarious and relieve the tension. References to pop culture and Gen Z memes are subtly sneaked inside the dialogues, including the infamous ‘Rick-Roll’ meme and Among Us, which surprised me countless times while playing the game.

Even the character’s unserious and funny personality shines through their tendency to crack casual jokes in serious moments and dig through the trash cans. Unlike the Traveler, the Trailblazer’s dialogue choices impact how the opposite party replies to them, granting them more character depth.

Unfortunately, since the game has just been released, there is not much story content to enjoy. Many players, including me, have already run out of new quests. We have to wait for the next patch for brand-new quests. This makes it difficult to linger and play the game for longer hours.

Gacha System and Metaverse

Genshin Impact

yae miko
It takes several wishes to obtain a limited character like Yae Miko.

Genshin Impact’s gacha system isn’t the best. To celebrate its launch, players got 20 Acquaint Fates and 1600 Primogems as a reward. However, these rewards aren’t as great as they seem initially. They aren’t enough to help you reach soft pity in a wish banner.

Besides the time-limited launch rewards, every player is given three 4-star characters to help them through their journey through Teyvat.

But accessing the constellations of these characters is entirely dependent on your luck. These characters aren’t featured in character banners, so the probability of obtaining the constellations is lowered further. Due to these accessibility issues, all three characters rank low in the metaverse.

Nonetheless, Genshin Impact does offer a ray of hope for those with horrible gacha luck. If you don’t get a time-limited character or weapon and get standard ones instead, you are guaranteed to get the time-limited character or weapon next time.

Artifacts, necessary to build your characters, have stats motivated by gacha. So even the builds of the characters are somewhat dependent on your luck.  Building characters becomes tedious if you don’t have good luck.

Genshin Impact’s metaverse, on the other hand, is gentler than other games. Except for Spiral Abyss, where meta characters impact your performance, all the time-limited events, bosses, and quests can be cleared with a non-meta team.

Honkai Star Rail

star rail special passes
You can obtain Star Rail Special Passes through events

Honkai Star Rail’s gacha system is slightly better than Genshin Impact’s. I got a whopping 50 Star Rail Passes as a reward for hitting Level 35. I also got 30 Special Passes for free, which can be used for wishing on time-limited banners.

Honkai Star Rail offers a sweet discounted banner where players can get the permanently available characters in just 50 pulls. Moreover, it also has a feature in the Standard Banner where you can get any 5-star character you want after pulling 300 times.

Unlike Genshin Impact, Honkai Star Rail’s shops allow you to buy 5-star Light Cones of the permanent 5-star characters by spending Starlight, a material that can be collected even by F2P players. And let me tell you, these Light Cones are crazy good and worth saving for.

The only downside of Honkai Star Rail is its brutal relic and pity system. Its pity system is the same as Genshin Impact, so obtaining your desired character takes a while. Relics are the same as Genshin Impact’s artifacts. So unless you have some godly gacha luck, obtaining relics with the right stats and building your characters takes ages.

Honkai Star Rail’s metaverse isn’t too bad either. Meta characters aren’t strictly necessary, and you can make do with the free characters. However, meta characters like Gepard, Seele, and Jing Yuan make it easier to beat mobs in the Simulated Universe and the Forgotten Hall.

Soundtrack and Voice Acting

Genshin Impact

All hail the genius known as Yu Peng-Chen! Genshin Impact’s OST is one of the major reasons I still stay tethered to the game; no kidding. The official soundtrack rivals the soundtracks of Yoko Shimamura by offering rich orchestral, lo-fi, ambient, and even trap music at times!

Every region’s music is distinguishable from other regions, since the soundtracks are played using the unique instruments from the real-life counterparts of those regions. Inazuma’s tracks are played using Koto and Shamisen, while you can hear the rich sounds of Tabla and Sitar in Sumeru’s instrumentals. It feels like I am exploring the world of Teyvat with my handy orchestra following me, further immersing me in the game.

The voice acting is no less phenomenal. The voice actors deliver the emotions perfectly, even though some have just started their voice-acting careers. I usually prefer non-English dubs in games, but every dub in Genshin Impact is fun to listen to.

If I have to nitpick the voice acting, it’s the lack of alignment between the movement of the characters’ mouths and their voice lines. Many times, the mouth of the character is already closed while the dialogue is still being spoken, which throws me off.

The Traveler barely speaks in the game, despite having two voice actors dedicated to them. Hoyoverse has no budget issues, so it feels weird when the main characters don’t speak loudly in scenes besides the major events in Archon Quests.

Honkai Star Rail

astral express
Play any soundtrack you like in the Astral Express.

Honkai Star Rail’s soundtrack is as phenomenal as Genshin Impact’s soundtrack, since it is also composed by HoyoMix.

However, Star Rail’s OST differs slightly from Genshin Impact’s. It has the same quality of using a wide range of instruments for different planets to differentiate from each other. But Star Rail’s soundtrack leans more towards the electronic music side at times, though it also has its fair share of orchestral pieces.

But one aspect of the music that stands out is the beautiful vocals in some tracks. I was pleasantly taken aback when I heard the passionate vocals of Jonathan Steingard during one of the boss battles in the game. It fired me up, and I kept delaying the battle intentionally to keep hearing the song. Other soundtracks, such as Ember, offer wonderful choral renditions as well, which makes the action of just walking through the streets of Belobog seem magical.

Regarding voice-acting, many characters in Honkai Star Rail share voice actors with Genshin Impact characters. As usual, the voice-acting is phenomenal and delivers the exact emotions the characters feel during a particular moment. The English dub of this game is so great that I have been reluctant to switch to other dubs.

The Trailblazer suffers from the same ‘vow of silence’ fate as the Traveler. They have voice lines only during cutscenes. However, they do speak out aloud when they are thinking. It’s not a huge improvement, but I will still take it.

Which One Is Better: Genshin Impact or Honkai Star Rail?

visuals genshin impact
Gorgeous visuals and a fulfilling storyline make Genshin Impact triumph over Honkai Star Rail.

And now, here comes the ultimate dilemma: Is Genshiin Impact better than Honkai Star or vice versa? Both the games feel equally good to me, and I thoroughly enjoy playing them. However, if I had to choose, it would be Genshin Impact, simply because it has been around for a long time.

Even though I have been playing the game for over three years, I still haven’t caught up with everything that Genshin Impact offers. I still have many achievements to obtain, hidden areas to explore, and side quests to finish. This continuous stream of quality content has kept me loyal to the game for many years.

As for Honkai Star Rail, it’s still a fun game. But what it lacks in comparison to Genshin Impact is experience. It has been barely a month since Star Rail was released, so it’s easy to run out of things to do.

Right now, I sit back, twiddling my thumbs (im)patiently as I wait for the next update to arrive and save me from the boredom. Honkai Star Rail also lacks a proper exploration feature, so roaming the streets of Xianzhou Luofu and Belobog is pointless.

But I believe that as some more months pass, we will get a more steady stream of quests and things to do. Star Rail is still trying to set its feet firmly on the ground, and the Hoyoverse devs are still testing many new features. In a few years, I believe Star Rail will become as popular as its successful predecessors, Honkai Impact 3rd and Genshin Impact.

Best Alternatives

Genshin Impact

  • Breath of the Wind
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds
  • Dragon Raja
  • Tower of Fantasy
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3

If you want more recommendations, this detailed list can introduce you to games similar to Genshin Impact!

Honkai Star Rail

  • Granblue Fantasy
  • Arknights
  • Dislyte
  • Path to Nowhere
  • Honkai Impact 3rd
  • Persona 5


Question: Do I need to play Honkai Impact 3 to play Honkai Star Rail?

Answer: Honkai Star Rail occasionally references Honkai Impact 3, but Honkai Impact 3’s story isn’t connected with Star Rail’s.

Question: Which game runs more smoothly on low-end devices: Honkai Star Rail or Genshin Impact?

Answer: Honkai Star Rail is several GB smaller than Genshin Impact, so Honkai Star Rail is more accessible on mobile phones and PCs with smaller RAM.

Genshin Impact vs Honkai Star Rail: Conclusion

Hoyoverse has mastered its craft after creating and experimenting with many successful titles, such as Tears of Themis and Honkai Impact 3rd.

They have dipped their toes in several video game genres and finally perfected the formula of satisfying their player base. It’s evident from how Genshin Impact achieved the title of the first free gacha AAA game ever created and the sheer hype Honkai Star Rail caused before its release.

That’s why I refuse to let Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail go despite their shortcomings. I don’t think I’ll stop playing them anytime soon. After all, not many games deliver fulfilling gameplay, drop-dead gorgeous characters, and a compelling storyline for free, do they?

If you wonder how Genshin Impact fares against other free RPG games, check out our Genshin Impact vs. Tower of Fantasy guide.

Read More: Best Games like Genshin Impact

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