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Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact Are Far Less Similar Than It Seems

The hottest sibling rivalry since the Traveler and their twin.

Honkai: Star Rail might look like HoYoverse’s other games at a glance, but it’s more complicated than that. Some called it “Genshin Impact in space” when it first started circulating on social media. However, anyone who plays past the first couple of hours should quickly learn that the similarities are only skin-deep. Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact are distinct products, even if they cater to overlapping audiences. It’s just a matter of choosing between the different systems.

Should you try Honkai: Star Rail if you liked Genshin Impact, or vice versa? Here are two lists with explanations about the biggest similarities and differences between the two.

Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail Similarities

  • Emphasis on Story
  • Art Style
  • Character Abilities
  • Ascension System
  • Leveling Systems
  • UI

Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail have similar packaging. They are both RPGs featuring anime-inspired art styles, cinematic soundtracks, and an emphasis on narrative. Key systems, including leveling and ascension, are functionally the same.

The leveling system in both games breaks the levels up into different ranges that you can only reach by “ascending” the character to the next phase, a.k.a. the next level range. These systems also use drops that you gain from fighting monsters to raise character levels as a whole, levels for their specific skills, or levels for the gear that makes them stronger.

Parts of the UI carry over from Honkai Impact 3rd and Genshin Impact, too. You can expect the same button mapping for sprinting, pulling up the map, attacking things in the overworld, and other similarities.

Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail Differences

  • Turn-Based Combat
  • Less Emphasis on Exploration
  • Character Dynamics
  • Honkai isn’t on consoles — yet

Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail use different combat systems, but have similar leveling systems. Genshin Impact uses real-time action, so you slash at enemies with every mouse click and activate your skills at the exact moment you press the hotkey. You also control only one character at a time.

Honkai: Star Rail places all four members of the team on the field at once. It uses turn-based combat, so you have to consider turn economy instead of exact timing and cooldowns during battles.

Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail are also fundamentally different in the exploration department. Genshin is open-world, but Honkai: Star Rail isn’t. It has the feel of an open world because of the expansive towns, but it isn’t a seamless transition between one place to the other. There’s also no need to scrounge for ascension materials like Violetgrass anymore because you get all your materials from monsters. Yay!

Dan Heng is one of the first characters to join your adventure.


Last but not least, the character dynamics are a subtle but noticeable difference. Genshin Impact’s story is about the secrets behind the world of Teyvat and the Traveler’s quest to find their lost twin sibling. The Traveler meets many interesting characters during their journey across the different nations, but their main traveling companion is Paimon.

Meanwhile, Honkai: Star Rail immediately establishes the Trailblazer as part of a team. They are part of an Astral Express sub-unit with March 7th and Dan Heng. Their relationships with each other drive the story, and so does the Trailblazer’s personal goal of finding out about their past. There’s also the subplot where the Trailblazer has the Stellaron, the Cancer of Worlds, inside their body. That’s something that the Space Station is currently investigating.

Here’s the cheat sheet for if you need to pick between the two:

  • Genshin Impact - Fantasy RPG with real-time action and open-world exploration
  • Honkai: Star Rail - Sci-fi RPG with turn-based combat and dungeon crawling

Both these games feature an enjoyable story and lovable characters, so there’s no need to stress about that part. Focus on the points above and you should enjoy the experience either way.

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