Honkai: Star Rail, the newest game by Genshin Impact publisher Mihoyo, has launched as of April 26th, 2023. With the first update on incoming, now is a good time to discuss the top picks among the game’s roster. At this time, here’s who I believe will be 5 of the best characters for your Astral Express crew. (With a few honorable mentions).

5: Yanqing

Honkai: Star Rail

In games like Fate: Grand Order and Genshin Impact, the most powerful characters are those who provide powerful support skills to their allies. This is also the case in Honkai: Star Rail as well, but a good damage-dealer can make those supports shine. Yanqing is among the best damage-dealers in the game, primarily focused on single-target critical damage.

His kit revolves around his passive triggered ability, “Soulsteel Sync.” While Soulsteel Sync is active, his critical chance and critical damage both go up. Plus, he gains a chance to perform a follow-up attack after striking an opponent. Soulsteel Sync only fades once he is attacked, so if his speed is high enough, he can keep the benefits active for a long time.

His skill, “Darting Ironthorn,” is a reliable way of activating Soulsteel Sync as well, triggering it after usage. This combines very effectively with Yanqing’s ultimate, “Amidst the Raining Bliss.” It comes with a further increase to Yanqing’s critical chance built in and increases his critical damage. The base damage on this thing is nothing to sneeze at either, and can critically strike – thereby benefiting from all of the critical boosts mentioned above.

This is all further improved by the fact that Yanqing is an Ice character. When your Ice character breaks the Weakness, that target is Frozen for a turn. This means that it cannot strike Yanqing and remove his Soulsteel Sync for another turn.

Overall, Yanqing has put in a ton of work in battle. Yanqing does one thing, and does it really well. His kit focuses on critical strikes, and he can reliably deliver huge critical damage to single targets. Even against enemies that do not have an Ice weakness, I like to bring Yanqing to take down otherwise bulky bosses.

Honorable Mention 1: Silver Wolf

Silver Wolf, one of the Stellaron Hunters, is a very interesting character. We all had a chance to use her briefly during the introductory quests, along with another mention on this list. However, she is only releasing with the 1.1 patch, “Galactic Roaming.” Thankfully, we know how she works from both the introduction quests and independent datamining. She is a Quantum character, and focuses on weakening enemies with a series of debuffs and debilitating effects.

The most unique portion of Silver Wolf’s kit is that she can change enemies’ weaknesses. In Star Rail, Weakness is a mechanic in combat that generally does not change. Silver Wolf being able to defy that with her skill, “Allow Changes?” allows her to mix into many teams. Additionally, she can place other debuffs on the enemies – which all increase the damage of her Ultimate, “User Banned.”

However, Silver Wolf has not yet released, and may be subject to adjustments in the power of her abilities. Furthermore, she seems like she may need time to ramp up her damaging debuffs and weaknesses. Overall, she is a very unique character with a lot of flexibility when it comes to putting her in teams. With the right allies, she likely can put in some impressive work. But, that still remains to be seen.

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4: Natasha

Natasha is a healer that every player gets access to during the first world they visit, Jarilo-IV. She joins your party halfway through that chapter and is irreplaceable from that point forward. As the difficulty increases in the game’s story chapters, having a healer to withstand spikes of enemy damage is a huge benefit.

Natasha is a dedicated healer, every part of her kit involves healing in some way, shape, or form. Her skill “Love, Heal, and Choose” heals a party member for a large amount up front, providing further healing over time for two turns. Additionally, her passive “Innveration” increases the healing that she does to allies who are below 30% of their total health by 25%. Her ultimate, “Gift of Rebirth,” heals all allies for a scaling amount.

Just a ton of healing here, and it all works really well. Natasha is one of two healers in the game as of right now, and she is significantly more accessible than her 5-star peer, Bailu. While Bailu provides energy regeneration and a comparable amount of healing, Natasha will be easier to empower with Eidolons over time. That is the reason why she is here instead of Bailu – long term, she will save you a lot of Stellar Jade which you can use for other characters on this list.

3: Seele

Seele is the only limited character on this list, and she has a unique niche that makes her a peerless damage dealer. Her kit revolves around taking additional turns, which is spurred on by her passive. Her passive, “Resurgence,” activates whenever she defeats an enemy. It grants her an additional turn whenever she enters a “buffed state” provided by Resurgence. Taking additional turns is an unimaginably powerful ability to have in a turn-based game like Star Rail, and Seele takes full advantage of that.

Seele’s skill “Sheathed Blade” deals significant damage to a target – but more importantly for her, increases her speed significantly. This works double-time when her passive triggers, as the speed increases can stack. With enough speed and Resurgence triggers, Seele can attack multiple times before an opponent can attack once. This is further compounded by her ultimate, “Butterfly Flurry,” which triggers her Resurgence and deals immense damage. She can usually get two extra turns from this ultimate, one from the ultimate defeating the target, and another from it granting her the buffed state.

Seele’s repeated volleys of attacks make her the ultimate damage dealer as of present. She can take on both bosses and groups of enemies with startling ease. When paired with proper supports, she can make even the sturdiest enemies fall over in a flash.

2: Bronya

Bronya is the gold standard for what a support character does in Honkai: Star Rail. Bronya’s kit is built around supporting her allies and giving them access to powerful boons. She is the most important character for an account to have at present, full stop. For many players, despite Star Rail’s relative ease at present, Bronya is a good enough reason to re-roll an account at the start of the game. And when looking at what she does, it’s easy to see why.

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Bronya’s skill, “Combat Redeployment,” is incredible. It removes debuffs, increases the target’s attack power, and if the target isn’t Bronya, gives them another turn. Firstly, debuff removal is rare – currently unique to Bronya alone, she trivializes some of the most difficult encounters in the game.

The fight against Kafka in World 2 comes to mind. Furthermore, allowing allies another action with additional attack power is huge. Seele can use that extra turn to lead into multiple additional attacks. Yanqing can use that turn to unleash further critical strikes. Even other support characters like Natasha can use that extra turn to apply more healing to her allies in a high-damage situation. It is invaluable.

As if that skill wasn’t enough, Bronya’s Ultimate “The Belobog March,” is the icing on this cake. It provides a massive boost to the team’s attack power, and increases their critical damage. This in combination with her skill can lead to your team being able to blast through encounters that may have taken far longer. There are few characters in the game that make such a difference in combat. Bronya is in a league of her own.

Honorable Mention 2: Kafka

Kafka is the second honorable mention on this list. Like Silver Wolf, she was only playable for a brief time during the introductory quests in the game. However, the difference between her and Silver Wolf is that Kafka returned to the story in World 2. Specifically, as a boss. Both of these instances give us a good idea as to how she plays – and she’s a doozy.

Kafka revolves around de-buffing the enemy and inflicting effects on them that deal damage over time. Being a Lightning character, the most common one that she will be dishing out is Shock. Her skill “Caressing Moonlight” strikes an enemy and its neighbors, and then deals damage to them as if they had taken damage from all of their debuffs at once. Furthermore, when Kafka’s passive “Gentle but Cruel” triggers, she immediately attacks a Shocked enemy – whenever they are struck by an ally. Her ultimate, “Twilight Trill,” strikes all enemies and inflicts a Shock upon them.

Furthermore, Kafka has impressive synergy with the rest of the cast, allowing for some very powerful team compositions. Any fire character can inflict the Burn debuff on enemies, dealing damage over time, and any wind character can inflict Wind Shear, dealing damage over time – both when they break weakness. My personal favorite for the latter is Sampo, who not only does it when breaking an enemy’s weakness but also as a part of his kit.

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The only reason that she is not on the list proper, is because she is not released yet. Datamining shows that she will release in patch 1.2 or 1.3. Not far from now, but it does give players plenty of time to save Stellar Jade for her arrival.

1: The Trailblazer

Bronya and Kafka are impeccable characters, but for my money, the best character in this game is the one you get at the start. The Trailblazer is a character with seemingly limitless potential here. As a Physical damage-dealer, they do reasonable damage and can alternate between single-target and area-of-effect strikes. Overall, they are useful enough in the early game as a physical DPS.

And then we get to Belobog – or more specifically, the end of Belobog, where we unlock the first swappable option for the Trailblazer. This unlocks a completely new toolkit for the character, and turns them into a Fire attribute tank. Their defensive toolkit is pretty impressive too, including plentiful shields for the party and a taunt. Currently, the Trailblazer is the only character in the game with this skill.

The specific parts of the tanking skills are not what draws my attention to the Trailblazer. They aren’t bad, by any means, but the more important thing is what this means for the future of the game. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Fire version won’t be the only unlockable skillset that we will be getting for the Trailblazer. My current running theory is that we will be unlocking a new one at the end of each World. Physical for Herta’s Space Station, Fire for Belobog, one for the Xianzhou Luofu, one for each of the future worlds.

This opens up so many options for this character, I can’t even begin to describe it. Keep your Trailblazer leveled up as high as you can, you never know what they might get.

In Conclusion

Honkai: Star Rail has only recently been released, so there are two important things to keep in mind. Firstly, the most important thing to look for when rolling for a character is whether they appeal to you or not. Even if they are a weak character, if you like them then they are worth picking up. Secondly, character balancing will change over the course of the game’s life cycle. New characters will undoubtedly release, bringing different synergies into the spotlight. But as far as the characters we do know of, these ones will serve your account well for the foreseeable future.

Good luck on your journey! I know I’m going to be saving for Kafka, for sure.

Matthew Blair

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