Screenshot by Destructoid

Honkai: Star Rail’s main character is chaotic, endearing, and quite popular

The Trailblazer sure is getting a lot of love from fans

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Honkai: Star Rail has been out for just about a week now, and already, fans have started to create things around it. Art and memes have already been flooding social channels. And in a turn that surprised me a bit, the Trailblazer—the main character chosen by the player—is getting quite a bit of attention.

In Honkai: Star Rail, you assemble a party of adventurers and explorers to travel across the stars, dealing with the ever-present Stellaron threat. As you travel between worlds, you meet an ever-expanding cast of characters, though it remains centered on the Astral Express crew and your chosen Trailblazer. Though referred to by a chosen name or their pseudonym, fans often refer to the male version as Caelus and female as Stelle.

I’ve played a handful of gacha games in the past. Usually, the main character is an off-screen person, sometimes even intended to be the player themselves. In games like Fire Emblem Heroes, for example, the player character was a mostly unseen conduit, until later updates introduced them as a physical in-game character.

HoYoVerse’s Genshin Impact is a little different. There, you make a choice about which version of the Traveler—the main character—you want to play, once again divided between male and female options. This character becomes the protagonist of your story, the lens through which you view all events. Your avatar, basically, but also an individual character, like Shepard in Mass EffectHonkai: Star Rail does something similar with Caelus and Stelle.

That distinction is important because it lets the Traveler and Trailblazer take on a life of their own. And the latter has some life to them.

Making a Trailblazer

Because these characters are allowed to exist as role-playing characters that interact with others, rather than as a window for the player to peer through, they get to have a little more life. And though I only played a little bit of Genshin Impact (I completed the prologue in Mondstadt), I wasn’t drawn into the world by my Traveler. I occasionally got to make choices, but I didn’t have any degree of attachment, or feel the world responding to my actions.

It’s a bit different with Honkai: Star Rail‘s main character. The Trailblazer is, to put it bluntly, an absolute mess. Depending on your choices, they can be an absolute trash goblin searching for goods in dumpsters. They can be lethargic and apathetic, even expressing sarcasm towards certain characters like Sampo. Or you can flirt with characters like Natasha. There’s a chaotic energy to the Trailblazer that resonates with me.

It clearly resonates with others too, as the fan art has steadily rolled out for them. A personal favorite of mine makes a gag about the Trailblazer’s potential penchant for dumpster diving:

In fact, there’s a lot of art of the Trailblazer going dumpster diving. That’s not their only personality trait, though. In fact, the dialogue choices and wide range of Trailblazer responses have also elicited some fan tributes.

And of course, you have plenty of fan art of Stelle and Caelus. Though the former is pretty popular, don’t rule out my boy Caelus either. He is not the brightest, but he does shine.

A trail through the stars

Through the texting, dialogue, side quests and interactions, even aside from the main story, the Trailblazer has a lot of life to them. And you might be wondering why, in a gacha game, that would matter. The goal of gacha is to build a collection, right?

Well, for Honkai: Star Rail, I think the Trailblazer forms a crucial anchor for the whole crew. While there are plenty of story characters that journey with you, and can even later be recruited through missions to occassionally hang out aboard the Astral Express, the Trailblazer is omnipresent. They are the one guaranteed character to always be around.

I draw comparisons back to Shepard because both are an interesting mix of player vehicle and role-playing choice. The Trailblazer offers a surprising number of options for adding a personal touch, whether that’s choosing a funny or unserious response to a dire situation, or just encouraging certain characters and discouraging others. They respond, and other characters even react in kind.

It adds a personal attachment that, for me at least, makes Honkai: Star Rail compelling even when the drama and thrills aren’t at their peak. And it’s also made for some great early jokes and posts. It’s nice to see the protagonist shine just as much as the 5-stars, at least in personality.


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Author
Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.