‘It’s a bit nippy’ has become my mantra over the past couple of months as I’ve sat cocooned in blankets at my desk – a feeble attempt to insulate against the British winter. My deceased boiler, once the beating heart of my house, now taunts me from beyond its grave in the understairs cupboard. As I wrap my hands around its replacement – a hot cup of coffee – and wait for the feeling to return to my fingers so I can resume the daily grind, I’m left longing for the moment I can hop back into bed and rub my stalactite legs together like a cricket. And with it, the moment I can boot up my PS5 and log into Honkai Star Rail.
There’s a litany of excellent cozy games out there – our sister site PCGamesN has a whole list of the best relaxing games that I’ve raided multiple times for inspiration. However, while I’ve wiled away the hours tending to my crops in Stardew Valley, and had many-an-epiphany while washing shit off of stuff in PowerWash Simulator, it’s HoYoverse’s turn-based RPG that continues to illuminate those long, cold nights.
A day-one Honkai Star Rail player, I’ve put in a solid shift aboard the Astral Express since it pulled into the station last year. At one point, I even had two accounts on the go – something I noted in my 8/10 Honkai Star Rail review. While I felt at the time that it was an approachable entry point for those looking to dip their toes into the genre, over time HoYo has since doubled down on quality-of-life updates to daily questing and more to ensure my time is always respected.
As a result of this, Honkai Star Rail is an absolute dream to play, and the perfect game for when I’m in ‘head empty, only vibes’ mode (this is most evenings). But that’s not to say the game lacks depth, as events continue to grow more sophisticated mechanically. HoYo’s also built upon its endgame offering through the Simulated Universe roguelite mode, which recently added the challenging Gold and Gears expansion. On top of that, it’s just launched ‘Pure Fiction’ – a wave-based mode that will humble even the most meta of teams.
Whereas launch content could be navigated without much thought, HoYo has done a great job of adding strategic depth to its content without putting my few remaining brain cells at risk of implosion. Indeed, Star Rail’s come a long way since launch, and whether it’s embarking on another Gold and Gears run or min-maxing my Pure Fiction squad, one of 2023’s best games has managed to amp up its replayability. As roguelites continue to prove popular additions in the AAA space, it’s easy to see why God of War Ragnarok’s Valhalla mode or The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered’s No Return mode materialized.
But where does the PS5 sit in all of this? When the release date for Star Rail’s PS5 port was initially announced I admittedly didn’t think much of it. I already played plenty on my PC and mobile and didn’t really envisage my habits changing. But when I finally went to try it out on a whim a few weeks back, layered up in bed like a fluffy lasagna, I immediately got it.
The game runs flawlessly even without me owning one of the best gaming TVs, allowing me to appreciate the worlds of Jarillo-VI and the Xianzhou Luofu in a way that I hadn’t been able to on smaller panels. The user experience itself isn’t half bad, either. A controller is never going to be as efficient for menuing as a trusty mouse, but after getting used to the DualSense layout I found the difference to be surprisingly small.
So now, with a wireless controller unshackling me from my setup, Honkai Star Rail on the PS5 has become – quite literally – my ultimate cozy game. It has freed me from a cold existence in a desk chair and let me reside in the warm, relaxing comfort of my bed, without massively compromising on any of the aspects that make Star Rail so great. Light a candle. Curl up. Log in. Bosh.
Collating these factors, it’s easy to see why Honkai Star Rail continues to have such a tight hold on my evening gaming plans – a grip matched only by my hands on that mug of coffee. As one of the best PS5 games gears up for the release of version 2.0, and with it the intriguing new world Penacony, I can’t see myself going cold on it anytime soon. It may not be a crunchy lo-fi darling, but right now Honkai Star Rail’s my main source of gaming comfort.