Honkai Star Rail 2.0 is well on the way and PS5 players lucky enough to have been chosen to participate in the upcoming version’s beta have had the opportunity to revel in the sprawling new world of Penacony. Of course, with any HSR beta comes leaks aplenty, and footage snuck out of the Planet of Festivities shows that developer HoYoverse is getting creative with traversal.
Thanks to footage shared by ‘Hiro420’ and ‘C0ck_team’, we’re not only gifted a new look at one of the most-anticipated Honkai Star Rail banner characters in Sparkle, but more importantly a peek at Penacony itself. The most intriguing element of this sleepy cityscape – an owl statue known as a ‘Dream’s Eye’ – is quickly activated by the player, shifting the perspective of the overworld into an isometric, top-down view. From here, the player can access the level above thanks to staircases which magically appear to connect the layers.
Needless to say, this is something that’s never been attempted from one of the best PS5 games before. The Xianzhou Luofu has its floating rock lift, but nothing nearly this sophisticated. Knowing that isometric design is now being utilized in Honkai Star Rail, albeit sparingly, is incredibly exciting stuff as it not only shows HoYo’s shaking up traversal, but it could eventually find its way into future events. Imagine, for a moment, a puzzle-based mode akin to Ustwo’s Monument Valley series – I need it.
As for the planet itself, which is punctuated with towering skyscrapers reminiscent of New York’s own, everything about Penacony screams ‘opulent’. This new world is positively dreamy to look at, which is an apt description considering not only the fact that the area the clip is pulled from is called ‘Dream Border,’ but also because of Penacony’s lore.
Initially serving as a barren prison planet under the Interastral Peace Corporation’s control, Penacony exploded into life after the IPC was driven out by Stellaron corrosion. The planet’s residents subsequently became members of Xipe’s family, their consciousness linked through dreams. I can’t help but wonder if Star Wars’ Cantonica – the desert planet that would become home to The Last Jedi’s casino planet, Canto Bight – served as a source of inspiration for Penacony’s dust to diamonds story, but what’s certain is that it looks absolutely stunning.
There’s still a short way to go before Honkai Star Rail 2.0 goes live around February 7, 2024, but Penacony is already shaping up to be a fascinating world to explore. The perspective-warping Dream’s Eye statues marry perfectly with that dreamy aesthetic, making for a more surreal experience.
If this has gotten you in the mood for something a little more isometric, then be sure to check out one of the best Soulslike games in Tunic, as well as Baldur’s Gate 3 – 2023’s Game of the Year at The Game Awards and one of the best games on console. Meanwhile, if weeby, turn-based isometric gameplay calls to you then Disgaea 7 will serve you well – at least until HoYo (hopefully) brings its own take.