HoYoverse Has Outclassed Itself in Storytelling with HSR 2.1 Trailblazing Missions

Honkai Star Rail 2.1 trailblazing dropped recently and it completely surpassed my expectations. The storyline was beyond doubt one of the best storytelling performances in all of HoYoverse games, and may even be considered the best because of the perfect pacing and amazing buildup.

The 2.1 missions birthed a multitude of new theories, answered some of the pending ones, and provided a surreal visual experience with top-tier animation. The story had multiple facets, never became boring, and ended in a cliffhanger no one expected in the community. In my opinion, HoYoverse has completely outclassed itself in storytelling with HSR 2.1 Trailblazing missions, and here is why.

Spoilers: This article will have some spoilers from the HSR 2.1 trailblazing missions. Only read it if you have finished the missions or are comfortable with spoilers.

Setting the Stage: Aventurine’s Execution Sentence

Dr. Ratio and Sunday Honkai Star Rail
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

The story starts with Aventurine’s point of view, which is how we enjoy the majority of the 2.1 trailblazing missions. Aventurine and Dr. Ratio make their way to meet with Sunday, the meeting that Dr. Ratio had set up. Without revealing much of the story, Sunday with the help of Dr. Ratio, finds out where Aventurine’s real cornerstone is and confronts him with the power of Harmony.

Sunday puts an execution sentence on Aventurine, revealing that Aventurine will either be coalesced with Harmony or suffer in the Abyss of Doom in 17 system hours, both of which eventually mean death.

This is how the pacing of the story is set, creating a sense of urgency when you are following Aventurine’s story, and keeps the players at the edge of their seats.

The Long Awaited Meeting: Acheron and Welt

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

When Acheron first appeared in Honkai Star Rail and was revealed as an emanator of Nihility (technically everyone assumed Nihility as that was her path) everyone was excited about her interaction with Welt. The meeting finally took place in HSR 2.1, as promised by the devs in the 2.1 Livestream, and it was longer than many of us expected.

After Welt and Acheron met, she commented on the Black Hole present in Welt’s cane, which appears to be a much bigger deal than it appeared to be at first. Later, both of them started traveling together, to find and discuss the hidden intention of The Family in Penacony. Here Acheron also revealed that she indeed defeated Duke Inferno and Everflame Mansion Family on her way to the Penacony and we also learn that her memories only come back after she wields her sword.

This part of the story is extremely well done, with Welt and Acheron traveling together analyzing each other’s moves, and discussing the reality of Penacony as they look for more clues on the Family’s intention.

Robin’s Letter to Sunday

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

During Welt and Acheron’s investigation into the family, they eventually come across a letter from Robin. Now, I know most of you likely skipped the long read, but the letter reveals some interesting information and sets up the ending cliffhanger for those who did read it.

The letter mentions the peculiar changes in Robin’s voice were caused because the Harmony in Penacony was not pure. The letter further reveals that Robin started to investigate the matter and found that there was a traitor in the Family. Robin was also investigating Death in Penacony, and this is likely why she was attacked. The letter confirms one thing, at the start of 2.0 Penacony missions, the Robin the Astral Crew met was the real Robin and not an imposter.

Surprise Visits and New Names in Penacony

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Honkai Star Rail 2.1 Trailblazing missions did not keep any leaf unturned. Among the chaos of Aventurine’s eventual demise and Acheron and Welts investigation, Black Swan was conducting her own investigation on Acheron in the back scenes.

Here we get a little preview of Black Swan as she goes through the memories of Duke Inferno from an item dropped by Acheron. However, she finds that there are no memories of Acheron in the item like it is wiped clean. This is when Constance makes a surprise cameo, mentioning that she won’t be able to get to Penacony this time, but connects Black Swan to Boothill to get revenge on Penacony.

Constance was one of the highly anticipated characters in Penacony, and it’s a true bummer that she didn’t have a bigger role. But with her cameo 2.1 trailblazing missions, the writers have kept the door open for a future appearance in the game. Meanwhile, Boothill’s little cameo sets him up for the 2.2 HSR version when he will finally appear to muddy the waters in Penacony further.

Aventurine’s Backstory: The Heart of HSR 2.1 Trailblazing Missions

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Now, let’s get to the best part of the 2.1 trailblazing missions, Aventurine’s backstory. We expected Aventurine’s backstory sometime soon, but no one was prepared for the masterclass HoYoverse was cooking behind the scenes.

Aventurine was born in Sigonia, “a land of rock, but not water, lightning, but not rain, blood, but not tears” as put forth by his mother in the most spine-chilling way. Amid this desolate world, Kakavasha, the child blessed by Gaiathra Triclops was born.

The story showcases the hardships Aventurine had to go through to reach where he is today. It revealed the eventual destruction of Sigonia and the cause behind it, how Aventurine came to work for the IPC. HoYoverse definitely outclassed itself with Aventurine’s backstory, executing it perfectly and making the players highly invested.

Aventurine’s Hallucinations: The Threat of Death

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

In every interaction with Aventurine, he has always appeared as the calm, cool, and collected one. Never panicking or falling prey to emotion. After he was struck by Sunday to only be live for 17 hours, he took it graciously and continued working on his plans.

However, even though Aventurine had a plan, the threat of death is no simple thing. During Aventurine’s execution of his final plans, he starts having hallucinations of his past self. At first, it was unclear what these hallucinations were, but it soon became clear that it was Aventurine’s brain bringing up his past regrets. His brain was trying to provide him with closure before his eventual passing.

This was a well-thought-out execution by the storytellers because no one is exempt from the mental toll impending death brings. The story swiftly added it as part of the missions and Aventurine’s investigation so that we don’t get bored by it.

The Crescendo of the Story: Aventurine’s Masterplan and Ending Fight

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

The story hits its Crescendo when Aventurine finally gets his hands on everything he needs to execute his master plan, proving death exists in Penacony. In the build-up to the crescendo, the players realize that the entire interaction with Sunday and Dr. Ratio was pre-planned by Aventurine.

He had expected Sunday to find his cornerstone in the bag of jewels, so he came into Penacony with two false cornerstones, Topaz and Jade, while shattering his own cornerstone into smaller parts and placing them among the gems in the bag.

This decreased the strength of his cornerstone and broke one of the laws of Preservation but Aventurine’s next plan was even more insane. He planned to do a grand showcase in Penacony to prove death exists, and not by killing someone else, but by dying himself.

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

The only way Aventurine could get true death in Penacony was by getting struck down by Acheron, the emanator Nihility. So he threatened to destroy the city to instigate the Astral Crew and Acheron to fight him. Eventually, he forces Acheron to strike him down, proving in the great stage that death exists in Penacony, shattering the stance of the Family.

Aventurine’s plans were completely unexpected, by me and other players, mainly because he never appeared as the self-sacrificing one. However, after learning about his backstory it made sense why Aventurine wanted his life to end, although in a grand spectacle, because he was tired of always winning and surviving alone, and wanted to finally end it all and reunite with his family on the other side.

Also, the cinematic of Acheron cutting Aventurine’s attack is breathtaking and left me speechless.

Cliffhanger: A New Villain Appears

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

When you finally think nothing could top the build-up to the Aventurine fight and the absolute masterpiece of animation in Acheron’s attack, HoYoverse comes up with an insane cliffhanger at the ending cutscene.

The true villain behind Penacony has been constantly hiding in the shadows, the pointer shifting from one character to the other. At the end of the HSR 2.0 missions, the pointer kind of landed on Sunday and the Family, and his actions in the first half of the 2.1 missions only made it more assuring.

However, in the end, we see Sunday confronting Gallagher, calling him the pawn of Enigmata and revealing him as the real instigator of the deaths in Penacony.

This reveal made a bigger impact because players had an interaction with Gallagher in the 2.1 missions where he appeared to be the fun goofy guy, who was a lawful soldier of the Watchmaker Mikhail. During his interaction with the Trailblazers, he revealed how the Family considers Mikhail as the real villain of Penacony and has separated Gallagher and his other supporters to isolate him.

In the end, we realize that Gallagher is just an impersonation, a mixture of different features of the 52 family members in Penacony, to put it like Sunday, “a complete Gallagher”. I love the name-playing done here.

Revelation of Secrets: Firefly’s True Identity

Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Now Honkai Star Rail 2.1 missions may have created more questions than answers, but it did provide a closure to some of the secrets revealed in 2.0 missions. One of them was Duke Inferno’s death by Acheron, mentioned earlier.

But the more important reveal was the true identity of Firefly. After the fight with Aventurine, HoYoverse finally revealed that Sam is a Firefly in Honkai Star Rail, and all the rumors were true. This reveal didn’t have that big of an impact because everyone was already expecting it and does bring the conversation back to whether leaks about the story are good or bad. I have also covered the Firefly leaks here myself, so I do take some of the blame in this case.

Thankfully, the rest of the story was still amazing and wasn’t spoiled by leaks and rumors.

Why I Loved HSR 2.1 Storytelling?

For me, the Honkai Star Rail 2.1 storytelling was better than everything other story I have consumed from HoYoverse games. The Penacony arc is already better than the Sumeru and Fontaine arcs, which were amazingly done, in Genshin Impact.

The best part about the 2.1’s storytelling was the pacing. At no point in the mission did it feel boring or fluff. The missions kept on showcasing a different part of the story, adding more mystique and building up to the final fight with Aventurine. Other than the storytelling, the execution of the animations was pristine and breathtaking. Every cutscene felt like a high-budget movie scene.

Overall, if Honkai Star Rail continues down this road, the entire Penacony arc will be remembered for years to come.

Comments 1
  • Accuser says:

    There’s no way that you thought this is better than Fontaine’s story. It doesn’t even come close to Sumeru’s. One of the main things that elevates the genshin storytelling is it’s music and HSR’s music is still bland compared to genshin. Also the characters keep on yapping about paths and aeons way too damn much as if their mentions suddenly make the conversation very important. While the penacony arc is better than the previous region arcs, it’s still a farcry from genshin. I genuinely wish HSR gets better as the time goes on as I spend equally in HSR and genshin and I expect to have same kind of fun in both games.

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