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Free Honkai: Star Rail starter characters: How good are they and who to build?

Honkai: Star Rail gives players up to nine characters for free at the start of the game. Will they still be useful later on?

When players start their interstellar adventure in Honkai: Star Rail, their party will start with the main trio of the Trailblazer protagonist, March 7th, and Dan Heng.

But playing through the game’s early story will earn them more companions for free.

Rounding out the rest of Honkai: Star Rail’s starter characters include Serval (if they pre-registered), Herta, Asta, Natasha, and Qingque.

So, how good are Honkai: Star Rail’s roster of starter characters and how well will they scale into the later stages of the game?

Read on to find out our verdict.

Trailblazer (Destruction)

Trailblazer Honkai: Star Rail
The main character, the Trailblazer, in Honkai: Star Rail. (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Physical

Path: The Destruction

Verdict: C

At the start of the game, the Trailblazer starts out with control of the Physical element and following the Path of Destruction, meaning they’re a damage-dealer that can dish out both single-target and area-of-effect damage.

The Destruction Trailblazer is easily able to lead the player’s early game team as the main damage-dealer, with both their skill and ultimate having single-target and area-of-effect modes.

But while this Path for the protagonist is good for the early game, it does fall off relatively quickly once you get into the later stages of the game and get other DPS characters.

And if you like the protagonist and want to keep having them in your teams, don’t worry, you can unlock a different path for them that is very good and will definitely scale better.

Trailblazer (Preservation)

Preservation Trailblazer Honkai: Star Rail
Preservation Trailblazer (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Fire

Path: The Preservation

Verdict: S+

Once you progress deeper into the Jarilo VI storyline, you can unlock a new Path for the Trailblazer, letting them wield the Fire element and follow the Path of Preservation.

Preservation characters are basically shielders, though they can dish out some solid damage as well. And the Preservation Trailblazer fits this role to a tee.

The Preservation Trailblazer grants party-wide shields every time they use a normal attack, skill, or ultimate thanks to their talent. This shield is hefty enough to protect against most enemy attacks and using their skill will guarantee all enemies will attack them, letting their allies freely act.

And while the Preservation Trailblazer is already a great shielder, they can also dish out as much damage as they can tank.

Thanks to the Magma Will mechanic from their talent, the Preservation Trailblazer’s normal attack becomes a blast attack that deals more damage the more they get hit. Using their ultimate also triggers this enhanced attack on top of the already hefty damage it deals by itself.

Simply put, the Preservation Trailblazer is hands-down one of the best characters right now, their role as a strong shielder-DPS hybrid makes them very versatile and scalable into the late game.

It’s honestly unbelievable that a free 5-star character is this good.

March 7th

March 7th Honkai Star Rail
March 7th (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Ice

Path: The Preservation

Verdict: S

Don’t underestimate Honkai: Star Rail’s poster girl.

March 7th is a Preservation character that is great at both defence and offence like the Preservation Trailblazer. What makes March 7th excel in her role is her skill: The Power of Cuteness (very powerful).

Her skill creates a strong shield for a single ally that forces enemies to attack them while cleansing any debuffs they may have. This then synergises with her talent, which lets her unleash a Counter (considered a follow-up attack) on any enemy that attacks an ally with a shield.

That last part is important, as March 7th attacks any enemy that attacks a shielded ally, even if she didn’t generate that shield.

This gives her great synergy with other shielders like the Preservation Trailblazer and Gepard or characters like Clara that want to tank enemy hits.

The cherry on top is that March 7th’s ultimate can Freeze the entire enemy team and stop them in their tracks.

The game’s poster girl is definitely one of those starter characters that players will still be using later in the game.

Dan Heng

Dan Heng Honkai Star Rail
Dan Heng (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Wind

Path: The Hunt

Verdict: A

Dan Heng is a very good DPS in the early game, as many of the enemies you will encounter will have weakness to the Wind element. As a Hunt character that excels in single-target damage, he’s also very useful against bosses.

Dan Heng reaches his full potential when surrounded by the right teammates, as his damage gets boosted whenever he is targeted by his allies’ abilities or enemies are slowed. And while other DPS characters will inevitably outscale him, Cold Dragon Young can be competitive as long as you optimise his teammates and usage.

Serval

Serval Honkai Star Rail
Serval (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Lightning

Path: The Erudition

Verdict: A

Unlike the other starter characters that are acquired by progressing through the game’s story, Serval was given for free to players that pre-registered. You would think that a giveaway character wouldn’t be that good, but Serval is actually one of the best 4-stars in the game.

As an Erudition character, Serval’s kit revolves around dealing massive area-of-effect damage, but she also has great damage-over-time potential.

Serval’s skill hits up to three enemies and inflicts them with the Shocked status, which deals Lightning damage-over-time for two turns. She can then extend that duration by another two turns when she uses her ultimate. On top of all that, her talent lets her deal additional damage to Shocked enemies whenever she attacks.

With that said, Serval isn’t that great at single-target damage, so make sure there’s another DPS for that on your team. But if you let Serval freely strum her guitar, she will disintegrate any mob of enemies with shock and awe.

Herta

Herta Honkai Star Rail
Herta (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Ice

Path: The Erudition

Verdict: C

Herta is an Erudition character that is all about dishing out area-of-effect damage with her skill and ultimate before finishing off low-health enemies with follow-up attacks. Her kit looks good on paper and in the early game, but she falls off massively when compared to other characters.

For one, players already have a better Ice character in March 7th, who takes on both defensive and offensive roles, whereas Herta is all about offense but doesn’t have the damage multipliers for it.

Herta is good for early content, but you’re better off with other characters later on.

Her follow-up attack isn’t that reliable either, as it only triggers when an enemy’s HP falls below 50%. With that said, this is still helpful when farming the Calyx or low level enemies.

Honestly, it’s quite unfortunate that Herta isn’t that good, as there’s nothing quite like hearing her sing ‘Kuru kuru~’ as she finishes off a mob of enemies with her follow-up attack.

Asta

Astra Honkai Star Rail
Asta (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Fire

Path: The Harmony

Verdict: A

Asta will be players’ first Harmony, or buffer, character that they are guaranteed to get in their first usage of the Warp.

She buffs both ATK and Speed, both very important stats that will make her a very good support even in the later stages of the game.

Asta buffs her allies’ ATK in a unique way, gaining stacks of Charging whenever she hits an enemy with her normal attacks or skill, plus an extra stack from enemies with a Fire weakness. Her skill hits enemies four times, so it will be your main way of triggering this buff.

While Asta loses three stacks of Charging on her next turn, even just one stack of it is still a significant ATK buff. Moreover, her ultimate gives a significant party-wide Speed boost, an underrated buff that lets her allies get more turns before the enemy can act.

With her great ATK and Speed buffs, Asta will be a very helpful character both in the earlier and later stages in the game. She’s another case of a character that is unbelievably good despite being free.

Natasha

Natasha Honkai Star Rail
Natasha (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Physical

Path: The Abundance

Verdict: A

Players will get the Abundance character Natasha later than the other starter characters, as she is unlocked part of the way through the Jarilo VI storyline.

While Natasha is a healer with little damage potential, that alone is still enough to make her a good character to have.

Survivability is a premium in Honkai: Star Rail, whether you get it from shields or healing. She still contributes to the team’s DPS by keeping them alive, as your DPS character can’t deal damage if they’re dead.

And Natasha is very good at keeping your team alive, especially considering that players will get her at a point in the game when the difficulty really starts spiking.

Natasha’s skill lets her provide a single burst of healing for one ally on top of additional heals for the next two turns and cleansing any debuffs they may have.

If you need a party-wide heal in a pinch, simply use her ultimate.

Natasha’s talent amplifies healing for low HP allies too.

If you haven’t built Natasha yet, then you better get started now. If she wasn’t already valuable as a healer in story, overworld, and Simulated Universe battles, you’ll definitely need her for one of your two teams in the Forgotten Hall.

Qingque

Qingque Honkai Star Rail
Qingque (Photo: HoYoverse)

Element: Quantum

Path: The Erudition

Verdict: B

Qingque is a Quantum Erudition character, and is the last free starter character players can get, becoming available after completing Memory Stage 3 of the Forgotten Hall.

Qingque is good for what she does, but her value falls off when comparing her to the other free characters you will already have once you do get her.

The one caveat with Qingque’s kit is that it's RNG-reliant.

When an ally's turn starts, Qingque randomly draws one tile from three different suits and can hold up to four tiles at one time.

If she starts her turn with four tiles of the same suit, then her normal attack becomes a blast attack while also getting a huge ATK boost. But if the tiles don’t fall in your favor, then her damage output leaves much to be desired.

With that said, don’t be discouraged from having Qingque as your team’s main DPS, she is still good in that role and excels when the tiles fall in her favor. Just make sure you have a sub DPS to pick up the slack if the RNG gods don’t like you though.

While all of Honkai: Star Rail’s starter characters, with the exception of the Trailblazer, are 4-stars, players are guaranteed to get a 5-star early on through the Departure Warp. Look out for our verdicts on the game’s Standard 5-stars soon!

Honkai: Star Rail officially launched on 26 April on PC, Android, and iOS. The game will also be made available on PlayStation some time after release. You can download the game here.

For everything you need to know about Honkai: Star Rail, check here. If you're looking for a guide to help you get started in the game, we also got you covered.

Yan Ku is a full-time dog parent, part-time (gacha) gamer, and part-time writer.

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