Forgive me, for I have well and truly let down PC gamers everywhere this year. I’ve come to discover a terrible fact about myself: I thought my favourite PC game of this year was way better on mobile.
I know, I know. Why, when I have a great rig, a comfy gaming chair to plonk my butt on for unspeakable lengths of time and a lovely big monitor, would I wanna play on my phone instead? But that was exactly how I felt about HoYoverse’s Honkai: Star Rail this year, a game I put entirely too much time into, almost exclusively from the comfort of my iPhone.
It’s not even because the game is bad on PC or anything. It’s great on PC! It looks bloody beautiful—its stylised anime is super crisp, each character’s ultimate move is exceptionally flashy and the game runs buttery smooth, especially when you bump it up to 120fps. It feels great to play on a keyboard and mouse, and it’s still my platform of choice for optimal enjoyment of Honkai’s disjointed story.
Yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself from reaching for my phone whenever I wanted to play. I could play in bed, on the train, while walking to the gym—hell, I could play it at the gym if I wanted to. When I scurried off to a music festival for five days in the summer, I was still able to enjoy the new update that dropped while I was there. In a year where I’ve found myself immersing myself in activities that require me to be away from my desk, having the opportunity to play one of my favourite games on a device I have with me literally all the time was a lifesaver.
Time and space
It certainly helps that Honkai is a fantastic on-the-go game, especially compared to HoYo’s other cross-platform hit Genshin Impact. There’s a healthy amount of overworld exploration, but any combat is confined to its own turn-based instance. I’m even able to hit a single button to automatically run through the entire thing, letting me multitask other stuff while the game zooms through the battles for me. Am I technically playing at that point? Debatable, but I don’t see it particularly far off from watching a movie or YouTube video while idly levelling up in an MMO or automating a game task with macros.
(Image credit: miHoYo)
Honkai is also a game that’s home to a pesky energy system—one of my least favourite mobile game inventions—that meant I was hitting up the game at least twice a day to stop myself from capping out. That’s far easier and more flexible to do on my phone than it is to be at my PC, and having that freedom to do it whenever proved super helpful.
Having the opportunity to play one of my favourite games on a device I have with me literally all the time was a lifesaver.
I’ll admit, choosing mobile over PC wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. First of all, ouch to my phone storage. The game takes up almost 10GB of space, even more if I wanted to play the game in any other language that isn’t English. As someone who’s mega guilty of taking a crap ton of videos and having other games hogging up space, those precious 10GB really cut into my storage.
I also, um, would pretty often leave my dailies until right at the end of the day. My peak sleep deprivation hours, if you will. I may or may not have woken up at 3am more than once to find my phone still on, a battle results screen blaring at me as I realise I managed to fall asleep mid-battle. That’s not an indictment on the game’s entertainment value or anything, just my horrific time management and avoidance behaviour. Of course I still run the risk of falling asleep at my desk, but playing games in bed really upped those chances.
(Image credit: Tyler C. / HoYoverse)
In a way I’ve sort of made up for it, as my favourite mobile game I’ve played this year, Nikke: Goddess of Victory, I find far more palatable on PC. It’s a third-person shooter where, while you can automate the battles, it’s infinitely more beneficial to take manual control. It’s serviceable on mobile, where it first launched, but runs far less smoothly and also makes my phone deathly freakin’ hot. But on PC I can aim with ease and play with a higher frame rate which, annoyingly, actually makes some characters perform better. Mobile is still there for the day-to-day login stuff, but I’ll always make the effort to hop on my PC for any intensive gameplay.
I think ultimately that freedom to flit between platforms is what I’ve enjoyed the most. Portability has become something more and more important—the Steam Deck has been a perfect way to take a huge library of games absolutely anywhere, and an ever-growing emphasis on crossplay and cross-saves has allowed me to enjoy some of my favourite games at all sorts of comfort levels. It also speaks to the ever-increasing desire I’ve had to branch out from the shackles of my desk. On our PC Gamer Chat Log podcast I said my new years’ gaming resolution was to spend less time gaming on my PC, which I totally succeeded at. I took part in way more offline gaming thanks to fighting game tournaments and arcade trips, and I even busted out my Nintendo Switch for a little bit towards the end of the year.
I fully intend on investing in a Steam Deck OLED at some point next year, after my hesitance in 2022 to commit to a purchase. Games like Honkai: Star Rail have shown me the light when it comes to gaming on the go, and while it’s not quite as convenient as a smartphone, it’s still a great way to balance enjoying my hobby while pursuing other things. Maybe it’ll even help me get through my backlog. One can only hope, eh?