I don't know why it is that in-game text messages are so often tragically bad. A game can have immaculate writing, a gut-wrenching narrative and then smack you in the face with the stalest, most cringe-worthy texts known to man. They're usually just a pretty lame way of driving the narrative or giving a mini lore dump while you're busy doing other things. But what if text messages in games were lowkey unhinged, often pointless to the plot but a whole lot of fun to read instead?
Honkai: Star Rail dishes out texts that are the perfect level of ridiculous, yet feel strangely grounded in its silly little space RPG world. I've become surprisingly enamoured with its cast—I never got particularly attached to Genshin Impact's heroes, but HoYo's English writing team seems to have seriously improved for Honkai. I've especially loved the interaction between the core three characters—the player-created protagonist, their buddy Dan Heng, and March 7th (yes, that's a character's name)—which has definitely been helped by some of the daft texts I've exchanged with them over my weeks of playing.
They're the perfect blend of outright silly and oddly relatable, offering comic relief between the level grind and giving me a little treat when I log in each morning. They're the kind of text messages I would send to my own pals, poking fun at them or being a snarky little bastard for no good reason by pretending their messages have bounced back or cheekily asking for a bank transfer. I love being a stinky chaos goblin, and Honkai's text messages finally offer me the freedom to do so instead of giving a plain, stereotypical protagonist response. Those are still there of course, if that's what you're into, but I feel like Honkai has writers behind it who actually understand how most friends talk to each other and want to give you those more fun, relatable options too.
An early conversation with Clara—a young girl with a terrifyingly large robot—has her using an emoticon that you can call out as cute, replying with ones of your own. It serves no purpose to the actual conversation (where Clara is asking for help and initiates a sidequest), but the tangent gives far more flavour to the conversation and actually made me interested in going and helping her out. It's such a simple conversation, but ends up being a huge standout, to the point it was even recreated by some of Honkai's English voice cast during a livestream recently.
Another personal favourite of mine are the conversations between the protagonist and March 7th. Their playful relationship is clear throughout the main story, but it's really highlighted through their text conversations. There's a moment where you have the option to tease March by saying she looks like a crying emoji, or sarcastically tell her that her photos look great before she's even gotten round to sending one. They're the kinds of conversations I had to screenshot and send to my own friends who I have a similarly playful relationship with.
Each daily reset also presents me with a new text message from a random character. These literally serve zero purpose. They don't drive the narrative or even offer side quests. An incredibly small amount of currency is the only reward for interacting with them, but they're one of the things I look most forward to with each reset. They've offered small glimpses into what my characters get up to when I'm not around, and give my protagonist a chance to actually have some goddamn personality. Today I had Pela offering me an original artbook, only to break my heart when she revealed she'd messaged the wrong person. Am I gutted? A little bit, I can't lie. Why would Pela do this to me?
I really hope HoYoverse keeps up the text messages as the game's lifespan ticks by. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much personality Honkai: Star Rail has—its protagonist feels fleshed out and fun to play, the chemistry between the cast is clear throughout the main story and numerous side quests, and even its banner pull animations are bombastic and energetic. I'm so glad there's finally a game that can match my own goblinesque texting tendencies, and I really hope other games start letting me banter with my virtual pals in the same manner.