Also On: PS5, PC, Android, iOS
I’m gonna be blunt, this review will reference 2017’s Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. It’s hard to separate MiHoYo’s first title to appear on consoles with the latest entry of the venerated Legend of Zelda series. There were so many similarities found in Genshin Impact and Breath of the Wild, gamers have made wild accusations that the former is a “rip off” of the latter. Passions got so heated that one Chinese gamer in an act of protest publicly destroyed a PlayStation 4 at Chinajoy, a Chinese gaming expo akin to Gamescom or Penny Arcade Expo. However plenty of titles adapt concepts from other titles, yet such scrutiny was placed on Genshin Impact. The reason could be that Chinese developers have been seen as mostly making derivative works devoid of any originality, usually lacking the polish and creativity of their Japanese and western counterparts. Does Genshin Impact fall into this stereotype? I hope to answer this by the end of this review.
Genshin Impact’s main story follows the exploits of “The Traveler” a celestial entity that finds themselves separated from their sibling and stuck on the world of Teyvat. The player character sets off on a quest to meet with the seven element gods of this planet in hopes of identifying the entity that attacked them and imprisoned their sibling. The adventure starts in the land of Mondstadt, a region with a European stylings and currently ends in Chinese themed Liyue, and the next major patch will take the player to the isolationist nation of Inazuma.
Like Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact is an open world action RPG. Unlike Breath of the Wild, you can control up to four characters. These players can be recruited throughout the story or participating in special events, although the main way to recruit characters is to make “wishes” and I’ll explain the wish system later. You will primarily explore the regions of Teyvat on foot until you unlike various fast travel points. Treasure chests and ingredients are strewn across the land as well as danger from the various factions roaming these lands. Players will eventually find themselves in dungeons which send them outside of the open world although these get as complex or as memorable as the ones found in contemporary titles.
The combat system is pretty straight forward, but for those who are looking for complexity it is there. Each player character is attuned to one of seven elements and has special abilities which sync up to their attuned element. With over 27 playable characters, your team composition can be pretty robust. The pros of such a system is there’s a playstyle for pretty much every player, a con is depending on how many characters you can acquire you might not be able to find the style that fits you. Thus we need to address the other elephant in the room in regards to this title.
The “wish” system is the way the title describes it’s gacha mechanics. Earning or (buying) the in game currency, you can convert them to make “wishes”. Wishes can grant players either weapons (lowest tier being 3 stars highest tier being 5 stars) or playable characters (playable characters are 4 stars to 5 stars). Completing missions and advancing in your Adventure Rank can help you earn currency, but this method is rather slow and you can earn the equivalent of 10 wishes with weeks worth of work. This is where pay to win comes into play, the rush of possibly acquiring the latest and possibly greatest new character can cause players to sink ample amounts of cash with no actual guarantee of scoring the weapon or character you want (currently the game does have a pity system, the “stardust” currency, but the cost to buy characters would require a lot of real life spending.).
Another pitfall of this title is the amount of resources it will require to build a single character. One would assume the standard RPG faire of grinding enemies encounters would be sufficient raise your character levels, however the mount of experience given by enemy encounters (40 exp~) pales in comparison to the amount needed to raise a character a single level (1k exp to get to lvl 1, 140k exp to get to level 71). Players can mitigate this by earning experience by using the various character experience material accrued during quests or found in treasure chests. Using these expedite the leveling process but can be costly as it requires currency to apply. I understand the need to make leveling hard because of the following; MiHoYo wants players who are constantly playing and there’s plenty of regions left to be release which needs to provide a challenge to players, so if leveling up was a bit more laxed, the adventures in the 5+ regions to be released at a later date would be cakewalk.
The character design of the title is possibly the biggest selling point of the game. While not as gratuitously cheesecake-y as other free to play titles, the character designs are still extremely aesthetically pleasing. The archetypes range from your typical knight, nun, pirate, astrologer to the absurd such as business magnate, zombie, and child bomber. While the wish system means you better pray to RNGesus constantly to make some character gains, the game does slip in trial runs which lets you test out a selection of characters during the course of a set period. The game also slips enough content that weave these recruitable characters into the side narrative.
Version 1.0 came swinging for the fences and took the world by storm setting earnings records for MiHoYo. Version 1.1 is more of a clean up release. Adding some quality of life features, but personally some of them end up being rather flat. Items such as a portable stove, the “culus” trackers are consumables rather than reusable gadgets make them not worth crafting. The best feature of update 1.1 is the city reputation system which gives you more things to do once you’ve completed all the available story quests. Bounties are a race around the clock to track and defeat a target with abnormal attributes, although I’ve seen some out there attributes such as immunity to physical attacks.
Genshin Impact is part of a wave of titles from China that is slowly eroding the bad stereotype that Chinese devs are devoid of creativity and skill. While the initial comparisons are there, Genshin Impact does go beyond to distinguish itself…now if only the gacha rates and the free primogem are better I would have no hesitation recommending the title. Hopefully that gamer who broke his PS4 has replaced it otherwise he’s definitely missing out on something special (although it is available on PC/Mobile…).