Genshin Impact. You’ve probably heard that name a lot in the past few weeks and it’s probably seemed like it’s come out of nowhere. And that’s because it has. Sort of. Because for what it’s worth, this game got next to no mainstream attention prior to release. And could you blame them? It was a gatcha game. No one expects a gatcha game to be good. So maybe it helps that Genshin isn’t a gatcha game. Well, it doesn’t feel like one at least.
From its open-world to its cel-shaded graphics and similar gameplay, Genshin Impact could easily be mistaken for any number of big-name AAA titles on store shelves. The gameplay is a mishmash of action RPG leveling and Breath of the Wild style exploration. You are just thrust into this big wide world and told to go. There’s this genuine sense of discovery in the game that I haven’t experienced in a while. Climbing mountains, fording rivers and streams, all for the chance to see what’s around the next corner is a heck of a motivating force.
Eventually, the game will give you 4 characters you can swap between, each with their own abilities and weapons. It’s a lot of fun just cycling through characters in combat, blowing things up in massive elemental attacks. And while combat can be a little stale after a while, the different characters really do help mix it up. When I first started playing I was a little surprised. I mean, was this really the game Chinese PS4 owners were destroying their consoles over last year? Getting into the rhythm of combat and exploration was enjoyable, and its Tales style storytelling was enjoyable, especially seeing how Tales of Arise is still a ways off. The game has a lot going for it. But there are some hiccups.
If there is one thing I could do without, one thing that is holding this game back, it’s the gatcha system. 19 out of the 23 playable characters are locked behind it. You pay 160 “primogems” per roll, every tenth roll guarantees you a 4 star or higher if you haven’t gotten one already, and every 90th promises you a 5 star along with the same guidelines. Now you are probably thinking, “wow, with characters all being 4 or 5 stars, that feels generous.” But there’s a catch. The drop rate for a 5 star is 0.6%, and a 4 star is 5.1%, and you know what is also included in those categories besides characters? Weapons. This means that there is actually a 0.3% chance to roll a 5 start character, and a 2.55% chance for a 4 star. This means that if you want to experience everything the game has to offer, you need to be rich or lucky.
These characters should just be unlockable through gameplay; hidden behind dungeons, story quests, exploration, etc. They’re the core of the gameplay loop so it both makes perfect sense and no sense why they would be locked behind a digital slot machine. Another aspect that lets the game down is the Grind. Eventually, you’ll hit a point where the game will make itself harder and your sole purpose will be to grind for items so you can grind for levels so you can grind out bosses so you can grind out the world level so you can make the world harder and do it all again. It’s repetitive and I don’t know if it’s my ADHD addled brain, but I got bored very easily.
It’s strange that Genshin’s repetition makes me bored because I’m also loving the heck out of Hades right now. So I guess it’s a matter of perspective and maybe paywall. It also might be the fact that I can’t move my account between devices just yet, so if I want to play with my friends on pc or mobile, I need to make a whole new account. This sucks, to be honest, but they have said they’ll be fixing that, expanding the map, adding new areas, content, characters, and gameplay loops in the future. So who knows? Either way, Genshin Impact deserves a look in. For better or worse this game has possibly changed the layout of freemium gaming, and what we should expect out of mobile games. Just like Hearthstone and its many copies, expect to see a billion genshin-style experiences hitting your console and mobile in the future. We all wanted to know what the next hot thing after battle royales would be. Well, this may well be it.