A brand new free-to-play game has hit the market. Genshin Impact, developed and published by miHoYo, is a Chinese action RPG with a beautiful open world, elemental combat system, and tons of playable characters with different weapon types and fighting styles. Here is my big bundle of thoughts after completing Act I, the introductory chapter. This is an RPG after all so there is a lot to cover.
What is a Gacha Game?
Genshin Impact has a Gacha system! For those new to this mobile game craze, this is similar to loot boxes, trading card packs, or toy capsule machines. In Japan, these machines are called Gachapon hence the name ‘Gacha’. You earn Primogems through gameplay or purchasing them with real money. You can then spend these gems on different packs of items or characters (called banners) and hope you receive the powerful, rare ones.
The top tier, 5-star characters and weapons have a 0.6% chance to drop and 4-stars are a 5.1% chance so the odds are not in your favor. A pity system is in place so that when you have at least 9 pulls in a row in a banner without getting a 4-star or better, the probabilities are increased slightly. A similar pity system kicks in if you make a whopping 89 pulls in a row without getting a 5-star item but the rate become 50%. Essentially, good things are rare, but if you spend enough time or money the odds are a bit higher.
Do you have to use the Gacha system to play this game? Nope. You might not get that cool, super strong character in your party, but you should be able to get through the required bits of the current story content doing quests to get party members and equipment. Of course, you might struggle in the endgame content without the stronger characters and weapons.
Taking some inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can traverse the world by climbing just about anything. While climbing does not feel nearly as satisfying, it is useful for finding hidden chests on top of architectural ruins and cliffs. You can also swim as long as you do not deplete all of your stamina. You can also freely glide around or ride air currents to get a boost into the air. I did not want to climb up and explore everything in sight, likely due to chests mostly containing duplicate loot items for scrapping. It did feel like these traversal mechanics were added into the game since they allow for more hidden collectibles rather than actually adding something meaningful to the experience.
In addition to treasure chests, there are collectibles all around the environment. Cooking ingredients are everywhere and also have a tiny bit of flavor text. You do have to button mash a bit as the gathering system works with one item targeted at a time. Chests also explode open so items can roll off cliffs sometimes. In addition to cooking, you can also dismantle and forge new equipment. Dismantling does have a real-world wait time which I assume gets longer with rarer ingredients.
Genshin Impact‘s combat consists of standard attack chains, a charge attack, dash dodge, and two elemental abilities that have a cool down. You control one character at a time and can swap between them. Your allies are not on the field with you and are instead in magical storage until you switch to them. Elemental combinations make up a big part of the combat system as different combinations offer different effects. For example, when fighting goblins with wooden weapons and shields, you can use pyro abilities to set their weapons ablaze and destroy them. Some ingredients can only be gathered after using abilites as well.
Each character has access to one element, meaning players should prepare their party accordingly depending on the situation. There are also bonuses for having certain combinations of element users in your party. Equipment also has set bonuses with varying effects depending on how many pieces of a set you have equipped. Characters, weapons, and equipment can be leveled up and/or upgraded.
Genshin Impact has systems galore. This can be a overwhelming for some players since there are so many interlocking bonuses and things to manage on multiple characters. Stat numbers are everywhere in both integers and percentages. HP starts around the thousand mark as well which I personally dislike. If you want an RPG with a lot of depth and management then you may feel at home here.
Let’s talk about annoying things. Tutorial popups. Every time I found a new elemental combination a button prompt popped up on my screen for a new tutorial. Some quest rewards would pop up here too and partially cover subtitles. In one instance, a tutorial popped up that covered most of the screen trying to tell me how to revive characters using the power of an omelet. Meanwhile the boss was still trying to kill me in the background since it did not pause the gameplay. Give me the option to disable these or just tell me once that an elemental combo or something exists and if I want more information I can go to a help menu.
Speaking of menus, on the PC version the settings menu would constantly scroll up for no reason. Controller on PC is…functional. The controller is detected and rumbles throughout the intro cutscene, but you cannot use it until you can open a menu to switch to controller input. With either input method you cannot currently rebind controls which is not good for accessibility reasons. This game also uses Japanese-style controls where on a Playstation controller, O (right button) is accept and X (bottom button) is cancel. This may take some getting used to if you normally play with Western control schemes.
On the plus side, borderless window options and no audio muted on focus loss gets a yes from me as a streamer. A lot of games do not support these options and it is really aggravating in my situation.
In Genshin Impact you are a world-hopper, either masculine or feminine. You were on vacation with your twin, but they are taken from you by an unknown god. After falling in battle, you awaken in the world of Teyvat. Years later, you rescue the game’s mascot, a floating girl named Paimon, who becomes your traveling companion. Why is there a time jump? I have no idea since it was not explained.
As a silent protagonist, you can name your character, but you tend to notice that people prefer to call you traveler or some other generic title instead of your name. There are some fun dialogue options to add some personality to your character. Paimon may annoy some players as she is a character who speaks in the third-person. I didn’t mind her as she mostly just echoes tutorials or quest objectives to you and comments on food.
I only played through Act I so I did not get to experience much beyond first impressions of the characters. However, I found them all to be on a scale of okay to good with most fitting into tried and true archetypes. My favorite character was probably Lisa, a librarian witch who was quite knowledgeable and could destroy everything in her path with electricity. The townsfolk were far less memorable, but I do know that you have more interactions with them through later quests. I did find a few NPCs that had written lines which did not sound very natural so be cautious when venturing outside the main path into the more unpolished territory.
English voice acting is available in addition to Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. This voice acting covers all the necessities, such as important characters dialogue and quests. There was also an impressive amount lines that could be found in each playable character’s voice menu. Overall, the English voice acting was really well done.
As far as the main story, I found it rather cliché and it lacked a good hook to keep me intrigued. Sure, some unknown anime god lady took away my sibling, but I had zero attachment to this twin seeing as they were on screen for only a minute or two. Otherwise, we are helping people stop a monster from attacking a city so standard hero stuff. None of the mystery set up made me feel like I needed to see what would happen next.
Beyond things with a direct connection to the game mechanics, the backstory is mostly present through memos you can find during your travels. While I do not mind reading, the game seems to actively avoid including this information within the voiced story sections. During a quest, a character actually shoved a book into my hand since the backstory for this very important monster attacking the town would take too long to explain according to them. This structure made me lose interest in the story since the game itself did not seem very interested in telling me any of these juicy details up front, even when they seemed pretty relevant to the plot.
Honestly, everything in Genshin Impact is gorgeous. The landscapes are bright and colorful. Tall grass and bushes that sway in the breeze. Random bits of overgrown ruins remain among the rocks. Magical effects are bright and pop. Bodies of water have a vibrant hue, reflections, and little critters like ducks paddling around. Its all just so nice!
Character’s have an anime art style with fabulous designs that still stick around clearly in my mind. They remind me of an Atelier or Tales game in terms of flamboyant designs. The one thing I didn’t like (that you shall now forever notice) is how they animated the character’s eyes. Every character’s irises contract when they open their eyes. I just found it rather distracting.
Stock enemies exist here, such as goblins and slimes, but the enemy design really shines with the bosses. Stormbringer in particular is beautifully modeled with visible scales, feathers, all the works. There is a reason this one is featured in the promotion material.
Animations in general are fluid and bouncy. Squash and stretch is being used to give a light and happy feel to movement. The gigantic bosses even move fluidly, especially Stormbringer.
Character visual customization is almost nonexistent other than the look of your equipped glider. However, you can switch and play as any character in your party in most scenarios.
There is a non-combat only camera mode. As far as features, there is a background blur effect, limited camera repositioning, and a permanent corner watermark. It also does not save your settings between uses so prepare to disable the UI and User ID every time you want to take a picture. Since the game has its own launcher, you will need to use an external program to take screenshots outside of these restrictions.
Genshin Impact is a beautiful game that is also free. It is FREE. I stress this since it you can just try it to see if you will like it. It also has cross-save support (other than on PS4) and cross-play between all platforms. There is a co-op mode, but it is locked behind a level requirement. It’s mobile game qualities detract from the game a bit in my opinion, but I would still recommend it to most RPG fans. Note that the game is being continually updated with new content, so you can only play through a few map areas for now.
RPGs are complex games with a lot to say about them so pardon my wordiness for a non-review. The question is, will I keep playing Genshin Impact?
I can see the grind potential with all these systems to wrangle. The story also did not make me think I would see anything particularly new writing-wise from this game. I have a big enough backlog of other RPGs to play so I do not mind passing on this one.
If you would like to check out Genshin Impact, you can visit the site here and get to playing on PC, mobile, or on PS4. There is some pleasant music and a nice scene on the home page too!
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