Genshin Impact was a first for me. An adventure into the personally unknown world of Gacha games. For the uneducated, like myself, Gacha games are inspired by the toy-capsule machines found in any arcade down the east coast of England (but more prominently Japan). They’re loot boxes effectively, just with a different name. Usually found in free-to-play mobile, the Gacha game market has become an essential part of the Japanese mobile gaming scene and continues to grow strongly in the west too. On the surface, Genshin Impact looks and feels like a big budget title – and that’s because it is – but what’s the catch?
For most players, there is no catch to Genshin Impact. This is a genuine free-to-play experience that can be enjoyed for dozens of hours. Genshin Impact didn’t really begin imposing the Gacha roulette wheel on me until around the 40-hour mark. As someone who found themselves lost in the game’s story and exploration loop, the grind to unlock more characters was a non-issue. If you want to lose yourself in an expansive world, you will never feel inclined to spend a penny on this game. Alternatively, if you are into Genshin Impact because you’re looking to collect all or specific characters, you may find yourself in for an unenjoyable ride. Although the wishes (the process to unlock character packs) are plentiful for the longest time, they do begin to dry up quickly. Hitting that paywall is even more sudden considering how generous the game is in its early stages, leaving us begging for more like a Gacha remake of Oliver Twist. It’s seemingly impossible to unlock every character without parting with your cash at some point and, unfortunately, you’ll likely have to part with a lot of it.
Away from the game’s monetisation, this world is gorgeous. Two uniquely designed cities and a beautiful, vast open world to explore. Adventure lovers are certain to lose a lot of time in Genshin Impact. You can go almost anywhere once the tutorial ends, be that on foot, up walls or via the wing glider. Exploration can best be compared to exploring Hyrule in Breath of the Wild. Well, it’s more than a comparison really. Genshin Impact is practically a copy of the Nintendo title. It still feels good to run around though, any Breath of the Wild fan would still find this game scratching the same itch. Despite that, Genshin Impact is likely to struggle breaking away from the stigma of copying the most recent instalment of the Zelda series. Which is unfortunate because I do believe there are parts of this game that are better than the game it is often compared to. Yes, the exploration is ripped straight out of Breath of the Wild, but the two game worlds couldn’t be more different if they'd tried.
The most surprising part about Genshin Impact for me was its combat and how creative it feels. The exploration aspect of the game is clearly inspired by Breath of the Wild, however the combat has a fantastic sense of individuality. All the characters have specific powerups and elemental powers. These dazzling sights are a fantastic spectacle and would make even the finest primary school firework display jealous. Elemental powers of the different characters can be combined as well. Firing a flame arrow into another character's tornado special creates a whirlwind of fire, for example. These additions encourage creativity in the player and the usage of all the different elements and characters. It really does blow you away how well thought out some of these combinations are. Combat is great fun, which entices the player to delve into battle a lot more often. Each character's different elemental ability can be used to solve puzzles as well as resolving conflict. Maintaining a balanced variety in the early stages of the games is key to success in Genshin Impact’s dungeons.
The daily cycle of content tends to be quite strong too. Normally I find myself losing interest quickly in games that require me to come back to complete daily tasks. They tend to be repetitive, without serving a great deal of purpose other than keeping the retention rates up. Genshin Impact has consistently exceeded expectations in terms of the daily content it delivers. The higher-level dungeons offer a better challenge, even the daily quests usually have a little story thrown in to keep things fresh. I found myself always coming back because the studio behind it have taken all the steps to make this game world feel alive, which in turn makes it a world worth investing in. This game does a masterful job bringing the players back everyday without making itself feel like a second job.
Genshin Impact does have a limited multiplayer feature. As nice as it is to run around the game world with your friends, the online section of the game does feel lacklustre. Especially considering the effort that has gone into other areas of the game. Being able to fight overworld bosses and complete dungeons with your friends is fun, but it’s frustrating that you aren’t able to play through the game's story with them. In addition to that, joining a friend’s world doesn’t actually help you when it comes to exploring. Any shrines that are activated will only become live in the hosts world. Leaving a friend’s server will find you back in your original location with all your exploration undone. The poor online implementation does feel like a big miss for a game that relies heavily on users coming back day after day. With users required to spend some of their limited resin to gain loot in the games mutliplayer, it’s hard to see the long term appeal of playing Genshin Impact online.
I find myself enjoying Genshin Impact a lot more than I imagined I would. Despite the harsh drop-rates for characters and items, plus an energy system designed to limit game progression, this is a game that offers a wide range of content to enjoy. A completionist will struggle with Genshin Impact, it’s not a fun game to collect everything or become an overpowered badass. It is a game that allows you to enjoy its world, whether that be in small doses or for long stretches of time.
There are hours, if not days of fun to be had here. For a free-to-play game, there is so much quality content to play through and enjoy before reaching any kind of paywall. Even upon reaching that, it isn’t vital to the exploration of the game or its story. Despite disappointing multiplayer integration, Genshin Impact is doing enough well to entice players back, day after day. With future updates to develop the game's story and continue expanding its world, Genshin Impact has a solid base for a game that could be quite popular for some time to come.
Genshin Impact (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Despite lacklustre multiplayer and a frustrating paywall to unlock characters and items, Genshin Impact is a brilliant experience with hours of fun-filled exploration. It also has Paimon and she is perfect.