For years now, gacha games have been an established genre in Japan. Players engage in mobile RPGs and save up in-game currency with the hope of getting a worth-while character. Gacha is fun and rewarding with time but for many, burn-out is prevalent in these games. The same gameplay patterns emerge from gacha games whether its Dragalia Lost, Fate Grand Order or Fire Emblem Heroes. Mihoyo comes to flip the genre on its head with their latest free-to-play project, Genshin Impact. Genshin Impact takes gacha and re-invents as we’re treated to a well-crafted action RPG in immense open world. This is a project that took $100 million to develop and there’s endless potential in version 1.0 and beyond.
The mysterious world of Teyvat
Upon starting up Genshin Impact, players are treated to a well choreographed cutscene of twins fighting a god-like figure. A choice is presented, which twin shall the player choose for their journey? After making the choice, players are shunted into a distant world called Teyvat. The twin wakes up on a beach and encounters this adorable being named Paimon. Paimon helps the twin gain their senses about the new world and discovers that the twin can channel elemental abilities native to Teyvat. Shortly after, the twin stumbles upon Mondstadt’s Outrider Amber and formerly names them, “traveler”, from here on out. Once escorted to Mondstadt, the tutorial is over and the prologue starts. The real journey begins to find the missing twin and uncover a sinister plot that puts the entire world in jeopardy.
With the version 1.0 release, players have access to two giant regions of Teyvat: Mondstadt’s region and Liyue. A vast open world rich with culture, secrets, collectibles, stories and much more to discover. Genshin Impact is inspired by games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Dragon Quest but stands out strongly. This is already a departure from traditional gacha games as players have an open world action RPG first, gacha mechanics second. The world is beautiful with each region having its own music and battle themes to represent its culture. For example, Liyue is based on Chinese mythology/culture while Mondstadt is based on Europe during the middle ages. So far, exploring Teyvat is a real treat.
Elemental Combat and Movement
Genshin Impact features character driven combat where elemental combinations play a role in devastating damage. A party may have up to 4 characters and each character has a “Vision” with a respective element. For instance, Amber has a Vision of Pyro and specializes in fire based attacks with her bunny doll and bow. Combining fire with the protagonist’s Ameno (Wind) abilities leads to widespread fire damage against enemies. This is done with on-the-fly character switching and leads to some satisfying results against enemies/bosses. Light and heavy attacks increase that damage even further. Movement is very fluid and relies on an upgradable Breath of the Wild-like stamina bar. Characters may glide in the air and touch down with an aerial attack. Characters also have access to talents and constellations which may be upgraded to improve their own abilities.
Elemental combinations are important for various enemy types and boss encounters as it leads to higher damage output. With progression in Genshin Impact, players naturally unlock more characters with different elements so everyone has a chance to unleash character potential in the battlefield. As expected, its important to figure out which elements work well together and what they are weak/strong against. The combat seems simple at first during the Prologue but gains more depth with introduction to new enemies and characters. These elements are also required to unlock some secrets out in the world of Teyvat.
As previously mentioned, Genshin Impact is full of culture and stories along with secrets to discover. Each region is filled with them as one follows the main story and separate quests/side-stories. Each character, including the protagonist, levels up via an XP system just like most RPGs but the player also has an Adventure Rank. Adventure Rank XP is earned from completing quests, opening treasure chests, completing handbook goals and much more. Daily quests and activities further boost Adventure Rank XP so players have a reason to log-in every day. With progress in the Prologue, more features are unlocked like expeditions, the Adventure Handbook, dungeons, cooking, alchemy and weapon forging. This content-rich approach establishes an addicting gameplay loop early on with even more unlocks as Adventure Rank increases.
The loot system rewards those who spend time enjoying the game with rare weapons and gear. Repeatable dungeons are also there for weapon crafting materials and character ascension materials so there’s always something to chase. On top of all this, Genshin Impact features online co-op, a free and paid battle pass for seasons, and special timed events. The gacha mechanics are standard with summoning from banners in the hopes of getting a popular character like Diluc or Jean. However, the game rewards players with Primogems, the main in-game currency, very frequently. Primogems can be farmed with exploration and playing the game normally as intended. This is a game changer as many gachas have a built-in wall for free in-game currency that may be earned until new content comes in updates. Players may also buy premium currency for summons too just like other gachas.
Current Drawbacks with Version 1.0
Although Genshin Impact features tons of content, it’s a live-service game with some issues. One of them is the current Resin system. Resin is replenished over time and Fragile Resin consumables instantly replenish it. Fragile Resin are earned with Adventure Rank level ups but there comes a point where grinding is sort of time-gated. Eventually, Resin runs out and players must wait for it to be replenished. End-game activities like elite battles and domain bosses use a ton of resin so it’s gone rather quickly. Hopefully, Mihoyo implements changes for Resin in later updates. Additionally, there are some bugs with voiced dialogue where characters skip lines sometimes. It’s hard to explain but its noticeable once its seen. The Stamina bar drains quickly early in-game so climbing is slightly hindered. This becomes less of an issue once statues are upgraded in the world but still limits dodging and swimming.
Genshin Impact’s Future
The future of Genshin Impact is looking bright as Mihoyo is developing the next region for the game, Inazuma, and polishing the Switch version. They already have content updates coming each month for the remainder of 2020 and into next year. With a seriously great launch and worth-while content to keep players engaged, its a phenomenal free game to sink time into. Genshin Impact is a well-made RPG first and foremost while gacha mechanics drive it financially for the future. After all, $100 million spent on development is a giant sum for a free game on consoles, PC and mobile. Gameplay is going to evolve beyond the 1.0 release as buffs, nerfs and adjustments are made. New characters will enter the fray and the story progresses further with free updates and content.