During the 2020 Lockdown, the market for video games hit a record high to around seven billion in the UK alone. This was mostly due to the boredom and occasional burn out that the pandemic brought to the world. Video games have been an escape for most. From creating a safe haven to catching up with friends in a warzone, the current console generation has been a pillar in modern day life. Some games have stood out from the rest for going above and beyond in the past year. For some, its Animal Crossing. For others, it may be Resident Evil. However, for me; it has been Genshin Impact.
Known for their mobile games, MiHoYo created what some may consider a sleeper hit when the game released in September and audiences were turned off by the style that seemed to copy certain Triple A titles. However, it was a free game on Playstation and as a player who was occupied by Final Fantasy 7 Remake & Persona 5; I curiously downloaded it and played on. Little did I know, that it would occupy a lot of lockdown time; and introduce me to a whimsical world that I grew attached to months after.
In the midst of the game’s growth, I decided to study the mechanics both as an unbiased reviewer and a fan; in order to create an extensive review. With various events and slowly developing storyline, a review couldn’t just be written from one aspect of the game so research began from March when the Lantern Rite event began. A long line of updates have occurred since then and with the Playstation 5 upgrade now available, I decided to take the time to comb over the game once more and compare my thoughts between the past and the latest updates of the game.
To understand why Genshin has become such a big name for F2P games; it is best to look at its humble beginnings in 2020 when it was dubbed as an free-to-play Anime style copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. Despite being a small Asian team established in 2012, MiHoYo’s games have been growing from strength to strength before reaching new heights thanks to the success of Genshin Impact, which brought in nearly $250 million in revenue in its first month. There is no doubt that the game has been a massive hit; with fans branching from China, Japan, the US and South Korea to name a few. After its release, the title was one of the top recommendations and its success was not slowing down; beating out the likes of PUBG Mobile in both the App Store and Google Play.
In a brief spoiler free summary, the player takes on the role as the Traveller who ventures into Teyvat to locate their lost twin. With the magical companion, Paimon by their side; they must embark on a journey to locate The Seven, gods known as Archons who harness the elements and preside over each region of the world. At the start of 2021, only two of the seven regions have been available to explore; Mondstadt, a country that looks to the god of Anemo (Wind) & Liyue, watched over by the god of Geo (Stone). Each region has its own inspiration to the real world which is characterised by scenery, character and music. Inspired by German landscapes, Mondstadt’s towns are full of medieval buildings, windmills and orchestral songs; whereas Liyue has heavy reference to Ancient Chinese folklore in the harbour’s design and use of regional instruments.
With the latest 1.6 update, players are also slowly being introduced to a third realm known as Inazuma, inspired by Japanese culture and the residence of the Electro Archon. There is still some time before the area is fully revealed but players are already being introduced to Inazuma’s first character, Kaedehara Kazuha; who has already been added to the game at the time of this article.
However, there is still a lot more world content in-store as there are four more regions in development. It may be some time until the full story is complete as the team have really delved into their research and continue to create authentic regions that are unique; but still blends into a world that the players want to explore.
With the world built up, it needs characters to occupy it and this could be considered the main selling point for Genshin Impact. MiHoYo created a roster of denizens that were diverse, relatable and adored by the fans. They are what the players will work towards as more will join your team through story missions, achievements and through the gacha system. Instead of just a simple copy and paste to fit with the seven elements, each character has their own play-style that fits with their design. Take Lisa & Xiao as a few examples. As one of the starting characters you get in the game, Lisa is established as the witch librarian who works alongside Mondstadt’s Knights of Favonius. It would be obvious that she would use her powers through a Catalyst (spell-book) to conjure objects of electricity in battle; with each element of her attacks embellished with her rose emblems. On the other hand, there is Xiao who was first available during the Lantern Rite event in February. As a guardian spirit, he excels at being nimble in the field with his wind abilities and spear. However, his move-set also includes an ability that will give him immense attack power but will also drain his health over time; representing the torment he has suffered while protecting Liyue.
Xiao is not the only character with a story integrated in his development. Every character is tailored with a unique personality which makes players want to learn more about them, which MiHoYo happily lets them do through side story missions where the traveller meets, assists and sometimes befriends the characters in their journey. In recent updates, they can even have Hangout Events; simulation-inspired stories with multiple endings focusing on one character and their everyday life. Out of the characters that are currently available, each one is unique. They have their own occupation, goals and opinions about the world around them. Multiple groups of fans have bound together to love the citizens of Teyvat in their own way to create the community that the game has today; which only continues to grow & expand as more content is released.
So the world is established, characters are loved but Genshin Impact is not simply an animation or a movie; it is a game that is experienced by the player. Despite the initial judgment of Genshin Impact being a free-to-play copy of Breath of The Wild; it takes the mechanics and gives it a unique take. The exploration aspect is beneficial to developing your party’s abilities and weapon power. It also increases your Adventure Rank, which unlocks parts of the game’s main story and character side content. On one hand, it does prevent people rushing through the game and being stuck waiting for the next update but it also encourages players to explore, complete daily challenges and use the unique elemental abilities to find secrets in each region.
Gameplay is a simple affair since its main platform is on iOS and Android devices but it still translates well when playing on Playstation – the only current console that Genshin is available on. There is no complex procedure in battle or an ability select seen in classic RPGs. It is merely a process of tapping a single button for a basic attack and an assigned button for the elemental abilities. At first, the process of tapping the same command can be repetitive but it is the synergy between characters that makes the fights intriguing. Players can experiment on the multitude of enemies to find the perfect combination that works for them. Some may use a water character & an ice character together to freeze opponents or instead switch for fire and electricity to increase the area of damage through explosions. Genshin provides a wide playground to try out the different combinations out in the field and in recurring dungeon style challenges which will offer beneficial items. On top of that, there are also powerful boss battles that are available to fight at any time. There is a suggested level but players can approach and discover the specific weaknesses during these fights, giving the opportunity to fine tune their party to earn the rewarding victory.
Nevertheless, there are still some small downsides to the game’s mechanics and one of them falls to its price tag. As it is a free-to-play game, Genshin relies on the gacha system which allows players to spend in-game “wishes” to exchange for items. They are rewarded at random so if there is a new character or highly-powered weapon, the player needs to continue earning Primogems; the currency needed for these wishes. This can either be done quickly through micro-transactions or through a process of completing daily quests, story missions and discovering new areas around the world. The developers will mostly earn revenue through the transactions and local merchandise but it is not a play-to-win system. The rate at which you earn Primogems through missions is slow but steady but it is a process that is done naturally in the game’s mechanics. A big percentage of missions will include a small reward of Primogems, including the quests which are required to progress the story. If you speed through the initial content, the game actively encourages you to explore as you go, in order to increase your Adventure Rank and earn more rewards. Both mechanics go hand in hand to earn primogems and with a small price of 160 for a single wish, it is easy to save up for characters; especially if you’re focused solely on enjoying the game for its free price tag.
There is one last thing to bear in mind when it comes to the Adventure Rank; and it was a mistake that myself and many other travellers have made during the game. Once you reach a certain Adventure Rank, the levels & strength of your enemies increase. If the player is someone who wants to heavily explore and speed through the story based missions, you will become overpowered every easily and will have to grind hours to make your characters stronger through levels, weapons, talent upgrades and stat-enhancing artefacts. When you have a good combination, it does become easier and the amount of damage one character alone can make can be staggering but a player needs patience as there will be a lot of frustrating battles with bosses, tip-toeing around Hilichurl camps and the random number generation of Artefact rewards in order to get there.
A game like Genshin Impact couldn’t have come at a more perfect time than in the midst of lockdown. Not only is it free to play but it is an endearing world of magic that is easy to switch off and get lost in. Despite the continuous routine to earn experience and items, the grind does not feel boring. It is a chance to find out more about Teyvat’s lore, discover new characters to fall in love with and earn rewards in the process.
The world continues to grow with new characters and mechanics and after the success of the All That Glitters event in February, it is safe to say that there will be more as the new regions are added to the game. With each new update, there is also new ways to play; including the Hangout Events and the Serenitea Pot, the home building mechanic inspired by The Sims & Animal Crossing. Even additional themed stories similar to Lantern Rite have emerged with the recent 1.6 update; with an island full of puzzles and a summer storyline including Klee, Jean & Barbara. The game is ever-changing, bringing new and old players back into Teyvat with every update and new platform it is added to. With the Nintendo Switch version announced but still in development, it is almost guaranteed that the fan-base will go more once a release date is confirmed.
Overall, Genshin Impact is clearly a labour of love from the developers as they have strived to make an open world for players to explore at their own pace. As a reviewer, I have seen what could have been a Zelda hybrid-copy develop its own identity with its continuous content but during my time with it, I have also became a fan; admiring what the game has become and also the cast of characters which are guaranteed to have a favourite for everyone.
Either at home on Playstation or on mobile during essential journeys, MiHoYo’s latest RPG provides a whimsical escape with a universe and story that will leave you hooked from the first hour… or more blown away if you prefer fishing with Klee. If you are still unsure about visiting Teyvat this summer, at least give it a try. It is free with the transactions being optional. As a player, you would have nothing to lose and maybe gain a new title for your backlog in the process.
Genshin Impact is available to play on Playstation 4, iOS & Android devices and is now available for upgrade on the Playstation 5.
Disclaimer: Everything in this post is based off the author’s own views, research and recollections. They do not reflect what UnitedKpop believes as a whole, nor can they be used to make any decisions about the titles, artists and developers discussed in the post. The content in this article is to present a discussion so if you have thoughts to add to the discussion; get involved in the comments below or through UnitedKpop’s social media.