Genshin Impact, released on 9/28/20, has been garnering a lot of attention in the month since its debut. Developed by miHoYo and Shanghai Miha Touring Film Technology Co., Ltd., the game can be played on PC, PS4, Android, and iOS (currently under development for Switch as well). With a gorgeous visual style and animations sure to draw the eyes of anime fans, as well as an enticing free-to-play model, it was bound to experience an explosive launch. Despite a few minor blemishes and a need for more content/quests, the game delivers an enjoyable experience. Genshin Impact’s looks, combat mechanics, and impressive audio and voice-over work make it a must play for anyone looking for a new RPG to dive into.
Visually, Genshin Impact certainly paints a pretty picture. It wonderfully delivers an anime-style character design, with a wide variety of character and equipment looks that I never tire to look at. A wide-ranging color palette and nice, crisp textures combine to provide a landscape that is very pleasing to the eye, and does not grow stale or monotonous throughout the gameplay experience. Played on PC at the highest settings, the combat ability animations truly shine and I experienced no issues with pop-ins or textures failing to load. Even when attempting to race across the environment as fast as possible, all objects and enemies were immediately present as they entered my visual range. Combat with mobs and constant character-switching can lead to many ability animations all triggering at the same time, yet even in my most intense battles I never experienced any frame drops or loss of animation quality/glitches. In fact, the only real visual glitches I came across in my time playing were experienced during multiplayer/matchmaking where the character models of other players would vanish for a moment before reappearing. These instances were uncommon, and strictly visual, so gameplay itself was not affected.
When accessed via Android/iOS, Genshin Impact does understandably take a hit in the graphics department. However, even despite the drop in hardware power when playing on mobile versus PC, the game still provides relatively good visuals. Some slight stuttering and pixelation was experienced on my end, but I would chalk that up more to my admittedly outdated phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 8) and not the game itself. On the latest phones I would imagine the game would look a solid bit better and experience less trouble.
Genshin Impact delivers a gameplay experience that truly flourishes in its combat system. Using the elements of Anemo, Geo, Electro, Dendro, Hydro, Pyro, and Cyro the player can pull off attack and ability combinations that trigger extra damage or status effects. This is also true of enemies, and various environmental factors that can trigger some elemental effects themselves. This means one must be aware of what combos they are using and where, otherwise it could lead to them taking some unintentional damage themselves. Understanding these elemental attributes and their combinations is key to building effective parties in Genshin Impact, especially in the later stages of the game where enemies and mobs become more powerful. Some will even feature special barriers that must be attacked with a particular element before the enemy itself will become vulnerable to damage. The current roster of characters offers several options for each elemental attribute, and the player will naturally acquire characters from each attribute as they progress through the story. Not all characters are created equal though, and some end up being quite a bit more powerful than others. These more powerful characters, unfortunately, will not be the ones you receive for free. This segues into the next aspect of gameplay that cannot go overlooked.
Despite its welcoming free-to-play appearance, do not forget that Genshin Impact is, at its core, a gacha game. This means that while you may be able to play for free, the game will strongly entice you to make purchases in game to acquire currency necessary for performing the character summons it refers to as “wishes”. Performing wishes operates on a lootbox-esque principal where certain characters have different rates to appear. As with most gacha games, the most powerful or highly-desirable units will have the lowest rates to appear. Though special events and campaigns will occur from time to time to provide boosts to those rates, they will still remain depressingly low. The details fully outlining the rates are made available, but they can be a bit tricky to decipher. For example, one of the current promotions has boosted the appearance rate for the 5-star character Klee. The details explain that the Klee has a 50% chance to be the character you receive should you receive a 5-star drop, however the actual consolidated probability for receiving a 5-star character is only 1.6% (it further states that a player is “guaranteed to win 5-star character at least once per 90 attempts”). Spoiler alert: Spending the money necessary to perform 90 wish attempts would cost you upwards of $250 USD.
Now, this may sound almost criminal, but you have to remember that these wishes are by no means required. A player will be perfectly capable of completing the story and engaging in end-game content using only the provided characters, it will simply be more difficult. This is the very nature of gacha games however, and it also must be stated that Genshin Impact does provide you with ways to accumulate the currency needed for wishes simply by playing the game. Such rewards start out being rather generously given, but rest assured they do taper off as you progress through the game. This points us towards the last aspect of gameplay you should really get to know.
Genshin Impact has such a vast and overwhelming variety of currencies and materials you will need to track and accumulate that it will make your head spin. Even excluding the resources needed to perform wishes, each character requires a plethora of various materials you will need in order to draw out their maximum potential. Characters, their weapons, and the artifacts they use as equipment all have their own means of leveling up, some in multiple ways. Characters, for example, will need to be leveled up either by experience gained through combat and quest completion, or by use of experience items gained as rewards for various activities. After reaching a level cap, each character can then be “ascended” using its own unique set of required materials to increase the character’s stats and once again raise the level cap. Each character can be ascended up to 6 times, naturally requiring a greater amount and variety of materials with each successive ascension. As if this was not enough, each character also has their own “constellation” tree which is essentially a set of unique abilities that are unlocked by acquiring a duplicate of said character. There again are 6 different constellation abilities a player will need to unlock to truly maximize a character’s potential, which means you must pull them as a duplicate 6 times.
If this doesn’t frighten you a bit, scroll back up and re-read the drop rates I mentioned for some of the better characters. All of this, and you haven’t even started thinking about your weapons and artifacts, which all have their own materials needed to increase their power. Towards the end-game, a player does also become quite handicapped in the desirable activities they can engage in by a bottleneck in the resources called “Original Resin” and “Fragile Resin”. Though such complex systems for upgrading characters and items isn’t at all uncommon in gacha games, I am personally not a fan of the extent they took it to and therefore docked Genshin Impact some points in this category.
It is also worth noting here that while cross-save is enabled between PC and Android/iOS (absolute lifesaver for not missing daily login rewards when you can’t find time to sit down and play), the PS4 version lacks this feature and is entirely separate. For those intending to play on mobile, I also recommend some form of controller adapter. While the default touchscreen controls will suffice, they are definitely less enjoyable to use and can be frustrating at times.
Audio is another category where Genshin Impact truly shines, and in fact is where I came away most impressed. The soundtrack itself has a nice variety of tunes that will play as you explore different cities, and as you enter and exit out of combat and various regions. The sound effects experienced are also extremely well done. Whether its the simple sounds of footsteps across various surfaces and breaking boxes, or the intense and complex sounds of character abilities and combat, Genshin Impact hits the mark on them all. What truly surprised me however, was the unexpectedly large amount of voice acting contained in the game. Your large cinematics and cutscenes will of course have voice over work, but even your more normal interactions with NPCs throughout the town will still often feature voice acting as well. This is a very pleasant reprise from having to silently read box after box of text, and one that I truly appreciate. Making this even more impressive is that they managed to provide this extensive voice over work in Chinese, English, Japanese, and Korean. Though having only experienced the English and Japanese voice audio myself, the quality is at a high enough level that I would presume the Chinese and Korean voice-acting to be on par with it. Combine this voice work with the excellent musical score and wonderfully executed sound effects, and I feel Genshin Impact delivers rather flawlessly in this area.
Multiplayer seems almost essential for most games these days, and I am happy to report that Genshin Impact does it rather well. While cross-save functionality is limited between PC and Android/iOS as previously stated, the game does allow for cross-play across all platforms. The matchmaking system itself is rather straight-forward and does its job. Aside from the rare visual glitch with party member character models I encountered, which I mentioned earlier in the review, I have had no issues in my multiplayer experiences. Whether with friends, or random players found through matchmaking, the game allows for players to team up to tackle the more difficult content as well as just general questing and exploration. One thing I noticed is that aside from scaling up enemy health levels based on the number of players in a world, the game seems to do nothing else in the ways of balancing enemy power levels. I noticed no increase in mob size or frequency, damage output, or damage resistance regardless of the number of players I was with or their respective power levels. This means if you happen to have a friend who has worked their way up to a higher world level, or has constructed a very powerful end-game ready team, they will be able to join your world and clear everything with ease. While this may seem like a good thing, I do think the game would benefit from a bit of level scaling or some similar mechanic to make the co-op fights more interesting when there is a large disparity between you and the other player(s).
The story is where I happen to find Genshin Impact the most lacking. In terms of the quality of the story itself, I was rather pleased. The characters are well done, and have enough variety in their personalities to keep from getting stale or repetitive. The narrative itself, while not groundbreaking, also delivers an interesting and engaging enough tale to keep the player interested as well. Given all of this, my initial sentence for this section may seem a bit puzzling. However, it is not in the quality where Genshin Impact’s story suffers, but rather in the quantity. Despite providing a world to explore that truly surprised me with its size, it often felt rather empty as I traversed it. The main quest line itself does not take too long to complete, and the side quests provided that are still story relevant are not as numerous as I would have hoped. In fact, once these quest lines are finished there is little to do in the game aside from grinding end-game content for resources and completing any unfinished exploration. Normally this would result in much larger deduction for the game’s score here, but it is a given that more content and quests will come in waves as is often the case with gacha style games. Still, it would have been nice to have more to do from the initial release, especially since what was provided was done rather well.
To sum it all up, Genshin Impact is a game that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a new RPG to experience. The convenience provided by the cross-save functionality between PC and mobile is a gem, and the gameplay itself is deep enough that it will keep you entertained and challenged as you progress through the story. Whether the anime-style visuals caught your eye, or you happen to be a gacha enthusiast with deep pockets, the game will provide you with enough enjoyment to justify the investment of your time. With the addition of more quests and story content over time, I think Genshin Impact has the potential to be a dominant force in the gacha and RPG genres for quite a while to come.
Genshin ImpactFree to Play
- Cross-save via PC and mobile
- Large open world
- Wonderful animations and art style
- Great audio with impressive amount and quality of voice-acting
- Large world feels empty, relatively small number of quests
- Too many different currencies/resources
- Resource bottleneck in end-game
- No cross-save for PS4