- Genshin Impact, released by Chinese developer miHoYo, isn’t just inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – it’s a shameless F2P rip-off
- miHoYo addressed pretty much all of the underlying issues with BotW and threw in online co-op
- The amount of detail put into Genshin’s mechanics and lore is impressive, and the music and visuals are exceptional
- While this is a gacha game, it’s fairly generous with the free stuff; however, gacha rates are low (0.6% for a five-star character/item, or 1.6% with the guarantee mechanic)
- Highly recommended if you enjoyed BotW or were interested in exploring an open-world RPG, but I’d recommend Genshin Impact to anyone – it’s free after all
Tech Otakus Save the World
– miHoYo company motto
After seeing the success of Nintendo’s Switch launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I imagine the folks at miHoYo (actual company name) gathered around a large, oval conference table and asked themselves, “…how can we make a PC version of Breath of the Wild without all of the annoying stuff???”
And so Genshin Impact was born.
While most games take some inspiration from others, Genshin Impact is by far the most shameless rip-off of another game that I’ve ever seen. It looks like Breath of the Wild. It plays like Breath of the Wild. It lifts everything that Breath of the Wild does right – mechanics like the stamina bar, climbing, gliding, cooking, weather, the elemental damage system, goddess statues, and armor sets. Even the enemies look suspiciously similar to those in Breath of the Wild.
It’s also fun as hell, though I kind of feel like you have the mark the success of Genshin Impact with an asterisk, the video game version of the Houston Astros. *bangs trash can*
Breath of the Wild (BotW from this point on) is a fantastic game. For me, it’s close to a generational masterpiece, the kind of game that brings back the magic of playing games as a kid. But it missed the mark on some things, like weapon durability, a lack of powerful items/equipment, few actual dungeons and no real story.
Meanwhile, we have Genshin Impact which addresses every single one of these issues and then throws in multiplayer co-op, because why the hell not. In the end, Genshin is a PC/console/mobile Breath of the Wild, except:
- There’s no weapon durability. Weapons are pretty flexible and can be used to level up other weapons
- There are plenty of five-star weapons and artifacts that are super strong, though these tend to be gated by the gacha system
- There are plenty of traditional dungeons aka “domains” throughout the world
- There are elemental effects but they don’t get in your way while exploring (not being able to climb while raining)
- There’s an actual story and a staggering amount of lore
In some ways, it’s more Breath of the Wild than Breath of the Wild.
The game starts out with some hilarious anime cutscenes that end in you choosing whether you want to play as the male or female twin. The other twin gets turned into a bunch of squares and absorbed by the Big Bad Fairy Godmother. After that, you too get cubed and dropped off on some planet. You also somehow end up with a cutesy fairy named Paimon as your sidekick. I promise you the rest of the game is not this stupid.
Even though you start out solo, you quickly gain a couple of new party members (Amber, a pyro archer, Kaeya, a cryo duelist, and Lisa, an electro mage). Each character has two elemental skills – a special and an ultimate – which are super important in Genshin, because elemental effects come into play (Divinity: Original Sin type effects – hitting someone wet with a cryo attack will freeze them, and hitting them with a Geo attack while they’re frozen will shatter them, etc) and because you need specific elemental skills to solve some puzzles in the world.
Only one character can be active at a time, and due to cooldowns you’ll be constantly switching between party members to use their attacks and abilities. Once you get a hang of the elemental system and get a solid party set up that can dish out tons of damage and crowd control, combat becomes pretty satisfying.
Unfortunately, putting a party together is one of the more problematic parts of Genshin Impact, due to the game’s heavy reliance on getting new characters via gacha mechanic [gacha = Japanese toy capsule or capsule machine with random themed stuff; in gaming, usually means a collecting mechanic that depends on randomness].
Genshin is free-to-play, and a major part of its monetization strategy comes from its gacha element that allows players to wish for characters/weapons and provides a way to buy additional wishes. But how bad are the gacha odds? See for yourself:
|Odds of rolling…|
|Five-star character/weapon||0.6% or 1.6% with “you’re a loser” (not actual name) guarantee*|
|Four-star character/weapon||5.1% or 13% with guarantee*|
|Three-star weapon||94.3% or 85.4%|
* Every 10 wishes, if you haven’t rolled anything that’s “good”, you’re guaranteed to get a four-star or better roll. This slightly changes the odds in your favor.
There are no ways to level up a character’s constellation except through gacha, and gating it behind that is a dick move on miHoYo’s part.
If you roll a character that you already own, you end up getting an item that unlocks one level of that character’s “constellation”. This is basically a P2W talent tree. There are currently no other ways to level up a constellation except through gacha, and gating it behind that is honestly a dick move on miHoYo’s part.
There are two kinds of wishes: a standard wish (no extra odds except for the guarantee mechanic, but you can pull almost any character including some of the best ones) and a special event wish (higher odds of drawing specific characters and weapons). Getting more of either type of wish requires spending Primogems – and while Genshin hands these out pretty liberally, you need 160 (a lot) for 1 wish.
Of course, miHoYo would rather you buy Primogems with your hard-earned cash money. Oddly enough, it’s barely mentioned anywhere that you can actually do that. To buy Primogems, you actually need to buy a package of Genesis Crystals first and then convert them. Depending on the Crystal bundle you choose, you’ll pay somewhere between $2.42 – $2.66 per wish (excluding the first-time buyer bonus which is pretty significant, but only a one-time thing).
For better or worse, the quality of your party is determined by your gacha rolls. If you’re lucky, your free wishes (the game is quite generous in the beginning of the game, giving you tons of Primogems and free stuff) will net you a few top-tier characters. If you don’t luck out, any character that you roll will still be an upgrade, since the free ones are generally the worst.
Once you hit Adventure Rank 20 (maybe 20-25 hours in), you can score Barbara (a hydro healer) for free. She’s good. It’s also possible to unlock Xiangling (solid pyro dps) at the same time, but you need to get to and complete Floor 3 in the Spiral Abyss challenge. This requires you to take out a bunch of enemies within a time limit and it’s not easy, especially at AR20.
With Barbara and Xiangling, you’ve got, at the bare minimum, six characters to choose between. MiHoYo has definitely put in a lot of work when it comes to individual characters – right now there’s 22 total characters, and each has their own set of complex backstories, talent trees, voice-overs, and specific quests. Completing objectives earns you friendship points that open up more of your characters’ stories.
Once you get over the gacha and microtransactions system (okay, and maybe original resin as well), you’re left with one of the best action-exploration RPGs of the decade. Yes, you read that right. A Chinese knockoff game is one of the best ARPGs in the past 10 years.
And the funny thing about Genshin is that it’s not even close to complete. Only two of the seven regions are out, and there’s still a massive chunk of the game that’s yet to be released (which is kind of mindblowing considering how huge the game world is).
Exploration in Genshin is handled similarly to Breath of the Wild – your map originally starts completely covered by a fog of war, and only reveals when you find each area’s temple. However, instead of BotW puzzle shrines scattered around the world, you’ll find basic fast-travel teleporters (I’d bet puzzle temples were on miHoYo’s “features to take from BotW” list at some point).
Even with only two regions, there’s all sorts of sights to see in the world. You’ve got the German-influenced architecture of Mondstadt, the high-rise rock pillars that stretch to the clouds in the Minlin region, the terraced pools in Luhua, and the city of Liyue, a port that’s heavily based on Chinese architecture, just to name a few. In many places you can just leisurely stroll around admiring the scenery, feeling like you’re in a Studio Ghibli anime.
And it’s not just a pretty world on the outside. The areas of Genshin Impact are filled to the brim with old ruins, NPCs, monsters, random encounters, bosses, and of course, treasure.
This review is already way too long and only scratches the surface of the game. I haven’t mentioned the music (which is as good if not better than, say, the NieR: Automata soundtrack), or the voice acting (which is surprisingly fantastic, no expense was spared here). And I’ve barely mentioned visuals (which are – you guessed it, fantastic). That’s the thing with Genshin Impact, in its niche it does everything so well that it’s hard to find any fault in it that isn’t related to gacha, microtransactions, or original resin (not mentioned here, that’s a story for another day).
Genshin Impact is available for PC, PS4, and mobile, with an upcoming Nintendo Switch release. Highly recommended.
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