Genshin Impact is a free-to-play open-world RPG from developer miHoYo. If that name, isn’t familiar (as well as the game’s), don’t worry. I don’t think anyone expected this title to blow up as it has, but I for one am incredibly glad for the way things have turned out so far. If by some miracle you haven’t touched it yet, you are in for a great time. Any trepidation you feel now will be outweighed by the game’s charm and fantastic vibes as an overall package.
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Android, iOS
Release Date: September 28, 2020 (Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Android, iOS), TBA (Nintendo Switch)
Price: Free (with microtransactions)
The story sees you, the Traveller, land in an unknown world full of magic and mystery. You’ll meet a cast of colorful characters, each of which will grow on you much more than you’ll initially think. By the end of the story, you’ll be eager for so much more.
Make no mistake though, no matter how much content there is in this game, it’s far from over. The story is set to continue when developer miHoYo finally gives us something more. For now though, what’s there is a lovely entry into a brand new world, one I can’t recommend enough.
With that said, I did find that most quests felt like an episode of an anime TV show. Each one usually starts with a completely bonkers premise, coming to a close with some new profound outcome that sees a character grow or learn something new about themselves. If you’re not into this, then play with the sound off.
Genshin Impact feels like an MMO, but it’s very much a game you’ll mostly play by yourself. In fact, until you rank your account up to level 12, you can’t play with anyone else. After that point though, you can team up with up to three friends to take on all the monsters of the world.
However, don’t think that this makes it boring in any sense of the word. The world is massive, and it’s made even more open by the fact that you can jump onto and climb any surface. It really does allow for complete freedom, and I think this would be a much worse game without it.
Not every nook and cranny is filled with a story or interesting character, but there are plenty of points of interest to explore. If it’s not a chest protected by a boss enemy, then it’s a building hiding a lot of lore for you to collect- and probably some hilarious characters to interact with.
The game revolves around building yourself a core team of four characters, and taking on as many missions as you can. Every character has a unique fighting style and element combination. This makes them all extremely interesting, to the point that you want to collect them all.
The combat in Genshin Impact is light yet interesting. Each character has an elemental power, as do certain enemies. You need to learn how these elements synergise in order to beat enemies quickly, and with the best-looking combos. The combat is simple enough that you can focus on mastering elements through the enemies you encounter without needing to spend hours reading tutorials.
Weapons however, will use the element of their wielder. The only difference they make in combat is to base damage. All you need to worry about is using the character with the correct element, and hitting the attack button.
Each character has a basic and elemental attack, as well as a powerful burst. These too can be combined with other characters to create powerful synergies on the battlefield.
Elements don’t just apply to characters and enemies though. For example; if you knock an enemy into water, they’ll become wet. This makes them weaker to Electro damage. Likewise, if an enemy is getting in your face too much, you can freeze them in place with Cryo damage, and get your attacks in that way.
The world even plays into the combat system. It can organically rain, but there are also enemies that summon rain themselves. This opens up the opportunity to gain an advantage with Electro damage. By the time you’ve noticed that you can use the world to your advantage like this, you’ve mastered the combat system.
There is a catch here, though. The game gives you four characters for free, but you need to buy the rest. Don’t worry, you can absolutely earn these characters by purchasing rolls on Wishes, a form of lootbox or gacha, with in-game currency. There is an option to spend real-world money on these though, of course.
If you’re someone who enjoys the daily, weekly, and monthly grind of a large scale MMO, then you’ll get enough enjoyment from Genshin Impact without succumbing to these microtransactions. Over time you can earn everything just by playing the game, but don’t go in thinking this is a standard single-player game where everything is available upfront.
However, I encountered a sort of grinding cap at Adventurer Rank 9 (your account level). It seemed like this was when the game wanted me to invest money to advance faster, so I could take on more quests. On the other hand, this pushed me to explore the world more, and get the experience I needed to advance. So for me, it was actually quite a nice barrier to push through.
There are daily missions from a certain account level, which is enough to keep you coming back again and again. This, coupled with the draw of earning more characters and better gear, is the reason you’ll keep playing. It could very well be a game you end up playing for years, providing that miHoYo supports it with the same level of quality in their updates.
So how does the game compare to any other MMO such as World of Warcraft or Destiny 2? The element of gear-chasing is definitely second to character-chasing. However, it’s still a draw that will keep you engaged. The real difference is in the multiplayer element.
Genshin Impact allows you to play in co-op with up to three friends, and supports cross-play. Thankfully the game doesn’t kick everyone out after a mission is completed. Instead, a session lasts as long as you want it to, with everyone sharing in the loot that gets dropped.
As a result, the game is conducive to that same multiplayer environment that sees friendships grow out of randoms who meet up online. Once again though, as long as the game is supported for a long time, this element should only grow and blossom.
One thing I do need to point out about the multiplayer is the fact that certain words are censored in the chat. They aren’t the words you’d think though. I’m talking about words such as “Hong Kong” or “Taiwan,” which seemed to have been censored so that players can’t discuss the Chinese government.
It’s up to you as to whether you agree with this, and we hope the way we write reviews allows readers to make their own call irrelevant of the final score. It’s important to note that the developer’s hands may well be tied on this one. Still, I think we can all agree that censoring people and their opinions have no place in games.
The leveling system is also convoluted at best. There’s the Adventurer Rank, there are individual character levels, and then there are item levels and companionship levels on top of those. They’re a bit much to get your head around, but if you invest the effort, you’ll understand them as you would in any other game.
Genshin Impact‘s soundtrack is genuinely beautiful. At some points, I realized that I’d left the game running so that I could listen to the background music.
I can’t emphasize enough just how lovely it is. While in combat, it definitely gets intense. Overall the music is just beautiful, there’s no other way to describe it.
The same goes for the game’s visuals as well. In a free-to-play title, you’d expect there to be some rough edges here and there. I can safely say that this game is highly polished though. I wouldn’t expect anything less for a full-priced game today.
Overall, Genshin impact is a pretty complete package. Everything has been polished to the point of perfection, and to get it for free is ridiculous. There are just a couple of caveats, but they’re minor in my book.
The game really surprised me. It didn’t look like the kind of game I’d usually play, but now I’m on it all the time. This is a game with depth, lore, and meaningful content that you will identify with. If you’re at all on the fence about this game, just jump on over and give it a try. As a free-to-play title, you’re never going to do better than this.
The promise of future content is something that I think will keep current players engaged, and attract more over time. A community will grow here that’s already fun to be a part of. It has its shortfalls, like any MMO, but the core is fantastic.
Genshin Impact was played for free on PlayStation 4. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.