Genshin Impact: Initial Impressions

Another week, another new gacha game. But this time, people are actually anticipating it. I’ve never seen initial hype for a new mobile game so high, or a new Chinese game. But there’s good reason for it: it looks good. And not just graphically, but actual gameplay. This game looks like it has soul.

Now granted, a lot of that soul comes from the very obvious Breath of the Wild inspiration in graphics and gameplay. But that’s what people want apparently. BotW is hugely popular, so why not go with a more anime version of that game?

I’ve been able to play this game for a bit, about the first hour or so. Of course, I’ve played that first hour several times now. I’ll give my first impressions in terms of the good and the bad.

The Good:

  • Gameplay: It’s basically Breath of the Wild. You run around an open world, climbing on things, jumping off things, gliding to places, beating up enemies, and so on. The big difference here is that, instead of Link, you use one of several characters. Each character has an elemental affinity, which you use as you’d expect, and which also give different elemental status effects. The main gimmick here is switching out characters on the fly to synergize those status and elemental effects. It’s pretty cool making a fire tornado, or freezing a wet enemy.
  • Art: The art is pretty good. Even on mobile this game just looks good, and from what I’ve seen from actual systems, it looks fantastic with some power behind it. This is the first game that I’ve played that has felt like an anime come to life. Which is weird, because it’s Chinese, not Japanese. But whatever, it’s cool. The character designs are also pretty cool. This might not be the game for you if you’re into big buff manly men, because I haven’t seen any, but if you like any other character archetype, there’s something for you.
  • Translation: There are no translation issues that I can see. I’m honestly shocked. I don’t know Chinese, but I do know a little bit of Japanese, and the English translations match that at least. The English dub is pretty bad, but the Japanese dub is fine. You can also listen in Korean or Chinese, depending on your preference. (And you don’t need to download additional data to do so, which is nice.)

The Bad

  • Gacha System: The gacha system was going to rub people the wrong way regardless, since they’re all kinda predatory. But this is the worst gacha system I’ve ever seen. First, the rates are terrible: 0.6% for 5*, the highest rarity. That’s not for rate-ups; no, that’s for ANY 5*. Next, the 5* are the best characters and weapons. This is mostly normal, but from what the Chinese testers have reported, it’s rather insane in this game: whales won’t even play higher-difficulty content with f2p’ers, it’s that bad. And to make matters worse, you need multiple copies of characters to make them stronger. Oh, and as you see above, you get equipment from the same pool, which dilutes things insanely. No one wants to draw weapons, they want characters, and this just adds insult to injury. At 0.6%, you need to roll about 120 times to get better than even odds of getting at least one 5*. But you’d better pull out your wallet for that, because the game is very stingy with free currency. For this reason, and this reason alone, no matter how good the rest of the game is, I can’t recommend it to normal people. And if you’re into gachas, I still can only recommend it with reservations.
  • Rerolling: Given the above, you’ll want to re-roll so you can at least get a decent start. Most of these gacha games give you a big up-front currency bonus to get you excited, and this game is no exception. At first glance, rerolling is easy: you just make a new account at game load, which is super easy. No registry edits, diving into files, or even having to salt emails for new accounts. However, that’s the only easy part. You have to sit through the entire opening sequence, which is full of unskippable cutscenes and dialog. It takes quite a bit of time to get to the first point you can roll – about a half-hour on mobile, but a lot less on PC (load times and control issues). That gets you your first ten rolls. But, play for another half-hour or so (again, significantly shorter on PC, if you know what you’re doing), and you can get 20 more rolls when you hit account level 7. So, either ten or thirty rolls, for either a half-hour or hour, depending on load times and how much you know what you’re doing. And, considering what I said above about how much you’re going to be rolling for a 5* (ANY 5*, not even a specific one you want), you’re going to be doing this a bunch. I’ve done four so far, and want to throw my tablet all the way to China.
  • Controls: This is mostly a mobile thing, but the controls suck. The menus and stuff are fine, obviously crafted for mobile, but, as is the case with all 3D games, it doesn’t do well with mobile. It’s obviously made for console first (it would be almost perfect on Switch, using the touch screen for menus and such, while having the sticks for movement), and even the PC controls are a bit wonky. But controlling this game with the virtual stick is most un-fun.
  • China: This is a Chinese game. That goes on your PC, potentially. That should be enough, which tells you why I’m playing on my tablet. Every piece of Chinese software is suspect: if not from the devs, or the publisher, then from the government. It doesn’t help that this comes on PC with anti-cheat at the kernel level that doesn’t turn off when the game does, nor goes away when you uninstall the game (sounds like some other (non-Chinese) game that had a lot of controversy recently). The publisher says this is “unintended behavior” and says they will fix it, but don’t worry for now it’s perfectly fine. Yah, I sure believe that.

So yah, fun game with some really bad, glaring flaws that don’t have much to do with gameplay itself. I can’t really recommend it, but I want to play it more myself. I just hope I can actually get to playing before I claw out my eyes rerolling. Time for account #5…

2 thoughts on “Genshin Impact: Initial Impressions

  1. Yeah, it was the anti-cheat thing that stopped me downloading it. I am one of those crazy people who does actually read the EULA before accepting it – or at least I skim it to see if anything looks unusual – and in this case the first page was clearly flashing red lights with the anti-cheat stuff. I’ve played plenty of games that use anti-cheat software but never any that so openly and blatantly admit to the data they’re going to be stealing.

    Nope, no thanks.

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  2. Thanks for the warnings. I don’t think I was going to play another gacha game anyway — I already have Azur Lane and it’s just something I mess around with once in a while; I don’t put a cent into it but I get some cute ship girls and that’s enough for me. This one sounds like a bit of a pain. Looks very nice for a free game and I’ve been hearing a lot lately, but no thanks.

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