Genshin Impact: A Deeper Look

I’m going to be reusing my pictures from the last post, since that’s what I have available.

The first thing to note, is something that I’ve seen from a lot of other people all across the internets. Some people that wouldn’t know better if you hit them over the head with the idea, and others that should have gotten it by now:

“Gacha” isn’t a genre.

Let me repeat that:

Gacha isn’t a genre.

And just so you remember:

Gacha isn’t a genre!

Gacha, as I’ve pointed out multiple times, isn’t a genre (do you get it yet?), it’s a monetization scheme. Gacha is essentially the same as lootboxes, but you don’t call games with lootboxes “lootbox games,” do you? Of course not, that’d be silly. But all the time I’ll see posts or reviews saying something along the lines of “Genshin Impact is a gacha game, but it doesn’t play like a gacha game.” What does a gacha game play like? I know what these folks are talking about, and I’ll get to that later. But it’s not a gacha problem.

To the more important point, everything I said in my first look still holds true. I’ve played a lot more by now, and I stand by my previous statements. Well, except for that last part. I can definitely recommend this game now. This is a good game overall. However, it’s good to know what it’s about going in, what to expect.

All of the good stuff is still good, even after tens of hours. I’ve heard it staid that the combat is more comparable to Nier: Automata, rather than Breath of the Wild; I don’t know if that’s true or not, having never played Nier, but still, it’s good stuff. (And it gives me hope for Nier: I’ve heard it said that the combat is kinda lacking in that game; but if it’s like Genshin, I’ll love it.) Once you actually get a good party going, the combat and flow starts getting quite natural. It’s fun, even taking out the same enemies over and over (another area the game is similar to Breath of the Wild…).

The story is actually pretty decent. I wasn’t expecting much going in – the beginning is yet another “oh noes a dragon?!!”, but it picks up from there. There’s a bit of nuance to the various situations the Traveler finds themselves in, especially in the second area. Not a lot of nuance, mind, but it’s not an obvious case of black-and-white, like it might seem from the prologue (even in the first area, after you beat the prologue, you see some of that nuance come in). The story isn’t great literature, but it’s nice for a rpg like this.

It seems the various characters that you’ll see in the gacha will get their own character stories that you can play through at various points. To be honest, I’d rather these be tied to actually having the character (like using the friendship system, instead of the few paragraphs they get per friendship level), as an added incentive/bonus for pulling said character. But I suppose this is another way to advertise the character – I didn’t care about Klee after they nerfed her animations (her alpha/beta animations were far more…animated), and certain folks said she sucked; but after playing her missions, she’s actually pretty good. Maybe I’ll get her eventually.

The writing is pretty snappy, at least in the English translation. I’ve noticed some liberties taken here and there, at least compared to the Japanese translation; I’ll believe that they’re the invention of the English localizers, since this is the kind of stuff that English localizers are notorious for (I have another post on that issue brewing). But it isn’t too bad, as far as I can tell. It’s not too distracting, at least, except for some of the memes used for achievements.

One thing of note is that the daily random quests actually advance the world and story, sometimes. Most of them are just “go here, wipe out the enemies”, but occasionally there will be one that involves npc’s and areas you’ve already visited, and either advance a little story in themselves, or somewhat change the world. For example, there is an inn in the second area that has broken stairs; one of the random mission sequences has you help repair those stairs, and they are repaired. Those little details and care are really what make this game special.

Which is good, because there are a couple of big problems. The gacha problem that I talked about in my last post on this game still applies. It’s the worst rates I’ve ever seen, outside of maybe STO’s lock boxes. But that’s not the main complaint people have, which have folks up in arms. No, they don’t like the fact that this game is indeed a mobile game.

This is what most people are talking about when they have complaints about the energy system (called “resin” in this game). They put the blame on the “gacha game” nature of this game, but that has nothing to do with the gacha. No, this is just your standard mobile game tactic. It’s a perfectly valid complaint, but we need to understand what it is: the fault is that this is a mobile game. For some reason folks got the impression that this was a mmo, or something along those lines. But it’s your standard mobile game, just with a nice coat of paint that’s worthy of a pc. But you need energy to do all the grindy stuff – get resources for leveling and advancing characters and gear. You only get so much, which regenerates over time. Pretty standard stuff, but I guess people weren’t really expecting it, so they are mad (well, more mad than they would have been with the correct mindset – it’s not a particularly good implementation of an energy system).

And I think, as a bit of meta commentary, is a big problem. People aren’t coming in with that right mindset. They expect a “main game” – something they can play for hours and hours, and stay entertained throughout. Frankly, I’m surprised it had as much ready going in as it did – most games of this sort would be envious of just that first area’s worth of content. As it is, the game gives 30-40 hours of good content, before getting terribly grindy – very good, actually. But still, mobile games like this have this trouble at launch, and early on – good start, but then an incomplete, unsatisfying “mid”-game, with no real end-game yet. I’m sure these problems will be addressed in the future – they tend to be, in successful games. But we’re going to have to wait.

One thing that does really concern me, with that mobile-game mindset, is the frequency of updates and events. Six weeks is a good amount of time for major updates. But there should be events and the like between those updates, to keep players going. New characters should come at a good pace, and I’m not really seeing it here. Significant events should come at a decent clip (at least once a month, if not slightly more often at first), but again, not seeing it here. Personally, I’d like to see story events, but even events without stories would be something. We have had one event so far in the game, and it wasn’t much (and again, takes energy to get rewards – though the rewards definitely weren’t worth the energy here). This can be a problem with immature games (and make no mistake: despite the high level of polish, this is a very immature game right now), but it doesn’t make it not a problem.

To sum it up, this is a good game. Just keep in mind that it’s a mobile game, with all the normal mobile game issues, and you can be happy with it.

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