Genshin Impact Review: A Much Bigger Impact Than Expected
Genshin Impact has made quite the impact since its release on September 28. Of course, the game garnered attention mainly because of the similarities between its art style and the art style of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Genshin Impact also borrows quite a few mechanics from Breath of the Wild, including its stamina meter, climbing mechanics, and enemy outpost structure.
However, Genshin Impact does quite a bit to differentiate itself from BotW and carve out its own identity.
Genshin Impact Review: A Much Bigger Impact than Expected
Genshin may adopt the same open-world structure as Breath of the Wild, but it has more direction. Its story quests and side quests are tracked in the menu and feel more MMO than adventure game, something that contrasts with Breath of the Wild’s laissez-faire design.
There’s an individual leveling system for characters, as well as an Adventurer Rank, which can be increased by opening treasure chests and completing various tasks throughout the world such as quests and dungeons. The higher a player’s Adventurer Rank, the more the game opens up.
The storyline introduces you to many different characters, but it only seems like the first few you meet join your party permanently, with no strings attached. That's important because a fifth character can join your party temporarily during certain story segments before leaving when the encounter is finished.
Another aspect that makes Genshin Impact stand out from other JRPGs is its gacha system.
For the uninitiated, the gacha system here is essentially a gambling system where players “wish” for a drop that can provide them with new weapons and even new characters. For example, the extra fifth character that typically joins your party during a story mission usually only joins permanently if you’re lucky enough to pull them from a wish.
While the Wish system is surprisingly non-intrusive at first, it can lead to some insidious problems. The four characters you receive initially are relatively average performers compared to those unlocked through the Wish system. Further, with a few exceptions, the only way you can get the other characters is through the Wish system.
Normal for gacha games, you can use real-world money to purchase Wishes as well, granting you more chances to unlock items and characters, but the gambling nature of the gacha system can take an addicting turn as you progress through Genshin Impact.
Each character has inherent abilities that can only be upgraded with special material, and this special material seems to only manifest when you pull a duplicate character. And that character is then converted into said material, putting a premium on certain pulls.
As players progress into later stages of the game, I can see the urge to spend real-world money to get better items and characters increasing. I anticipate that more characters will be given away as part of future events, but that remains to be seen.
Genshin Impact’s combat system is a standout, offering real-time action similar to Ys, but playing most like 2017’s Tokyo Xanadu. You can have one character out at a time but can also switch between a party of four at will, playing into the game's elemental system where individual element types can be combined into unique attacks.
For example, using a fire elemental attack sets enemies ablaze. If you switch to a character that deals Electro damage, both elements will cause an Overload, which deals Pyro elemental damage over a wide area.
It’s a great system that encourages players to think tactically about what kinds of attacks they’re using and adds a lot of variation to Genshin Impact’s moment-to-moment gameplay.
Primarily a single-player experience, Genshin requires an always-online connection since it is a free-to-play game with microtransactions and daily events. Players can also participate in co op with up to four other people, with the choice to play solo or with friends an appreciated one.
Genshin Impact is incredibly beautiful. Its Asian-inspired cities and colors are quite a sight to behold, made more impactful by the sheer scale of the environments. Exploring and uncovering more of the map is always fun to do as you venture out to find new secrets. However, some of the character designs are a bit off.
You’ll undoubtedly get used to the main cast and how they look, but overall, they aren't distinct enough, with some looking like nothing more than generic anime characters.
Your main character, the Traveler, doesn't pop out or have any defining quirks compared to other gender-neutral protagonists. It doesn't help that the Traveler is a silent protagonist, either.
Though it would have been nice if the playable characters had more unique designs between them, like those in the Tales of series, some characters, like Lisa, shine through due to their personalities. Her flirtatious nature stands out whenever she's on-screen.
The full English voice acting here is incredibly impressive as well. All of the main characters deliver their lines well and don’t sound out of place for the world or genre.
Genshin Impact Review — The Bottom Line
- Very fun action-oriented gameplay
- Breathtaking visuals make the world a pleasure to explore
- A free-to-play game with an impressive scope
- Seemingly harmless at first, the gacha system could eventually lead to some potential gambling issues
- Technical issues are present, especially in the PS4 version
- Character designs could have been more unique
Genshin Impact can struggle to perform on the PlayStation 4 Pro. In its bigger cities, and even in some cutscenes, there’s visible lag. Sometimes, pop up issues occur as well, where enemies don’t appear on screen unless you get very close to them.
Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be a way to remap any controls, which is pretty disappointing. Add to that a somewhat messy UI, there is no glossary to look up pop up tips or tutorials after they've disappeared, and Genshin Impact isn't perfect.
However, it is certainly much better than I was expecting, and I don’t think it’s fair to call it a Breath of the Wild clone. After all, we’re past calling first-person shooters Doom clones.
It’s a baseline comparison, but Genshin Impact’s unique blend of gameplay, gorgeous environments, and lighthearted story, along with a gacha system found in many Chinese mobile games, provides an experience that might feel new to western audiences.
So while it's held back by technical hiccups and level gating in Adventurer Ranks and a gacha gambling system, Genshin Impact is still an enjoyable time.