This looks familiar, doesn’t it?
It’s really, really difficult to talk about developer miHoYo’s Genshin Impact without referencing how similar it looks to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A fan even went so far as to destroy his PlayStation 4 console in protest over said similarities, and I actually understand why. If you’ve only seen this game in pictures and videos, Genshin Impact looks like nothing more than a Breath of the Wild rip-oﬀ. Both games feature the same cel-shaded visuals.
Both games let you jump oﬀ of mountains and use gliders (here, they are wings). Both games let you cook food in pots for combat buﬀs or health regeneration. Both games feature the same energetic piano music when you explore the open world. Both games have a crescent-shaped stamina bar, and let you swim any river and climb any mountain.
Once you actually get your hands on it however, it becomes clear that this game is a diﬀerent beast altogether. Many of this game’s mechanics allow it to proudly stand apart - from its heavy focus on story and lengthy quests, to its combat design and levelling systems. And for the price of none, I had a lot more fun with it than I thought I would.
I distinctly remember a moment early on, when it all just clicked. I was exploring the vast grassy plains outside a towering city called Mondstat. Twinkling piano music accompanied my every step, while golden sunlight washed over Teyvat. It sucked me in. MiHoYo has crafted a truly gorgeous world in Teyvat, filled with multiple regions, towns and mini-dungeons. You’ll want to discover everything it has to offer.
Genshin Impact is free-to-play, but there’s a catch - it’s a gacha game. Most games of this type tend to draw a lot of ire by turning into pay-to-win affairs, where players run into hideous amounts of grind only surpassed by spending your hard-earned cash. As someone who’s a stranger to spending money on games I already own (besides the odd battle pass or two), I have to say - this game’s monetisation was largely unproblematic.
A gatcha-styled system of summoning more powerful characters and weapons. Thankfully, the game offers free players all they need as long as you level up sufficiently.
In Genshin Impact, you can make ‘wishes’ to get new characters to play as (more on that later), as well as new weapons and gear. Wishes are made using some of the game’s rarest forms of in-game currency and most of the time, you only have a small chance of getting really good loot from Wishes. I can see someone easily getting addicted to spinning these roulette machines for the chance of obtaining a character or weapon they really want, but I’m not one of those people. I did my Wishes the moment they were introduced, and moved on without a second thought.
Thankfully, the game isn’t designed in such a way that Wishes are the only source of good loot. I ignored them for most of my playthrough, and progressed through the story by levelling up my weaponry and hitting mini-dungeons the normal way. I never felt like I had to spend money on Wishes to progress, and that’s probably the best thing I can say about a game with gacha mechanics.
The main diﬀerence between Breath of the Wild and Genshin Impact is actually the latter’s strongest point - parties. In Zelda, you play as the eternally mute protagonist Link, hurtling through Hyrule’s worst like a bullet with Calamity Ganon’s name on it. Genshin Impact begins with two twins wrested apart by a powerful force and thrown into Teyvat. You choose which sibling to play as - but you won’t just be stuck playing as them for the whole story.
Soon after you take your first steps in Teyvat, you’ll be introduced to a colourful menagerie of characters from various parts of the open world whether it’s in big cities like Mondstat or the game’s Wish system. Some will want to join your party as you go on your adventures, allowing you to switch between them on the ﬂy - GTA V-style. It’s actually important to cycle between your party members if you want to get the most out of combat.
You use resources picked up from quests and dungeons to level up your characters, as well as the weapons they use.
Most playable characters come with specific skills in elemental magic and weapon types. That pairs well with the fact that the enemies you encounter also have certain elemental types - and it wouldn’t make sense to literally fight fire with fire. Thankfully, the game lets you seamlessly switch between each of your four party members at the press of a button, so you can quickly counter enemies of different elemental types. Diﬀerent combinations of elemental magic can result in some really satisfying combos too, and when you get the hang of that, combat feels a lot more satisfying than Zelda’s hacking and slashing.
When it comes to story quests, Genshin Impact’s gameplay loop can be disappointingly repetitive. Most of the side quests and story quests I’ve run into have boiled down to reaching certain parts of the map, running around for a bit and fighting through a mini-dungeon.
These small dungeons are very similar to Breath of the Wild’s Shrines, with hosts of enemies to kill and puzzles to solve. Eventually, you reach the dungeon’s end, get loot and get out. I’ve seen some variety, of course - from Panzer Dragoon-like ﬂying sequences to ‘ﬂy through the hoops’ gliding courses. It’s still not very impressive, and enemies themselves aren’t terribly challenging to fight against unless they’re bosses.
Really, the best time I’ve had in Genshin Impact was just wandering around the open-world and organically discovering new characters, towns and enemies all on my own.
It’s difficult not to recommend Genshin Impact if you’re a fan of Breath of the Wild, especially since it’s free-to-play. Its story and side-activities might not compel you, but its stunningly beautiful visuals, great combat and expansive open world will.
Genshin Impact’s combat and elemental combos are really fun! A lot more fun than having your weapons break after a couple hits, at least.
A F2P OPEN-WORLD ADVENTURE THAT WORKS JUST AS WELL ON MOBILE AS ON PC OR CONSOLE, BUT CURRENTLY LACKS TRUE END-GAME CONTENT.
AT A GLANCE
DEVELOPER Mihoyo PUBLISHER Mihoyo
GENRE Open-world, Action, RPG
PLATFORM PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
PLAYERS Single, Co-op