Genshin Impact First Impressions – Is It Worth Playing?

Genshin Impact is one of my personal biggest surprises of 2020. First and foremost it’s fun, there are layers of complexity in here that’ll keep you coming back plus it’s free. So if you want to give it a shot then you can pretty easily. The following are my Genshin Impact first impressions.

A little bit of background from me on this type of game. I’ve never been into anime (yes, I’m sorry), I’d not heard of ‘gacha games’ before this and the tag of the mobile game tends to put me off immediately. However, saying all that I’m going into 2021 looking forward to playing more Genshin Impact and I’m thinking about it daily. I do like RPGs, plus I’m a huge Zelda fan, so perhaps the Breath of the Wild nature of the game got me. But I think there’s more to it than that. Look past the loot boxes and microtransactions, which you don’t have to engage with at all if you don’t want to, there’s a vast world to explore, a deep an engaging battle system to play with and a great story.

I should probably get the Breath of the Wild comparison out of the way. This is like anime and The Legend of Zelda had a baby, but to simply label it as a Breath of the Wild clone is to do the game a disservice. You can climb, glide and explore vast environments. The stamina meter is very similar, the music and the enemies… the comparisons are there for all to see. However, Genshin Impact isn’t just copying what Nintendo did back in 2017, they have improved on it. Having multiple characters in your party which you can swap easily and quickly between makes combat super fun, plus the elemental system which you can combine to deadly effect. The story is epic, sometimes silly, sometimes funny and you have the levelling system which includes adventure rank, character rank plus weapons and artefacts too. On the surface, it looks like a modern Zelda clone, but scratch under the surface and you have something engaging that’ll bring you back time and time again.

In terms of the story in the game, you get to choose at the start of the game between one of two twins, who are both having some bust-up with a mysterious god. The twins are separated and you’re thrown into the world of Teyvat, which is full of castles, Knights, monsters and townsfolk. It’s your job to find your twin and along the way, you’ll join up with the order of the Knights of Favonius and go on all kinds of adventures. It’s predictable but a fun time. As you progress through the story you’ll meet characters along the way, some will join your party and some you’ll have to pull from the slot machine, but these character-focused quests are good fun and you really get to know these characters and they have a good amount of back story and depth.

As you progress through the story you’ll likely hit level ceilings where you have to stop for a while and level up your character. This is related to your Adventure Rank. Early on in in the game pretty much any activity levels up your Adventure Rank but as you get higher then it does become a little more tricky. The world of Genshin impact is huge plus there are secrets around every corner, so in the early game, you’re not going to be stuck for something to do. There’s plenty to do exploring the open world with monsters hiding in the grass, collectables to find and statues to level up. Once you start advancing through the tiers of adventure rank then you’ll get an Adventurers Handbook, which acts as a to-do list (plus is a great source of adventure rank). The further you go the more complex the activities open up to you and it feels like a rewarding time.

Exploring and puzzling in Genshin Impact is very satisfying. You will likely lose hours of time just exploring and being distracted by the multiple enemies and puzzles that are there when you’re travelling from A to B. The loot rewards are dense, but there’s also variety in ways you can collect loot. One minute you’ll be fighting a band of blobs or sword fighting beasts, next minute you’ll be solving a puzzle but directing a floating spirit to a series of lamps.

The balance of interconnecting systems in the game feels well put together. As mentioned you’ll need to advance your adventure rank to progress in the story, but multiple features open up on your way to higher levels. Have a chat with the Adventurers Guild to get the handbook and that’ll give you a list of objectives. Once you get to rank 8 you’ll unlock Ley Line Blossoms, which are a form of world boss. AR 12 and you’ll unlock daily missions and at 16 you’ll get multi-player co-op. At AR 20 you’ll unlock the Spiral Abyss, which is a multi-floor dungeon where you battle loads of enemies plus a battle pass and even more loot.

There are also systems for characters, weapons and artefacts. There’s a huge roster of characters in the game, some you collect through the story and others you’ll get through wishes or events. Characters have star ratings from 1-5 with 5 being the best although the drop rate for 5-star characters is about 0.6% – so beware if you decide to put money into the game. Weapons and artefacts also have star ratings and the objective is to build up teams of highly rated characters with the best weapons and artefacts to ultimately take into the endgame. Much like other action RPGs, the endgame is where you want to be spending most of your time chasing that high-end loot and gear. As well as these systems you also have cooking too with its huge array of ingredients plus the effects that this has on your party. The systems are well put together, complement each other well and show a maturity of system design that feels like a delight to play.

The story, exploration, puzzles and systems are a great foundation for the game. This foundation is then well and truly set solid by the battling mechanics and elemental system. In other games you’ll control a single main protagonist, however, in Genshin Impact you’ll control a party of 4. Your roster will ultimately be bigger than that as you collect more and more characters, and you can form parties of up to 4 characters at a time. You can have a party for exploration, a party for battles and a party for dungeons – it’s up to you.

Each character aligns with the main element from the game that supercharges their abilities. There’s Anemo (Wind), Geo (Earth), Electro (Lightning), Dendro (Nature), Hydro (Water), Pyro (Fire) and Cryo (Ice). These elements have a single effect on battles but it’s the combinations and interactions with the environment that make the battles interesting. For example, you can set the ground on fire and then throw a mini-tornado into the fire with your Anemo abilities to create a fiery weapon. Enemies that are wet with be super sensitive to electrocution. Abilities can also be used to solve puzzles – for example, Amber and her fiery arrows come in handy when it’s time to open up a pyro lock.

There’s a lot of good things here with Genshin Impact and there’s lots of free content to get your teeth into. You have your standard battle pass and items you can purchase, however, this goes above and beyond when it comes to making money. There’s the wish system whereby you are essentially pulling a lever on a slot machine and out pops characters, weapons and artefacts. Everyone’s chasing 5-star items in each of those categories and the system itself is designed to be very addictive and for you to open your wallet. I’ve had a fun time so far without having to spend anything, and for the time being, I don’t intend to sink any money into the game and play completely free-to-play. If you have disposable income and you want to pump money into the game to get the best characters and loot then you can, but beware as the drop rate for the highest level characters sits somewhere around 0.6%. As you play the game you’ll accumulate the currency required to get a free wish here and there.

I don’t think it’s necessary to pay to get the most out of the game. Throughout the story, you’ll gather a ragtag bunch of characters and you’ll also get a bunch of free currency from the developers in celebration of the success of the game. I’m also at a point in the game where resources are plentiful and I haven’t really gotten into the nitty-gritty of levelling up weapons and artefacts so later on, I may be eating my words. I have heard and read that once you get to Adventure Rank 40 and above the endgame, the grind does become pretty tough and tricky with the scarcity of resources, but I’ll report back as I progress through the game.

Genshin Impact blends RPG mechanics, exploration, puzzles, loot and combat really well. It’s got it’s hooks into me in unexpected ways. The story and characters are fun and silly, there are enough Zelda tropes in here to keep me entertained and it’s got interesting loot and combat. Given my hundreds of hours in games like Destiny and The Legend of Zelda, Genshin Impact blends many of the best elements of these games and builds on them to create a fun experience, one that I think about when I am not playing the game urging me to jump back in.

If you’ve heard about this one, but were unsure whether it’s for you or not then I’d recommend downloading it and giving it a go and play through the story for the first few hours to see if you like it. The base game is free and there’s plenty of live events (there’s one at the moment called The Chalk Prince and The Dragon). It’s available for PC, mobiles and PS4 all free to download with cross progression / cross save between mobiles and PC.

Let me know if you’ve jumped into play Genshin Impact and what you think of it. For me it’s one of the surprises of 2020 and I’m really enjoying what I have played so far!

That’s it for my Genshin Impact first impressions. For more Genshin Impact content check out This Week In Video Games on YouTube and subscribe for daily updates.