When looking for a new video game to play as a group (two years of Overwatch has run it’s course… although now talks of Overwatch 2 are at an all-time high), we ran through many options. We dabbled in the excellent Deep Rock Galactic, but sadly it only supported 4 players at once. There’s always one off games like First Class Trouble, as well as classics like Rocket League we can fall back on. Recently we’ve picked up Ark: Survival Evolved when it was free, and our group purchased but have yet to play Back 4 Blood.
One game seemed to stick best with everyone, and for good reason. It played more than 4 at a time. It was free to play. And it emulated gameplay from one of the best out there: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Of course we’re talking about miHoYo’s Genshin Impact.
For the uninitiated, Genshin Impact is a 2020 free to play action adventure game with Gacha mechanics and a lot of borrowed elements from Breath of the Wild. I mean like, a lot of borrowed stuff. The game has a big open world to explore, with a stamina bar governing your running and climbing prowess. There are a multitude of weapons to find and enemies to defeat en route to a bigger boss fight. Materials drop to cook and make new items, and there are dozens upon dozens of side quests to complete and brand new areas to explore. At this point in 2022 it’s a tried-and-true formula, debatabley so in 2020 when this game released.
However if I am being perfectly honest the comparisons to Breath of the Wild stop there. Genshin is its own unique game thanks in part to notable changes that work well for the type of game. Having a party of four players to use at any given time is pretty neat. Elemental weaknesses and combining elements to create powerful attacks is rewarding. Exploring has always been fun for these types of games, and the ability to do so here is no exception. Also, where BotW felt barren and lonely, Genshin’s world seems full of life, with bustling cities and lots of NPCs to interact with. All good things in my book to make a worthwhile game.
Despite this, I did not find myself enjoying the game. Shortly after the initial flair wore off, the game started to show its shortcomings. At its core, Genshin Impact is a gatcha game, and as such a lot of content is locked behind chance-based item and character rewards. That’s fine with me honestly, I play gatcha games pretty frequently. The problem comes when this combines with the slow nature of gameplay. Enemies are absolute sponges for damage, and it is not uncommon to spend minutes beating down one singular enemy with the same attacks over and over. Missing a character on your team with the requisite elemental prowess means you are inferior in combat, something the game reminds you of and encourages you to spend real world money to have a chance at more character pulls.
Full disclosure, I feel my luck with the initial character pulls in Genshin were awful. The joke with my friend group was that I didn’t know you could actually get new characters, because after 22 pulls, I only actually got 3 new ones (and I think one of those was a guarantee). Regardless, even with the proper characters in my party, I fear the game would still suffer from slow, grindy gameplay. This fact is exacerbated to me by how highly I enjoyed Breath of the Wild, and even to a lesser extent Ubisoft’s Immortals: Fenyx Rising. It is difficult for me to concede these things when I know how excellent this type of game can be.
This isn’t to say Genshin Impact is a bad game: far from it! There is a lot to enjoy here. I know this is a game that, given enough time, one could really become powerful and enjoy their time in the world. However, I’m already playing a game like that at the moment. So even though a lot of my friend group is caught up in this game, I tend to find myself not enjoying it as much due to circumstance: if I weren’t playing another gatcha game or another grindy RPG, I might enjoy Genshin Impact more.
Either way, I am very happy our group has found a game that works for them. Though it doesn’t include multiplayer as cooperatively as a game like Overwatch, it is a game that can be enjoyed by the larger group. A few of the friends that are playing have also not yet played Breath of the Wild, and hearing them talk about how cool Genshin’s world is to explore is incredibly fun to hear! Video games are enjoyed for all sorts of different reasons, and even though this isn’t the game for me, I am happy that it’s a game our group has to enjoy with one another.
Now if only Overwatch 2 would release…