In Explaining Genshin Impact’s impact: The reinvention of gachapon, I went into the nitty-gritty of the gacha system and how it’s actually pretty easy to digest for the larger market. In this piece, however, I’ll be digging into the gameplay and mechanics themselves and tackle whether or not this game is worth your sweet, precious time.
Gameplay first, gacha second
In my estimation, Genshin is so immersive that it’s easy to forget that this is even a gacha MMO, and that’s exactly why it’s been so successful. The game maintains a balance of letting players play while still nudging them toward the gacha. As players explore, they can find enemy camps dotting the landscape, and eliminating them gives primogems (the game’s premium currency), weapons, and materials. As players continue playing and improve their adventure level, they unlock more and more content – all of which gives a steady amount of primogems and even more incentive to do the content.
In fact, almost every activity players can do will reward them with primogems. First-time completion of dungeons and gaining achievements provide a hefty stack of these primogems too. I know what some of you are thinking surely they’re only generous at first and then it slows down to force you to get your wallet. I was right there with you when I first started playing Honkai Impact too, but that wasn’t true there, and it turns out to be untrue with this one too.
The best source of free primogems is the twisting abyss. Each floor offers increasingly difficult battles, but with very lucrative rewards at even the low end. Players are challenged to get as far into the abyss as possible per week. At the end of the week, players get a nice reward of primogems and a ton of other items. This will be one of the primary sources of gems for free-to-play players. As teams are planned out, players will want to focus on how they can improve their team for the challenges this dungeon offers.
It doesn’t stop there, as there are “daily commissions” that reward players with even more primogems upon completion. They’re dailies and they give prizes. Do them! Then there are the various battle arenas and smaller dungeons… the list goes on. I’ve bragged about how I’ve spent $200 worth of gems, but in reality, I didn’t spend my real money on those: Those were all earned through playtime.
For those who do want to support the game without splurging out on RNG, other options include a battlepass and a $5 subscription. The battlepass guarantees powerful and useful items along with the sub, which grants a few gems daily. The jury’s still out on the battlepass, but I think the $5 sub is a decent investment for a serious player.
We shouldn’t ignore the graphics and the gameplay either. The game looks as good as an anime game like God Eater 3, but on a phone. The combination of Breath of the Wild exploration with a combat system that feels like Nier: Automata just feels good. And it’s free for three different platforms. Getting a single-game to look consistent on phones, the PS4, and PC must’ve been a great challenge. But miHoYo did it and the effort was worth it. Anyone can play this game – all you need is a phone (so I guess everyone except those who attended the Diablo Immortal reveal).
The PC port is well-optimized, though it can’t reach 144 fps, and it’s buttery smooth and plays beautifully on higher-end systems. I also have it installed on a laptop with a GTX 1050. The game can still hit 60 fps with a little finessing of the graphics settings. The controls are great, though I can’t seem to change them yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s coming in a future patch. It’s also a breeze to switch between the controller (which is pretty well mapped out) and the keyboard. Some real love went into this game, and it’s why I’m so happy that it’s getting so much success.
Putting the industry to shame
miHoYo’s company slogan is “tech otakus save the world.” While obviously it isn’t doing that in a literal sense, it certainly feels as if it saved something. Genshin Impact is a combination of common-sense development decisions and keen business acumen. The team knew exactly what it was doing. This wasn’t an accident. It didn’t just make a game that checked a bunch of boxes and nothing more. It exceeded expectations for both gamers and investors, as the finances clearly show. Imagine that, letting the developers actually make a great game and it’s somehow doing really well globally. I wonder how that works?
The hilarious thing is that any company could’ve made a game like this. I’m not going to get into a rant about how tone-deaf gaming companies can be, but money doesn’t lie. And being in-tune with the market just shows just how huge the payout can be. People are tired of free-to-play esports with cosmetics and battlepasses. This company recognized this reality and made a game that wasn’t that. miHoYo did what should really be obvious to everyone: It simply made a game good enough that people were willing to deal with the gacha model.
So really, Genshin Impact did nothing new. It’s just a complete game with a gacha system – and not the other way around. And holy crap it worked. It almost makes me wonder if the industry’s complacency is finally catching up to it, and it’s not from player boycotts and outcries but from a competent and well-funded developer taking its customers’ desires to heart.
A word of warning
I can gush about how great this game is and how I feel the gacha is relatively fair compared to others. But this is still a gacha game. This game plays the same psychological tricks to hook players in to play and pay. This game punishes the impatient in the way it hurts the most: their wallets.
So don’t get caught up in the hype of a new character. It’s one thing for someone to splurge the $1000 worth of gems that she’s been grinding out over the past few weeks. It’s a completely different story to actually spend a thousand real dollars for the immediate satisfaction of getting that character to finally drop for them. I encourage players to plan ahead and prepare for upcoming banners. One of my friends is saving up for the next banner, which is apparently a cat girl. Pull on characters you enjoy! Know when to stop. Don’t follow the meta.
Take the time to maximize your party’s strengths before assuming another pull of the gacha will solve your problems. Be mindful and get good with the available setup. If your characters are undertuned for some content, plan out your next moves. Take advantage of the free items you receive, and most importantly, work on one character at a time. Be patient; don’t let things get out of hand.
If that final warning didn’t scare you away, I encourage you to try this game. Don’t just write it off as another gacha game. It’s not. It has gacha, but it has so much more than that. The example this game sets will have ripple effects in the gaming industry, including for MMORPGs. I’m excited (and I admit, a little worried too) to see what’s going to happen from here.