Genshin Impact launched last September for PS4, PC, and mobile. It has made continuous headlines for both positive and negative reasons. Detractors say it rips off The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A popular content creator decried it as gambling (after vigorously funneling sponsored funds into it). Say what you will; the game is only gaining ground and growing in content. I am going to extensively talk about its pros and cons, having played since launch.
Version 1.5 Update
As the only console version of the game, the PlayStation 4 had a bit of a rough go of things. The base model has performance issues, and even the PS4 Pro struggles. Those fortunate enough to own a PS5 saw a definite improvement in framerate and fidelity. Regardless this was still a PS4 title running on newer hardware. On April 27, 2021, developer Mihoyo remedied that situation with their version 1.5 update. As with previous updates, this introduced the new story and character content. It also introduced the official PS5 version of the game.
We Will Be Reunited
Aether and Lumine are twin siblings and the main characters of Genshin Impact. Not much is known about them other than that they are multiversal travelers with insane powers. Regardless, they one day come across an angry goddess who sees fit to punish them for trespassing. Whichever sibling you choose, you awaken in the world of Teyvat after being “packaged” by the unnamed deity. Two months have passed since you met Paimon, and she is your self-appointed guide. The time has come to find your family; nothing in this world is going to stop you.
Mystery, Magic and Mayhem
Almost immediately, you will notice that this land is magical as a giant dragon flies overhead. Teyvat is divided into seven main regions, each ruled by a god. Each god represents one of the world's seven elements: pyro, electro, cryo, dendro, hydro, geo, and anemo. Only a select few people can use any of these, and they can only control one element. You, on the other hand, can individually control them all. This makes it obvious to all that you are somehow not from Teyvat. Use your powers to solve the many mysteries and machinations set before you.
More Than a Wild Breath
Does Genshin Impact take cues from Breath of the WIld? In a word, yes, but there is a lot more going on here. It is estimated that Zelda's (Switch) map is larger than that of this game, but only its current map. The world of Teyvat is broken into (at least) seven regions, and at launch, gamers had access to two. Mondstadt and Liyue are sizeable regions in terms of surface area, but that says nothing of verticality. Mondstadt has cliffs that initially seem impossible to scale. Liyue has mountain peaks that are literally in the clouds.
Right before the new year, the version 1.2 update introduced Dragonspine. This is not considered one of the seven ruled lands of Teyvat. It is a mountain housing the remains of an immense dragon. Traversal is dangerous due to the monsters present and the ever-present threat of hypothermia. Look forward to more varied game dynamics as the title grows.
Your stamina primarily limits your ability to explore Teyvat. If you are starting the game, your stamina basically sucks. You can use tricks to circumvent this, but by the time you learn them, you will have more stamina. Every character is basically Spider-Man in this game; you can climb anything bare-handed. Just watch your stamina bar, or you will fall to your death or drown. Honestly, that is guaranteed to happen at some point.
Exploration is a large part of what makes the game so enjoyable. See the peaks in the above picture? You will make your way up there. Once you get there, you will look around and wonder where you can get to next. So you will jump and glide as far as possible. You will spend much of the early game doing this. Then you will do it again to find treasures and complete missions. Genshin Impact does a great job of making you not care about going to the same places repeatedly. This is because the game does very little hand-holding. You have to figure things out, and you steadily get better at traversal and combat.
Exploration has always been a main draw of the game, but developers recognized issues from the start. Having characters like Venti or Rosaria in your party reduces stamina consumption and makes nocturnal movement faster, respectively. In the new version, these buffs still apply, but controller response is vastly improved. Climbing is faster, and jumping is more responsive. The input lag issue of the DualShock 4 is gone. It is more something you have to experience than I can explain. The best example I can give right now is the fight with Dvalin (aka Stormterror). My damage rate improved by about twenty to forty percent using Keqing, who I already had maxed out. Long-time players will definitely enjoy these improvements.
Survive as You See Fit
Genshin Impact allows for a lot of combat customization. Despite being an all-rounder, many players do not use the Traveler main character. This is because there are currently thirty-one other available characters to build a team of four with. The early story missions will add Amber, Lisa, and Kaeya to your team. We will talk about how you get the others shortly. Once you get more characters, you can modify your team and create up to four preset teams.
In the Mix
I was terrible when I started playing because I was trying to brute force my way through every fight. I am not saying you cannot play like that, but fights will take a lot longer. The world of Teyvat has seven different elements, and you are meant to exploit them. Using the starters as an example, mixing Amber's pyro with Lisa's electro causes Overload. This is an explosion that can make short work of most enemies. Mix Kaeya's cryo with a wet enemy, and you freeze them solid. This allows you to not only dish unanswered damage but also to cause a shatter effect. Bringing the right elements to a fight can mean the difference between speedy success and embarrassing defeat. Despite that, experiment and find the fighting style that works for you.
Levels Upon Levels
Building characters is practically a minigame in Genshin Impact. There is not just the standard character level. Take Jean here, for example. The screen shows her as a level 80 character. There are specific materials that raise a character's level. Each of those five stars indicates a cap where you have to ascend her to the next level. That requires different materials.
To the left, you see weapons, artifacts, constellations, and talents. Each of those has their own progression and require more materials to level them up. On top of all that, there is your Adventure Rank. This determines your world level, which affects the quality of materials, weapons, artifacts, etc., you can obtain. Completing missions builds that level. Prepare for a long ride just to get one of your characters to this point.
Waifu Impact – “Gacha!”
Genshin Impact is completely free to play. It has microtransactions, but there is nothing that you cannot get via grinding. That said, the game will seriously “tempt” you to spend money. New characters are obtained via wishes. Wishes can be used individually, or ten at once, and a wish star is either blue, purple, or gold. Blue usually means throwaway items but may give you even top-tier items. Purple will give you a four-star or better weapon or character. Gold guarantees a five-star weapon or character.
You will always want five-star wishes, but those are only guaranteed once every ninety wishes. That counter is reset every time you get a gold wish star. There are always ways to obtain wishes for free, but getting twenty-eight other characters takes time. The option is to purchase wishes which are roughly $2 USD apiece. So to guarantee a five-star wish is about $180 USD. Suddenly grinding does not look so bad.
Genshin Impact is a beautiful game. There is no loss of that fact on the PS4 version, and the actual graphics are the same on PS5. What you will get is the polish that many felt was needed from launch. The PS4 is nearing its eighth birthday but still holds up in many aspects. The PS5 makes the game looks as it does on a high(er) spec PC. It runs natively in 4K at 60fps, and you will see that difference immediately. Lighting detail and draw distance are improved. Best of all, the camera is much better. During combat, there were times that the camera would sort of run away from the action for lack of a better description. Updates had addressed the issue, but this version feels like the camera wants you to see everything.
Take a look at these two pictures for perspective. This is Rosaria standing atop the Skyfrost Nail, which floats above Dragonspine. It is currently the highest point in Teyvat. It looks gloomy, but that is because a perpetual blizzard surrounds the mountain.
Next, we have Xiangling, standing atop a floating platform above Qingyun Peak. When the game first launches, this was the highest point in Teyvat. To get an idea of the draw distance on the PS5, the debris floating in the background is where Rosaria is standing. I think that about says it all.
Let The Show Begin!
Sound design is near flawless in Genshin Impact. I say near because the music itself is amazing. Everything you hear is top-notch and sounds like it belongs in a movie. However, the lip-syncing is laughably bad if you are playing in English. Mihoyo is a Chinese developer, so it is clear the lip motions for characters are for Chinese dialogue. It just looks very strange when your character talks for twenty seconds and their lips stop moving halfway through. Fortunately, the actual voice talent is stellar. Corina Boettger, the voice of Paimon, has graciously embraced the “attention” her character has garnered.
VERDICT: Will Genshin Impact Be Your Brave New World?
When a game is free to play, there is rarely a reason that you should not at least try it. That said, Genshin Impact is a highly immersive RPG featuring evolving content to keep you busy. There are daily objectives, updates every few weeks, and more. The devs even acknowledge their characters' birthdays and give you presents. The microtransaction system is very costly, but you are never required to spend money. While it definitely has not been free for yours truly, that was a choice I made.
On the PS5, this game is graphically marvelous. There are still some small hiccups, but it runs better than ever. Put aside the stereotypical “kung-fu flick” lip-sync, and you have a game that will bless your sound system. The DualSense controller has eliminated ninety-nine percent of the control issues of the PS4 version. Combat is fluid and diverse; there is no set way to play. Once you find your niche, you will have fun seeing just how fast you can drop a Stone Lawachurl.
Mihoyo has said that the SSD of the PS5 has greatly increased loading during co-op. I can confirm that, but this game is mostly in the cloud. That means that your internet connection will be the primary factor when you enter domains with friends. I was already playing the PS4 version on PS5, so that difference was less apparent.
The bottom line is that this game was a must-play last September. Mihoyo spent time and listened to player feedback for over half a year. The results speak for themselves. Games are getting more expensive on PS5. If you can get something of this level of quality for free, you should download it immediately.
Genshin Impact wears many hats. While it is not perfect, this is a free-to-play game that is more than worth a full-priced release. Everyone needs to try it.