Genshin Impact is a gaming phenomenon. Whether you’re all-in on Mihoyo’s record-breaking revenue earning machine, or have heard the name in passing, it is the rare anime fan who doesn’t know it exists. It’s almost as rare to have not seen its characters thanks to advertisements, a ton of articles, and influencer outreach on part of Mihoyo. But is the game worth playing?
Ultimately I have to say yes, Genshin Impact is a game worth playing, but with serious caution about its dangers. Genshin has a massive fan base, and loud detractors, both of whom see the game in love or hate terms. Mihoyo even sponsors outreach, which can make it hard to differentiate between cynical corporate salesmanship and real fan enjoyment. I’m someone who enjoys Genshin Impact, while recognizing its flaws and taking substantial breaks from time to time, so I’m going to lay out the biggest reasons I play Genshin, and why they’re dangerous.
From Sea to Sea: Exploration
The most fun I have playing Genshin Impact is exploring the world. Genshin goes out of its way to reward exploration. The world has a variety of puzzles to solve, and quests and other lore to find while you climb mountains, glide through the air, or just take in the scenery while running through a beautifully designed valley. There are treasure chests scattered everywhere, many hidden, that satisfy the primal part of the brain that loves rewards while rewarding you with the primogem resource you need to use the gacha. Discovering bosses and trying to defeat them without any foreknowledge is exciting. And any place you see, even on the horizon, is a place you can go explore for secrets.
The tools of exploration are all polished. Climbing, running, swimming (or freezing water to run over it), and gliding let you strategically conquer the unknown parts of the world until you’ve found every secret. Until you’ve seen it all.
Genshin Impact will eventually have at least seven countries to explore, but right now there are only three: Mondstadt, Liyue, and Inazuma — inspired by Germany, China, and Japan respectively. Exploration is an enjoyable journey, but the reason I’ve taken multiple months-long breaks from Genshin is so that when I return there’s more stuff to find. If you don’t like exploring, Genshin‘s encouragement of casual progress through the map may be a deal-breaker. Locations and quests have to be explored to be unlocked, and can’t be rushed.
Fire, Paper, Character Swap: Gameplay
Genshin Impact‘s core gameplay is third-person action combat based around having four active characters with elemental abilities you can switch between at any time. There are six elements characters can have (only one each!), and every element reacts with the others. Hydro afflicted enemies chain electricity to their allies when you hit them with Electro, while enemies burning with Pyro explode for extra damage when Melted with Cryo.
Character swapping allows you to set up one element and then swap to abuse it with someone else. Many elements also interact with enemies or the environment, like Pyro attacks lighting wooden shields and grass on fire, or Cryo freezing enemies in the rain. This gameplay loop is smooth. Triggering elemental reactions is satisfying, and the way the environment reflects the game elements is immersive.
There are downsides. Different characters let you do specific elemental combos, or give you abilities like shields that some encounters demand. Characters must be leveled and equipped, and if you don’t keep up as you play combat difficulty can spike hard. I’ve also heard that combat can lag on mobile. High-level characters — with perfect artifacts that can take literally a year or more of grinding to get — can trivialize encounters. Skill usually matters, and characters considered weak can be really good, but stats usually matter most, sadly.
Have Something New: Events
Genshin Impact runs lots of events, usually two per patch. Events can be expected to give out primogems, the in-game currency that lets you “wish” for characters and weapons, as well as resources like gold and character progression materials. Mihoyo are still experimenting, so events can vary wildly in quality, but that means there are events for everyone to enjoy.
Examples events include: dungeons that let you use set characters — including ones you don’t own — which gives you an opportunity to try new builds and complete interesting challenges like defeating enemies with drop attacks. There has also been a ping-pong type mini-game, an event of player hide-and-seek, and gliding challenges.
Some events are painful to miss because they reveal lore. Scaramouche, a character who has only just become important in the main story, was introduced in an early Genshin event. If you didn’t meet him then it was possible you didn’t know he existed until he popped up again in the main story. Some events also have crowns as a reward, an item that lets you raise character abilities to their maximum level, and which are ONLY earned through events. For me, events that look fun are a good excuse to play Genshin again for a few weeks.
It Costs How Much?: Monetization
Genshin Impact is for the rich. It’s also for the poor. You can enjoy everything listed above without spending a dime. Some extra grinding might help as a free-to-play player, but Genshin is built to discourage grind so there are diminishing returns. Everything fun about the game is available to the free player, and so I can’t advise spending any money on Genshin Impact unless you are wealthy or making it your primary game. A little money doesn’t buy you very much in Genshin, to feel the impact you need to spend a lot. There’s one exception, the Blessing of the Welkin Moon.
The Blessing is cheap, and gives you rewards far above what buying currency directly gives you. The real cost is time, you have to login for 30 straight to get your Welkin Moon awards, which are handed out daily.
In Canada, $6.99 buys you 3K primogems from the Welkin Moon in the form of 300 crystals and 2700 gems — crystals convert to primogems 1:1, but they don’t convert the other way around. With a one-time bonus, $6.99 buys you 600 crystals straight. That’s an awful conversion. 3000 primogems is already bad, it’s not even 20 wishes and therefore not even two 4-star characters/weapons, but buying crystals straight feels like burning money to me. Mihoyo has made at least 2.2 billion dollars from Genshin Impact. Mihoyo could double value for money and still make insane profits, so it’s no surprise they’ve developed a reputation for greed. If you have a money-spending impulse just stay away, Genshin Impact will prey on you.
Waifus and Husbandos: Characters
The most appreciable reason to play Genshin Impact is aesthetic, and while the environments are part of that, the main payoff of Genshin‘s art are the characters. These characters inspire subreddits, vigorous debate, min-max build guides, and every other habit recognizable in anime fans the world over when waifus are at stake. On our very own J-List discord group Genshin Impact waifus and husbandos can be claimed. And, as Genshin matures, figures are starting to be made that capture the action, personalities, and elegance, of a variety of characters.
Every character except the main character and three starters are earned through the gacha system. You gamble, spending currency on wishes that guarantee a 4-star character every ten wishes, and a 5-star every 90. The “guaranteed” character is random, but 5-star characters can be hunted for thanks to a soft-pity system that guarantees you the banner 5-star if you don’t get it the first time you get one. Meaning at worst you get a specific 5-star you want after 180 wishes.
If you want to own every character you’d better be rich. If you want to make teams of specific waifus you can do it by playing normally. I personally aim for characters because I like them, not because some theory-crafter deems them good enough to play, but you can go the other way and target characters considered the best. All characters are playable.
It’s a good time to pick up Genshin Impact if you’ve been on the fence about the game. Mihoyo is offering two premium banners at once for the first time, including my main DPS Eula. Anyone who likes exploration or waifus should enjoy Genshin, so can people looking to do hardcore damage numbers in challenge dungeons, but Genshin Impact is best, and least dangerous when approached casually. Enjoy the journey, like the god of Mondstadt would want you to.
Do you have other reasons for playing or avoiding Genshin Impact? Please share them below or on social media.