A real tidal wave with more than 17 million downloads in the span of 4 days on mobile devices alone, Genshin Impact is making a lot of noise. Normally abused for its flagrant similarities with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, miHoYo's free-to-play RPG still has its share of detractors. After several dozen hours of play, so I will give you my opinion on the most ambitious Gatcha in China. It is rather rare that the terms AAA and Gatcha are associated. Yet 300 people and $ 100 million have been invested in this ambitious project. The least we can say is that it is felt, but above all, it is visible. After a quickly dispatched introduction, the player is unleashed on plains stretching as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, the PS4 version of this RPG shows regular drops in the framerate. Strangely, these drops do not seem to be caused by the overload of screen elements and occur randomly. Hopefully, future patches help bring more stability to the Sony console experience. On PC, iOS, and Android, on the other hand, it is difficult to take the technique of the title by default. We could put the fault on some textures that lack a little finesse or a viewing distance that is sometimes a little too short, but apart from these pitfalls we have no particular complaints about the shape of this Genshin Impact.
Very clean on PC, it is largely on par with many big-budget Asian RPGs. The grass in the valleys floats elegantly in the breeze as a day/night cycle gives us warm lighting and lovely sunset views. No matter what, this Gatcha makes you want to get lost in it. On high-end phones and tablets, GI is simply sublime and crushes the competition. We can also appreciate a number of comfortable graphics options allowing, in particular, to pass the framerate to 60 FPS. However, RPG in open-world requires, the title is greedy in resources and batteries. This production quality also catches your ears across the dozens of musical tracks. If certain melodies recall a little too much some known musical motifs, we will come back to the borrowings later, the overall quality of this OST is undeniable. No low-end VST here, as the entire soundtrack was recorded using a symphony orchestra. Without being fundamentally original, the narrative framework can be followed without worry thanks to regular cutscenes of good quality. While it is here more a pretext than a real driving force behind the adventure, Genshin Impact's screenplay nevertheless takes the trouble to add depth to its universe and detail how the magic that reigns there works. Everything is initiated by the abduction of our twin by a divinity who will banish us to the world of Teyvat. In these lands, everything is governed by the food affinities Anémo, Electro, Hydro, Pyro, Cryo, Dendro, and Géo. These essential elements ensure a balance that will be disturbed by the nervous breakdown of a dragon named Stormterror, it is up to you to investigate its behavior and appease the beast. Along the way, we will meet a few slightly stereotypical archetypes, but nothing to spoil our pleasure.
A Little too deep inspirations
On the gameplay side, Genshin Impact is an undeniable success. A simple attack, a charged attack, a race initiated by a very practical dash, and 2 spells are at our disposal. These offensive options depend on the character being played and each build is effective against certain types of enemies. It is so important to compose your team of 4 avatars who can face a maximum of situations. Melee, distances, different elements… Each character has his affinity, it is possible to create elementary synergies. Much like a Spellbreak, each spell can react to another, so it is possible to create a tornado of flame or neutralize an enemy using their weakness. The game allows you to change characters on the fly, which offers great flexibility in clashes. Note that as in BOTW, the elements interact with the environment. Flames spread lightly through the grass, water conducts lightning, and ice freeze streams. In absolute terms, this system is not fundamentally innovative, but it impresses with its flexibility and balance. To put it simply, Genshin Impact's combat system is fun on PC and PS4 and doesn't get too boring once on the phone. The in-between works wonderfully and seals the relevance of miHoYo's game as a multi-media title with synchronized progression.
Hard to ignore the elephant in the room, Genshin Impact draws heavily on the latest Zelda to date. The art direction takes a few liberties, but the overall color palette seems to be copied and, pasted between the two titles. From a playful point of view, even if it takes a much smaller part than in its model, the exploration is approached identically. Our avatars can climb any surface using an endurance gauge that can be enlarged with winged statues which, when discovered, reveal the map. At the peak of a mountain, we can then soar and glide to cover long distances. If we lack stamina, we can cook ourselves small dishes to boost the latter among other statistics. BOTW isn't the only one to have had its qualities were taken away, as some animations seem to be completely modeled after the movements of 2-B from NieR: Automata. While some borrowings are sometimes subtle, others are more like straightforward cut and paste. The seriousness of the matter will depend on one's sensitivity, but it would nevertheless be shameless bad faith to limit Genshin Impact to soulless plagiarism. It is important to note that this way of approaching exploration is appropriate to Genshin Impact's playing philosophy. Climbing, although not as fun and engaging as in its model, is done without a hitch and a fall never seems unfair or caused by the unwelcome roughness of a wall. Finally, although the open world is a very large size, it is not as central to the experience as in Zelda. Exploration is more secondary there, as the structure of the game revolves more around quests and dungeons that allow the grind of resources.
This does not take away from Genshin Impact its alluring appearance or the player's pleasure in discovering the secrets and side quests scattered all over the place. The open-world is chock full of fights and chests to open. Here the open world is more of a support for completing quests and gaining experience than an end in itself. In conclusion, it doesn't take long playing Genshin Impact to realize that the two games, despite their many similarities, ultimately don't have much to do with the gaming experience.
Gatcha catch em' all!
Finally, what do we do in Genshin Impact? We're dealing with an Asian open-world RPG. The player will therefore have to accept multiple quests in order to advance the story, earn resources to improve their equipment, and level up. This structure revolves around two axes that have a huge influence on the gaming experience: The Gatcha nature of the title and its desire to be present in as many media as possible. Genshin Impact keeps your progress whether you play on PC, iOS, or Android. This option is unfortunately not available on PS4 at this time. However, in order to suit short game sessions, the missions are broken down into segments of no more than 5 minutes. A traditional quest lasting 30 to 40 minutes will therefore be divided into several intermediate objectives, each offering rewards. Handy for moving the storyline on the metro, but can be a bit tedious during a big game in your living room. Receiving a "Talk to Venti" quest objective, when the latter has barely moved 10 meters since the last minute, is pretty absurd. This kind of situation happens quite often because in its main quest Genshin Impact is a rather talkative game. We will still regret a good number of FedEx quests, missions with stakes below the rest of the adventure, and dungeons not always thrilling. We think in particular of the quests related to Xiangling and his cuisine which will have made us lose patience by multiplying the objectives for each new ingredient necessary for the preparation of his dish.
The progression and its conditions are particularly important topics in an RPG. One could easily fear that the latter will be bridged by a wall of payment sooner or later in the adventure, but it is not. Yes, it is practically mandatory to pay to hope to unlock a 5-star character, but these are in no way necessary for progression. There is an energy system that blocks the rewards obtained at the end of a dungeon, but despite very long play sessions, we were never held back. This may change during the endgame which no longer offers additional quests apart from the daily ones, but the facts are there: You can play for dozens of hours without spending a penny or feeling aggrieved. For players who don't see any problems spending their money in a game they love, there is still a rather low drop rate for 5-star characters set at 0.6%. There is however a Pity system gradually increasing your rate as you fail to harvest your sesame.
The real block to progression is the Adventure Level. This level is decorrelated from that of your characters and does not indicate the power of your heroes. The NA increases as you explore when you complete dungeons or quests. These quests are unlocked at certain levels and certain gaps are particularly long to cross. So you shouldn't be afraid of farming. The delay until you reach level 16, which unlocks multiplayer, seemed endless to me. In addition, the cooperation here is quite anecdotal, as it does not allow you to complete the quests and is limited to dungeons and exploration. Paying only speeds up your progress if you recharge your energy to go through the same dungeons over and over. However, we never felt the need to do so as the content and quests on offer are enough to level up in a natural way. We will also note a Battle Pass system unlocked at adventure level 20 which seems a bit stingy to us, as it does not offer a lot of resources to summon new characters.
Genshin Impact Review Conclusion
Yes, Genshin Impact "takes inspiration" here, "borrows" animations there ... But it is impossible to limit it to that. This free-to-play Gatcha RPG is a bundle of influences and a sum of everything Chinese mobile games do well. The result is a title that will not be to everyone's taste, but whose playful proposition and economic model make sense for a significant segment of players. Not free from flaws, but very enjoyable to play regardless of the medium (despite a damaged PS4 version), Genshin Impact impresses as much as it questions. Its success is already guaranteed, let's just hope that the follow-up is of quality and that its economic model does not reveal any unpleasant surprises with the updates. For more information, make sure you visit the Genshin Impact official website for more details.