Briefing:The infamous open world action RPG gacha game by Hoyoverse. You play as a Traveler taken to the world of Teyvat and are in search of your missing sister. The combat is fast paced with equipment customization, elemental skills/reactions, and quick character-switching so you can stack up combos. Most of the game is exploration based on a LARGE every-expanding map. Tons is being added to the game daily and there is a lot for you to do at any given moment.
YEAH, SO I LIKE GENSHIN IMPACT. SUE ME.
I'm going to preface this review by saying that I'm aware of the criticism of the game, ranging from aspects of the story to gameplay elements to the gacha in general. There is nothing I can say there that hasn't been said by someone who cares about it way more than I do. I don't want to convince you to jump in and play this game necessarily, but rather give you a little insight into why people enjoy playing the game. I, for one, went in expecting "shitty anime gacha" but ended up putting a lot of time (and a little bit of money; more on that later) into this game.
I've been playing Genshin a lot lately since I got sick, and when I am sick, I enjoy doing things that require little mental energy but make me feel busy. Genshin really scratches this itch for me, and I imagine it will for any new players as well. It always feels like you have a LOT to get done, whether it be main story quests, commissions (daily repeating quests), random events, grinding for items, or... whatever else there is! There really is so much to do. For my fellow ADHDers, you will indeed be overwhelmed, but with it being a single-player game you can just sit back and take things at your own pace. You also need not worry about understanding some of the deeper game mechanics right away (i.e. which artifacts to use with which characters) and can generally make do with whatever you end up choosing. This is a godsend, as a guy who doesn't like learning new things.
What the game does give you to do is pretty fun by the way. The main thing you'll be doing is running around, exploring the open world of Teyvat, climbing mountains, cooking, and fighting. People have compared to Breath of the Wild, although I haven't played it. What I do know is that I LOVE climbing mountains and gliding around. The world is really a blast to just walk around and look at so it really easily gets you into a very childlike "I wanna explore!" mindset. The combat is actually pretty enjoyable, with there being 5 main styles of combat (Sword, Claymore, Polearm, Mage, Bow) and different Elements that each character is proficient in. I find that each character can play really differently even if they share the same combat style. Playing Rosaria and Xiangling feels very different to me even though they're both Polearm characters. You have your basic attack, charged attack, and aimed attack for Bow characters. You also have an Elemental Skill (special attack) and Elemental Burst (ultimate attack) with cooldowns, which you can mix with different elements to deal more damage in elemental reactions. For example, using an Electro skill right after a Hydro skill will cause the Electro-Charged reaction to occur, which does damage to an enemy over time. The game lets you pretty quickly switch between characters which can let you stack up some pretty crazy effects and really whittle down an enemy's health. I don't always enjoy games where you have real-time combat, but it's so fast-paced and exciting that I cant help but love starting fights in Genshin impact.
A big thing I need to mention, however, is that the game really kinda slowly drip-feeds you new content and sections of the game over your time playing it. I can't remember exactly when things begin to ramp up, but you unlock tons of new content as you progress throughout the story. Some time after completing the Mondstadt storyline, you gain access to the Reputation mechanic, which lets you unlock new gadgets to make your life easier and gives you discounts on items in local in-game stores. After completing the Liyue storyline, you unlock the Serenitea Pot which allows you to design your own Realm... and you also unlock FISHING!!!! Nobody told me there was fishing in this game so this was a pleasant surprise for me. Some events are also locked off depending on how far into the game you are, which may lead to a bit of FOMO for new players, but I didn't really care much up until recently.
Speaking of events, I really enjoy the ones they present in Genshin Impact. I don't often play online games that have these, so I can't speak to how many other games do this, but I enjoy how many events seem to just have these little minigames you get to participate in. As of writing this, the ones I mainly remember are the Windblume Festival, where you got to play a harp in a little rhythm game section. There was also the recently ended event where you play as a bartender at the Angel's Share and mix drinks for customers which I found VERY enjoyable. The events that the developers come up with are surprisingly unique and I always find myself looking forward to what they come up with next.
Alright, now we need to come back to the "shitty anime" part of my original assumption, which I think I'll try to break down into Characters, Designs, and Lore/Story.
Let's start with characters. I kind of have a lot to say here. The first thing you'll probably notice are the designs and how they fall into that typical overdesigned anime fantasy style, but as someone who really hates that kind of character design, I feel like they really grow on you. I also feel like there is enough variation between characters that everyone will have a character, or at least pick out a few with a certain style, that they are fond of. Personally, I gravitate towards characters from Liyue and particularly like Xinyan, Hu Tao, and Yanfei.
As for character personalities/lore, I don't think I'm being particularly controversial when I say that the characters in this game are not exactly the most compelling. I don't necessarily think they're bad though, and they serve their purpose within the game/story well enough. Many characters have a specific "gimmick" that defines them... For example, Jean is hard-working and serious almost to a fault, and Lisa is very flirty and violent if you anger her. I wouldn't say they suffer from Fire Emblem syndrome (i.e. only having one personality trait) though, in that if you really get to know them, either through regular gameplay or Story Quests, they can have a decent amount of depth. This isn't necessarily anything to write home about, but there is more than you'd expect here. I didn't particularly get attached to Venti, for instance, until I played through his story quest, which was a fair bit after I had already started doing the Liyue storyline. Either way, you get the vibe that the writers really do respect the characters in this world, even the side characters, which is a nice change of pace from other anime-inspired games.
And now... the story. I'll be honest, I found the story to be excessively boring up until I got to Liyue. Mondstadt, while I enjoyed exploring its landscapes, felt like a generic fantasy Europe area and did not really do much to hook me in. It probably helps that Hoyoverse is a Chinese developer, as you can feel a lot more love put into both the landscapes of Liyue and the story it presents. Even the characters populating the different cities in Liyue are more interesting and I enjoyed a lot more of the side quests I was given. Anyways, I digress. I have to stress that none of what is presented here is award-winning storytelling, but it does draw you in a bit more and get you a bit more invested into the world by this point in the game. If you weren't already, you'll probably stop skipping through dialogue and begin paying a bit more attention, piecing together the details of the world. Overall, I think there is a lot more love put into this than an outsider might expect.
The last thing I want to mention for now is the gacha and paid aspect of the game. This is the first gacha game that I actually bothered to spend money on, and I used to be a rabid Granblue Fantasy enjoyer only a little while ago. Personally, I don't find the gacha to be nearly as predatory as it might be in other games, and can get along just fine making wishes without necessarily needing to put in a disgusting amount of cash. Primogems, the game's currency for making wishes, can be obtained pretty easily through a variety of in-game methods and I can easily make enough for a 10-pull within a day. The only things I have bought were the game's battle pass and the Blessing of the Welkin Moon, the latter of which gives you 90 Primogems every time you log in for 30 days. These are all SUPER optional and you can still get a decent amount of rewards from the battle pass without having to buy it, which is pretty cool if you ask me. I dunno, I don't like microtransactions as much as the next guy, but I don't mind shelling out $5 for a free-to-play game when I decide I'd like a little extra help.
I could go on and on, and I might go on some more later in an update to this article, but I can safely say that Genshin Impact is a really fun game that people are needlessly harsh on. Collectively, we all need to come together and agree that it's a pretty fun game with a lot of substance, although it's also not like... game of the year territory. Overall... good game!