Wishful Thinking: A Critical Look at Genshin Impact’s First Year

The storm approaches…

Since MiHoYo’s 2.1 update livestream, free-to-play anime game giant Genshin Impact has received a lot of criticism especially in response to upcoming characters that will be released. The fan backlash has reached a high breaking point, where even voice actors have been made targeted with ire. It is unfortunate and excessive, but is there some truth, even justification, to the complaints?

Having played more than my fair share of the game, I wanted to step back and take a look at the complaints and evaluate whether or not these could be reasonably changed. After playing a good portion of the new area added in 2.0, now is a good time to see where Genshin currently stands and where it can improve. I will be detailing their gacha system and the several imbalances in its gameplay loop.

No Whammies! No Whammies! No Whammies!

When You Wish Upon A Star

The problems with the gacha system are more obvious, so I will start here first. Straight up, it’s a gamble players are forced to take if they want to be stronger. For those who are not familiar, Genshin‘s main combat revolves around creating a team of four characters. Each character has a skill and an ultimate along with passives that can buff certain stats in a character/team. You can also enhance and rank up your characters and items to a max level cap of 90 at the time of writing this article. However, the rarest of characters and weapons (5-stars) are locked behind the gacha system and cannot be unlocked in any other way. On top of that, the passives are locked behind constellations, which require a copy of the same character that you must either pull from gacha or buy a copy with a currency that you can only earn from the gacha system, and the characters available from the currency exchange rarely rotate.

There have been characters given for free in previous events, but there still aren’t many opportunities to unlock new characters. This definitely comes off as greedy of MiHoYo to enforce gacha so much, but in comparison to their previous game, Honkai Impact 3rd, it feels sloppy to not have weekly events that allow players to gather other materials to unlock characters like in their previous game. For equipment, it’s even more important because there are only a handful of characters that can carry players through most fights. Certain equipment sets bolster stats and add passives that are essential to even complete current end-game content.

An Infinite Strife

As much as I love playing the story and exploring Teyvat, I am not a fan of the grind required for this game. While grinding is an unavoidable aspect when it comes to online games, the problem with Genshin’s loop is the combination of the open-world format and a mobile game-style energy/mission system. Genshin‘s exploration takes after Breath of the Wild and entices the player to explore uncharted areas, unlocking waypoints and discovering treasure and secrets everywhere they look.

Exploring Teyvat is an enjoyable honeymoon period before you’re smacked down by the stronger enemies and bosses. You then have to run domains to farm for stronger artifacts and materials to enhance them as well as your characters. This, while tedious, would be fine for a GaaS (games as a service) model like Genshin, but linking it to resin, the game’s energy system, hampers the grind greatly.

Resin is required to run all farmable arenas. You start with a 120 resin cap that increases up to 160 as you raise your Adventure Rank (AR), and the arenas you can run cost between 20-60 resin each time. With a recharge rate of 1 unit per 8 minutes, the player must wait at least 960 minutes, or 16 hours, for a refill of 120 resin. Players can, optionally, use Original Resin for a partial refill of 60 each. On top of the fact that leveling up your characters and weapons requires more resources as they get better, this halts the player’s inherent progress and dampens the majority of Genshin‘s gameplay.

This is the total cost for Xiao’s Ascension (5-Star Anemo Spear User). You’re gonna be on the grind for a while.

While Genshin boasts an enticing world with complex story and lore, the resin system makes it difficult to stick with the game as a GaaS. The two aspects clash against each other, making for an inherently imbalanced experience. I think that locking the rarer characters and weapons behind the gacha is a sloppy move. Sure, it’s easy to just say “that this is how things are with games,” but there already exists a game that solved these issues early: Warframe.

You thought it was Apex, but it’s actually Warframe.

Ninjas Play Free

Though I’ve ended my time with the game, Warframe remains one of the few games that I willing sunk time into ever since its first public beta. The game has come a long way since playing as just a space ninja. But one of the most interesting things that still sticks with me about that game was that Digital Extremes included options to either buy a new character or unlock it by running missions. Though luck was still a factor, players could farm for blueprints of parts for whatever unit they wanted to make. Even if I had already caught up with all of the new content, there were still plenty of units and items I could farm for. I didn’t always farm for the units either. I sometimes bought a new unit that came out if I looked into it and decided that I really wanted it.

Two of the Primes were Twitch rewards and the third I bought. The rest? Farmed ’em.

So as far as getting new units and weapons is handled, Warframe offers options where Genshin doesn’t. Aside from the story missions and weekly bosses, there isn’t a lot of content to do. This is probably why MiHoYo is experimenting with so many unique minigames in previous events, ranging from obstacles courses to actual tower defense.

Honestly, much of Genshin now feels like an afterthought. With little-to-no consideration of balancing legacy content or even addressing issues that have been pointed out by the community, the game’s 2.0 update feels lackluster in the long run. It will be difficult for MiHoYo to give up some profit, but I believe that building the game for the players has always proven to be more valuable than profit. But we’ll have to wait and see if this isn’t just wishful thinking.

Sam Kim

Sam Kim is a Southern California dude trying to find the path God has chosen for him. While not much of a talker, he likes open discussion about video games and how to pursue your passions while living Christ-like. Currently passionate about: Video editing, podcasting, video game dialogue and writing.

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