In 2020, Genshin Impact took the video game industry by storm, attracting a large player base and generating nearly $400 million in revenue within its first two months on the market. For context, this was more than Pokémon Go, which generated $238 million in revenue within the same time period.
At first glance, Genshin Impact might look like just another anime open-world game, but there are a lot of interesting things going on that set it apart. Why did it become so popular? What’s the game like? How do all of its systems work? On which platforms is it available?
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you’ll need to know about Genshin Impact, including an overview of its gameplay, how monetization works, what its multiplayer is like, and more.
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Genshin Impact is an open-world action RPG with “gacha” (we’ll go over that later on) mechanics. It is developed and published by Chinese studio miHoYo. In it, players control a number of party members, each with different abilities, weapons, gear, and personalities. The combat plays out in real time, allowing players to utilize ranged, melee, and elemental attacks against a wide array of enemies across the game’s open world and dungeons.
Genshin Impact is an online-only adventure that heavily leans into story and multiplayer — with many features you’d see in popular games as a service (like daily quests, rewards, loot, and other things to keep you checking in).
Many critics and players have compared Genshin Impact to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with an anime twist. It’s a fair comparison, as many of the environments and locales resemble one another across both games. The biggest similarity is that you’re able to climb almost any surface in Genshin and the amount you can climb is dictated by a stamina meter — just like in Breath of the Wild. Once you get to the top of your destination, you can glide off, allowing you to travel quickly around the map — yet another similarity.
Though, to call it a “Breath of the Wild clone” is reductive, as Genshin Impact does a lot to stand on its own.
Let’s get into its “gacha” features, which are a huge portion of the game. The “gacha” element is used to describe the game’s monetization, which is comparable to random loot boxes or a slot machine. The way it works is that you can spend in-game currency (or real money) on packs of characters, loot, and gear — all of which are random with varying degrees of rarity.
You might get the specific character you’re looking for on your first try, or it might take you hundreds of hours (and dollars) to finally acquire them. The characters and loot you receive all have a different probability of dropping, giving it a “luck of the draw” feeling. However, you’re definitely able to earn characters by playing the game normally as well. But certain pieces of gear or characters are highly sought after, causing players to spend hundreds of dollars on currency to finally acquire them.
Throughout the game’s life cycle, different character Banners are available. This essentially means certain characters have a higher drop rate, which encourages players to stick around. Sometimes, a character re-roll will take place, giving the community another chance to get their hands on a character who was previously pushed during a Banner. In short, this is the game’s main monetization tactic, as the randomness keeps players around.
In its current form, Genshin Impact is available on PC, Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, and PS5, and it will get a dedicated Nintendo Switch version at some point in the future. Part of the reason for the game’s success is that it’s available on so many platforms — allowing its community to play with one another regardless of being on PS4, PS5, PC, or mobile. As popular as console gaming is, mobile games are still home to millions of players, and with Genshin Impact, you get the best of both worlds.
Though, if you’re an Xbox player, you won’t have access to Genshin Impact, and developer miHoYo says it has no plans to bring the game to those platforms. It’s possible this will change, as Xbox has exploded in popularity recently thanks to its first-party output and Game Pass, so we wouldn’t totally rule out a port just yet.
When the game first launched, you could tell it was designed primarily with mobile in mind, as the controls on console did tend to feel a bit wonky at times. Having to go through multiple screens to get to the map, a cluttered menu system, and controls that are unable to be mapped (at least on console) made it clear the game was designed with touch screens first. For this reason, the community has high hopes for the Nintendo Switch version, which might implement touch screen controls or even gyro support.
In short, yes, Genshin Impact supports cooperative multiplayer online (again, with cross-platform play across PS4, PS5, PC, and mobile). In it, you can play with up to three other friends for a total of four-player squads. You can explore the large, sprawling open world, tackle certain quests, or partake in the game’s various dungeons. Many of the areas feature powerful creatures that will definitely be easier to take down with friends.
Though, in order to play with friends, you must first reach Adventure Rank 16, which can be sort of a grind if you don’t play often. Once you do, you’ll be able to join or host a game with three other players. You can certainly play with fewer than squads of four, though. While playing co-op, you can’t partake in story quests, and you can’t interact with chests or gather collectibles — only the host can. So it does have its limitations.
The moment-to-moment gameplay in Genshin Impact throws you into various quests that require you to travel around the large map, unlock fast-travel points, complete dungeons, and, of course, battle enemies. In terms of combat, players can switch between party members on the fly — allowing for a varied assortment of attacks to use on enemies. Some characters excel with melee combat, while others are better at long-range engagements.
You’re encouraged to explore and unlock the entirety of the map, along with fast-travel points, better gear, collectibles, and eventually, partake in the game’s dungeons. These dungeons grant you rewards upon completion — which vary in rarity depending on difficulty. Dungeons have certain requirements to initiate and feature a wide range of enemies and minor puzzles.
One of its interesting mechanics allows you to stack elemental attacks (referred to as Elemental Reactions in-game), giving you a new effect depending on the combination. For example, combine the Hydro and Cryo elements to freeze your enemy in place. Or use Pyro and Dendro (sort of like a nature-based element) to inflict burning damage. Players are encouraged to experiment with these different elements to gain different results.
As you collect resources, you’re encouraged to craft gear, which can aid you in completing quests. You also have the ability to buy an assortment of items, like food, crafting materials, weapons, gear, and more. It pretty much has everything you’d expect from a large open-world RPG.
There are heavy JRPG mechanics like a party system, intricate elemental-based combat, and a large world to explore. You’ll need to get good at switching your party members quickly, as you can sort of use them back-to-back to unleash combos on your foes. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the types of enemies you’ll face off against so you can choose your party members accordingly — whether it’s in preparation for a dungeon or a story mission in the open world.
We mentioned the game’s loot-box-style gacha mechanics that would ordinarily be cause for concern, but since Genshin Impact is free, players have been more forgiving of the monetization tactic. In fact, you can play through and totally have a good time without spending a dime. Unlike many free-to-play titles that really push spending real money, Genshin Impact does a great job of offering in-game purchases as an option without making you feel like you have to spend money.
So, when players refer to it as free-to-play, it really is free-to-play — which is more than can be said about many games that categorize themselves the same way.
There is a ton of extra downloadable content in Genshin Impact, ranging from currency to characters and gear. Again, all of these pieces of content are totally optional and are not forced or required in any way. However, with it being a game as a service, it features regular updates that include extra content for free. This includes new areas to explore, additional missions, and limited-time events. It really has all the ingredients of a successful service-based game, offering both free and paid content for players to enjoy.
In terms of updates, Genshin Impact typically sees new content every five to six weeks. In fact, the community is gearing up for Genshin Impact Version 2.3, which will begin at the end of November. It will include new characters, weapons, and events to enjoy, so if you’re planning to jump in, now is a great time since it falls in line with a new batch of content.
Finally, let’s touch on Genshin Impact’s battle pass because it’s a major part of acquiring gear in-game. If you’ve played games like Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone, you should be at least vaguely familiar with how a battle pass works. In essence, it’s a temporary leveling system that offers rewards with each rank and resets at the beginning of each season. Each level of a battle pass grants you a reward, whether it’s a cosmetic, weapon, or another piece of gear.
In Genshin, there are actually two types of battle passes: One is the Sojourner’s Battle Pass, which is free and gives you rewards every 10 levels. The other, Gnostic Hymn Battle Pass, costs $10 but gives better rewards like extra upgrade materials, Hero’s Wit, Mora, and Mystic Enchantment Ores — plus all the contents of the Sojourner’s Battle Pass. Once again, miHoYo shows signs of being focused on consumer-friendly practices by offering a free version of the battle pass, along with a paid counterpart. In many games as a service, battle passes aren’t free, so players have praised Genshin for giving the community a variety of options.
The battle passes in Genshin are unlocked at Adventure Rank 20, so you’ll need to play for a bit before being able to utilize it. But once you do, you can reap the rewards. You only have the duration of the season to acquire levels in a specific battle pass, after which your rank is reset (though you keep all the rewards you’ve gathered). Since the game is still fairly new, it’s possible the seasonal content will evolve over time — as it does in many similar games.
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