Really, I shouldn’t like Genshin Impact as much as I do. It has loot boxes with dreadfully low drop rates, an energy system that limits how quickly I progress, and an extremely annoying sidekick that refers to itself exclusively in the third person. These flaws would doom other games, but Genshin Impact is also a fantastic RPG set in a vibrant open world that is so much more fun to explore than most full-priced games I’ve played this year.
If Genshin Impact has a secret weapon, it’s that it isn’t afraid to swipe features from other games, most notably The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Just like Nintendo’s seminal hit, there’s an enormous world to explore that’s teeming with secrets, puzzles and cleverly hidden loot. There are mercifully few icons on the map, so a lot of the exploration is self-guided. I have to climb mountains, glide across canyons, and pay attention to my surroundings if I hope to discover it all. It might offend hardcore Nintendo fans, but Genshin Impact doesn’t just thoughtlessly copy and paste these ideas. It expands on and tweaks them to fit really nicely into a loot-obsessed RPG that is – despite what its roots in mobile games might imply – incredibly fun to play.
WHOLE NEW WORLD
It’s actually easier to understand Genshin Impact if you think of it less like a free-to-play mobile game (that’s also on PC and PS4) and more like a proper single-player JRPG like Ni No Kuni II or Tales of Vesperia. You play as one of two twins whose dimension-spanning vacation gets ruined by a mysterious god. It’s a journey that leads you from being inducted into an order of knights to proving your innocence after being accused of murdering a demigod. Genshin Impact might be a Chinese game, but it walks and talks like a JRPG.
The story isn’t the reason Genshin Impact took over my life for a few weeks, though. It’s what happens when the game inevitably tells you to go level up for a bit before you can move onto the next chapter. In a game like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, I resented how the story was gated by my level because it felt like my mother arbitrarily forcing me to go outside for an hour to get some exercise. In Genshin Impact, though, being told that you have to level up a bit, before you can continue, is a blessing, because exploring is what Genshin Impact does best.
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