Genshin Impact Gets A Lot Better After The Lengthy First Quest

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Genshin Impact Gets A Lot Better After The Lengthy First Quest
Screenshot: miHoYo

Genshin Impact, a free-to-play totally-not-Zelda game that came out this week for PC, PS4, and mobile, starts slow but quickly picks up the pace. If you’re just starting out and aren’t immediately gripped, that’s fair, but don’t throw in the towel just yet. Stick with it through the first, lengthy prologue quest. Yes, it’s a tedious string of small tasks, but you won’t get a look at what Genshin Impact can truly offer until you wrap it up.

In the early moments, combat in Genshin Impact might feel like anything else you’ve played in the past 20 years or so. You can use standard attacks and special attacks to take on throngs of fantasy-inspired enemies, all while dodging their telegraphed blows. You also start out with an elemental power: a gust of wind that can push enemies away. At first glance, it’s all standard stuff, but the game’s core gimmick shakes things up in some fresh ways.

When Genshin Impact’s combat system is in full bloom, you’ll have four members in your party. Each party member has a different element: ice, fire, lightning, things like that. Each element inflicts a different status effect: ice freezes, fire burns, lightning shocks, you know how it goes. These elemental effects react with each other in various ways, like a high-fantasy periodic table. If you, say, freeze someone solid and then immolate them, they’ll “melt,” and suffer serious damage. You can only have one party member on the field at any given moment, but you can cycle between characters at the push of a button.

Genshin Impact Is More Than A Breath Of The Wild Clone

There’s a lot to like about Genshin Impact, a free-to-play action-RPG that came out this week for PC, PlayStation 4, and mobile. While it might look a bit like Breath of the Wild, with its art style and mechanics, Genshin Impact stands on its own thanks to its combat, its...

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It’s a fascinating, in my opinion enthralling, combat system that encourages you to think on the fly. Surviving battles is contingent on mastery of mixing and matching the game’s elemental attacks, but you don’t get to experience this combat in full until you’ve all but tied up the prologue quest, “The Outlander Who Caught the Wind.”

There are 11 steps in “The Outlander Who Caught the Wind,” each of which takes place in a different corner of Genshin Impact’s expansive world of Teyvat. Most of the quest-line involves taking preemptive measures to weaken a malevolent dragon named Stormterror. In classic video game fashion, that means, among other things, visiting various different temples and clearing them of enemies. At first, it’s just you. You’ll soon be joined by Amber, an irrepressibly chipper archer who can shoot fireballs from her bow. After clearing one dungeon, Kaeya, a sword-wielding cop (boo!) who knows ice magic, joins your party. Another gives you Lisa, a librarian (woo!) who can shoot lightning like an extremely well-educated Thor.

Here's Stormterror in a rare moment of not eating someone. (Screenshot: miHoYo) Here's Stormterror in a rare moment of not eating someone. (Screenshot: miHoYo)

Once these three join your party, the combat system starts to sing. Forget the solo performance. You now have magical harmonies at your fingertips. All told, it took me a little less than three hours to complete, including a few snack breaks. By then, I came to think of Genshin Impact less as a competent, if banal, hack-and-slash and more as a legitimately interesting role-playing game.

The game’s mission structure, too, opens up a bit. At that point, you can take on various side- and character-specific quests. Some, I’m happy to report, are more interesting than simply “clear out dusty temples and fight a big bad dragon.” In one, you’re sent on a pirate-esque treasure hunt (complete with a narrative twist that’s genuinely surprising).

Genshin Impact takes longer than most modern games to show you what it’s all about, and there’s a case to be made that a molasses-speed start is an issue in and of itself. To really get a sense of what Genshin Impact is, you need to knock out “The Outlander Who Caught the Wind” first. If you don’t like it then, hey, that’s totally fine. At least you gave it a fair shake. But if you actually start enjoying yourself? Hey, that’s great! Your next major quest is called “For a Tomorrow Without Tears” (so dramatic) and, yes, you might have to grind a bit before unlocking it. But at least the combat, at that point, will be something to look forward to.

Comments

  • I’m really curious to know why the PC version of this game pops up a UAC dialog every time I go to run it. The same thing happens with AC: Odyssey and it makes me nervous each time because a video game should not need root privileges to run on my computer.

    • It’s the latest garbage trend in anti-cheat systems. Can’t do a successful gacha if players can just cheatengine themselves as much as they want of the fucktillion manipulative currency types.

      • Also, ‘fucktillion’ is an exaggeration, but only a slight exaggeration.

        There’s the generic ‘every in-game-action’ currency (mora), gacha draw currency A and B (acquaint fate, intertwined fate), generic free+paid premium currency (primogen), cash-only premium currency (genesis crystal), gacha consolation-prize currencies high and low quality, (starglitter and stardust), souvenir shop currency A and B (anemo and geo sigils).

        That’s nine different types of currency. Some of which can or can’t be exchanged for each other, some with, some without restrictions.

        Throw in tokens required for every type of exp (character exp, weapon exp, artifact exp, constellation/talent nodes) and leveling the shrines (anemoculus and geoculus), which could just about be considered currency in how they’re used and acquired… now you’re tracking a whole bunch of numbers.

        It’s kind of bullshit. Especially with the free and premium daily login incentives, the ‘event’ bonuses for buying big packs of shit, random chance gacha crap… I wish there were a version of the game you could just pay a box price for, because the game itself is pretty great when you dust off all that crap.

        • You’re not wrong there. I’ve avoided games that even had a whiff of gacha like the plague because gacha may be the Single Worst Thing To Happen To Gaming, at least in terms of in game progression and mechanics. However, the production values (and marketing material, probably) had me interested enough in Genshin Impact that I’ve decided to give it a shot. It’s does a lot of things right so far but, man, the currency is a nightmare. I can’t keep track of what is used for what and it’s doing my head in. I wish they just had one premium currency used for multiple things. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to persist with it at this rate, regardless of how otherwise good it is.

          • For me, the game has consumed my life without worrying about the currencies. Just treat it as a shiny new Tales game or something and slow down to ignore the ‘deal of the day’ FOMO and all of a sudden it’s something else.

            The game is fucking dense with content. Not talking about how you can’t walk ten metres without spotting five new things to interact with in five different directions, but also the codices, all the writing and NPCs and the fact that many NPCs offer rewards and even unmarked vendor shops if you just talk with them for long enough.

            They definitely did not half-ass this game. There are multiple asses worth of content in there, they went fucking all-out on the writing and level design at the minimum.

  • I spent my first few hours roaming the landscape and fighting things about 15 levels above me because it was fun and also gave me artifacts that gave me pretty good bonuses for just starting out. Knowing how Gacha mechanics work I already understand the importance of artifacts/runes over levels and having skill based combat just makes it even better, especially since your starter character has some very nice stun options and Amber has the cutest distraction.

    I think I’m just procrastinating because I know once I get into the true gacha mechanics (rolling for gear and chars, levelling up things, awakening, ranking up, etc) the pace is going to start bogging down progressively until I hit the grind wall.

  • You know, I was really hesitant to play this because of gacha mechanics, so I decided to just install it on my phone. After the intro quest which took me a while (because I was using a phone), I actually like how this plays. This feels like it doesn’t have the pressures of season pass games, in having to play out and level up a season pass in a short time frame. I think I might actually install it on PS4 and have this be my downtime chill game

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