Genshin Impact’s Inazuma update just came out last month. But I’ve been too distracted to complete it because hunting animals is too fun.
Inazuma is filled with complicated new puzzles, and the Lightning Shogun constantly rains her deadly fury from the heavens. In contrast, I find a comforting familiarity in chasing boars on the rolling hills of Mondstadt.
In many open world games, animals usually give off a haunting death knell before leaving behind a realistic carcass when you kill them. Not in Genshin Impact. When you attack one of young Timmie’s feathery friends, the pigeon poofs in a cloud of dust, leaving behind a sparkling chicken leg. Is it any wonder that I keep shooting down this child’s friends? If they weren’t meant to be boiled or roasted for Paimon’s dinner, then maybe the developers should have made hunting feel gruesome and horrible.
But here I am, with 59 raw meats in my inventory. And the special effects aren’t limited to animals or birds either. If you use a fire attack on any fish you come across, they turn into a fine slice of seafood. The game even references this phenomenon. The playable character Klee mentions “blowing up fish,” which she considers to be a fun hobby. Maybe it’s not just a fun game mechanic. Klee makes me wonder if animals actually transform into perfectly portioned steaks in the Teyvat universe.
In game development, there’s the concept of “game feel.” It refers to how a game, well, feels when someone plays it. For example, a controller’s vibration or a pleasing sound effect that plays when you score a critical hit or a neat visual effect that appears every time that you fire a gun. Game feel is the reason you can keep shooting virtual human beings in first person shooters without feeling like an absolute monster afterwards. Or in my case, stabbing cute squirrels for massive cuts of steak.
Open-world games sometimes try to make you feel less bad about looting meat off the carcasses, but it mostly still feels like a grisly affair. Which seems odd, since video games are usually about abstraction. Every interaction is simplified into basic inputs, and yet most big budget open world games can’t resist the siren’s call of realistic combat. Smacking a creature until it drops some cold cuts and disappears is actually the maximum amount of realistic animal murder I want. And Genshin Impact gets it exactly right. The only thing they could possibly add to experience would be a cute animal ghost that waves goodbye as it soars off into the heavens.
But that’s exactly what a Gacha game like Genshin Impact needs. Food is the great equaliser that allows players to take on higher-level content, especially if they’ve accidentally ascended a world level before they were ready. It would be harder for players to tackle the daily grind of artefact farming if they had to constantly inflict graphic misery upon these adorable animals. Game difficulty isn’t just mechanical difficulty, it’s also the emotional strain of emulating virtual violence. Genshin Impact gives me all of the rewards for none of the pressure.
Hunting is a feature that Genshin Impact implemented well at launch, and it sticks with me even as the game continuously adds new content. And at the rate that it’s constantly adding new food recipes, I expect that I’ll be bullying these defenseless animals for years to come.