Genshin Impact is one of 2020’s best surprises
Genshin Impact is the greatest game in 2020 that no one saw coming.
It was simple to write off as a mobile Breath of the Wild clone, and I remember being immediately suspicious of its too-good-to-be-true trailers because, well, how could a mobile game ever look that good? But that is what makes Genshin Impact so special: it is an astounding, expectation smashing RPG that has raised the bar for free-to-play games – even in case its’ gacha’ microtransactions come with a long list of caveats. I do not think I have fallen more quickly in love with any other game this year.
A lot of what makes Genshin Impact so amazing is how deftly it understands and also recreates the joy of exploration found in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s seminal hit still feels ahead of the time of its, given how many open world games as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077 stick to the tradition of littering the maps of theirs with icons rather than letting you discover everything organically. But in Genshin Impact, vast stretches of Teyvat are actually uncharted until you go there and explore them, discover what resources and monsters are actually found there, and mark it on the map of yours.
What is equally as impressive to me, although, is how quickly Genshin Impact has grown.
Call me a heretic, but I really find exploration more rewarding in Genshin Impact than in Breath of the Wild. While ruined Hyrule feels a great deal more like a living world – as well as the mysteries tucked within it, like hidden temples and flying dragons, create a sense of wonder – the rewards I would get from venturing off the beaten track are actually a bit mundane. But because Genshin Impact is actually a more traditional RPG with a load of cues taken from MMOs and grindy mobile games, its rewards feed into a complicated process which is surprisingly engrossing. Hidden chests tucked into every nook and cranny reward gear, money, and experience that feeds directly into making my party stronger. It is satisfying as hell to spend a couple of hours just exploring randomly.
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What is equally as impressive to me, although, is how quickly Genshin Impact has grown. Every few weeks there is a brand new event and rewards to chase, characters that are new to gamble for, and a substantial new update just dropped that adds an entirely new zone to explore (with more on the way). Not all of these updates have landed with no problems, but developer MiHoYo has been really good at listening to feedback and making adjustments – even in case they are not as radical as players hope.
It is weird to feel this optimistic about a live service game. Probably The biggest names in the genre, like Destiny two and World of Warcraft, both have communities that rapidly oscillate between joy and all consuming hate as updates fix one thing but frequently break another. But Genshin Impact feels remarkably stable, even when controversies as characters being heavily nerfed or perhaps its too strict stamina system temporarily spoil the fun.
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(Image credit: miHoYo) I have played for well over a 100 hours after the launch of its in September, and I am excited to dig into its new Dragonspine region over the holiday break. And, seriously, probably the biggest issue I’ve with Genshin Impact is how the grind of its is able to suck the joy out of (finally) getting a brand new character from its lootboxes. I wish there was far more space to test and experiment out characters and never have to commit hours to getting them caught up with the majority of the party of mine.
These few barbs are able to leave scratches, but I actually do love this lush world and several of its characters – yes, even its screeching toddler fairy. That I have sunk so much time into this game without really needing to spend money makes Genshin Impact feel uncommonly generous for a free-to-play game, and its Breath of the Wild exploration is actually fantastic. That is exactly why Genshin Impact is the personal pick of mine in PC Gamer’s Game of the Year Awards.
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