Where ‘Genshin Impact’ came from and why it has become one of the most popular free games in recent years

Genshin Impact first public beta has been available to players for a few weeks, since September. But in a matter of days, the fever for this free-to-play and miHoYo is increasing exponentially until, according to analyst Daniel Ahmad, it exceeds one hundred million dollars in collection. The streaming in Twitch have multiplied, guides tricks (master his is secret more complicated than playing with other recent phenomena as’ Among Us ‘ or ‘ Fall Guys ‘) grow like mushrooms … But what does’ Genshin Impact ‘to have become the best launch ever for a Chinese IP ?

‘Genshin Impact’ is, as we say, a free-to-play game whose mechanics mix exploration adventure, real-time action and RPG touches. The game is available on PC, mobile. Switch and Playstation 4, and presents an open world in which battles take place in which all the conventions of this genre come into play: spells, characters that combine their powers … and of course the possibility of buying improvements in the form of weapons, spells and items.

You also have to explore an open world avoiding innumerable obstacles and combining four characters (two in principle, a pair of twins who are separated in a fantasy dimension called Teyvat by a very angry deity). As you progress, the 24 characters that make up the game will be unlocked, and they control seven natural elements, equivalent in this fantastic world to ice, fire, water, air, electricity, earth and life. Combined with each other, they empower and feed each other.

The set is, broadly speaking, a more or less inspired clone of ‘ Zelda: Breath of the Wild ‘, the installment of the Nintendo saga of 2017 for Switch. It is one of the most criticized aspects of the game , although finally ‘Genshin Impact’ has flown over this controversy a bit and has ended up acquiring a fame in its own right. After all, elements such as the need to cook, enemy camps to raid, the stamina meter or the towers that allow you to travel from one point to another on the map quickly were not invented by Nintendo (nor were dungeon raids born in the ‘Tales …’).

Genshin Impact Trailer

As a whole, the resemblances, the tone and the rhythm (and that idea of ​​exploration as a stage where everything is achievable with patience and ingenuity) are suspect at first because ‘Breath of the Wild’ and ‘Genshin Impact’ drink from games similar, but when the second is deepened, the elements themselves take shape. For example, in combat, the most praised item in the game. This is based on the usual mix of attack combos and fast dodges and at the right time.

Each character is very different from the rest of his adventure companions, because the elements that are manipulated acquire great importance with the development of the adventure . The elements work in the logical way (ice transforms into water, fire burns wooden obstacles …), and they also combine with each other in combat and exploration to create everything from steam clouds to electrified water. But each problem demands its combinations of concrete elements to be overcome.

There is nothing fixed, and that is what makes ‘Genshin Impact’ such an addictive proposition. You can improvise when combining elements to solve puzzles or kill enemies, which makes a game grow that, let’s not forget, is free-to-play, but sometimes it seems to offer as much freedom as a normal sandbox . But of course, there is a trick. And that trick is the system for leveling up: if the varied and frenzied combats have been praised, the game’s system for removing the fourths from the players has been the most criticized.

Genshin Impact: The gacha hook

Genshin Impact Game
Genshin Impact Game

There is a concept in the game, which is the “world level”, which limits the level the player can reach, the missions he can accept and other aspects that clearly prevent defining ‘Genshin Impact’ as a sandbox in use. So while that “world level” increases and allows more actions to be taken, you have to accept missions and wander the world gradually increasing your level. Sometimes very little by little.

Behind this mechanic, of course, there is a trick. ‘Genshin Impact’ is a gacha, a common free-to-play subgenre in which players access improvements through machines that give arbitrary prizes, in the style of the controversial and infamous loot boxes. Of course, these machines work with real money, and it is a logically criticized mechanic that has taken over the Chinese and Korean mobile landscape. ‘Genshin Impact’ is one of the first massive games to popularize mechanics in the West.

In the case of ‘Genshin Impact’, and possibly hence its popularity and moderately good reputation among traditional players, the gacha mechanics are not particularly intrusive and only accentuate at the end . That is, with patience and assuming that certain repetitive mechanics are unavoidable to advance without spending, you can progress in the story without spending. Only if you want to overcome the already very demanding final stretch and get 100% of the characters (there are three that can only be obtained on machines) will you have to invest in substantial microtransactions.

Also in this aspect of using non-traditional techniques to catch the player, ‘Genshin Impact’ is revealed to be Machiavellian from level 20, where you have to raise equipment and characters with difficult to obtain resources, which introduces the Domains into the equation, dungeons that grant rewards depending on the day of the week . In other words, the game of miHoYo pressures the player to access the games on a daily basis, generating that need to return again and again to exploration and battle.

How all this has come together in a coherent game and that the player does not perceive as a hooker is the true miracle of ‘Genshin Impact’. Players and analysts are stunned that free-to-play is capable of offering the player a world of a much larger size than usual , with more elaborate mechanics (here we have only flown over them in general terms, since as in everything RPG there are dozens of factors to handle to improve stats ) and that is not explored simply by kicking open fields, but rather you have to start up and improve powers, and manage them based on climbing, flying and locating secret accesses to thoroughly snoop the ground.

For now, it remains to be seen if its success is going to be a flower of a day, but its arrival on consoles beyond smartphones and the continuous flourishing of strategy guides , videos with gameplays and conversation around its innumerable secrets suggests that we have ‘Genshin Impact’ for a while. Because sometimes, free-to-play is not synonymous with cheap mechanics and a chopper philosophy.

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