Some games completely take you by surprise. For me, Genshin Impact from developer MiHoYo had my attention the moment it was revealed. The bright colors and vast world paired with fast combat and exciting characters were just too much to look past. After going hands-on with the game during PAX East 2020, I realized that this wasn’t just a pretty looking game. Instead, I learned of the story that the developer is trying to tell within this world, and that is what I will be coming back for.
First and foremost, Genshin Impact wants you to take things slow. Sure, it is possible to run through the game, but you would probably miss out on much of what it has to offer. While I played, every direction I walked revealed exciting places to explore. Dungeons, secret bosses, side quests related to the story, everything was here to create an experience tailored to me.
Furthermore, I learned that each character has a backstory and a reason for being on this mission. The party also gets quite large, which is why the developer has created a way to level up characters that aren’t always in your active party by using items found in battle and treasure chests. Storylines for characters aren’t very straight forward either, but their past shapes their actions in the adventure and how they approach different situations. This is something that I’d like to explore more of when the game launches.
Genshin Impact’s systems revolve around the elements. Setting flames to the environment to damage enemies or freezing the water to walk over large lakes are all possibilities for players. The game encourages players to try new ways to combine these elements as each character has access to a different set of abilities. Switching characters in and out of battles are seamless with the press of a button, and quickly getting through the world is manageable with a quick travel option.
The animations of the characters utilize motion capture to create some visually stunning combos as you fight your way through mobs. The characters themselves are well designed and appear to resemble their fighting style. I had a great time cycling through each of them and test out their abilities, which no two were alike.
The open-world design is rather demanding of the player, and there were times where I would be running from one place to another without encountering enemies or a critical point. However, as I stopped on a bridge in the middle of the world, I spun the camera slowly and understood that this is what the developers wanted. They clearly enjoyed crafting this world, and they wanted me to take it all in.
This is perhaps the hardest to convey to fans of open-world action RPGs, who might just see the anime characters and move on. I think that does this game a disservice, though. This is something that has the potential to be much bigger than just an anime game. Still, there’s much work to be done in terms of filling up this world with things to do and ways to keep the player coming back for more, but I feel as though this team is on the right track. If there were one thing I wish they implemented, it would be a way to pet the cat that I saw at the inn.
Genshin Impact took me by surprise when it was revealed, and it keeps on laying the wonders on me. There’s a lot to unpack in this game, but those who want more than just a straight forward action game will potentially find it here. The developers have a story to tell and handcrafted this cast of characters to tell it. How that plays out is yet to be seen, but for now, they have my complete attention. This is easily one of our most anticipated games of 2020.
Genshin Impact is in development for PlayStation 4 and PC.
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