What is Genshin Impact and should you play it?

Genshin Impact
Genshin Impact (Image credit: Sony)

You might have seen screenshots circulating lately of a lovely new game that seems to feature anime-style characters running around a world like the one you may be familiar with from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you've been wondering what that's about, allow me to introduce you to the world of Genshin Impact.

Genshin Impact is a brand new, free-to-play, open-world title that has taken off in the last few weeks since it first launched. Because the game is free-to-play, it's easy to jump into, and its similarities with other action-adventure titles give it a lot of appeal while its Ghibli-like setting helps it stand out. So what is Genshin Impact, and should you be checking it out, too?

What is Genshin Impact?

Genshin Impact

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

Genshin Impact is a new action-adventure title from Chinese developer MiHoYo. It takes place in the fictional world of Teyvat, where elemental magic, dragons, monsters, spirits, and other fantastical elements are a part of everyday life. You play as a young man or woman called the Traveler who, at the start of the adventure, has been traveling between different worlds alongside your twin sibling before a mysterious woman separates you and strands you in Teyvat alone.

Using your magical abilities and aided by allies you meet in Teyvat including the spite-like creature Paimon, you as the Traveler will explore the world, grow your power, and search for your sibling and the powerful woman who separated you.

What do you do in Genshin Impact?

Genshin Impact

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

After a series of tutorial quests, you'll be allowed to freely (mostly) explore the world of Teyvat as the Traveler and his or her companions. You'll receive three party members — Amber, Kaeya, and Lisa — as part of the early story, while others are obtained by engaging with gacha mechanics that you can either pay real money for or earn currency through gameplay to use. Each character plays differently with different weapons and elemental magic, and swapping between them comfortably will be key to solving many of the game's puzzles.

When you're not following the game's story, you play Genshin Impact by exploring Teyvat. Your character can walk and run, find wild ingredients for cooking and crafting, climb cliffs to reach high places, and fight enemies you encounter using a combination of your weapons and elemental magic. Opening treasure chests you find will increase your "Adventure Level," opening up more things to do in the world, while you'll need to fight enemies and use special tomes to level up your individual party members' combat abilities.

Hey, this looks like Breath of the Wild!

Genshin Impact

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

Sure, it kind of does! Genshin Impact does take a lot of visual inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and some of the mechanics are similar too, such as the ability to climb with the limitation of a Stamina meter, enemies like the Hilichurls (which look like Moblins), and the ways in which fire, wind, water, and ice combine in the environment.

However, Genshin Impact is nonetheless a very different game. The elemental system of interactions is more complex than Breath of the Wild's, and easier for the player to manipulate as you'll have access to a number of different characters with each element rather than having to rely on weapons or environmental effects. It also has far more dialogue and overt plot than Breath of the Wild does. This is not to say it's a better game in every way — just that it has some very distinct elements that differentiate it.

However, if you enjoyed Breath of the Wild, you stand a decent chance of liking Genshin Impact too.

How much does Genshin Impact cost?

Genshin Impact

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

Genshin Impact is completely free to play. However, it does include microtransactions that allow you to acquire more characters and equipment.

You'll be introduced to these through the game's tutorial, but here's the basic rundown: You can play Genshin Impact in full without spending any real money at all. However, if you want more characters and weapons beyond the handful the game gives you automatically, you'll need to engage with the game's gotcha mechanics and currencies. Genshin Impact will give you lots of currency for free just for logging in and playing the game, but eventually, you'll run dry and you might want more.

Spending real money in Genshin Impact's shop will get you Genesis Crystals, at a rate of 60 crystals for $.99, 300 crystals for $4.99, 980 crystals for $14.99, 1980 for $29.99, and so forth. You can then convert Genesis Crystals into Primogems at a rate of 1:1. And then spend 160 Primogems to buy either an Acquaint Fate or an Intertwined Fate.

You can spend your Fates for a random item, which will usually be a weapon but will sometimes be a new character to play as in the game. Weapons are more common than characters, but every ten times you spend a Fate, you're guaranteed a character or a high-level item.

This is a lot of obfuscating to say that for about $30, you are pretty likely to get a new character to play as. But as mentioned above, you don't really ever need to engage with this. Genshin Impact will give you plenty of Primogems just for playing the game and logging in daily, and there are also constantly rotating specials that will guarantee you certain characters. There's one going on around the game's launch that will guarantee you the powerful earth magic user Noelle the first time you spend eight Intertwined Fates.

Ultimately, Genshin Impact wants you to spend money, which is why it has so many levels of currency. But just keep an eye on how many Primogems you have, and when you have 160, spend them on a Fate, then use the Fates to roll for new characters and weapons.

Can I play Genshin Impact with friends?

Genshin Impact

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

You can play Genshin Impact with friends, but it will take you a while to do so. Though the game looks like an MMO, Genshin Impact is a solo adventure until you reach adventure level 16.

At adventure level 16, you'll unlock the ability to team up with other friends who are also at that level or higher. You can explore the world together, fight enemies, undertake Adventurer's Guild commissions, and delve into dungeons. However, you cannot progress the story alongside another person, so you'll be stuck doing that part of your adventure by yourself.

Should I play Genshin Impact?

Genshin Impact

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

Genshin Impact is completely free and has tons of content to explore, including an ongoing story that spans at least 20 hours currently and has the potential to go on even longer, and a huge open world with plenty of secrets that you can explore with your friends. There's really no downside to at least giving it a try, and because the tutorial hands you all the story characters it's going to give you in the first hour or two, you'll pretty quickly get a grasp of whether you like the game or not.

If you like open-world games, and especially if you liked Breath of the Wild, it's worth giving a shot.

Where can I play Genshin Impact?

Genshin Impact is available for a free download on the App Store and Google Play, as well as on the PlayStation 4 and PC.

If you're sold on the game and already hopping in, check out our guide to everything you need to know about playing Genshin Impact. And if this isn't quite your style and you want something else to play on Android, here's a guide to other great gaming options available on the platform.

Reb Valentine