At PAX East, miHoYo brought its upcoming ARPG, Genshin Impact, to the show floor. I was lucky enough to get hands-on time with guidance from Jason Chuang of miHoYo. Once I plugged in, I was able to see the game boasted a massive open world with a plethora of exploration options. Element-based combat and puzzling also littered the game adding to its unique nature. With a wealth of characters and storylines to play around with, I was able to thoroughly fill in my preview time with a delicate mix of ARPG and JRPG elements.
For my preview, I was immediately thrust into an enormous open world, reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Everything was visible so long as terrain was not blocking my vision, and Chuang let me know that anything I could see I could go to. I tested that theory by climbing mountain sides, jumping from cliffs, drowning in rivers, and even ascending the top of a random windmill. Anything I saw in the distance, I was not only able to reach, but traverse. The scenery also varied immensely. I was able to visit the bustling city of Mondstadt, a Renaissance English-styled wind city outfitted with knights and its very own winery, as well as a massive hotel built into an even more impressive tree that oozed of Chinese architecture and influence. Chuang told me that the demo featured only a small slice of what the world has to offer, and that many cities and landmarks will make their way into the full release of the game.
Genshin Impact houses an eclectic mix of playable characters. I was able to choose from over a dozen characters in my preview and was told the full game would have a great deal more. On top of the playable characters, NPCs were present and vital to the story, such as Paimon. Paimon is the player’s personal guide and assistant in the world to help guide you along the story, but also helps with inventory, party, and numerous other systems in-game. In my preview, all of the characters were already unlocked to use; however, Chuang told me that most of the characters will have certain requirements and quests that will need to be fulfilled in order to recruit them. Each character also seemed to have their own story and persona that were more colorful than whatever element they wielded. For instance, Jean, a wind user, is also the acting head of the Knights in Mondstadt, and conveys that in her dialogue.
Throughout the vast exploration areas, enemies were wildly abundant. I encountered barbaric encampments hiding chests and elemental slimes burning down fields. To add to the unique approach of the game, combat is based on an elemental chart. Each playable character has their own elemental focus and combat style. Some characters use ranged bows, others use magic through grimoires, with the remaining using swords, great swords, pole-arms and clubs. Elements typically react as you would expect them to with each other. Water douses fire, electric shocks water, fire burns wood, and so on; however, certain reactions are less obvious and can result in some extravagant consequences. For instance, adding electricity to fire can cause an overloaded explosion or using wind across a river might cause a small typhoon to form.
After my hands-on at PAX, I was itching for more of this ever-endearing world. My dreams were answered as I was accepted into a media preview of Genshin Impact’s second closed beta. The closed beta starts out from the beginning of the full game and leads you through the entire tutorial. A key difference in this beta was that I was not able to explore as freely due to level restrictions, but more of the game’s systems were available to me.
I began by choosing which twin I wanted to play as during a gorgeous opening cutscene and was then whisked away to the Mondstadt area of the world that I explored at PAX. Paimon and I regaled how it is we met and shared the central focus of the game: finding your missing twin. While following a fluid and rewarding questing system I joined up with several of the aforementioned characters. We encountered a rampaging dragon and were tasked with subduing the beast.
After following this initial quest-line, I unlocked the ability to enter the game’s dungeon system. The dungeons are available via the adventurer guild which provides rewards to players for progressing through guild ranks. The dungeons themselves contain certain puzzles or combat trials that felt rewarding and refreshing in an RPG world without being an absolute grind fest.
As far as RPG mechanics go, they were certainly meticulous and deep. Each character has their own combat level, affecting attributes such as damage and health. Layered on to the character level is their weapon and talents, which can all be swapped out and upgraded, as well as a constellation system of skills to unlock. Experience is gained not through combat exp though, but through an item exp system. Completing quests and dungeons can reward certain items that are used specifically for leveling up characters, weapons, and skills. This helps avoid issues of overusing certain characters and others falling behind, as well as a one-for-all system that improves all characters at once. Players are free to level up whichever character they prefer and whichever weapons and skills therein.
The game has the sense of Breath of the Wild, but from my perspective it seems Genshin Impact has only taken a page from that game and created its own series of novels. MiHoYo has seemingly crafted a living, breathing world fit for the modern age and outfitted the world with colorful (if not sometimes cliché) characters and a vibrant RPG system. If Breath of the Wild started a new wave of open world gaming, then Genshin Impact is the first game that I have seen to try to encapsulate that and make it its own.
Players will be able to experience the enthralling world of Genshin Impact for themselves on Android, iOS, PC, and PlayStation 4 later this year.