Genshin Impact is a jaw-dropping open-world anime extravaganza

I refuse to believe Genshin Impact is real. Even after having played hours of it during the latest closed console beta, it’s a game that absolutely boggles my mind. This is arguably the most gorgeous game with an anime-style aesthetic I’ve ever played, and it’s free. It has a massive, beautifully rendered world full of monsters, treasure, dungeons, and NPCs… and it’s free. There are dozens of playable characters, and inventive element-mixing combat systems. It is free!

Some of the biggest Japanese game developers have tried and failed for years to deliver engrossing open-world experiences like this, and yet here’s Mihoyo, a Chinese mobile game developer that has come out of nowhere with an all too incredible free-to-play action RPG that I cannot stop thinking about.

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Where many free-to-play games try to you moving at full-speed at all times, whether you’re grinding out overwhelming RPG battles or endlessly diving into overwhelming multiplayer deathmatches. Genshin Impact bucks the trend entirely, embracing the beauty of open-world RPGs and letting you simply soak in the scenery and advance at your own pace.

When you see the game, the first comparison that will spark into your mind will likely be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both games share a similar sort of pastel, cel-shaded aesthetic within their world design, but it goes beyond just their looks. Genshin Impact has a lot of the same DNA that made The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild such a hit. You can dynamically scale any cliff sides and buildings you come across, enemies naturally inhabit camps and caves across the massive map, and while you have major story markers to venture toward, simply exploring the world at a leisurely pace will naturally lead you toward intriguing puzzles and hidden encounters.

Despite drawing such heavy inspiration from the latest Zelda adventure, Genshin Impact builds on that formula by mixing in the varied character-focused progression systems of your favorite mobile RPGs. There’s a wide variety of characters to play as beyond your amnesiac protagonist who’s searching for their missing twin.

Sure, you can dip into the randomised summoning system that lets you exchange premium currencies to receive random weapons or character unlocks, but you truly don’t need to. Progressing through the story naturally adds a suite of new characters to your roster, and as you open treasure chests and clear dungeons you’ll find new weapons and upgrade materials. Again, it seems too good to be true that a massive free game like this wouldn’t be sinking it’s claws into your wallet in any predatory way, yet here we are.

The great thing about the steady flow of free characters is that it ensures you’re always able to fully experience the unique elemental combat of Genshin Impact. Each character belongs to a different elemental category like wind, fire, or ice, and when certain elements collide in the world, they can result in a wide variety of combat or exploration-altering situations.

If fire abilities are used within gusts of wind it will make the flames deal wider area of damage, but it can also create a tunnel of hot air that lets you soar up into the sky. Ice attacks on wet enemies are extra effective, but using ice abilities on bodies of water can also freeze it over and allow you to walk right across it. Characters can operate well on their own, but in combining their talents and swapping around accordingly mid-battle, you can cook up some incredibly inventive ways to take down foes and traverse the world.

Genshin Impact is the kind of game I’ve been craving for a long time. I obsess over collecting the characters and upgrades in all sorts of free-to-play mobile games, but their insistence on repetitive short-form missions and minimal downtime always burns me out. Genshin Impact steps in a completely opposite direction, providing an immersive and zen world full of natural beauty to explore at your own pace, while also delivering a heaping helping of characters, skill points, missions, equipment and more that is sure to keep me glued to the full game for ages.

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Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.