At the start, it was easy for critics to write off Genshin Impact as a shameless Breath of the Wild clone from a country with a reputation for knock-offs. Even when it did gain a following to everyone’s surprise, coverage also had a hand-wringing focus on its gacha mechanics. But defying expectations, the free-to-play open world action RPG has gone from strength to strength, raking over $2 billion in its first year of launch on mobile alone, and becoming the most talked about game on Twitter in 2021. Its crossover success to Western markets has established developer miHoYo (or HoYoverse, as it’s internationally rebranded itself these days) as a vanguard of the Chinese new wave in big budget game development.
Gone are the days of hearing people refer to this game by its dismissive nickname Breath of the Waifu. Now, people are searching for Genshin-likes instead (and Diluc and Zhongli mains can attest the game has its share of husbandos too). But with an estimated 500+ hours already invested, almost a dozen maxed characters and still so much more to do, it’s hard for me to want to play anything else. This is especially true as we approach the 3.0 update, which aims to not only introduce the new tropic-and-desert region of Sumeru but also a new element, Dendro, to mix up combat.
But what about the uninitiated looking to drop into the fantasy world of Teyvat for the first time? At first, Genshin Impact may feel like another victim of feature creep, with updates that have added a city reputation system, your own Animal Crossing-style island getaway, and even a dating sim mini-game with some of its delectable cast. Fortunately, these features gradually unlock as you play and increase your adventure rank, so as not to overwhelm you off the bat. For the first 15-20 hours, you can treat it as an old-fashioned single-player action RPG as you play a mysterious traveller on a quest to find your missing sibling, before getting caught up in a crisis involving a dragon gone berserk.