Genshin Impact or Gacha Cash Grab?
“Genshin Impact” is currently the most popular gacha game with around 50 million users across multiple platforms. It is an action role-playing game created by miHoYo, a video game developer based in Shanghai, China. Since “Genshin Impact”’s explosive reception in 2020, the game has garnered a massive fanbase. So why do so many critics say the game is a copy of one of Nintendo’s best selling games “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?” Secondly, how are people spending hundreds of dollars on a free game? I downloaded the game in search of my own answers.
On first impression, the likeness to “Breath of the Wild”' is striking. It’s hard to avoid comparison when the game mechanics are so similar. The most obvious similarities are climbing, gliding, cooking and potion making. Even so, I stayed open-minded and found myself quickly entranced. Unlike “Breath of the Wild”’s apocalyptic world, “Genshin Impact”’s world of Teyvat, with seven nations based on the real world, is colorful and lively. There’s an abundance of appealing characters you can collect, each one wielding one of seven elements. It has beautiful graphics, like the aquamarine Luhua pools or sunset at the highest summit. Finding treasure chests, fighting enemies and solving puzzles across the land of Teyvat makes exploration exciting.
Despite this, I soon encountered the gambling side of the game. I’m skeptical to believe that “Genshin Impact” would be as popular as it is if it weren’t for the game’s gacha system. Gacha games are free games that prompt players to spend real money on an in-game currency through a gambling-like method. The gacha mechanics are like that of a toy vending machine, originating from the Japanese word gachapon, which are vending machines that dispense toy capsules in a randomized variety.
“Genshin Impact” holds time-limited events in which players can wish on a special character or weapon. Since in-game currency, the most common one being primogen, is hard to accumulate within the short time period, players will be tempted to reach for their wallet. There’s a less than 1% chance of obtaining a 5-star character from a wish, with a pity system that guarantees one after 90 pulls. Some people will save up in-game currency for when they have the opportunity to win a character they want, while others scramble around at the last minute. Just like gambling, when you win a bet, it just makes you come crawling back to try your luck.
miHoYo puts their all into the details of their games, creating a pleasing aesthetic for a cash grab. But the gacha system makes gameplay restrictive, compared to the freedom and flexibility “Breath of the Wild” has to offer. When it comes down to it, “Genshin Impact” falls short; it lacks an essential driving force. I find myself skipping through dialogue during the main quest. Having to understand the difference between crit damage and crit rate, switching between characters in a fight and navigating what route to take when optimizing a character is too overwhelming. At the end of the day, I would say the game is good, not great or spectacular. Do yourself a favor and go play “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” instead.
Art by Tien Servidio