While I came away mostly impressed by Genshin Impact when I played the game at PAX East earlier this year, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed after my time with the title’s final closed beta on PlayStation 4 earlier this month. This anime MMORPG directly inspired by the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild still offers plenty of fun from a gameplay standpoint, but its bland narrative, tediously large open world, and allusion to free-to-play gacha game mechanics will make it hard to recommend whenever it launches for PC, PlayStation 4, and mobile devices later this year.
Right off the bat, the game introduces players to the elements they’ll be able to manipulate throughout the course of their adventure. Wind, fire, ice, and electricity feel great to use in battle, especially as one turns enemies into ice cubes only to shatter them with bolts of lightning moments thereafter. Taking down minions from afar with flaming arrows is satisfying, as is manifesting a cartoon-y representation of oneself and having it detonate all over an opponent’s face. Gameplay is by far Genshin Impact’s most appealing aspect, as I can easily imagine players spending hours perfecting their move sets and chaining elemental attacks in pairs.
Unfortunately, the rest of my time with the beta hardly impressed. Genshin Impact includes a narrative that, at best, feels as if it’s been cut and pasted from a fairy tale anime that aired last season. I found myself painstakingly scrolling through walls of text as characters droned on about mythical dragons and the fate of their world. Thankfully, the main character’s chibi, Navi-like companion fades away to the background after a few hours of play.
Playing the game itself feels like one is growing through the motions. I found myself running from point A to point B in a vain attempt to unlock one of Genshin Impact’s many characters, only to eventually find out that many will likely be hidden behind a paywall of some sort. The beta’s allusion to gacha mechanics is cause for a bit of concern, as it seems that a lot of one’s enjoyment unlocking warriors and experimenting with gameplay styles will unfortunately require one to either grind endlessly or pony up some cash. Given how the beta’s open world seemed lifeless outside of the townships, it’s not hard to imagine players growing tired of the game quickly if they’re not willing to reach into their wallets.
Many of my concerns would have been ameliorated by the ability to play the beta with friends, but I hardly managed to break that threshold. This test trial required players to put in roughly 15 hours on average to access multiplayer, which is a bit of an exaggeration. This could be a way to defend the game’s systems against exploits, but developer miHoYo should try its best to give users the ability to play with friends sooner rather than later.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t enjoy my time with Genshin Impact’s latest beta. Hacking and slashing as a swordsman or mage are by far the most fun I had with the title. The generic story, lackluster open world, and concerning allusions to gacha game mechanics, however, bogged down my overall experience. It’s anyone’s guess what the final version of Genshin Impact will look like later this year. Here’s hoping that anime fans won’t find it as unexciting as I did.