Genshin Impact isn't even a third of the way done. Its explosive launch is proof that the free-to-play action-RPG has resonated with lovers of character-driven gacha games as well as open-world fans who've never touched a mobile title, but developer MiHoYo talks as though it's only just reached the starting line. Genshin Impact has a lot of content still to come, and it has quite a few problems to fix as well, so I spoke to several of the team's developers (who wished to keep their names private) about the game's whirlwind launch and its ambitious future.
"Genshin Impact has always been conceived of as a long-term project," a MiHoYo spokesperson explains. "Of the seven major cities in Teyvat, currently just the first two – Mondstadt and Liyue – are available for players to explore. The remainder will be made available in due course via future updates, and each city will come with its own main quests and side quests. It will likely take several years to tell the full story of Genshin Impact, and more and more playable characters will become accessible to players as the story develops."
The shape of new content
The first major update for Genshin Impact will arrive on November 11, and in addition to day-and-date PS5 compatibility, it will add the second half of the main story's Liyue chapter. We aren't getting a new city just yet – and MiHoYo says it "does not yet have a schedule for the release of the third city" – but patch 1.1 will add plenty of things to do.
There's a new city reputation system with cosmetic and quality of life rewards, a big seasonal event with a free four-star character, and a batch of new characters to collect. Another massive update is planned for late December, and players will also see plenty of smaller events and promotions between these bigger drops.
"We will design in-game events based on a combination of factors, including the seasons and cultural backgrounds of each in-game region as well as players' preferences," MiHoYo says. "We will also continue to make ongoing improvements to the core game based on player feedback and suggestions, such as introducing the ability to customize controls."
To put it bluntly, the "player feedback" in the Genshin community is white-hot. Players are out of the honeymoon phase where everything is amazing, and now that they're hitting end-game content, they have more time and opportunities to ponder the things that aren't so amazing. And while its art, combat, world, and music positively soar, Genshin Impact does have a few things that aren't so amazing, so I asked MiHoYo about some of the biggest sore points among the game's community. Firstly: why is co-op play so limited?
"Our goal with Genshin Impact is to deliver an immersive gaming experience for players," MiHoYo begins. "In that sense, the world of Teyvat belongs solely to the individual player, who is given enormous freedom over how they choose to explore that world. When a player invites their friends into their own game world, their friends may gather items such as ore and plants in the wild, but more valuable items like chests, Anemoculi, and Geoculi can only be gathered in one's own game world. This is to maintain the integrity of the immersive single-player experience. Of course, each player in a co-op session gets their fair share of any rewards from Domains, Bosses, and other challenges."
Many reasons and opportunities to play with friends have been sacrificed in the name of single-player integrity, which I understand to an extent. MiHoYo doesn't want people to purposely (or unwittingly) steal chests from other players' worlds, for instance. At the same time, I hope to see the restrictions around NPC interactions, crafting, quest completion, and other host-dependent things relax so that playing with a friend feels less like lashing a ball and chain to your leg. I'd also love to play the Spiral Abyss – an end-game dungeon which ratchets up the difficulty with each new floor – or some version of it in co-op, but MiHoYo says it "will remain a single-player challenge for the foreseeable future."
Let's talk resin
Of course, the biggest talking point around Genshin Impact has been its resin system. This is Genshin's version of the stamina meters seen in countless other gacha games – a daily resource that limits how many times you can complete certain activities, namely the ones that let you strengthen your gear or character. This reflects how gacha games are generally designed to be played a little bit each day and over a long period.
In this respect, Genshin Impact has almost done too good of a job attracting fans of traditional open-world games. A lot of Genshin Impact players (including myself) have never really touched gacha games, and went into it hoping for a full-fat sandbox RPG. But it both is and isn't that kind of experience. It is an amazing open-world game filled with secrets and splendors, but that open world genre is undeniably constrained by its gacha frame, with resin generally seen as the biggest limiter here.
Gacha fans are no stranger to stamina systems (though from what I've read and researched, Genshin is a bit tight even compared to gacha games like Arknights and Fate Go), but many Genshin players were totally blindsided when they hit the dreaded resin wall. MiHoYo says it's keenly aware of this, and on top of increasing the maximum resin cap in update 1.1 – giving players more room to store up resin while they're not playing and therefore have more to spend when they log in – it also says it's "working on solutions" to the complaints. It sounds like MiHoYo is still hashing out potential changes, but when we know more, you'll know more.
MiHoYo is a bit more candid about the rules and rewards of its gacha system. A couple of big factors tend to determine how well these things are received. The first question is obvious: what are the odds? That is, how frequently do high-value characters drop? There's also the question of pity or mercy rules: after how many rolls am I guaranteed a high-value character? And finally, the big one: how much does all of this cost? All of this information is clearly visible in the pricing and details tabs of Genshin Impact's Wish system so, if nothing else, players always know what they're getting into.
Genshin Impact's character rates are pretty low compared to some, but this is offset slightly by its pity rule, which slightly edges out a few big gacha games. Players can also improve their odds of obtaining a specific character by using their Wishes on a banner that improves that character's drop rate. I was able to nab Sucrose and Klee from the most recent banner using the free Primogems I saved up by playing, but that's partly because I was lucky. To guarantee Klee, I'd need to break out the credit card and buy some Crystals, the game's premium currency. And If I wanted to level Klee's Constellation by pulling duplicates of her, I'd have to spend a small fortune.
This was something I wanted to ask the developers about, because the right Constellation upgrade can really elevate a character, but obtaining that same character again can be extremely difficult (or expensive). And while the rules and rates of Genshin Impact's gacha system are near enough set in stone, there is, at least conceptually, more room for quality of life improvements around it.
However, MiHoYo says it "does not currently have plans to add more ways for players to upgrade Constellations", which dashes any hopes of a neutral Constellation material being added to the game anytime soon. Likewise, the studio "does not currently have plans to add more ways of acquiring specific characters", so your best bet will be waiting for the right banner or, in the case of four-star characters like Barbara and Xiangling, getting them from a free promotion or challenge. This may change in the far future, but MiHoYo isn't taking any action here immediately.
The long game
MiHoYo readily acknowledges that Genshin Impact is not perfect and, even putting five cities worth of story content aside, it still has a long way to go. This is especially clear in the way the studio discusses The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is generally seen as one of the game's biggest inspirations, hence such endearing nicknames as Breath of the Waifus. And would you believe it? It turns out that MiHoYo does indeed like Breath of the Wild a whole lot.
"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the most popular and respected titles in the industry, and one which our staff hold in high regard," the developers tell me. "In a post that our team circulated to players last year, we mentioned that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was one of our inspirations for creating Genshin Impact as an open-world action RPG. We will be the first to admit that there is a great gap between Genshin Impact and established titles like BOTW – this motivates us to keep improving Genshin Impact and to work towards closing that gap."
Genshin Impact will never be Breath of the Wild, nor do I think it should be. We already have Breath of the Wild and it doesn't feature dozens of beautiful anime characters smashing elements together like a game of alchemical Yahtzee. Genshin Impact has plenty of flair of its own, and I hope to see MiHoYo refine that in the months and years ahead. I have a feeling that many people (myself included) will be playing it in some capacity, whether hardcore or casually, for quite some time. It will never please everyone, and some requested changes may forever be blocked by the hammer of monetization, but it's clear that Genshin Impact is here to stay, so long as MiHoYo continues working to improve it.
Anyway, back to the important questions. There was one more ongoing concern among Genshin players that I simply had to ask about: will we ever be able to pet the dogs? In that area, MiHoYo has good news for its fanbase.
"So far, we have implemented some limited means of interactions with dogs. For example, dogs will follow you if you stand near them for a while. As for petting them and other interactions with animals in the game, we will share more information with the community as and when we get more confirmed plans, so stay tuned!"