Not once did I think to add Animal Crossing to the list of things I'd like to see in Genshin Impact, but now that the core of Nintendo's cutesy life sim has come to MiHoYo's increasingly experimental gacha JRPG, it feels like it was always meant to be. With the release of the Serenitea Pot housing system, Genshin's not only gained a powerful creative tool that gives players another good reason to grind, but it's also laid the groundwork for an amazing web of interactions and customization.
The Serenitea Pot is a lot like the islands of Animal Crossing: New Horizons: a private space that you can furnish, garden, and terraform as you wish. The main difference is that rather than a patch of land, it's a pocket dimension packed into a teapot by a demigod, and you get to use it rent-free. You can only choose one of three landscapes to start – a beach, a mountain, or an ethereal floating plain – but you can unlock the others later on. From there, you start placing everything from buildings and shacks to trees and rocks, limited only by your resources, creativity, and the asset cap. Oh, and the long crafting time, but you can work around that using readily available insta-craft potions, which the game showers you with at the start.
Lots of gacha games, including MiHoYo's Honkai Impact 3rd, have a housing system of some kind, but they usually boil down to a room that you fill with cute JPEGs. The Serenitea Pot is a proper 3D construction sandbox. I've already spent hours choosing, placing, and meticulously rotating things like rocks, trees, bushes, and other features for my realm's exterior, not to mention buildings ranging from medieval residences and wooden temples to humble huts and tents. And that's just the exterior; every realm also comes with a mansion that has a big main lobby, several rooms, and a second-floor gallery of sorts, all begging to be furnished.
It's easy to gawk at the sheer quantity of stuff, but that undersells the detail that this teapot offers. You can put a desk on top of a rug, put a lantern and some writing utensils on top of that desk, surround that desk with bookshelves with lanterns sandwiched between them, and then cordon off your newly built writing space with a decorative divider to separate it from the teatime setup you already built in the front half of the same room. It's fun to experiment with pieces made from different materials – there's now a plethora of Genshin Impact wood to choose from – and mix and match the Mondstadt and Liyue aesthetics. This system is only a few days old, and there are already a zillion tables, chairs, plants, paintings, beds, bookshelves, lamps, rugs, and more. I'm still in the process of unlocking furnishings and MiHoYo plans to add more pieces in future updates – to say nothing of the option to place characters in your mansion – so I'll likely never stop tinkering.
Unlocking new stuff is part of the fun of this system. The more you decorate your realm, the more realm currency you generate each hour. You can spend this on new furniture as well as the seemingly countless Genshin Impact blueprints, and learning new blueprints improves your Trust rank with the teapot spirit Tubby, unlocking yet more stuff to make. This creates a satisfying cycle where decorating is the key to decorating more. At higher Trust ranks, you can also spend realm currency on resources that help you with normal Genshin activities, which is an enticing carrot to chase that ties the teapot into the game's main loop.
Unsurprisingly, Genshin players have already built some amazing spaces using the teapot's existing tool set. Here's reddit user Fnzbo's take on a traditional Chinese Siheyuan:
Kejirion, meanwhile, whipped up a Mondstadt-style city that could give the real thing a run for its money:
Trust is pretty strictly time-gated, but players are beginning to hit rank five and unlock the second external area of their teapot, greatly expanding their build options and gaining access to some stellar views, as SarahSeraphim demonstrates:
Of course, this being a gacha game, some players have approached the teapot with efficiency in mind rather than creativity. This has led to the feng shui equivalent of a bitcoin farm: the same piece of furniture packed into a room as tightly as possible in order to generate more realm currency which will eventually be spent on Resin and the like. GraveRobberX has it down to a science:
I'm not normally one to tinker with creative tools in games – I always bounce off the likes of the Sims and Animal Crossing – but the Serenitea Pot is just simple enough to offer real depth without overwhelming me, and the fact that it will eventually help me build my characters has kept me on the hook. I can hardly believe that, in addition to new characters and challenges, I'll be watching future updates for new furniture, of all things. This is yet another experience that I never expected from Genshin Impact – we can add that to the list after tower defense, dating sim, Prop Hunt, and Fall Guys – which just goes to show how varied the game has become since launch.
With every update, Genshin Impact raids look more likely – and more promising.