Genshin Impact has been part of my everyday gaming lineup since the start of October 2020. I've put over 200 hours into it by this point and spent $60 in the process. That's peanuts to some gacha players, but it's still the value of a regular full-price game. MiHoYo's handy account tracker also tells me that I recently crossed 100 days of activity, which seemed like a pretty good milestone for me to take stock of what I've gotten for my time and money. What is $60 and 100 days worth in the free-to-play economy of Genshin Impact? I'll give you the short version now: way more than I expected when I started playing.
Where my $60 went
First, I want to talk about how I spend money on Genshin. I've always hated buying chunks of digital currency, especially if I'm then going to chuck that currency into a game of cyberspace Yahtzee, so I've avoided premium Crystals and stuck to Genshin Impact's passes. Short of a meteor about to strike the Earth, I don't know what it would take to get me to buy Crystals. Passes offer better value overall and I know exactly what I'm getting when I buy them.
With this in mind, I've bought the Blessing of the Welkin Moon (AKA the Welkin pass) every month. This is the best tip I can offer low-spending players: if you're only going to buy one thing, buy the Welkin pass. It's $5 a month for 3,000 Primogems a month (90 per day plus 300 Crystals up front), and it makes rolling for new characters in the game's gacha system much more realistic and less stressful.
Apart from Welkin passes, I've also purchased three $10 battle passes. Much like other games, the Genshin battle pass has 50 levels of free and premium loot. This includes character and weapon XP, Mora to fund all your upgrades, some Wishes and Primogems, and a battle pass-exclusive weapon. I bought my first pass on a whim, and I bought the second one for the resources. For my third and current battle pass, I specifically wanted one of the exclusive weapons and I was more than happy to get the resources as well.
I don't regret buying battle passes, but they're nowhere near the value of the Welkin pass. Now that I have most of what I want, I don't think I'll buy another battle pass until they update the rewards or weapons. It greases the wheels and makes raising new characters easier, plus the unique weapons are all pretty good, but it's far from a necessity. I do think the base pass is generally worth it if you can spare $10 every 50 days, however, especially if you can put the weapons to good use. That said, I would never advise buying the $20 version which starts you at level 10 on the pass because I always hit level 50 way before time is up.
Finally, let's get into the characters I've acquired. Full disclaimer: I have gotten extremely lucky with two five-star rolls, so my collection is statistically above-average for the money I've invested. I rolled Keqing on the beginner banner open to new players, and I got Klee and another Keqing back-to-back on Klee's banner. All of my other five-stars have come from the game's pity system, which guarantees a five-st ar between 75 and 90 rolls. In total, I've landed seven five-stars, with four of those coming from a rate-up character banner. I've rolled Keqing, Klee, Keqing (again), Diluc, Tartaglia, Mona, and one five-star weapon in Skyward Blade. I have never rolled on weapon banners and I probably never will. It's impossible to guarantee a specific weapon from them, and new weapons are never as transformative as new characters. Plus, you know, swords aren't cute.
I also have every four-star character except Chongyun, and many of mine have several Constellations (passive bonuses unlocked by obtaining duplicates of a character you already have). I somehow landed seven Xinyan within nine four-stars on the Zhongli banner, and I've got many staple supports like Sucrose, Fischl, and Xingqiu at Constellation two or higher. Just as importantly, I've been able to raise and use all of the characters I like, partly thanks to those battle pass resources. It's more efficient to focus on a core team to start, but I've enjoyed raising multiple characters at once and I'm happy to have more than 10 well-built options to choose from when experimenting with team comps.
To get full value for your Primogems, I'd recommend spending all of them on rate-up character banners – the most recent being Ganyu's banner – and only rolling on the standard banner, Wanderlust Invocation, when you get free rolls for it. You should, for instance, get every character you have to at least level 20 to hit their first ascension and nab that free standard Wish. But because the loot pool for the standard banner is filled with weapons, your odds of rolling a specific character on it are very, very low.
By manipulating and saving pity on character rate-up banners, you'll gain some control over your rolls. For example, I most recently pulled Mona on Zhongli's banner, which means my next five-star on any character banner is guaranteed to be the featured character. Which is great, because now I can save my on-banner pity to 100% guarantee the five-star spear user Hu Tao when she comes out.
When you're choosing a banner to roll on, I'd start with the featured five-star. If you don't want the five, don't roll for the fours. Even if the four-stars are great, they're sure to come back again and you're liable to get them from other rolls eventually, but you don't want to hit a five-star and feel bad that you burned your pity. That could happen anyway since landing a featured character is a 50/50 on your first pity, but if there's anything I've learned about gacha games through my time with Genshin, it's that you should control your RNG however you can.
Where my 200 hours went
How much money you spend on Genshin can affect how quickly you progress, but time is the most important resource and I've come quite far even with light spending. I just hit Adventure Rank 53 and my characters are now at the point that I can comfortably clear all of the Spiral Abyss (the hardest content available) with at least eight stars out of nine on each floor. I'm still working toward my goal of nine-starring everything, and that keeps me motivated to improve my characters a little bit each day.
My daily routine looks the same as most: at the absolute minimum, I log in to collect my Welkin Moon Primos, clear my daily commissions, and spend my Original Resin at domains or bosses. More often than not, I'll also swing by respawning mining nodes to get crystals to convert into weapon XP. I do all the events as they come out (most recently, the Lost Riches event that gets you a free pet), and every Monday I fight all three weekly bosses. Monday is also the only day that I spend 50 Primogems on one 60 Resin refill, just so I can do more than bosses that day (please make weekly bosses free, MiHoYo; they're already time-gated).
If you're new to the game and want to plot out your progression, I'd just focus on getting your dailies done while completing the main quest, all available side quests, and fully exploring the world. The most important takeaway here is that Genshin Impact is an incredible game – now one of my all-time favorites – so don't let efficiency spoil it for you. Play who you like, take the path less traveled, and maybe go climb that mountain in the distance – if you're going to make the most of anything, make the most of the world of Teyvat.
I do have one must-know tip, though: check with the guild every five Adventure Ranks and ascend your world level whenever you can. This will unlock crucial upgrades and improve enemy and boss loot (to an extent, anyway), and there's no reason not to. Apart from the Spiral Abyss, Genshin Impact is not a hard game, so don't let any difficulty concerns put you off of higher world levels. Outside the Abyss, you'll paper the walls with Hilichurls at any level. Inside the abyss, a level 100 Fatui will punch your face out of your ass, but your world level ain't gonna change that.
Like most of 2020, Genshin Impact's launch feels like yesterday and also 20 years ago, so it's wild to think that I've already put this much time into it. I'm certainly not going to stop playing it anytime soon, and I'll continue spending a bit of money on it to grease the wheels and support the game. I still recommend Genshin to everyone and their dog, so I hope this breakdown is helpful for players who may be turned off by the divide between free-to-play diehards and whales with deep pockets. I reckon I weigh in as a tadpole or perhaps a betta fish, and I've gotten way, way more than $60 worth of fun out of Genshin Impact.