Does your circle of friends have a salesperson? You know, someone who recommends their favorite thing with such fervor and regularity that they could practically qualify for a commission? There's a guy like that in my friend group who buys everything he can on Amazon (I didn't even know you could get food there), and we always rag on him about his sales pitches. Ironically, this is the same friend that first introduced me to Genshin Impact, and now this game has turned me into the second salesperson of our group.
I love Genshin Impact and I recommend it to everyone and their dog. I've played it literally every single day for a year straight, and I don't want to stop anytime soon. I never expected this on day one, but a year later it's become the perfect little piece to complete my gaming puzzle – the line block to fill my neatly arranged hobby time Tetris.
So here I am, recommending Genshin Impact louder than ever on its one-year anniversary.
Why you should play Genshin Impact
I recommend Genshin Impact the same way I used to recommend Black Desert Online: with huge caveats that don't actually matter unless you become an endgame goblin like me. The basic experience is incredible and could hardly be more accessible. Genshin Impact is totally free, and it's on PS4, PS5, mobile, and PC. For me, this gets harder to remember with every update. Every stunning vista, every fully voiced questline, every intense boss fight – all free. It's witchcraft. The free-to-play games in those obnoxious adverts wish they were this good.
Just as Black Desert is a fun, cheap single-player RPG hiding in a comically imbalanced MMO, Genshin Impact is an amazing open-world JRPG with a gacha monetization system that doesn't spoil the new-player experience. If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: you do not have to spend any money on Genshin Impact to have a great time with it. One of the game's biggest content creators, Enviosity, has built an entire brand around this fact. You get more than enough free resources and characters to fuel your adventures and clear all the base content. I spend a little on the game every month because I love it and want to support it, but we'll talk about that later.
Genshin Impact is a third-person action game where you quickly swap between a party of four characters to perform combos by combining elements like fire and water, ice and lightning, and so on. There are ranged and melee fighters, some dedicated healers and support units, selfish damage dealers, and some sitting in-between, and they're all too beautiful for this world. More common four-star characters can outshine some rarer five-star characters, which makes building your dream team much easier, but you really can't go wrong with anyone. Some units are better at some things than others, but Genshin Impact has done a remarkably good job of keeping characters comparably powerful but meaningfully different, with a few notorious outliers. Hu Tao is broken, and I'll shamelessly play her until the heat death of the universe.
Combat is great but it's half the fun at most, and I mean that in a good way. Teyvat, the world of Genshin Impact, is the real headliner. It's rich with secrets, treasures, resources, time trials, minibosses, puzzles, and other organic points of interest that give it infectious energy and allure that other open-world games would kill for. The many Breath of the Wild comparisons thrown out at Genshin Impact's launch – some of them thrown by me – were deserved, but it's outgrown this design shorthand. You could rightly compare it to many games, but there's nowhere else quite like Teyvat. You'll come for the breathtaking sights and stay once you realize that if you can see it, you can go there, and there's probably something cool waiting to be found. Between the wanderlust and the irresponsibly lovely soundtrack (please god give us a vinyl LP, MiHoYo), merely walking around is a constant delight.
That's the meat and potatoes, and in the past year, Genshin Impact has added so many fun side activities into the mix that it's sometimes hard to keep track. There's an island builder that lets you create homes for your favorite characters and erect entire towns around them. You can actually fish now instead of bare-handing salmon out of lakes. Events regularly serve up platforming challenges, wonky game modes like tower defense and prop hunt and straight-up Fall Guys, as well as optional bosses that can crush even veteran players.
Why I play Genshin Impact
Genshin Impact's become enviably dynamic, and I know this because I've experienced it all firsthand. I'm nearing 100% exploration in all the regions, I've trounced every combat challenge in the game, cleared every quest, savored every song – and that stuff alone can last you like 100 hours, all free. But I still hop onto Genshin Impact every single day even when there's nothing brand-new to do. There's something to be said for the catharsis of a relaxing daily routine, but for me it's more about the satisfaction of watching progress pile up.
I get some funny looks when I say Genshin Impact is like gardening for nerds, but it's true. I invest a little time each day (or a lot, on occasion) and spend a little money each month, and every few weeks or so I can step back and admire what I've accomplished. The only difference is that I'm raising precious anime characters instead of growing plants, but that's just splitting hairs, really. It's fun to see my favorite characters get stronger. I can decimate challenges that felt impossible before, or experiment with party compositions that weren't available to me in the past. Every day brings a little shot of progression – better gear, more XP, gathered upgrade materials – and that's enough to keep me on the hook until the next big update.
Update day is always a joy. It's like a little party. Players are hyped, Reddit and Twitch are buzzing, there's incredible fan art everywhere. The launch of Inazuma, Genshin Impact's first new region, is one of my favorite gaming memories. New stuff to explore, new characters to meet, new characters to Wish for…
Oh right, Wishes. Now we're getting into the gacha stuff a bit, so let's address the elephant in the room.
How much I've spent on Genshin Impact – and what I got for it
Beyond being a Good Video Game, the reason Genshin Impact made over a billion dollars in a year is that it's funded by the power of RNG (and waifus). You can spend Primogems for a shot at obtaining certain characters and weapons in limited-time banners that are basically glorified loot boxes, and you can buy more Primogems with real money if you want to keep rolling the proverbial dice. If you're unlucky, outright purchasing a single five-star character can cost upwards of $250 worth of Primogems. With base five-star odds of 0.6% per roll, you'll get unlucky a lot. If this sounds like gambling, that's because it is like gambling. Remember the loot box blowback from a few years ago? Yeah, gacha games were lightening wallets long before that and just kind of weathered that storm unchanged. Gacha's the original loot box, baby, and it doesn't give a shit about you.
That's the ugly part, and it's important to acknowledge it. Here's the good news: I've spent well under $250 on Genshin Impact and I have every character and weapon I've ever truly wanted. You get a lot of Primogems just by playing the game, and if you do want to spend, a little bit of money and patience can go a long way. Earlier this year, I added up what 100 days and $60 got me in Genshin Impact. The short version is: a lot more than I would've thought. Let's check in again now that a year's passed.
By buying the $10 battle passes and $5 login passes every update, I've now spent $150 on the game, which averages out to just over $12 a month. In that time, I've pulled a total of 19 five-star characters and four five-star weapons. My luck's been above-average, so someone with the same level of investment could've gotten fewer five-stars, but still more than enough for a healthy collection.
I'll continue buying both of these passes – and adamantly not buying lumps of Primogems – for the foreseeable future. They're both good deals on different things. If you want more new characters, buy the Welkin login pass for the extra Primogems. If you want more resources to level your characters, buy the battle pass to grease the wheels.
But if you just want a great JRPG that gives you enough cool characters to try different play styles, you don't have to buy anything because that's Genshin Impact – and, as we've established, it's free. Take it from me, the salesman, the goblin, the gardener. Do yourself a favor – screw it, do me a favor – and give it a shot.