Genshin Impact PS5 PS4 PlayStation Soapbox 1
Image: Push Square

Oh no, it’s only gone and happened, hasn’t it? Genshin Impact may already be a couple of years old, and thus sturdily established among many PlayStation faithfuls, but I think it may be digging its claws into me next. To be clear, I’m only 20 or so hours into my adventure through Teyvat, so there’s still time for me to escape. But I won’t lie to you, valued reader, as I write this I’m already thinking about my daily commissions. Oops!

So, here’s some background context for you: I’ve had my eye on miHoYo’s free-to-play RPG ever since it was attacked by irate The Legend of Zelda fans at an Asian convention several years ago. I tried the game when it first released on the PS4, but outside of admiring its beautiful cel-shaded visuals for a few minutes, I didn’t persevere. I then did the exact same thing when the title was ported to the PS5 in April 2021, venturing a little further this time, but barely exploring beyond the tutorial.

My biggest issue with the game – besides its fingernails-on-chalkboards voice acting – was its abundance of inventory items. I have a similar problem with pretty much all smartphone titles I try, too: they just seem impenetrable. It’s strange to me, because you’d have to imagine these kind of games are designed to hook casual players as quickly as possible, but you need a Wiki just to decipher the dozens of different currencies.

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Image: Push Square

I digress.

I recently heard on the PlayStation grapevine that Genshin Impact added an in-universe trading card game, and that fascinated me. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of games within games, and it’s really interesting to me how miHoYo continues to build upon the foundations of its free-to-play title with new story content, characters, lore, and more. And so I committed to giving it another go, with my aim being to focus on the quests and trying to forget about everything else.

In the end I turned to YouTube for a starter’s guide, which helped me to understand some of the release’s finer details. I still think it’s a negative that the onboarding doesn’t really help you wrap your head around the fundamental mechanics, but now I’ve got a crash course in Adventure Rank, Primogems, and the Statues of the Seven, I’m starting to get addicted. There’s just so much to this game, and thus far I haven’t felt compelled to pay for a penny of it.

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Image: Push Square

Although I will say I am beginning to understand where the gacha draw comes from. Initially, I didn’t find any of the character designs compelling enough to want to spend money on them, but now I’m starting to appreciate that each hero has a unique playstyle. What’s really fascinating to me is how you can assemble teams to complement each other.

For example, I currently have a ninja-type heroine with electricity elements and another who can summon tornadoes. I’ve learned that, if I quickly switch between these characters, I can lay a trap of electricity on the ground and then use the cyclone to send an electrically charged wind current in the direction of my antagonists. That’s really fun to me, and clearly I’m only really scratching the surface of what’s possible here.

And yeah, this is why it’s potentially dangerous, because there’s a never-ending checklist of things to do in the game – and, from what I understand, it’s only getting longer every couple of months. At the same time, though, I haven’t spent a single cent on this title yet and I’d argue its quality easily rivals your average JRPG – it may even surpass many of them in terms of production values. If I wasn’t aware of miHoYo’s annual revenue, I’d honestly feel like I was stealing from the studio.

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Image: Push Square

I’m really interested to see whether I stick with it, or if this is just a novelty that I’ll burn out on eventually. Right now, I can’t get enough of it, and despite having a backlog longer than my wingspan, I can already sense I’m about to waste the entire Christmas holiday wandering around this vibrant fantasy world. While the visuals and music are keeping me immersed, though, I’m a little shocked (and equally terrified) it’s the gameplay loop, and the desire to assemble the ultimate team, that’s got me hooked.

Have you played Genshin Impact at all? Is it a game you play regularly, or one you dropped before it got its claws into you? What is it that compels you to keep coming back to the game over time? Make a wish in the comments section below.