Genshin Impact Closed Beta Preview – Breath of the Elements

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We had a chance to have a hands-on look at an upcoming Zelda BOTW inspired title called Genshin Impact. This online action-RPG holds some striking resemblance visually but is it just a Zelda online? Or does it bring something new to the gaming table? We take a look at combat, story, characters, party system and more in this Genshin Impact Preview.

Genshin Impact Closed Beta Preview – Breath of the Elements

Recently we took part in the closed beta for upcoming free-to-play title Genshin Impact developed by Mihoyo, a Chinese developer who was deeply inspired by The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and developed this online title which combines elemental magic with a character party system. I was curious to see what this title would have to offer as there will be 30 playable characters each honing their own abilities and how well they work together.

GenreOnline Action-RPG 
Developed bymiHoYo
Published bymiHoYo
Release date: 2020
PlatformsPC (preview platform), PS4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android
Website: https://genshin.mihoyo.com/

Story & Setting

The story follows a set of twins, brother and sister, who can leap from one world to another, but find themselves in an epic battle against an unknown god. However things take a turn for the worst and when a twin is pulled into another dimension. It’s your mission to right this wrong and bring your sibling back, but an adventure awaits as you meet a number of helpful characters who will try to help you bring your twin back. You also get roped into investigating a mysterious dragon known as “Stormterror”, but is there more to this creature than meets the eye?

Depending on which twin you pick you’ll either play as the male or female twin. In the demo I chose the female twin who brandishes a sword and some wind abilities. You get to explore a vast world as you try to solve the strange happenings that seem to be occurring. The story spanned throughout my time playing, and there seems to be plenty of it. The Genshin Impact story actually started off as a manga, but the developers fell in love with the characters and wanted to start a game based on that universe.

You also get to meet Paimon, a small flying fairy-like companion who will help you on your adventures. Paimon is a pint sized mysterious character who loves to talk in third-person, who wouldn’t it find charming when Paimon talks like this?

Gameplay

The gameplay was pretty solid when I was checking out the closed beta, the only gripe was a slight glitch with trying to enter my characters name which just wouldn’t except any that I had carefully picked. Instead a keyboard mash seemed to do the trick and dkowkdowkdwokdwp was born. I’m guessing this was just a closed beta glitch and will be solved once the game releases.

Other than that, there was hardly anything to fault, a few minor subtitle errors here and there, or an enemy getting stuck on top of a ruin wall for bit but that was still accessible to fight. The combat is smooth and enemy variations are numerous. There is plenty to do in Genshin Impact, including exploring, questing, side-questing, doing puzzles, cooking, gathering items in the wild or simply just enjoying the scenery. You will also get to experience timed challenge including combat and gliding. There are also a number of dungeon trials which have puzzles and will test your combat skills as well.

You also get a number of dialogue options, which allows you to respond to a number of situations in a few ways, some of these conversations have comical options but from what I experience in the beta don’t really hold an impact on the storyline but may make characters react in a different way. When I was asked by another character to explain what Paimon was, I chose the answer “food” which of course she wasn’t happy about, but it was a fun interaction. There’s a lot of these types of dialogue which just breathes life into the characters you meet.

Exploration

Exploring the open world was not only immersive but pretty relaxing, you can visit towns and run through hillside landscapes which are quite bright and cheery. Along the way you’ll find materials to loot such as flowers or even hunt an animal or two to gain food ingredients. There are many mountainous regions to climb, lakes to swim in and once you unlock it, a wind glider to soar through the air with. I must admit it reminded me a lot of Breath of Wild this way, but honestly I didn’t mind that, it works well in Genshin Impact.

You can also chat with a bunch of NPCs that are dotted around the city of Mondstadt and also out in the world. What I really liked about each of these characters was their dialogue, they are pretty funny and just add a great sense of humour while you’re exploring.

You will also find waypoints which you can unlock by interacting with them, and once you do it’s very easy to hop back to town if you need to go turn in a quest or buy some provisions. There are also god statues which once unlocked will unveil a portion of the map. The world looks pretty big, and I don’t think I even managed to unlock all the regions while playing the closed beta test for a good 10 hours or so. There was just so much to do and it’s easy just to wander off to see what’s over that ridge or up the top of that mountain.

Abilities aren’t just used in combat, you can use them as you try to cross bodies of water for example using frost to make a frozen pathway or even to solve puzzles to gain access to chests for loot. This makes world very interactive as you will be looking out for hidden secrets on adventures as well.

Cooking

You can cook! Yes you can gather a bunch of ingredients and cook yourself a meal at a number of campsites that can be found throughout your travels. The cooking system is pretty simple, you simply choose a recipe from the menu and then just hit the sweet spot on the cooking bar to get that Perfect quality. The higher the quality of food, the more benefits it holds such as higher HP regain. You also have certain types of food, that can restore a fallen playable character in your party if they end up taking a fatal blow.

Elemental Party Combat System

This is where Genshin Impact really shines, you have a character party system which you can swap out when you want. Since Genshin involves a lot of elemental combat, you will find you will need to stack a combination of elements to really take advantage of fights. For example you could freeze enemies with the character Kaeya whose element is Frost and then use your main character who uses Anema or wind to send out a frosty cyclone. You can also take advantage of enemies that will often also be particular element type, for example using a Fire elemental character such as Amber to shoot burning arrows at a frost enemy or one that carries a wooden shield. There seven different elemental types but I got to experience a fair few in the game, and tried a number of combinations include crossing water with electricity, which is a dangerous one as you can also take damage if you’re standing in water.

You’ll also be keeping an eye on that stamina while you’re fighting too, as you’ll use it to dash to get out of dodge or to simply run from AOEs as you don’t have a way to parry or block. It’s conveniently located in the middle of the screen, so you won’t have to look away and miss out on any of the action.

Each character has their own abilities which will charge up their ultimate attack, this is why it’s great to use the different characters in your current rotation so each have a chance to charge their attack. While facing larger enemies or even bosses, stacking these ultimates can deal some great damage. I found these especially useful in timed challenges where you will need to defeat a number of enemies within a time limit.

Weapons

Weapons do not have degrading durability, so you can chop down a small tree or destroy some ore to gain chunks of useful material without having to worry about destroying your sword in the process. You will also gain higher level weapons as go along, and the lower level weapons can be used to enhance your better ones. Weapons can be levelled, gaining better stats in doing so. Each character will specialise in a particular weapon type.

Artifacts

You gain new Artifacts as you complete puzzle dungeons or battle enemies. You can even visit the blacksmith if you want to use materials to forge new ones. Artifacts have set bonuses made up of 2 and 4 set pieces, this means you can gain a number of bonuses to enhance your different characters.

Time

There is a day/night system which at first didn’t seem to play a huge role, but without spoiling too much in terms main story content, you will find later on you will need to change the dial on the clock to adjust to certain times depending on the mission. The world also will normally turn from night to day as you travel around the world, and I must say the sunsets are some of the most scenic visuals.

A Whole Lot of Leveling/Progression

There are a number of things to level in Genshin, this includes Adventure Level which will determine some quests or dungeon trials you can do, Character Levels which will increase base stats, Combat Talents which will enhance a particular ability, Statue leveling which unlocks a number of rewards including increasing Stamina, and even Weapon leveling. This gives you a lot of things you can focus on, which can be a little daunting to begin with, but gives you a number of choices when it comes to what you want to progress in.

Characters also don’t level as a party, you will gain items such as Wanderer’s Advice which are rewarded for completing quests or finding chests, that grant character experience to level the character of your choice. This means you can concentrate on the playable character you want to play or think will work well in your party. This can be a bit tricky especially when you start gaining more characters and want to play them all, but also makes it quite a flexible system.

Playable Characters

For the most part you will gain characters through the main story quest, and the ones you receive are fun to play. But there are 30 playable characters to discover with some being obtained through making a Wish, this essentially is a gacha system where you need a specific currency in exchange for gaining wishes. It’s not 100% clear exactly how this work out of closed beta whether this is how they’ll monetise, the recent FAQs on their website state they haven’t got finalised plan for this yet as they are focusing on beta testing combat.

During the beta the currency Primogem was given pretty much everyday as reward in your inbox for logging in, and through completing quests. I can’t really comment on how the RNG will fare for players when the game leaves beta as it was set to a 200% increase drop rate during the closed beta. I did manage to gain a few characters and a number of weapons as well as items.

Each playable character is quite unique, my favourite includes the martial arts fighter Xiangling, who uses a spear and deploys a teddy bear that breathes fire while eating what looks to be some sort of ghost pepper. I also had fun playing Noelle who uses a heavy two handed weapon to club her foes to death and can spin at high speeds to deal a 360 degree range of damage.

Audio & Visuals

The main questline I experienced was fully voice acted but doing some of the side quests there seemed to be some VO missing which I’m guessing is because it’s still at the stage of closed beta. I played in English and found the voice acting to be really well done, and just made the characters that more lovable. There were a couple of other languages able including Korean and Mandarin voiceover, and there will be Japanese in future.

The artstyle reminds me of Fire Emblem mixed in with some cel-shading from BOTW, but I love how detailed everything was. Running through grassy knolls and climbing mountains just added to the experience. Enemy types are not only numerous but also have great animations and entertaining sounds.

Is it Online Zelda BOTW?

Probably a lot gamers out there want to know whether this is just Breath of the Wild Online. The quick answer to this question is yes and no. There are definitely some strong inspirations taken from Zelda in Genshin Impact, and even the developers MiHoYo have made this known that Breath of the Wild is one of their key inspirations. You may notice the art style is similar, some enemies hold some resemblance, even the wind glider to get around, the puzzle elements and climbing the environments. But this is where the comparison stops, it’s a visual similarity more than anything.

Genshin has a lot of it’s own merits even if the inspiration is quite apparent. It has a whole entire combat system where players can swap characters in and out of combat on the fly. You have up to four characters in your party at a time and even combo their abilities to work together. It’s a mix of hack and slash with elemental abilities which can change up the combat.

The story offers a compelling narrative and characters are just so damn charming, Paimon the flying adventure buddy who’s just sassy in all the right ways. This all makes for a memorable gaming experience which is pretty impressive when you remember this is free-to-play.

Final Thoughts

It seems Genshin Impact has the full package which is rare to find in a free-to-play online Action-RPG. The story, characters, combat and even graphics are all visually appealing and very well polished.

I’m curious to find out how dependent it will be to gain more playable characters on the gacha type system and how developer MiHoYo plans to monetise Genshin Impact. While the portion of the game I played could definitely be done with the characters you discover through questing, it’s hard to say how end game will feel if you will need in-game currency to gain more characters that may offer a further advantage in certain situations. I don’t think that will be the case, and any characters gained from Wishes I think will be just a bonus and further choice if this is anything to go by the beginning experience of the game.

Genshin Impact is an online title, which will also comes with some co-op content. I didn’t get to try out this feature while playing the closed beta but seeing how the different elemental types can add combos together, I could see that playing with others would be a fun experience.

I think this title is off to a good start in terms of content as well combat, and really curious how this handles on more platforms and whether there will be cross progression when it releases.

Genshin Impact is set to launch sometime in 2020 on PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android.


If you enjoyed this preview be sure to check out some of our others in Magic: Legends Hands-On Impressions and Curse Of The Dead Gods Preview – An Addictive Punishing Roguelite.



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