We recently had the pleasure of getting hands-on with Genshin Impact, the upcoming free-to-play action RPG from miHoYo. On the surface, this gorgeous cel-shaded title shares a lot of similarity to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but as I spent more time with the title, I could see that miHoYo was interested in making something unique with their palette of playable characters and elemental interactions. As I played, I was guided along by Jason Chuang, one of the product managers helping to bring Genshin Impact to the west.
Jason Chaung: So, Genshin [Impact] is an open-world action RPG. The main pillar we're looking for is player freedom; we're looking for creativity and experimentation. You can play as a party of four and we have a roster of up to 30 [playable characters] at launch. One of the main things, and if you've played Divinity: Original Sin, one of the things that we want to do is incorporate our elements of combat into the terrain, into the battlefield, changing from freezing the water or lighting the grass on fire and fanning it out to create a tactical advantage. We also want it to help you explore and solve puzzles and things like that.
The basic attack is on Circle, you can chain that three times and if you mix up the timing, that's a different attack as well. We encourage you not to think about a main character but keep cycling through them as appropriate. The loop we're hoping players find is accidental discovery meets 'what if...' type of creativity.
How much does stamina play into Genshin Impact's gameplay?
Stamina is extremely important, especially in exploration, and in combat to help you sprint and dodge. For stamina, you'll be able to increase that as you go on explorations. If you find things in the wild, you offer them up to the regional statue which governs the elemental powers in a given area and helps you increase your stamina amongst other bonuses.
Are you talking about the monetization model for Genshin Impact yet?
Not at the moment. We're solely focused on the core gameplay and making the world worth exploring. In terms of monetization, we are a free-to-play game and we have a few more closed beta tests in front of us. These will be focused on the gameplay at the moment.
Some players were curious if all the characters will be unlocked through gameplay, or if there are any that are locked to an in-game shop or monetization model.
We're aware of what [players] believe is fair and that is definitely something that we make sure that we do. Through our closed beta tests and the next couple of months, that's when we will focus on that, but I don't have anything to share at this point.
If you play with headphones, keep an ear out for the chat. We have an English dub and support for 13 languages.
Do you have plans for a rarity system for items?
Good transition. I won't go over everything here, but we'll have consumables, weapons, food that you can cook, and artifacts you can equip. [Genshin Impact equipment has] levels and a rarity system. Characters can equip different types of weapon classes to add on to that customization. Even weapons within the same class can do different things. So, how you play your Kaeya will be different from how I play my Kaeya.
What are your impressions so far of the combat?
It's good. I do like that it's pretty easy going. I like having a freeflow combat and being able to integrate a dash or evade between combos feels good, especially if you can use that to reset your cooldown on a standard attack. So, if you swing, you have so many milliseconds of delay, but if you throw in a dash in there, you can attack faster. I'm excited to see how that plays out.
The action is very much a part of it. Did you play Honkai? So, this game isn't as heavy on the action as that game, but we're hoping that the action still feels fun to play and it fits that thrill of combat.
I did see the login screen at the beginning. Is Genshin Impact going to be an online-only title?
Online-only? As in...
Do you have to be connected to the internet to play Genshin Impact?
Oh, yes, yes. We're working through the details of the login process, but you're going to have an account and it's going to be on different platforms, but we haven't confirmed cross-platform features. It's something that we know our players want. It is a single-player experience, campaign narrative driven. We will support this game for years to come with things like events and frequent content updates.
Do you have any plans in mind for PlayStation 4 Pro enhancements, like higher frame rates or higher resolutions on the PS4 Pro versus the base model?
I'm not sure at the moment. This is our first playable PS4 build but we're still just focused on how we get the most out of this specific devkit.
[At this point, we played a bit more Genshin Impact then returned to the character menu.]
[Each character has] different attributes, different weapons, artifacts that give you buffs if you collect sets, talents for your active and passive skills that you build towards and modify the way you use their abilities. These characters are handcrafted, so they're not generated NPCs. They have their own stories, their own side missions; the characters actually know each other. Some of them have relationships, both good or bad. As part of the narrative, these characters are finding something in this world along with you. Treat them as not quite supporting characters but they have their own path that we can get deeper and explore on. For example, the caster Lisa. She touched a magic book when she was young that gave her most of her powers but it cut her life by half so she only has a few years left to live. It creates a very carefree personality of someone that just wants to live life.
Did you know that [Genshin Impact] was born out of a manga? Originally, we created the manga and fell in love with the characters. We thought that this might be a world that players also want to explore. The way we tell our story will be volume based, it won't be a 'beat the game and it's over'. There'll be more breadcrumbs to discover about the backstory as things unravel.
Will the characters themselves have a rarity system in play, like a gacha system?
That's not something that we've designed at the moment. For characters, *this* is the character. There won't be another version of it. For now, it's about how do we make these characters interesting and fun to play?
How is the friendship system set up in Genshin Impact?
That, we are still working through as well. Friendships unlock through completing different quests and decisions you make as part of that quest. Those stories will be intertwined with other characters, so those things affect [inaudible]. In terms of gameplay, you won't immediately notice a big difference but it's a long term something that will come into play down the line.
I thought I saw that one of them had a friendship requirement to unlock their talents.
That's something for players to explore. I guess the main points that we're trying to focus on are: we want you to care about the characters, that they're fun to play in the world as you discover your favorite characters, and how you want to build towards that. That's something we hope that we can at least convey before launch.
Is there a lock-on system for the camera or in combat to target multiple enemies?
No, not at the moment. It's mostly proximity and directional focused.
Do you have a marker system in mind, so I could mark something and it would give me a compass direction in the overworld?
It's live on the PC build and we're trying to make it work on PS4 right now.
Here's one big question that some people have been asking: How does miHoYo differentiate Genshin Impact from being just Breath of the Wild with cute girls?
Love that. You got a chance to play, right? The biggest thing is how we approach our elements of combat and also, we want to be more action forward. Our past two games have been action. Also, the depth of the RPG. I think players really want to make characters ownable. For example, when I play Breath of the Wild, the ownership of the weapons break, so what we want to do is: we want you to play your character in your world. From a narrative perspective, we would love to tell stories. We are anime creators. We create all of our IP in-house, so we're going to tell that story through [Genshin Impact]. I think that will be what differentiates us.
Thank you very much for your time.