Genshin Impact is a freemium Breath of The Wild clone made by a Chinese studio and riddled with gacha mechanics. With a pedigree like that, it should have stolen a small market share from the prime mobile gaming demographics — confused children and desperate perverts — and then imploded into irrelevance. Instead, Genshin Impact made 245 million dollars in its first month, and game journalists were talking about it for Game of the Year. And that’s because Genshin Impact did something absolutely and completely insane for a F2P mobile gacha game: It tried to be good.
Yes, for possibly the first time ever, a developer looked at the classic free mobile game trap, and thought “okay, but what if we put some effort into this?”
Genshin Impact looks beautiful and plays like a dream. It’s like some high-end BoTW mod that replaces Link with 18 squealing teenage girls. If there was a Legend of Zelda anime adaptation where Link turned into a different cartoon stripper every time he saw panties — and I’m pretty sure there was — this is the video game meta-adaptation of that now highly-illegal cartoon.
The elevator pitch for Genshin Impact is that it mashes together modern Zelda games with JRPGs, and while I think they succeeded, they did it in the craziest ways. For example, you explore a beautiful and massive open-world as a single character, just like in a Zelda game, but you also carry a standard JRPG squad of four inside you at all times, like you were molested by a guy in a Moogle suit and your personality had to split to deal with the trauma. You rapidly swap between characters in an instant with no tag-out animation, so every fight scene kind of looks like the death of the T-1000 if he’d assimilated the Hanipotto Junior High School Girl’s Volleyball Team. It’s like some kind of sex criminal remake of The Thing.
In other words: It’s awesome.
The fighting system is fluid and deceptively deep, despite looking like your eyeballs got sick and barfed up a Crunchyroll trailer. Here, let me decipher what’s happening in that gif: To start, I switched from the boring graham cracker of a main character to cutesy battle-chef Xiangliang, dropped her fire-breathing red panda to get the goblins burning, then I switched to big-tittied nympho-mage Lisa to hit them with ball lightning so they’d be electrocharged, cast an area storm spell to set off those charges, and finally switched back to the main character to hit all of them with a wind burst, which swirls those elements together to set off explosive reactions. That’s an extremely basic combo. If this were a JRPG, that visual slurry up there would be your “Press A to attack.”
It’s a nuanced system that’s a lot of fun to use, and it feels pulled right from some AAA Japanese game that’s way too weird and complicated to make it over here, but that Deep Nerds with Otaku tattoos would reference twenty years later to prove their dork-cred. It’s Seiken Densetsu 3, basically.
And the whole game is this dense! There are special weapons that alter your gameplay style…
Character growth through skill and stat trees…
An expansive armor system laden with ability augments and set bonuses…
There’s even lore and character backstories to unlock…
You would expect precisely none of this in a freemium gacha game. It’s the very antithesis of the gacha mentality, where gameplay usually consists of swiping in up to two directions, and all the characters are thinly-veiled ripoffs like Ryu But Black and (Slightly More) Slutty 2B. Genshin Impact actually did all the legwork to make a thoughtful, complex, and very good game… and then they wrapped it in an IP lawsuit and deep-fried it in shady microtransactions.
Also just like those shitty gacha games, Genshin Impact is chock full o’ fan service. Most of the characters are sexy anime girls, and they all wear short skirts or sultry lingerie. Since the game also brazenly steals the glider system from Breath of the Wild…
This is your primary method of locomotion — long distance panty-gazing. There are fast travel points, but there are no rideable horses or epic mounts, unless you count Lisa…
This is what it looks like, playing Genshin Impact. Maybe 10% of the time you’re scrolling through item menus reading dry percentages, 20% of the time you’re quick-swap battling through anime gibberish, and then 70% of the time you’re taking long-exposure upskirts of a floating librarian. It is a game designed to instantly lose you the respect of anybody that walks in on you playing it. And you really feel that fan service pandering while playing it. It’s not pornographic by any means. The sex appeal is kept very PG, but it is omnipresent. You just get the sense that every one of these girls was designed by a behavioral psychologist to get some poor budding misogynist married to a bodypillow. This is what it looks like just walking around.
A lot of work went into them knocker physics! In fact, so much effort went into plotting the optimal boob bounce that the developers thought it was a waste to ever have them stop bouncing.
Look at those sentient titties yearning for freedom. That is not a breathing animation. That is two frightened hamsters who took a nap in the wrong bra. It’s like watching stabilized video of a stripclub in an earthquake.
These gacha games are almost always horny — they know it’s another path toward addiction — but they don’t usually put a lot of effort into it. They’ll slap a CGI ass on the banner ad. They’ll throw a pair of breasts hulking out of a shirt on the opening splash page. They know it’s enough to hint at a nipple and hope you love Breakout.
But as usual, Genshin Impact goes that extra mile. They want you to fall in love. They write full backstories for every character. Each girl gets a unique moveset, deep skill trees, and extensive dialogue that you can revisit anytime.
Again, it feels almost clinically exploitative. Like the developers went on a recruiting drive to the James Franco College of Deviant Sexual Psychiatry just before the Senior class had to take their oath to do no harm.
Some of this unlockable dialogue is from the game, or builds on their backstories — but most of it is just the girls talking about their favorite foods, what they look for in a man, what they do for fun. Genshin Impact doesn’t have any romance game mechanics, but they sure took every weird relationship hook from romance games and then locked the most loveable girlfriends into plastic bubbles you could only win through gambling. That’s the gacha element: You get new waifus by spending real money on virtual slot machines. Just as with any freemium game, there are supposedly ways to get everything without spending a dime. But whenever you see multiple obscure currencies layered around one simple pay system, alarms should go off in your brain.
Nowadays these “free” mobile games are required to post a disclaimer that explains how their loot systems work. It’s kind of like putting “Smoking Causes Cancer” on cigarette packs. There to pretend like you’ve tried to dissuade people who don’t want to be dissuaded yet. The disclaimer notices are usually presented like a shameful secret – a basic section consisting of a few hundred words and maybe a handful of percentages, wherein a lawyer tries their best not to explain gambling to children and idiots. Genshin Impact once more defies the norms, and puts its disclaimers front and center — the game is downright proud of how deep, strange, and obscure they made their slot machine. Because they know, to a certain type of person, playing with those numbers is its own draw. (That certain type of person is a gambling addict.)
It’s yet another exceedingly clever system designed by some rogue behavioral psychologist who’s one cursed mask away from becoming a supervillain, all to exploit some weird broken mechanic in the nerd brain:
Genshin Impact is densely layered with every addictive progression system from anything designed to hook everyone — from collectors to gambling addicts, from stat-nerds to anime-nerds, from the tragically horny to (most surprising of all) just people that like good games.
Do you get it? They finally did it: This is the mobile game that all those ads for mobile games were actually talking about. Somebody finally saw that millions of people were clicking on janky, horny mobile game ads that promised epic adventure with no cash up front, and then they wondered: What if you actually delivered on those promises?
It’s finally here: This is the fabled promised ass that the ass-game banners have prophesied.
Ogle, and despair.
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