If Alfheim Online from Sword Art Online had an actual story for their world, I’m betting it’s Genshin Impact. While attempting to thwart an evil god, the fated twins are caught in a decisive battle, which trapped one of the siblings in another world. This prompts you as a player to select which of the twins you get to control. As you progress into the new world with your fairy guide, you befriend a local knight, which leads you to a quest to rescue a kingdom from a rampaging dragon. Will you find your sibling? Will you become the new hero of this world? How much money will you be spending on microtransactions?
MiHoYo’s new Free-to-Play title had an interesting journey leading to launch and when it dropped on September 28th, I downloaded the 11 gig app and tried it out. As of writing, I got as far as after the Dragon’s Flight quest, about the same time MiHoYo revealed the evil head of the monetizing system of the game.
I’m partial to the MMO genre having caught the Ragnarok craze back in the early 2000s and even picked up its spiritual sequel Tree of Savior in 2016. I held off with the mobile Ragnarok sequel, but didn’t get into the more popular titles namely World of Warcraft. I did play the demo of Final Fantasy XIV in recent years and even tried out The Elder Scrolls Online, I’m usually a solitary player to begin with and MMOs thrive on their community. As for Free-to-Play games on the mobile, I was partial to them and even played my fair share of Final Fantasy franchises like Record Keeper, Brave Exvius, and even the Dissidia title. Testing out Genshin Impact was mostly for curiosity’s sake as it is touted as a Breath of the Wild clone and even had similar graphics. I refused to purchase a four year old game at full price, however I could compromise with Genshin Impact.
A Solid Free-to-Play Game
First I had to get used to the English dubbing of the game. I’m glad their character pitch wasn’t grating to the ears as poorly dubbed anime or games do. Ultimately, it reminded me of RWBY’s voice acting so I accepted it as such.
The story is cookie cutter, but for a game that’s only 11 gigs, I was impressed with the design and the server stability as I went through the tutorial. It worked like a typical MMO, with simple attacks and activation of elemental attacks. Exploration is generous, allowing you to travel along your self-imposed bubble without any interference of other players. All the monster loot is yours, along with world map chests, and there’s no pressure to hoard the goodies for yourself.
The story progressed the way it does for any classic JRPG: explore a verdant world, get introduced other characters who joins your party, throw in a fetch quest or two, and engage in simple crafting mechanics. I thought I could really get into the world even if without paying for a pre-registration setup. The game did give me some loot to start off with, helping my character progress quite quickly near to their level 20 cap. They even threw in some 4-star equipment for good measure. I was starting to enjoy the initial stages of the experience, receiving artifacts to equip, beating down some easy monsters, and getting a taste of the world.
While I haven’t really joined a guild or formed a party or alliance with other players, how the party system works in the game is you can have up to four characters in your party. They can all be playable with their different play styles (sword, two-handed sword, bow) sporting their own unique element. There were dungeons where there’s a level recommendation to take on said challenges, I continued to progress with my story quest as I avoided the inevitable encounter with the Pay-to-Win mechanic (more on this later).
The Alfheim Online Mechanic
At the start of the game, it showed some FMV animation of your character flying towards the enemy. Once you complete the simple mission of entering the world’s main kingdom, you receive your wing gliders. It makes for an easy descent when you reach the apex of said kingdom, flying has been a staple of quite a few MMOs in recent memory.
In a strange way, they allow you to encounter said rampaging dragon, by turning it from an action-RPG to a full on rail shooter Panzer Dragoon style. That was neat, it was something new to explore and I was actually entertained. You think I’ve seen it all with the genre, the rail shooter aspect was a nice touch. Completing said quest allowed me to customize my character’s costume as well. I didn’t really care much about the cosmetic appearance of my character, it is important for many players to be able to personalize their avatar.
One thing I was avoiding was the daily quests and the achievements that kept blinking in my main menu. To sate my curiosity, I clicked on such and started to receive the game’s Pay-to-win currency, not the gold you use to level up your characters or buy equipment, but the gatcha aspect of the game. I also received a player survey from MiHoYo, which pretty much led me to their proposition.
If It’s Free-To-Play, Where’s the Pay-to-Win?
While MiHoYo is saying that the gacha aspect of the game won’t affect the progression of the character, it’s hard to believe that they’re not wanting their return on investment. The production values are pretty well made for a Free-To-Play game, with an actual working story and an end quest (find your twin sibling). The moment I completed the survey, they then started to advertise the gacha components of the game. So for the sake of science, I clicked on the “Wish” aspect to pull for a chance to get the guaranteed 4-star banner character. And I got her on my first try, along with some pretty good weapons.
At this point, that was my way of saying that I may have to quit with this game. I do know that many a gamer enjoy this type of game and to be fair, this has been one of the better Free-To-Play worlds that are fully realized. However, to get me to literally chase the dragon and investing real money to maintain the meta gets quite costly. It may work well for you, but for myself, it’s not a road I wish to take. I’ve journeyed down this road before and after a couple of hundred dollars spent on some game about mice, I promised myself never again, no matter how good the rest of the game seemed to be.
For those who plan to continue the journey, I wish you well, it seems like a good world to explore. Send me a postcard.
You say that this seems to be play-to-win when it, is fact, is now pay-to-win. You can get through the whole game with a free party. They literally give you the currency needed to pull as you play the game. It’s more time consuming, but you can definitely play and get through the game without paying. I’ve gotten to adventure level 34 with Venti, Xiangling, Fischl, etc without paying a dollar. So the way you left just because you CAN pay is a little bit of judging a book by its cover. Just because you can pay doesn’t mean you have to.
Indeed, the game is generous enough to the point that you do not need to spend a single penny on it to get decent pulls from the gacha. Despite our crummy luck, we’ve managed to get a few key 4 star adventurers like Fish, who we really love.
Our leaving of the game comes from the POV of someone who has a really REALLY bad tendency to spend and seeing as how the game encourages you to do so (but not required), we would rather not fall into that rabbit hole again! We’re not in any way discrediting the game, it’s just us saying that we’d rather not be tempted. 🙂