Genshin Impact was one of the few plot twists in 2020 that didn't suck. The free-to-play RPG came out of nowhere and became one of my favorite games of the year. When I first reviewed it, I said it was a shockingly easy game to love despite its microtransactions. And love it I did: In the initial month that it launched, I lost 40-plus hours to its excellent Breath of the Wild-esque exploration and flashy combat. It's one of the best open world games I've played in years. But Genshin Impact wasn't designed to be a one-and-done adventure like the Zelda games it imitates. As updates have added more story quests, characters, events, and even an entire new region to explore, it's become clear that Genshin Impact is as much a live service RPG as Destiny 2 or Warframe.
These constant updates leave a few important questions: Is Genshin Impact still as good? Is it still worth playing if you never tried it at launch? And if you played it for a bit and fell away, is Genshin Impact worth coming back to?
Genshin Impact, three months later
My relationship with Genshin Impact feels like it's in a constant state of flux. Over the past three months, I've had more than a few late-night binge sessions and I've also gone weeks without logging in. This up-and-down relationship will be familiar to anyone who plays Destiny 2, World of Warcraft, or any game that wherein players represent an enormous, insatiable mouth that developers tirelessly shovel new updates into.
Considering how communities like Destiny 2 always seem to be enraged about one thing or another, Genshin Impact feels remarkably stable. That isn't to say I haven't had my complaints—or that the wider community hasn't been up in arms about new changes or unmet expectations. In most cases, developer miHoYo has been pretty quick to incorporate feedback and make necessary changes, but those complaints have always felt minor when measured against how much fun exploring Teyvat is or the subtle satisfaction of slowly building an elite squad of anime warriors.
MiHoYo has found a really satisfying cadence of updates that balance exciting new features with smaller distractions. Back in November, for example, several new quests and a boss fight were added to the main story. Then, just before Christmas, miHoYo released an entirely new region called Dragonspine—complete with new enemies, bosses, and an enormous wealth of secrets to discover. It was an update so big other games would've easily slapped a price tag on it and called it an expansion. Filling in the gaps are weekly events that give me a little something extra to do beyond my usual routine, like hunting for buried treasure or solving riddles for loot.
A lot of live service games really struggle to maintain quality through their updates. In World of Warcraft: Legion, one of its biggest updates felt like it came with all of two hours of actual story before I was back to the regular grind. But I'm a little shocked at how rich with story Genshin Impact's smaller updates often are. Each is typically woven into story quests that reveal interesting new details about the world or dive deep into the backstory of a particular character, and the voice acting is always fantastic. It's a bit remarkable.
This mix of big and small updates is really satisfying and has kept me consistently invested in Genshin Impact—even if I don't touch it for a few weeks. When the Dragonspine region was added during the holiday break, I could play for hours on end. But now that I've wrapped up most of its challenges and am waiting for the next big thing, I'm back to logging in for half an hour or so each day to quickly wrap up daily quests before playing something else.
I just wish I had more flexibility to play Genshin Impact on my schedule. Like most live service games, there's a ton of daily quests, log-in rewards, and time-sensitive events that try to pull you in each day. There's also a battle pass and new characters are only available temporarily through seasonal lootboxes (called Banners).
I don't resent these systems like I do in other games because I find Genshin Impact so fun, but I still have lingering animosity toward its Resin system. For the uninitiated, Resin is a resource that regenerates in real-time and is spent when completing endgame activities that reward the best loot. Use it all up and you have to wait for it to recharge or spend some real money. When Genshin Impact first released, the Resin system felt really limiting. But now that new systems have been added like bounties and Dragonspine, there are more things I can do each day instead of spending all my Resin and twiddling my thumbs.
That's helped a bit, but it still sucks that the system is structured around playing every single day. See, once your Resin reaches its cap of 160, it stops recharging. Unless you're spending your Resin each day, you're effectively wasting it. I've become accustomed to it enough that it doesn't irritate me nearly as much anymore, but it still feels bad to miss a day or two because I'm too busy to play. In fact, if I could change one thing about Genshin Impact, it would be to uncap Resin.
It's a relatively small complaint, though. Because Genshin Impact isn't really a multiplayer game (though co-op is available), I don't really have the sense of falling behind that I get in games like Destiny or World of Warcraft. If I don't play for a few weeks, I don't have to play catch-up in order to jump back in.
More than anything, I'm just excited for what's next. MiHoYo has plans to release a minimum of six new regions to explore that will triple the size of the world map. It'll probably take years for all of these zones to be released, but I'm feeling more optimistic about that journey than any other live-service game. If you're curious about trying Genshin Impact, either for the first time or as a returning player, you absolutely should. When it launched back in September, Genshin Impact was astounding—and it's only gotten better in the three months since.