Genshin Impact's 1.1 update includes a ton of great improvements to the game, but I was most excited for its two new characters: Tartaglia and Diona. Since it launched, there's only been one new face added to the free-to-play gacha RPG, and the opportunity to earn some new heroes with fun new abilities—like Tartaglia's ability to switch between ranged and melee—was a big incentive to save up my precious Primogems so I could spend them all on the new Banner (Genshin's version of lootboxes).
The first day that Banner went live, I was lucky enough to immediately get Diona, a teeny-weeny bow user whose ice attacks also give you a powerful shield and can even heal you. It should've been an exciting moment and a chance to change up my staple roster of heroes and try something new. But once I started on the long grind to get Diona into a useable state, I quickly realized how Genshin Impact's grind deflates the excitement of getting new characters.
Grind and gamble
Since Genshin Impact first launched back in September, I've played fairly obsessively and unlocked 15 of the 23 currently available characters. But of those, only four are above level 50 and actually capable of fighting the bosses or dungeons I need to farm for loot to keep on progressing to even higher levels. I've leveled a few characters to above level 20, but most of them are sitting at level 1 entirely untouched. I want to play these characters, but Genshin Impact really punishes me for experimenting instead of funneling all of my resources into a crack-team of champions. It sucks.
Instead of leveling characters by fighting monsters, the biggest source of experience points in Genshin Impact are special cards you get as rewards from most quests and a few endgame activities. When I first started playing, these cards were in such ample supply that using them all often meant making my characters too powerful for the enemies I was facing at the time. I could take a character from level 1 to level 40 in a few seconds. Now that I'm deep into Genshin Impact's endgame, however, these cards are so rare and the experience requirements so steep that my team feels like it's crawling forward. If I want to be able to take on its toughest challenges, like the Spiral Abyss dungeon, I need to spend these scant resources wisely on my best fighters.
But that leaves almost no room for experimenting with new characters, and that's extremely frustrating. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get Klee from the promotional lootbox event going on at the time. She's an extremely powerful Pyro mage who would make an excellent substitute for Xianling, who I enjoy using, but whose fire attacks are limited—especially because I already have powerful melee characters like Keqing. I've been funneling resources into Klee ever since to slowly get her up to speed, but it still feels like I'm weeks away from actually being able to use her in Genshin Impact's endgame.
That's because, typical to mobile games, Genshin Impact limits how often you can acquire pretty much every resource necessary to progress further in the game. Everything is tied to Resin, Genshin Impact's much-hated system that limits how often you can get rewards from lucrative activities. In order to get more experience point cards to level up Diona or Klee, I have to repeatedly complete a certain enemy encounter and spend 20 Resin to get the loot. But I can only have 160 Resin at one time and it regenerates extremely slowly. If I spend Resin farming experience cards for Diona, that means I won't be able to spend that Resin on doing bosses that'll progress my main characters (who I actually need to power up). It's kind of a shitty trade.
Because everything is tied to Resin, taking time to experiment with a new character feels like I'm actively hindering my progression through the endgame. Every resource I feed to one character feels like a loss for another, which is a feeling I don't get from too many free-to-play games.
Even Warframe, which is notorious for being excessively grindy, feels a lot more generous. When I earn a new warframe, I have to spend time and money upgrading it, but the bulk of that task can be blitzed through in an hour or two. But I've had Diona and Klee for weeks and I still can't justify putting them in my party because they're not ready. It all feels unnecessarily restrictive and really kills the buzz of getting a new character—which is already extremely rare because Genshin Impact's lootboxes aren't very generous.
Part of the problem is that there's no way to test out a new character outside of a special tutorial mode. I can put them in my party, but they'll feel like dead weight until I've invested enough resources to get them to the proper level. Leveling is just the beginning of the grind, though. I'll also have to grind to get them a half decent weapon and a set of Artifacts to boost their stats. It begins to feel a bit much. But I don't want to do all of that only to realize I actually don't care for how this character players or that another one would actually be a way better fit.
I've been complaining about Genshin Impact's Resin system since it first launched, but MiHoYo's reluctance to make any meaningful changes to it (beyond increasing the total amount slightly) continues to harm the game. When I play card games like Legends of Runeterra, for example, getting a new card is extremely exciting because I can immediately slot it into an existing deck and benefit from using it. In Genshin Impact, though, new characters just feel like a hassle.
I desperately wish there was some kind of catch-up system that severely shortened the grind on newer characters. It's not that I expect I should be able to turn anyone into a top-tier fighter with minimal effort, but it sucks having half a dozen characters I'd love to be able to experiment with but can't because resources are so heavily restricted by Resin. Until that happens, I feel stuck using the same four heroes I've been using for a few dozen hours. It really undermines one of Genshin Impact's best strengths—its big roster of lovable and unique characters—when the slow grind to get them into a playable state is so arduous.