See, if you thought I was going to talk about the fun part next, that’s because I thought I was going to write about the fun part next.
Then something got in the way: a slot machine.
Now, here’s the deal, straight up, 100%, gacha is shit, but I’ve played a wide number of free to play games over the years. Some of those have used gacha mechanics, some were freemium games, and, hell, a good number of people did play Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer.
Getting real progress – which is invariably as much horizontal as players need more tools to handle a wider variety of situations – I know I’ve said that ‘number get big’ can and mostly does happen somewhere else but that’s being slightly giving for the game’s sake. What you’re really after is new characters, and to a lesser degree good weapons which also come from the same source.
Invariably, because these sorts of things are purposefully designed to be confusing, I’m going to layout the primary aspects of the game as far as the process of obtaining characters, as well as explain the cash/pity shop. Drafting first, pity shop second. That’s the order anyway and it’ll make better sense when I get around to it.
But simply put, right now, I’m gonna flat out say there are a lot of games that give you a lot more for less time and less cash investment.
The way the player obtains the vast majority of new characters, given that most any freebie with the exception of the initial party and Xiangling are not permanent, is through the Wish system. This is, as you would expect if you were familiar with gacha games, where the real heart of evil lies.
So what’s important? Well, first off, we have two types of pulls, usually spread out across three banners where the player can choose the type of draft they’re interested in:
- A rotating character highlight banner
- A rotating weapon highlight banner
- A permanent banner
Again, the important things. The character banner is usually the ‘best’ at any given time: both #1 and #3 do give out weapons, but obviously, weapons are (usually) less desirable than new characters. The character banner focuses on one five star character, followed by three different four star characters, weighting your pulls according to the featured characters.
#2 is apparently fairly undesirable, but I’ll clarify that I haven’t rolled any off that banner myself because I largely do not see the need: decent weapons can be procured in-game, characters largely cannot. When it comes to this, the permanent banner seems to do the job of tending to award a weapon when it’s time to give out a five star item anyway.
The two types of pulls you can do are single pulls or ten pulls. As of this writing, Genshin does not encourage saving up for ten rolls. Instead, if you pull singles, every tenth roll is essentially guaranteed in the same way as the ten rolls are. Obviously, this is good and bad.
Most of your draftees from the pulls will be weapons. Usually of the three star variety, but the game’s occasionally nicer when it’s screwing you and gives you a good weapon – albeit, usually in exchange for a character on that set of ten pulls – so it’s still screwing you softly. These weapons largely falter in comparison to their four star and five star equivalents just in terms of damage, so as you would expect, your rolls are filled with the usual chaff the vast majority of the time: any four star item or above are the real items worth caring about, full stop.
So, what about your chances to pull stuff? I would probably say it’s best to ignore the probabilities entirely because of the way Genshin Impact’s system works. You should really only care about the character banner’s weighting of those specific characters and the pity mechanic, since these are the only reliable and semi-consistent things going on here. Supposedly, though, the actual chance to draw an S-rank character is about 1.5%, but in reality the pity system obfuscates this.
It’s a lot more precise to say that every ninety rolls you will have gotten an S-rank item, but pity is, of course, a very hard system for players to measure and extremely difficult to simulate properly. The usual experience, and my own aligns with this so I’ll vouch for it, is that at around 40 to 50 rolls into your 90 rolls of pity, the chances for an S-rank item starts to get higher and higher the more you’ve rolled. So really you’re probably looking at a five star item when you’re between 50-80 rolls, and after you get a S-rank item, that pity system will reset.
Therefore, if you are looking to spend some money on Genshin, and you are actively playing the game, in my opinion it’s best to do so strategically. Given that the reviews I’ve written so far have usually come down to “at what price do I recommend you check this out at” rather than a numerical system or a strict yes-or-no I essentially feel this is the real crux of the review:
I recommend that if you are going to spend money on Genshin Impact, you give the developers the absolute minimum from your wallet to get what you want. This is because while the developer is essentially playing at keeping you from having a fuller experience until you cough over some money and making it relatively harder compared to other games to get the specific thing you want, I feel like players should do the same, and only give the developers money when they know they can get what they want, or if failing that, get the maximum value for their money.
You can play Genshin Impact free-to-play, and there is only one major problem with it: the decent rewards for the currency you spend on rolls are essentially finite, and in reality, you can’t even earn a single roll in a day currently. Now this hurts everyone, including the developers. I do know some folks who like to point out that free-to-play mobile games don’t really need to be that giving to be successful, but it can significantly help, especially if there’s competition.
There’s something to say for the fact that virtually every single pity shop I’ve been exposed to in free-to-play games has been hilariously bad and blatant at its attempts to screw over players that should immediately stand out to anyone who has ever played a real game before in their life: the vast majority of items in Genshin Impact’s pity shop are materials that you can get from playing the game.
The only items worthwhile from the pity shop are the following:
- Two Characters (they rotate monthly)
- A Matching Weapon Set (Sword/Greatsword/Bow/Etc; rotates monthly)
- 10 rolls in 2 sets of 5 (Five for the character banner, five for the permanent)
Everything else is chaff – and yeah, it could save you some time to buy materials from the pity shop. It’s just, the real crux of these hilariously bad shops is that, saving you some time is essentially just cutting into what you might actually spend in-game unless you have an extremely large stockpile of pity currency. If you are actively playing the game, there should be no reason for you to actually use the pity shop for anything other than the above mentioned worthwhile items. (The weapons so far aren’t really spectacularly good, either, but I’m sure that’s subject to change)
“But, all pity shops are that bad! It’s just the precedent!”
We could talk about the dangers of precedents and refusal to go against them, but the fact of the matter is that no, not all pity shops are that bad. This is a generalization, but typically, when Bandai Namco in particular publishes a free-to-play game, usually their pity shops consist of actual decent items that players might want – therefore it is important to realize, the only thing keeping pity shops being shit in free-to-play and mobile game market is largely a choice on the consumers behalf to continue enable that behavior.
And let’s be honest, most of the reason why these predatory practices are successful is largely because of the way the average working person is exploited and is essentially, either mentally or physically, unwell. Specifically, you can tell this by who tends to spend the most money on these games and where they come from. I don’t want to point fingers at any one nationality, but let’s just say, we, as people of the world, know about the problem but don’t do anything about it. Therefore, you can say we’re just as much of the issue. However, that’s neither here nor there, just a topic that comes up often now as I’ve discussed this (and other) free-to-play games.
Moving back to the subject of the pity shop, there’s two main factors which make this pity shop one of the worst ones I’ve ever seen. First and foremost, there is no daily rotations. None. The second is that getting resources for the pity shop is a complete joke:
After having spent about 100$ dollars on one account, plus earning a significant amount of rolls from just playing the game, I could purchase a whopping two characters from the pity shop or two weapons, and I had been playing Genshin Impact for essentially every day since its release for a month and a half at that point, getting my dailies done and what-have-you.
That’s really bad, and at this point, if I’m being completely frank, this is like playing an early access equivalent of a free-to-play or mobile game: there is simply huge lack of content in the area that presents the most replay value, and that’s playable characters. Now, there’s something to be aware of when it comes to that, but that’ll come when I make my conclusion about the game.
Oh, it gets worse long before it gets better.
Y’see, most people who are familiar with any sort of RNG system, from video games to trading card games, know pretty well that, eventually, all loot is trash. Yes, all loot is trash. Even that one really, really good thing in whatever game can be absolutely useless when you already have five of them.
Video games, especially ones without any direct way for players to trade these RNG-gained items, often have this problem two-fold: consider the above situation of getting a rare thing in a trading card game; you can trade it! It still has value to you even if that value is diminished because you already have enough for your own needs.
Video games often don’t have ways for players to trade their digital items between one another for a wide variety of reasons, and we don’t need to discuss them here, it’s just important to keep this concept in mind regarding the diminishing value of any given item.
Genshin Impact does recognize the problem, sort of, kind of, in honestly the worst possible way. You see, in Genshin Impact, you really don’t need to pull a character once to have them at their real maximum capacity, oh no. You actually need to pull them seven times in order to get them at their full power. Yep. In fact, the same thing goes for weapons: you actually need to obtain five of a given weapon in order to refine your weapon to maximize its passive abilities.
And, what happens after you get the same character seven times, anyway?
A. Whopping. Five. Pity coins.
So far in my experience this constellation system and its upgrades to characters could be summed up fairly simply: for five star characters, they’re usually good out of the box and their constellations aren’t too impressive, for four star characters, there is a huge improvement that can be had for having a character with a completely maxed out constellation (C6) from having pulled them seven times.
It’s a huge money sink and one of the most frustrating things given that there’s no methods to earn Stella Fortuna – the resources to upgrade these characters – except through special events which are giving these characters away, something which is pretty well always a temporary thing.
Costs and Comparisons
It’s hard to make a fair comparison here because different countries have different costs when it comes to buying into these games, but in general I have to say that Genshin Impact is a worse ‘buy’ in terms of what you get for your money than most F2P games.
Granted, what you get for free, in terms of the world and the different quests and all that, that’s quite the ‘deal,’ but in exchange all the stamina walls get very weird.
Difficulty walls, coming from games like Warframe, are more what I would expect. That I would find myself needing a specific sort of team and that’s where the game would try to extract money from me by offering a tantalizing shortcut to get different characters.
But… Then the game has a stamina system, Original Resin, that largely prevents progress and you can’t even really buy more of. Hell, there’s only a limited amount of Original Resin you can get per day if you’re willing to pay cash for it. All in all, I start to get a similar feel as I did when looking at Breath of the Wild but for a much, much different reason: it’s like the developers didn’t really look at the competition, or even one of their own games (Honkai Impact) when it comes to the monetization of the game.
And holy shit does Genshin Impact suffer for that. I would be a lot more willing to part ways with money if there were a number of different factors at play here, but as it is, with systems like a one-time bonus for premium currency that goes away forever after you’ve used it, I feel like I’m actually punished for even considering to put money into the game outside of the daily login pass thing (Welkin Pass but let’s be honest we don’t need to name these stupid things when they’re this dumb, and at least one character in Genshin Impact would agree with me).
Mix that in with the rolls that I get from playing the game are largely more given rather than earned, it’s more and more like the game’s just designed to extract money with little regard for return to the customer’s satisfaction.
Combat’s up next, you can check that out here.