It’s at this point I stare at the length the three posts already written, look at this one, sigh, and recognize I still have one more to go afterward. Well, time to get the fun part: combat.
Hell, I won’t lie, this is probably what anyone who wants my opinion is wanting to read anyway. Well, I’m going to preface this by saying: I really don’t give a damn about number get big.
I do care whether or not different quests are doable, and how easy they are in terms of opposition and so forth, but I don’t mind having to hit enemies a fair bit here and there. In fact, I like it in a game like this, as it gives me more room to explore. But I am really going to focus on the opportunities to create combos here more than most everything else because that’s just the author’s taste.
So keep in mind that while I judge this game’s combat, I’m asking more, what can I do with it to entertain myself and others? What stupid tricks can I come up with? So on and so forth. I do not care about how fast you can delete a certain boss with this one character and this one weapon and this one artifact set and how on Earth could you ever do anything else.
Genshin Impact’s combat has a fair number of decent mechanics going for it in terms of action games. It’s a pretty advanced sandbox when we start to consider the different elemental interactions, but for now, let’s just focus on hitting stuff.
Each character has a light attack chain, a heavy or charged attack, an elemental skill, and an elemental burst. At the end of a light attack chain, there’s an attack that deals knockback or launch. Heavy/charged attacks usually launch or knockback enemies, and elemental skills and bursts have a pretty huge array of effects so again those come later.
Most every normal or heavy attack can be canceled, usually by a dodge. This allows you to do things like follow up a normal attack string with dodging to where the enemy will end up knocked back to – which, knockback really occurs at a trajectory, meaning that every attack which really causes it is launching enemies more than it’s dealing straight knockback.
Obviously that itself has some pretty huge implications and you can use it to do a lot of stuff to begin with. But what happens when we catch an enemy in the air with a normal attack? Well, while certain archer and mage-type characters don’t actually deal knockback or launch with their attacks on an in-air target, melee characters do, and there are also exceptions which prove the rule to the mage bit. This essentially allows you to juggle, and allows for particularly interesting ones if you can set up an enemy by launching them a small distance into the air – something a number of characters like Diluc have the capability to do.
However, while we do have the niceties of a system advanced enough to allow juggles, there are a number of drawbacks. Most characters have virtually no real ability to hit above their heads, even if their animation might show them clearly swinging their sword and it even connecting with the enemy.
Believe me, it’s a struggle and a half to figure out the attacks that can actually hit after Jean’s launched an enemy into the air with her heavy attack. Pretty much every archer can follow up, but they can’t really juggle. Oh, wait, no, that’s not right. There’s an archer that can’t. Poor girl. Besides her, though, there’s a number of characters which have attacks that visually intersect the enemy and just… Don’t do damage because the enemy is too high and the active hit box doesn’t reach anywhere near where it should.
I hate to say it, but for as stupid as the way the game handles juggling at times, elemental interactions provides the possibility for players to really experiment and do some very interesting stuff. Want to cause knockback at a specific time? Time an overload interaction by using fire on a shocked enemy, or shocking an enemy with electric attacks while they’re fire.
If you were absolutely clever about it, you could do something like timing an Overload on an a wet enemy with electric damage while they’re in the air, causing them to be zapped repeatedly and essentially juggle themselves higher into the air. You could freeze or use the wind to hold an enemy in mid-air and have them hang there while you set up another attack that might otherwise take too long to properly catch the enemy before they fell.
The opportunities here are pretty huge when you start to get into them. There’s a lot of stuff you can do. It’s just… Different elemental skills and bursts don’t always interact in the way you might expect them to. For example, Venti’s ultimate sucks in pretty much everything except Amber’s decoy. Funny, considering the Traveler’s anemo burst can.
In a way it’s kind of, you really just have to try something out to see, but then, if you just drafted a new character, they might not work with your setup at all, or work in ways you expect them to coming from other characters.
This can be about as frustrating as it is beneficial, so it’s kind of a case-by-case basis, but totally, absolutely, I can see someone feeling like they’ve gotten pretty screwed because characters don’t act in the way they should – or more precisely, I have seen players say they feel like it’s unfair.
For your average player, just trying to delete enemies, keep them crowd controlled, or at least just have fights be not-that-difficult, Genshin has a lot of ways to embrace a power fantasy. It’s not really as great as some games – usually in the visual aspect (comparing the game to MiHoYo’s other title, Honkai Impact), but you can absolutely trivialize certain fights with the right setup.
Which leads me to another topic: in large part, having a variety of characters at or near their max potential is going to be the most desirable end-game state for any player due to the games as a service standard. You never know when there’s going to be some event or mission that perfectly synergizes with what this one character does specifically.
Players have an opportunity to strategize significantly as their character pool grows much the same as Warframe. The problem though is that Genshin Impact, like a lot ARPGs, doesn’t really hit that goldilocks zone as often as titles like Destiny. Because of that, I can see players finding themselves as feeling unable to keep up because they don’t really have what fits.
And at the end of the day, that’s what is going to be more important in Genshin Impact’s combat. There’s tier lists and what-have-you right now as far as which characters are the best, but… That’s largely based off of Spiral Abyss, whose modifiers could very easily change at the developer’s whims, emphasizing a brand-new set of characters.
The 1.1 update introduced a bounty system which forces you to essentially build around your target – effectively eliminating powerful characters in certain circumstances with the right traits, such as, immunity to fire and physical damage. Oh my, one of the best characters in the game suddenly became useless. It immediately illustrates what players can expect in the future when it comes to the need for variety.
However, in spite of that, there are certain characters who are just weaker compared to others which all around have better or more desirable traits. Sure, sometimes it’s a matter of the role you might be wanting a character to fill, but in other cases… Some characters simply aren’t really any good without over-investment, and while they may be useful for one-off situations later, some of this could be avoided by playing with values like Zhongli vs. Xiangling.
There are a number of different bosses in Genshin. Most of the overworld ones – the ones which players first unlock – are all fairly decent. They’re not bad, they’re not great, and they’re mostly there for farming materials to level up your characters past certain breakpoints.
However, there are unique or special bosses which you can only do once per week. The 1.1 update introduced one of these fights, whereas the other two have been present since launch.
Flat-out, one of these fights completely sucks. The other one is semi-decent but bad for a lot of similar reasons as the first, and the third is… Actually just pretty decent and cool, largely because it’s entirely different than the first two in terms of scale of the opponent and the fight.
The problems with the first two fights largely involve the fact the opponents are much, much larger than the playable characters, as well as some other shared design traits across the board when it comes to Genshin Impact’s boss design.
Collision, hit boxes, and the arenas themselves can become problematic when it comes to these fights. Dvalin, a large dragon you fight as per part of the story can be pretty easy depending on your party configuration or an absolute nightmare if you pick something that doesn’t synergize well enough.
Worse still, almost every fight gets more difficult the longer you play. Not as you get the boss’s health down you eventually get to a new phase or anything like that: there’s basically a time limit on all these fights, which really results in, you don’t actually see the bosses full repertoire until you should’ve already passed the DPS check. Or, in Dvalin’s case, the fight actually breaks your character.
Bosses do appear to have different phases based off of health, but there’s a big difference between the final phases a player can experience depending on how long they take and the final phase of a player meeting the DPS check is quite different than the final phase of a player who doesn’t.
It’s worth noting that, again, of these special bosses, the best one is essentially fighting a playable character, so something similar to Vergil from Devil May Cry. Clearly, this is an entirely differently scaled fight – namely in that’s smaller and not anything near the scope of the Dvalin fight which then enforces a far more scripted encounter.
This is worth mentioning off on its own because it’s probably one of the worst symptoms of being a game orientated towards mobile hardware and mobile ergonomics. All the time, whenever you’re using a regular or charged attack, your character is automatically locking on to enemies.
That, actually, seems like it’s not that bad of a thing until you realize that you have no real control over who you might attack in a group. You could start attacking one direction, have an enemy come up behind you, and then you would find yourself unable to respond to their positioning because your character will keep attacking the target they’re locked on to.
Yeah, the game will basically just ignore your control stick inputs entirely and continue to target the locked on character. The really, really strange thing here is that there’s absolutely more than enough controls on a gamepad to solve this problem, and while it may be a feature that the game couldn’t really share on mobile, it’s something that really needs to be brought to any platform that actually does use a controller, and you know what? You can use a gamepad with a phone, so in reality, there is no excuse.
Oh, wait, I forgot: there actually isn’t controller support for Genshin Impact on mobile. Yep.
In Conclusion with Combat
To sum up the combat mechanics in Genshin Impact simply, one can say, there’s a lot of potential. However, that potential is tremendously gated by who and what you have. Yes, we can say that technically you can combo with anyone. Hell, the Traveler in particular has some very decent tricks you can pull with them alone.
Given that there’s the whole games-as-a-service aspect, eventually I’m sure there will be characters which are tremendously satisfying. One of the newest 5 star characters as of this writing, Zhongli, is tremendously fun and has a really good moveset to do combos even if he’s not that impressive in terms of actual damage, or, well, anything else really.
So I’m sure that eventually Genshin Impact will get to a point that some of these characters can do some really amazing stuff and we can all link it in together, but the problem is the issue of how mobile games are frequently handled: it’s very likely we won’t see the existing characters improved unless they can be resold to players.
I’ll follow up this review with a combat breakdown to point players in the right direction to understand the overall mechanics and how to create a combo – as well as going over the stuff that’s actually valuable to practical gameplay – but in general it’s best to say that Genshin Impact’s combat is simply put, an area that has potential but is tremendously weighted down by a number of factors.
Hell, I haven’t really touched on it here, but it’s important to note that doing combos with a teammate is entirely unfeasible because of desync. I’m sure you could get it to kinda work, maybe, but at this point it’s something I absolutely won’t even bother to invest the time in besides the fact I don’t want to waste anyone else’s time to play around with those shenanigans.
In essence – while a number of factors are there to actually do some really, really awesome stuff, so much crap gets in the way, and that’s before even considering there’s no real proper training room for a player to really experiment with any shenanigans they can do, that just makes it hard to show off. There’s lots of different little things that MiHoYo can do, and they’ve done, with Honkai Impact that just don’t make it into Genshin, and besides knowing that they could do better, it’s just generally more than frustrating when you’re confronted with things like being unable to hit enemies you’re clearly connecting with visually.
The conclusion to the complete review is up next.