A reader plays free-to-play game Genshin Impact and is surprised to find it has a lot to teach Nintendo and The Legend Of Zelda series.
Genshin Impact is a cheat and a copycat. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a free-to-play game on PlayStation 4, PC, and mobile that is not just inspired by Zelda: Breath Of The Wild but entirely dependent on it for everything from the basic concept to the design of the game world, the art style, and the music. Why Nintendo hasn’t sued Chinese developers miHoYo I do not know, and I can only assume it’s because it’s legally impossible for them, for some reason.
The climbing, the use of a glider, the little enemy camps all over the place, the style of the puzzles… everything is so similar it feels like some kind of official remix rather than a completely separate game that has nothing to do with Nintendo. But the strangest thing about it all is that it’s actually pretty good and has some good ideas that Nintendo could learn from.
I should point out that, because it’s free-to-play, the game is riddled with microtransactions and is a gacha game that tries to make you addicted to collecting every last thing. That, obviously, is not a good thing and the major problem with the game, but the rest is surprisingly great.
1. More magic
The combat is probably one of the things that’s most different about Genshin Impact, even though at first sight it seems pretty similar. Genshin Impact gives its character more traditional magic abilities, all aligned to one of several elemental powers which you can then mix up and combo together. It’s a different approach but one that would be interesting to see from Zelda, which has never really been about much other than sword-fighting when it comes to combat.
2. More people
Breath Of The Wild is essentially a post-apocalyptic setting so there’s plenty of good reasons for there not being many people around, especially as exploring nature is a big part of its appeal. Genshin Impact is different and as with all of these points I’m making it’s not that it does things better than Zelda but that it does them differently, and that’s got to be worth exploration for Nintendo. Having more and bigger cities gives Genshin Impact a much different vibe and I’d love to see a next gen-ish approach in either Breath Of The Wild 2 or another future Zelda.
3. More role-playing
Many people call Zelda a role-player purely because it’s got a kind of Tolkien-esque setting, but it’s really not. There are no stats and you don’t level up, it’s an action adventure not a role-player. But Genshin Impact shows what it could be like if it was. The skill trees and levelling up works well and customising your weapons is arguably a lot more satisfying than having them break every five minutes, as in Breath Of The Wild – where you can’t even fix them if you know they’re on the way out.
4. More story
Zelda has never been about storytelling, so criticising Breath Of The Wild for that always seems a bit unfair to me. But Genshin Impact does have a lot more story and it’s told surprisingly well. The actual plot is just the usual fantasy nonsense, but the way you slowly learn more about the world as you explore and interact with people works very nicely and is certainly an approach I could imagine working with Zelda. I don’t want Zelda turning into a cut scene monster-piece but at some point it’d be worth experimenting with more story and I think Genshin Impact shows the way.
Genshin Impact is not as good a game as Breath Of The Wild and wouldn’t even exist if it didn’t have Nintendo to copy off of. But it’s not only a good copy but it has things to teach Nintendo. Or, since Nintendo is not the sort of company to listen to others, it offers an alternative glimpse of what the series could be in someone else’s hands.
It makes me glad that Breath Of The Wild 2 has been delayed, as hopefully Nintendo can take note, because if their follow-up isn’t as good as a would-be copycat then that really would be a shock.
By reader Hot Sauce
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