Though I must admit, most things would be better by just making them more like anime.
From minute one, comparisons between Genshin Impact and Breath of the Wild are impossible to avoid. The vast open world where you can travel to any vista you see in the distance was an iconic feature of the hugely successful Switch launch title. Elements such as enemy camps, climbing, and gliding are pulled straight from Zelda, and even the famous wide shot of Hyrule’s distant landscapes was copied almost to the letter at the start of the game’s demo. Genshin Impact does manage to improve on Breath of the Wild’s formula, though; it turned the anime dial up to a much higher degree.
Okay, so there’s more to Genshin Impact than just its art style—though I’d be lying if I said “Anime Breath of the Wild” wasn’t made specifically for me. There are also a few gameplay changes that help make the game stand on its own.
The demo we played at PAX didn’t have any particular goal or objective—or at least not one that I could find—so the majority of my time was spent exploring the world. The biggest change from Zelda is how good it feels to fight monsters. Breath of the Wild isn’t perfect, but the combat was always something I thought was outright bad. Genshin’s combat flows a lot better with quick combo attacks that can be cancelled into dodges, making the action feel fast-paced and satisfying.
Combat is also enhanced by a complex elemental reaction system that I was barely able to scratch the surface of in my short time with the game. Different spells and weapons are separated into familiar elemental types like fire, ice, and wind. When elements are combined, they’ll cause a reaction that can cause different effects. For example, wind can combine with most other elements to cause a swirl that deals elemental damage in a wide area, and fire and ice spells can be combined for a quick burst of damage.
Though you only have one character in play at a time, Genshin Impact allows you to form a party of up to four different characters that can be swapped in and out on the fly, each with their own weapons and elements to take advantage of. This lets you quickly swap to whichever character and or loadout you need for a situation with the press of a button. The different characters also add a good deal of extra personality to the game, as they’re more engaging than Breath of the Wild’s stoic, silent protagonist.
I spent way less time with Genshin Impact than I wanted to, and I spent the rest of the weekend at PAX passing by miHoYo’s booth to see if the line was short enough for me to get another play session in whenever I had some free time. Sadly I did not get to play more, so I’m eagerly looking forward to my next chance to jump back in. I went in expecting Breath of the Wild with anime girls, and it turns out that Genshin Impact is going to be much more than that.