Genshin Impact

Free to play, more expensive then a trip to Vegas if you actually want to buy anything in game.

I’ve been wanting to write about Genshin Impact, but I’ve had a hard time doing so over the last week. This is because Genshin Impact might be the highest quality free-to-play game ever made, but discussing the game without talking about the monetization model would be crazy. It’s like discussing a tiger, without mentioning the teeth or claws, and just discussing its fluffy-wuffy tail. Let’s start with that fluffy tail though.

Genshin Impact is a free to play RPG for everything except your Nintendo Switch. It has cross-play for pretty much everything, and cross-progression for everything that isn’t a PS4. You can actually close the game on your PC, then open it on your phone, and just… keep playing. The same game. From where you left it on your PC. You can do cross-play between phone, PC and PS4. It’s incredible.

And when I say RPG, I mean RPG. You’re presented with a massive world to wander around, search for treasure and do quests in. There are world bosses, and hidden secrets, and all the good stuff. Mechanically, the game borrows a massive amount from Breath of the Wild. You can just climb up mountains and hills and walls, and you also get a glider fairly early on which lets you drift around.

The combat system is also pretty neat. You build a party of 4 characters, and as long as you aren’t in a Domain (Dungeon) or combat, you can swap characters out as you wish. Each character has a weapon type, basic attack, ability, and ultimate ability, all on separate cooldowns. Each character also has an element, and elements interact in various ways. For example, if you launch an Anemo (wind) character’s ability into an area with fire on it, it will Swirl, and create a fire tornado. Put ice onto a character affected by water, or vice versa, and that character will freeze. There are about seven of these elements, and in addition, things like walking through puddles will make both you and enemies wet.

There is a day night cycle as well.

These abilities can be used outside of combat to light torches, trigger pressure plates, and do other puzzly stuff. You can even use ice attacks to freeze and then cross lakes and oceans. Theres an entire quest line that requires you to take advantage of this to get to a hidden island that doesn’t even show up on the map.

Moments like this are Genshin Impact at its best. When you’re just running around, fighting monsters, climbing terrain, and discovering things, you might even forget you’re playing a free to play game, and if I had any gripes with the game as it is, it would most likely be that the climbing behavior can occasionally be a bit funky. You can climb all over every mountain, and every hill in the game, and there is treasure everywhere. Every mountain top has hidden collectibles, there are puzzles in every cave.

Okay, so now lets talk about the bad part.

If the moment to moment gameplay of Genshin Impact is Breath of the Wild, the meat of the game’s advancement system is classic mobile gacha. If you’ve ever played Puzzles and Dragons, Azur Lane, Fate Grand Order, or Dragalia Lost, you’ve seen this sort of thing before. You have Resin (Energy) which recharges over time and is used to collect treasure from world bosses and dungeons. These include advancement materials that are used to increase the max level of your characters and weapons, books that are used to upgrade their talents, and artifacts that can slotted in to give set bonuses, and extra stats.

You can spend in game currency to refill your energy, and honestly, as frustrated as some people are by Resin, I don’t take too much issue with it.

What I do take issue with is the drop rates and costs of the Wish system, the system by which you get new characters, and most of the higher rarity weapons. I refuse to call these micro-transactions, because there is nothing fucking micro about them.

ONE roll of the Wish system is 160 Primogems/Genesis Crystals. A SINGLE ROLL.

These are the prices, and after you buy the first time bonus, they change to this.

$Primogems / # of Rolls
0.9960 / .33
4.99330 / 1.83
14.991090 / 6.06
29.992240 / 12.44
49.993880 / 21.56
99.998080 / 44.89

So if you’re looking at this, and thinking, “This seems a bit expensive,” then yeah. It fucking is. But here comes the kicker: the drop rates are AWFUL.

The Wish system in Genshin has multiple different tables you can choose to roll against, usually called banners. For the featured character in a banner, the drop rate is 0.6%, or 3/500. The drop rate for an weapon OR character of the highest rarity is 1.6% total, or 2/125.

Ed Note: I think fractions do a better job illustrating how low this is, which is why I’ve included them here.

Keep in mind, a single roll costs $2.20 at its cheapest, if you buy the $100 currency pack. This gets you just over 44 rolls.

There’s also a pity system in place in which if you haven’t gotten a weapon/character of max rarity after 90 rolls, you will be given one. I want to point out that the real money cost of 90 rolls is just under $200. At this point, if you’re rolling on a featured banner, you will have a 50% chance to get the featured character. If you don’t, you’ll be guaranteed to get them at the next pity roll. Which means at this point, you’ll have to have spent over $400.

TLDR: If you want a FEATURED character in Genshin Impact, they can end up costing you $400 for a single copy of the character. In addition, the game has system by which characters are powered up for each duplicate you get of them. So getting a character to their max potential requires you to get receive them 6 times.

So yeah. That’s the state of Genshin Impact as of today, an incredible free to play game that is unmatched by anything on the market, with what I’m going to call “Macro-Transactions” that can easily total the same price of a new PS5 to get a single character. Play it. Enjoy the story, the anime bullshit, and the voice acting. Explore the incredible world, scouring every nook and cranny for treasure, and climbing every mountain.

But please don’t spend money on it.

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 4 of 6

This excerpt space for rent.

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Format is as follows:

GameName of the Game
Demo LengthHow Long it Took me to Finish the Demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameMorbid: The Seven Acolytes
Demo LengthJust over an Hour
GenreDark Souls, but 2D
Quick ThoughtsI am not a Dark Souls person; this game is a Dark Souls. As such, it took me forever to beat, and at least 4-5 tries on the final boss alone. Did I like it enough to buy it? Not sure yet, I’m not a masochist. Overall, really good.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameInkulinati
Demo Length1 Hour
GenreTurn Based Tactics
Quick ThoughtsOne of the neatest things I’ve played so far at the show. Art is great, music is great, gameplay is great. Only real gripe I have is that the AI in the demo seems very weak in terms of letting you just shove the enemy captain Inkulinati off the ledge. But, y’know, demo. Worth keeping an eye on.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameExophobia
Demo Length39 Minutes
GenreSingle Axis Shooter
Quick ThoughtsI wanted to put “I can’t believe it’s not Return to Castle Wolfenstein” in the genre section again, but then remembered I’m supposed to be professional. Nothing amazing, nothing awful about Exophobia. The opening is very slow. This is one of the demos where I think you can play it and know if you’ll be interested in the final game. This one just isn’t for me though.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 2 of 6

Part 2 of what is starting to look like a substantial haul of demos. I was trying to come up with something interesting to say like “Grab your pickaxe as we go into the game mines,” but honestly, this is the easiest convention experience ever in terms of reviewing stuff. This is more “Click install on Steam and just play stuff.” So here we go.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the game
Demo LengthHow long it took me to finish the demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameOperation Tango
Demo Length20 Minutes
GenreAsymmetric Real Time Co-op Puzzler
Quick ThoughtsMy standout game of the show so far. A really cool puzzler, with one person playing the Hacker, and one playing the Agent. Neat puzzles, really nice art style. You will need a friend to play with, so find that person, and keep an eye on this one.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameBlack Skylands
Demo Length1 Hour (including some messing about)
GenreTop Down Run and Gun/Town Builder
Quick ThoughtsLots of potential here. Developers describe the demo as a “Vertical Slice” which in my experience means “Held together with tape and prayers”, so it will be interesting to see how this ends up maturing. I generally enjoyed playing it, and I’ll keep an eye on it.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameMayhem In Single Valley: Confessions
Demo Length1 Hour
GenrePuzzle?
Quick ThoughtsI did not have fun with this demo. Outside of some nice art and music, I have no praise for it. The demo was buggy, inconsistent, and exceedingly confusing and janky. Disagree with me? Go play it yourself. I can’t tell if it’s just not for me, or what, but this didn’t sell me on the game at all.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Because Mario Party isn’t rage inducing enough on it’s own.

If you’ve seen Twitch at all recently, you’ve probably seen Fall Guys. If you haven’t, allow me to summarize it for you: imagine a battle royale game, but instead shooting each other death as teenagers, you’re all happy jelly bean blobs competing in Mario Party style mini-games to be the last person standing.

It’s simple, cute, and amusing, even if it isn’t particularly deep. Some of the mini-games are fun. Some of the mini-games are not as fun (looking at you Perfect Match). Some look like complete bullshit, but actually have some strategy like Tip Tap Toe.

Most the games are at least enjoyable, and the fun primarily comes from watching other players be launched, whacked, and otherwise smacked around, and also by being a winner. There are a few game modes that are legitimately great, like Hex-A-Gone, a multi level Tron style mode, where the last person to fall all the way to the bottom wins. Most of the team mini-games, like Soccer, Egg Collection, and Ball Rolling are also enjoyable.

When I was first writing this post, I actually had a bit where I was going to go into the worse game modes, and tear them apart a bit, but then a funny thing happened: see, with the exception of Perfect Match, most of the game modes are pretty good when the servers aren’t massively lagging. One particularly awful game, Tail Tag, is actually really fun when things like hit detection and stuff actually work.

I think Fall Guys is a ton of fun, and worth playing, but I have a few caveats to that statement. First off, I suspect there is a large section of individuals who just won’t have a good time. If you already hate stuff like Mario Party, or WarioWare, or just battle royale style games in general, you might wanna pass on this one.

Secondly, Fall Guys is a lot more fun with a friend. If you can get even one other person to play with, each game becomes less of a solo deathmatch, and more of a fun mess as you work against and root for each other. I had a lot of fun with the game on my own, but it’s undeniable that the joy of the game is dampened when every other character you beat or get beaten by is anonymous.

Fall Guys is $20 on Steam, and while it does have micros, they’re purely cosmetic, and not for anything you can’t get anyway.

Fall Guys will not cause you to look inward. It will not grant you peace, or force you to confront deep seated fears. But it’s fun. And when you are launched into space, or toppled into the void right as you jump because some rando grabbed you for absolutely no good fucking reason, it will give you something to be angry about other then the unmitigated nightmare that has been 2020.

The Ikai Demo

The Ikai Demo is fine, but currently it doesn’t do anything new. I’d like to see the full game do more with some of the potential it has regarding more interesting monsters.

God why did I download this.

Recently on Reddit, I saw a neat thread with a trailer for an Indie game called Ikai. It looked kinda neat, if a bit amateurish.

Then the devs linked to a demo that I downloaded and fucking god almighty, why did I do this.

If you want to play the demo in question, you can download it here. They also have a Steam page with a trailer and stuff on it here. (Side note: the designers don’t seem to speak English as a first language, and the Steam page and demo page have their wording a bit mangled. I didn’t see any evidence of this in the game itself; everything was well translated and clear.)

I do not like horror games. I do not play horror games. At one point in college while watching some friends play Alien: Isolation in the dark, the alien popped up, and freaked me out so much that I jumped up directly into the bed above, and smacked my head pretty hard.

I mention this because I’m not sure I’m the right person to review Ikai, even in this demo form. I do not want to seal the evil in this mask. I do not want to walk down the haunted hallway. I do not want to be in this temple whatsoever.

However, I feel obligated to play the demo, and try to finish it, because, a lot of effort clearly went into it.

So, having now finished the demo, here are my thoughts.

I really like the world that Ikai is trying to build, and I’m very curious about the story. If nothing else, it’s the sort of game I’d go read the wiki for, because I want know how things resolve.

Regarding the actual gameplay in the trailer, there’s not much here that hasn’t been done before. Open doors, search for things, draw some patterns, don’t get caught by the monster. This brings me to one of my biggest issues with the demo, the monster itself.

I’d call the monster in the demo “Fine” because there are a few things about it that are pretty great, and few things that are pretty “Meh.” For starters, this isn’t Alien: Isolation. The monster doesn’t seem super smart, and I had a hard time figuring out how it “Worked” mechanically, since as far as I could tell, it just strangled me to death if I got to close/if it saw me. The death animation was fine, if a little jump-scary, but I suspect since I had turned off audio at this point, if I’d been paying more attention I would have heard it. In another instance, the monster seemed to just spawn directly in front of me. I think this one was a bug.

Looking at the actual monster itself though, at least while it was standing still, kinda deflates it. Some of the animations are a bit janky. While in motion, or lurking from room to room, it radiates a sort of menace, but the second it stands still, or you get a good chance to look at it, the tension falls apart. In addition, while its design is really nice, its actual feel is pretty bland. It’s a large hulking thing that moves from room to room, looking for you, and kills you if it finds you. For how much the rest of the game plays into the setting, I would have liked to see the demo use some more interesting Yokai, rather then just having a “Big Scary Thing.” From a gameplay mechanics standpoint, I would have liked to have this thing be a bit more interesting, or have some sort of gimmick.

Overall, Ikai is fine, but I didn’t see anything in the demo outside of the setting and tone of the world that made it stand out from other similar sorts of games. Given the effort they’ve put into creating a non-standard world, I’d like to see them play with some of the gameplay mechanics they’ve set themselves up with. Creatures that can move from mirror to mirror, monsters that disguise themselves as objects, some more “fun” mechanics than what the demo has. Yokai are incredibly diverse, and if the game turns out to just be “Amnesia, but set in Japan”, I feel like they’ll have really squandered a lot of the potential design space to make some really interesting monsters.