Tobold's Blog
Sunday, October 25, 2020
This isn't the MMO lite you are looking for

While Genshin Impact isn't really a MMORPG at all, it plays like one in many aspects, up to having a "looking for group" system for domains, allowing 4 players to tackle the challenge together. I am currently adventure rank 28. I have 14 heroes, of which 5 are level 50, the rest level 40. While I don't know exactly how many hours I played (there doesn't seem to be a "/played" functionality), I have played enough and am far enough into the game to understand all the game mechanics. And I don't really like it anymore. This isn't the "MMO lite" I was looking for.

If I would resubscribe to World of Warcraft today, and would make a new level 1 character on a new server, I could play through all the content except raid up to the level cap in a casual way, without ever feeling that the challenge was too much for me. The reason I don't do it is not the lack of challenge, but the lack of exploration: The exploration system of WoW isn't the greatest, and I've seen most of it before. Genshin Impact appealed to me because I hadn't seen the world yet, and the exploration system is a lot better than WoW: The climbing and gliding features stolen from Breath of the Wild, and the mini-challenges all over the world, where you need to solve a puzzle or kill some enemies to open one of the 1558 chests in the game, make exploration in Genshin Impact more fun.

What Genshin Impact doesn't have is the philosophy that a casual player should be able to get to the level cap without being blocked by raid bosses. The 5 characters at level 50 I have correspond to 2 elite monsters, air and fire, that I killed a total of 5 times to "ascend" those 5 characters from level 40. But that involved watching YouTube videos to learn "the dance", and then practicing it several times before I got it right and was then able to beat the elite boss. I haven't beaten the elite bosses of earth, water, ice, and electricity yet. Me beating the other two proves that I could probably do it, but I don't like that sort of gameplay at all, and it is too much of a hassle for me.

But it isn't just those elite monsters. There are a bunch of other elements in the game that clearly showed me that Genshin Impact plans to challenge me more the further I progress in the game. At adventure rank 25 I had to do a very hard ascension dungeon solo in order to unlock the next adventure rank. And doing so increased my world rank, so even the daily farming of commissions has now become harder. Unlike World of Warcraft, that doesn't really get harder with level, Genshin Impact clearly does. And I am sure that there are a lot of gamers who will welcome this. The "achiever" Bartle type, who likes a challenge of execution. But that isn't me. The only challenges I like in games are those where I need to think, not those where I need to react and press the right button in a fraction of a second. My dream game would be Genshin Impact with turn-based combat.

Obviously, mine is a minority opinion. Genshin Impact gets a lot of hate because it brought hated mobile game mechanics like "running out of energy that slowly regenerates over hours of real time" or the gacha system to triple-A PC gaming. And I am pretty sure that it will go down in PC gaming history as influential for pushing the envelope of which of those mechanics are "acceptable". They are raking in millions, so other people will copy them. But, funnily enough, Genshin Impact might just not be Pay2Win enough, because you can't buy your way past those elite bosses or ascension dungeons. Casual players like me will not be held back by the size of our wallets, but by middle age having slowed down our reaction times. I am simply not interested in a game in which the difficulty curve doesn't flatten, but goes constantly up. I'm not interested in proving my button mashing skills, or my ability to learn dances. I was happy with Genshin Impact at low levels, and the rising challenge made the game tedious for me.

The weirdest thing about all of this is the way Genshin Impact has been talked up as some kind of MMO(RPG) in the first place. When I was writing about it and looking at other reviews and guides I kept seeing it being called an "MMORPG", which it really isn't. It's not even close to being one. As far as I can see it's a single-player game with fairly limited co-op.

In terms of gameplay, again it seems that the comparisons with Breath of the Wild overwhelmed just about everything else. I haven't played BotW and even I was comparing the two. Everyone seems to have come to the game with a clear idea of what GI was going to be rather than actually playing it and finding out what it is.
Everyone seems to have come to the game with a clear idea of what GI was going to be rather than actually playing it and finding out what it is.

Isn't that the same for every game? For example pretty much the same thing happened with Baldur's Gate 3, people assumed the game would be one thing, and were surprised that it wasn't exactly that.

I actually played Genshin Impact from release day on. My expectations were not just based on Breath of the Wild, but on how the game played over the first week or two. It's like people who played World of Warcraft in the first two weeks not having any idea what the issues of endgame raids would be.
I think the confusion is in part because a lot of 'MMORPG's these days are substantially playable as single-player games with chat. (Even WoW is, in part. But ones I have tried since I played WoW a decade ago have seemed even more so - though that may be to some extent because I didn't get too deep into them. I soloed a lot in WoW before I discovered I enjoyed dungeons and subsequently raids.)

I have ESO installed which I played for a bit last year and dropped. I may go back to that if I feel in a mood for an MMO. (A bit of me wants to check out the new WoW when it is released, though I might enjoy vanilla more!)
I wish WoW had any meaningful sense of exploration. It's quite the opposite: exploring the world makes zero sense, unless you're on a quest. Zones and places are too often locked behind level/quests and you can't even see or interact with their content until you're supposed to.

It's a nice canvas where you can't "do" anything: climb, interact, whatever. With very few exceptions it's a static place where you keep running around collecting apples, bones and even ... poop.

You could try WoW's latest update, just for the fun of it, to experience the squished levels and added the new starting. It's still free up to level 20, which is a lot now because max level is 50 (compared to the previous 120).

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