Travel might seem like a thing of the past, but a global pandemic hasn’t stopped me from strolling through the vibrant city of Mondstadt, the lush forests of Wolvendom, frosty Dragonspine and breezy Liyue Harbour. Unfamiliar with these places? They’re all located in Teyvat, the fictional world of the role-playing game, Genshin Impact.
The video game industry was not exempt from the devastation brought about by Covid-19, with lockdowns and unstable working environments causing delayed game releases and the cancelation of live gaming events. Indeed, there were some upsides as more and more people stayed indoors and turned towards gaming to pass the time. Launched in September 2020, Genshin Impact (or simply known as “Genshin” in Japan) is one such game title birthed during uncertain times to now much certain success. With less than 3-months of time on the market, Genshin quickly rose up the ranks with reputable gaming sites such as IGN, describing the game as “a world that is absolutely bursting at the seams with possibilities.” The game has also received press from more mainstream media as well as several accolades such as “iPhone Game of the Year” in the Apple App Store Best of 2020 and Google Play’s “Best Game of 2020.”
The right game at the right time
At its core, this fantasy open-world action game consists of a battle system based on elemental magic strategies plus an ever-evolving cast of characters cloaked in a rich tapestry of storytelling. Genshin is a great game in itself, but what is likely to have cemented its success in 2020 and beyond is that it truly is the right game for this right time. The game’s open-world format, coupled with top-tier quality visuals, gives players the experience that they are actually moving through new lands. Quests and daily missions encourage players to explore an already very extensive map, which has expanded several times in-game updates even within these short months.
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Players start in the Mondstadt nation, a setting inspired by historical Germany with character names like Fischl, the Prinzessin der Verurteilung (German for “Princess of Condemnation”) right down to the capital city’s medieval-styled buildings. The hotly anticipated opening of the Liyue map matched fans’ expectations with dazzling China-inspired backgrounds with specific references to real-life locations. Liyue’s Luhua Pool, for example, is said to be a digital replica of Huanglong National Park in China’s Sichuan province, while the mountainous terrain of Liyue borrows its image from Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan.
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Covid-19 might have taken away physical togetherness but it hasn’t taken away our ability to create shared experiences. Just like how traveling is an activity best enjoyed with friends and family, Genshin too offers a co-op gaming function. Players connect via the sharing of a unique player ID and can then enter the host player’s world to battle monsters and bosses together. The multi-platform compatibility means friends can play co-op together regardless of their device, as long as they log onto the same servers. Entering someone else’s world is seamless and not glitchy at all, with players being able to maintain their autonomy to the point of exploring on their own without the host if they wish. Bosses are easier to beat with more players on the battlefield at once, especially since the game mechanics award clever combinations of elements to create reactions that cause heavier damage. It’s also undeniably more enjoyable. Some quests even suggest players attempt within co-op mode and are near impossible to complete otherwise. Certainly, nothing could replicate being together in real life, but during these uncertain times, I’ll take being able to put down the fiendish Wolf of the North alongside my friends and family overseas.
Marketed by users
The steady releases of new content on Genshin certainly help keep players entertained. But new Genshin content isn’t limited to the game itself. As gaming grew in 2020, so did the explosion of online content. Streamers, vloggers and influencers are producing videos at a much more rapid pace again due to audiences being trapped indoors. Gaming-oriented streamers such as Mtashed have quickly become one of the most recognizable faces in the production of informative and comedic Genshin guides and walkthroughs. Originally a “Destiny” (an online multiplayer first-person shooter game) streamer, he claimed in one recent tweet that he initially lost 50,000 subscribers when he switched to Genshin but has since gained 250,000 additional subscribers.
Not sure who needs to hear this. But in October I lost almost 50k subscribers swapping to Genshin
However, we GAINED 250k.
First few vids did terrible, but after the algorithm caught on, I had almost 5 back to back 1-2 Million+ videos
Change = Scary… but good long term.
— Mtashed (@MTashed) January 13, 2021
During this period, he had also broken his all-time monthly record with 20 million views on YouTube, with his previous best sitting at 7.6 million. Streams and YouTube channels have now evolved into virtual congregation points whereby communities can huddle around and build a sense of camaraderie from across the internet. They are reminiscent of backpacker hallways or watering holes you might find on your trips during a time where chance encounters with strangers were a possibility. Fun and entertaining as they are to listen in and to participate in strategy building, knowing there are people out there going through a similar experience go far in reminding us that we aren’t alone.
Genshin Impact seems to be following in the success of other 2020 released games like Animal Crossing that too found their fame in this seemingly perfect storm. The launching of an exciting and interesting game was built on exploration when people are spending most of their time at home and fixated on virtual platforms. With an incredible depth to the lore of the game plus new game enhancements, we’re kept well-entertained before we can even think of being bored. But above all, Genshin has managed to stave off some of our current daily struggles, the inability to explore, meet our friends and the boredom of staying at home. The virtual world might still be (and may always will be) a mere shadow of the real world. But for now, I’m grateful for the advancements in gaming that allow us to travel without moving an inch.
For more information on Genshin Impact, see the game’s official website here.
All images © 2020 miHoYo