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What is Genshin Impact?

Have you found yourself asking ‘what is Genshin Impact?’ The huge RPG can be daunting for new players, so we’ve broken it down into bitesize bits.

What is genshin impact - key art from the 2024 lantern rite event

Hoyoverse’s hit gacha RPG has taken the gaming world by storm, but, while you’ve certainly heard its name before, you may still find yourself asking what is Genshin Impact? Some have harsh opinions about it as it originated on mobile platforms, but once you scratch the surface, you find that there is a lot more than simple waifu collecting microtransactions, and gacha mechanics. Let’s take a look at what the game really entails, and break down the terms used by the player base.

For even more Genshin goodies, we recommend our Genshin Impact codes page for any new redemption codes, and to keep an eye on our Genshin Impact tier list to see where we put all the new releases. While you’re here, check out our Honkai Star Rail tier list and what we know about any Honkai Star Rail codes.

What kind of game is Genshin Impact?

Genshin Impact is an RPG – a role-playing game – where you take on the role of the Traveler as they venture across the vibrant world of Teyvat. You choose either the male or female option and then begin as that character. Canonically named Lumine and Aether, the two options are twins, and the one you don’t choose will feature in the story.

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The Traveler’s mission is to find their lost sibling, which leads them to traverse the seven regions of Teyvat. Currently, there are four regions unlocked, with more to come in the future. As you go, you discover the seven elements that feature in Teyvat, and how they can be used in combat by different characters (for a deeper look at what they are, check out our Genshin Impact elements guide here!) Each region has a god (known as an Archon) presiding over it, embodying an ‘element’ and its own ideals. Here are the regions, gods, and elements that feature in Teyvat:

Region Archon Element
Mondstadt Venti/Barbatos
God of Freedom
Anemo (wind)
Liyue Zhongli/Rex Lapis
God of Contracts
Geo (rock)
Inazuma Ei/Raiden Shogun
God of Eternity
Sumeru Nahida/Kusanali
God of Wisdom
Dendro (plant)
Fontaine Furina/Focalors
God of Justice
Natlan Murata
God of War
Snezhnaya The Tsaritsa
Currently unknown ideal

Hoyoverse’s gigantic title is a live-service game, which means that it’s always online, and you can’t play it without an active connection. It’s always updating, with things refreshing in the game, and more content unlocking. For this reason, we can’t sum up the entire story as it isn’t in the game yet!

Genshin Impact offers plenty more than the average RPG. Yes, there are plenty of adventures to embark on and monsters to fight, but there are also multiple Genshin Impact events taking place every week, bringing in a bunch of different gameplay modes. For instance, an event called Windtrace took place recently, which had a hide-and-seek mechanic for players to try. There’s also the new Genshin Impact TCG, Genius Invokation, available as a permanent game mode, where players can build decks and challenge opponents as the Traveler for a bit of downtime between beating up evil monsters.

Is Genshin Impact a gacha game?

Yes, Genshin Impact is a gacha game. However, compared to many more on the market, it does not require a large sum of money (or anything at all) for you to have an enjoyable experience. The game itself is completely free to play, and there is absolutely no obligation to spend any money if you do not want to. Free players can still collect enough gems to get a good range of characters in the game.

The ‘microtransactions’ involved in Genshin are mainly to do with buying gems in order to try and get new characters, but some other monetization exists in the form of a battle pass providing a range of rewards, or some premium skins for characters that may add a quest or story into the game, too.

What is Genshin Impact: Lyney the magician on stage in front of a big wooden box

How do I get characters in Genshin Impact?

Speaking of characters, let’s get onto the confusing bit. We know that you play as the Traveler, but who are all the other characters we see? Well, there are over 50 playable characters, with more being added in most updates. You can have up to four characters in your party at any time, which does not need to include the Traveler.

Along with the seven elements, there are five types of Genshin Impact weapons and different roles that characters can have. Most of them are self-explanatory, except for the catalyst which is a vessel for magical elemental attacks, often in the shape of a book or a circular instrument. This means plenty of combat options in your party and lots of combinations for you to try out. For instance, if you have different elements in your team, then you can create elemental reactions that can seriously help on the battlefield. Not your thing? Then you can create a team based around physical damage units, instead!

Everyone that starts Genshin Impact gets a handful of characters for free. These are all good units, and very usable, but most characters are sort of kept behind a paywall. The free characters are as follows:

Character Weapon Element Rarity Role
The Traveler Sword Anemo, geo, electro, dendro, hydro Five-star DPS
Amber Bow Pyro Four-star Sub-DPS
Lisa Catalyst Electro Four-star Sub-DPS
Kaeya Sword Cryo Four-star DPS
Barbara Catalyst Hydro Four-star Healer
Xiangling Polearm Pyro Four-star Sub-DPS
Collei Bow Dendro Four-star Sub-DPS
Lynette Bow Anemo Four-star Sub-DPS

You can earn Genshin Impact’s Xiangling and Genshin Impact’s Collei as rewards for completing certain levels in the Spiral Abyss – an in-game challenge designed to test your strengths as you progress. But don’t worry, they’re easily achievable once you get to grips with the game. New players are also basically guaranteed to get Genshin Impact’s Noelle, a geo user with a deployable shield when they ‘pull’ on the Beginner’s Wish banner. Didn’t get that? Then we’ll explain it right now!

To get a new character, you need to wish on Genshin Impact banners. A single ‘wish’ costs 160 primogems – a premium currency that you can either purchase or earn in the game. Every ten wishes, you’re guaranteed to get at least one four-star unit, be it a weapon or a character.

Each wish has a chance to get you a five-star character – these are the super-strong and useful characters that appear on the limited banners. These banners are the specific pages where you can choose to spend your wishes. There are usually four going at a time, and they last about three weeks each. Two of the banners have a specific five-star character available at a boosted drop rate, with three four-stars getting the same treatment. There is also a weapon banner that features the weapons made for the current five-stars, and some good four-star picks. The last banner is the permanent standard banner, called Wanderlust Invocation. This has every four-star character and weapon, with a handful of five-star characters and weapons available all the time.

The standard characters are:

Character Weapon Element Role
Diluc Claymore Pyro DPS
Jean Sword Anemo Healer
Qiqi Sword Cryo Healer
Mona Catalyst Hydro Sub-DPS
Keqing Sword Electro DPS
Tighnari Bow Dendro DPS
Dehya Claymore Pyro Sub-DPS

Every wish you spend gets you closer to a five-star pull, though it can happen at any time. Essentially, the more you wish, the higher the chance of getting a five-star, though there is the possibility to ‘lose the 50/50’ – this means that when you do get a five-star unit, there is a 50% chance you get the character featured on the banner and a 50% chance you get a character from the standard pool. If this happens, it means you will be guaranteed the banner character the next time you get one.

what is Genshin Impact: characters together in a field

How do I make characters stronger?

So, you’ve got some characters, and now you want to make them stronger so you can beat up bigger monsters. This is what makes up most of the game other than the story quests. You can level each character up using items called EXP books that you earn in-game, but you also need to ascend them every so often, which requires a few materials. Every character needs a boss drop, a local specialty item, a monster drop, and elemental gems to ascend at set intervals. If you want more specifics, you can check out all of our character guides to find what they need.

There are also different equipable items for each character – first is their weapon, which you can choose from a huge variety with different stats and abilities. Next up are your Genshin Impact artifacts. These are a set of five items that every character can equip to build certain stats and improve how they work. Artifacts are an important part of each character’s ‘build’, but if you don’t want to go down a route of micro-management, any set will do. Again, our character pages have tailored lists of what you should aim for.

We’ve got plenty more recommendations for mobile games, too – check out our My Singing Monsters breeding guide and these Pokémon Go codes for some in-game freebies! Or, perhaps, you just want to know: what is Pokémon?