Year four – more Other Stuff than MMOs

No blogiversary-post without a cake

We’ve circled the sun yet another time and I’m still posting (somewhat) regularly around here, so go me I guess.

Still, the blog’s fourth year has been a weird one, and for once COVID-19 wasn’t the main culprit to blame. I mean, sure, after a while masks, distancing, lockdowns and all that shit started to get to me just like everyone else, and I can’t say I’ve been my usual, upbeat self during these surreal times.

The main reason for my change in gaming habits and, as a result, my blogging is something else though: there just isn’t any MMORPG I’d really like to play right now.

It’s not that there aren’t any good ones available, quite the contrary. And, as Bhagpuss accurately notes, there are currently more new and promising releases waiting in the wings than we’ve had in years. I am definitely keeping an eye on Swords of Legends Online, and I’ll most certainly at least try it out when it launches. I also still log into EVE Online every now and again.

There’s always stuff to shoot in space

My enthusiasm for the MMORPG genre as a whole is at an all-time low however. Of course many things have changed during the 20 years since I started to play Ultima Online, and as far as I’m concerned definitely not all of them for the better. Yet after thinking quite a lot about it lately I’ve come to realize: it’s not the genre, it’s me.

I definitely still love the RPG part of the acronym, and I have no qualms regarding the O being in there either. No, it’s the MM aspect that’s become more and more of a turnoff for me.

Guild drama (and drama in general), bad pugs, trolls, people trying to tell me what I can and cannot do with my free time… I could – and probably will – write a whole post of its own about why having other players around is much more bane than boon to me these days.

Peace and calm…yeah, this is much more like it

I guess that’s why I still very much enjoy playing Genshin Impact, which has been my main game – and, at times, my only game – for eight months straight now. It pushes almost all of the buttons that made me addicted to MMORPGs in the first place – exploration, character progression, combat, getting to know a foreign world and then becoming a part of it, and now even housing – without the “baggage” of having other people around. Sorry folks, but that’s just how I feel right now.

Of course there are downsides to playing in self-imposed seclusion too. I’ve argued myself that other players are what puts the spice, the adventure into online games, and I still stand by that. As much fun as I’ve had playing Genshin, Warframe and a handful of other games this past year, I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been on any real adventures while doing so.

Surprisingly, though, I can kinda live with that. As I’ve come to realize it can actually be quite soothing to know in advance that any given play session will most likely not turn into an adrenaline-filled frenzy.

Home is where the heart is

However, I started this blog to write about my gaming adventures first and foremost. You know, about stuff that really excited me when it happened, that I feel the need to preserve and also show to other people, to maybe help them understand why I like to sit at my desk and play these games so much.

It’s probably no surpsise, then, that I’ve published less posts during the blog’s fourth year than any other. Even my first year, when I was still finding my footing and nothing I did had any regularity or plan to it, saw 34 posts published, compared to just 29 within the past twelve months.

Will that change again? Most likely. I’ve been fed up with MMORPGs in the past, and I’ve always come back. I do like having those adventures very much, after all.

Until then my posting cadence will probably remain on the lower end. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.

A teapot to call home

Two weeks ago Version 1.5 went live in Genshin Impact. As that number suggests it’s the game’s fifth major update since its launch in September 2020, and for me personally it’s the most important one yet: among other cool things like new bosses to fight we got – cue drum roll – a housing system! Yes, really.

Puntastically called the Serenitea Pot it’s not “just” an apartment or a house, but a whole archipelago or mountain plateau for players to furnish and design to their liking. It isn’t flawless, but miHoYo already said that they’re still working on improving and expanding it, and even as it is now it’s already surprisingly good.

After a short questline we get to choose one of three layouts (to begin with) for our very own magical realm located inside an actual teapot. This fits the game’s lore as we’ve already visited a couple of those realms during the Liyue storyline.

Initially the area is completely empty except for a main building – your actual house – and an NPC appropriately named Tubby.

Sitting here all day is obviously bad for your health, mate

Tubby is the realm’s manager of sorts. Obtaining realm currency, buying furniture and blueprints with said currency as well as crafting items is managed here. Your trust rank is raised by building furnishings for the first time, which in turn unlocks more blueprints, additional slots for the crafting queue and even grants access to more real estate around your main island.

Realm currency accumulates in real time whether you’re logged in or not, which is good. The amount you get per hour depends on your realm’s score…which ain’t so good, at least initially. The more items you’ve placed inside and outside of your house the higher your score; consequently you’ll most likely plop down everything you have, even if it doesn’t really fit your artistic vision. I do think that this is only a beginner’s issue though, reaching (or keeping) the highest score by building your dream realm just the way you want it should be an organic process and sort itself out over time.

It’s not talked about much, but alongside the teapot we also got a new form of gathering: woodcutting.

Unsurprisingly, in order to craft furnishings some materials are needed. Silk flowers to make fabric, various fruits and plants for dyes, ore for…well, stuff that’s made out of metal, and, of course, various types of wood for most furniture.

The gathering process isn’t elaborate at all, but somehow strangely satisfying: you whack any tree in the open world with whatever weapon you have equipped, and it drops one piece of wood, up to three pieces total.  As trees are abundant and wood respawns daily or upon relogging (Ha, get it? I only just now got it!) acquiring the desired amounts isn’t hard. The only thing left to figure out is which of the seven types of wood spawns where, but that’s not too hard to deduce either. Anyhow, I like it.

Now to the most important part. Placing furnishings is easy and – thank god – not constrained by an anchor system or nonsense like that. There are some restrictions though. For example, most items are strictly classified as indoor- or outdoor-furniture and can only be used as such; if there’s a way to work around that I haven’t found it yet. Also, not everything is stackable on top of each other. I can place lamps and vases on a table, but not a pile of books on a bookshelf, although it looks like it should have plenty of space for that.

Some features, on the other hand, are not only really good but, in my opinion, bordering on groundbreaking. “Furniture Sets”, for instance.

You acquire a variety of these sets over time, and each one gives you the ability to place a pre-arranged combination of furnishings, like the dining area above. You still have to build or buy the items needed for the set first, but once you have them all you can place the whole set en bloc with just a few clicks. Even better, you can still tweak each piece individually after placing the set, giving the arrangement a personal note if you’re so inclined.

Not only is this easier and quicker than placing the items one by one, the sets can also be a great source of inspiration for folks who aren’t all that creative in this regard.

The house itself is spacious and looks pretty nice on the inside too. Both versions (there’s Mondstadt style as seen throughout this post, and Liyue style) have two stories, with a large open space and three adjacent rooms on the ground floor and a gallery-like level above that. The latter also has two doors, but unfortunately those won’t open as of yet. To get to my really nice balconies I actually have to scale my manor’s outside walls like a burglar. I hope they’ll do something about that in future updates.

Once you’ve bought the corresponding blueprints you can even replace floors, ceilings, walls and the main chandeliers with different looking ones; by now I have a much nicer cedar parquet floor in my main hall instead of the chequered one you see above.

At higher trust ranks the currency I mentioned can also be used to buy progression items like resin replenishments, weapon or character XP and Mora. While it’s certainly a smart move from miHoYo’s perspective to incentivise using the teapot even if you’re not a fan of housing, I don’t like this very much.

Firstly, it excacerbates the compulsion to unlock, build and place stuff as quickly as possible even further, which kind of defeats the purpose of a housing system as a more “zen” activity.

Secondly, it’s most likely the reason for the whole thing being locked behind reaching Adventure Rank 35 – which I hadn’t really taken note of in the patch notes as AR restrictions usually don’t affect me anymore, but Bhagpuss reminded me of it. Now, it doesn’t take that long to reach AR 35 if you set your mind to it, but I think it’s pretty stupid to gate a housing system like that at all.

All things considered I’m pretty happy though, especially since I know more is coming still. Also, in case you forgot, this isn’t an MMORPG. For what’s basically a single player RPG with optional four player Co-Op, primarily developed for mobile platforms, a housing system as substantial as this is already much more than I’d dared to hope for.

I do have a wishlist for those future updates however, because of course I do:

  • Make the house’s interior part of the teapot’s main-instance instead of the separate instance it is now. This would spare us the additional loading screens each time we’re going in our out, and also greatly increase the immersion factor. Also, what good is a balcony for when I can’t actually get to it?
  • Let us use all furnishings wherever we want, inside or out (except those that are too large for indoor use, obviously).
  • Let us stack more items on top of each other.  Encouraging creativity is king.
  • Some more functionality would be great. We already have forge, stove and alchemy table (awesome!), access to the adventurer’s guild is pretty much the only important thing that’s missing now.
  • Add new blueprints to our crafting selections immediately, don’t make us go to our inventories and consume them first.
  • Maybe think about lowering the AR restriction. Making players wait this long until they can experience a game’s housing system really doesn’t make sense to me.
  • And please, for the love of god, let us switch between Tubby’s menus without having to start the conversation all over again each time (this goes for pretty much all of the game’s NPCs, by the way). I swear, I’ll throw that fat finch into the stove when I have to listen to its greeting line just one more time!

Fingers crossed.

Three changes that would make Genshin Impact even better

Having played the game daily for about five months now I think I have a pretty good grasp of which aspects of its design do and do not work well. It’s a great game overall, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion it could be even more enjoyable with some tweaks here and there.

I’m going to try and keep it reasonable though, so don’t expect me to say “They should get rid of the gacha mechanics and make their monetization non-predatory and fair” because, while I obviously would welcome such a change, it’s just not going to happen.

Without further ado, here are three possible adjustments to Genshin Impact that I think would be really great for its players while not hurting miHoYo’s bottom line – at least I assume they wouldn’t; in fact they might actually turn out to be beneficial for the company’s profits.

Usual combat rewards on the left, expenses at lvl 79 on the right

Greatly increase XP and Mora rewarded for combat

While we do get some character-XP and Mora for killing monsters in the open world the amounts are so negligible that they might not even be there.

Despite this being the case I still only level most of my characters to 79 instead of 80, for example, but that’s just because I’m weird like that and won’t let anything go to waste, however little it might be. In reality though, it would take years for an 80+ character to gain another level this way.

The thing is, unless there’s an event going on getting hold of XP materials and Mora in actually useful amounts is, like most everything, gated by the resin system. I get why they do it that way, but at least in this case I think it’s a mistake.

Here’s why: being able to level up all my characters would feel much better, be more fun and also make me want to have even more characters.

This is so sad…

You see, at the time of this writing I have 26 characters at my disposal, and the max level is 90. However, the current level-distribution is as follows (rounded):

    • Level 90: zero (!)
    • Level 80: seven
    • Level 70: five
    • Level 2-60: four
    • Level 1: ten

Now, it’s not that I can’t play the game well with these characters, quite the contrary. As a matter of fact the difficulty curve I talked about a while ago flattened considerably once I’d reached adventure rank 40 and stopped doing daily comissions, and by now my teams smash everything but the lowest two levels of Spiral Abyss with relative ease.

Still, all those characters sitting glumly at level 1? I really would like to level those up too, and getting my main damage dealers up to 90 wouldn’t hurt either. Alas, I can’t afford it. As a consequence I’m not looking forward to any new character banners right now. Even if they look really interesting, I just don’t need any more when I can’t even use half of those I already have.

What’s more, roaming the open world and killing stuff would be much more enjoyable and feel more rewarding if we could actually level up our characters that way and also earn some Mora while we’re at it.

As long as it isn’t excessively overtuned I don’t think this would break anything either. The game has so bloody many progression-bottlenecks – character ascension- and XP-mats, weapon ascension- and XP-mats, talent books, artifacts, Mora – that loosening the chains a bit on two of those wouldn’t result in us getting bored or fed up anytime soon.

So, what happens when players have more fun, feel more rewarded and are even encouraged to get hold of and level up more characters? If you gave this a shot it might well turn into a win-win situation, you folks at miHoYo. Just sayin’.

This was really fun…while it lasted

Make event-content permanent with reduced rewards

All those great gameplay additions that came alongside the numerous events we got to play since the game’s release? Yeah, they’re all gone now.

I’m not a developer, so I don’t have a realistic notion of how much work went into that stuff, but I’m pretty sure it was too much to just throw it all away after a week or two.

What’s more, it was ‘something else to do’ for players. And also fun. Why not make it permanent?

Oh, I get it, they want us to feel that FOMO really bad. But trust me, as long as the rewards remain on the generous side (a tad more primogems would be even better though!) we’ll still log in every day to participate in the actual events for sure. But once those are over, just dial the rewards back considerably and let us continue to play the stuff if we want to.

I’ll use Theater Mechanicus as an example. They could bring this back and let us play it as often as we like. The reward per match could be a choice of either, say, 30k Mora, two blue talent books or two blue ascension mats. The first two matches per week are free, after that it costs 10 resin per. Maybe those numbers aren’t quite optimal yet, but you get the idea.

This would encourage all players to engage with the content at least from time to time, while giving those who really love doing it the option to earn their Mora or character mats this way instead of doing leylines and domains, without either being the obviously better choice.

Fire ventures with you? Fine, but please leave me out of it!

Make constellations toggleable

For non-whales constellations mainly exist to take the sting out of getting duplicates from the gacha system and are supposed to make the characters in question stronger.

However, the effects of some character’s constellations can actually have a negative impact, depending on how you play them and which other characters you team them up with.

The most obvious one is Bennett’s C6 (shown above), which makes his ultimate ability convert most characters’ normal and charged attacks to Pyro damage. Under the right circumstances this can be really great. Unfortunately, if your group’s main damage dealer mainly relies on physical damage (and thus probably wears gear with bonuses to that type of damage on it) this actually lowers their damage output considerably.

So…you’d like us to happily pull for more characters and constellations, right? Then at least make sure that we can’t accidentally mess up our characters by doing so and give us a toggle for all constellations please.

This is supposed to always be a joyous moment, isn’t it?

And there you have it. I think these changes would make an already great game even better, and while I’m not an expert on such things I really believe that none of this would make players spend less money on it…so why not do it?

Accuracy is a bad stat in MMORPGs

The other day I was fiddling around with my characters’ artifacts in Genshin Impact, pondering which ones to keep or ditch, which to upgrade further or leave as is and so forth.

Getting really good artifacts like the one seen above is quite hard as there’s a lot of RNG involved.

Firstly, the main- and sub-stats they drop with are – with a few exceptions – completely random. You can (and regularly do) even get pieces of such a set, this one is obviously meant for Hydro characters for example, with a bonus to, say, Pyro damage as its main stat. While such an item isn’t necessarily useless it certainly isn’t what you’re hoping for when farming a particular set.

Secondly, each time you raise an artifact’s level by 4 it gets an additional (random) sub-stat unless it already had four. In the latter case one of the existing sub-stats is chosen, you guessed it, randomly to get a boost.

MOAR CRITS, MOAR DAMAGE, MUCH GOOD!!

It isn’t all bad though. With perseverance and a bit of luck it’s absolutely possible to get very strong artifacts, as you can see here.

The main reason for this, I believe, is that there aren’t actually that many different stats for the RNG to choose from. Therefore you’re gonna hit the desired combination eventually.

Anyway, all this made me think about the different kinds of stats I’ve encountered over the decades in various RPGs, MMO or otherwise, which finally brings us to the point I’m trying to make today: depending on class, playstyle et cetera there are always desirable stats and undesirable stats…

…and then there’s Accuracy.

Seriously though…why?

I’m really glad that Accuracy doesn’t exist in Genshin Impact because, as far as I’m concerned, it is the most annoying, unnecessary and, above all, unfun stat of them all.

The way I see it Accuracy, sometimes called Hit Rating or somesuch instead, is a remnant of Pen & Paper RPGs that should never have made its way into RPGs played on digital devices in real time.

“But Mail, when characters in Dungeons & Dragons have a THAC0 it makes sense that characters in computer- or console-RPGs have it too, right?”

Well, no. Let me explain why.

When you play Pen & Paper a dice roll is usually the only way to determine whether or not your character succeeds at whatever it is you want them to do (unless the GM hates you or something). If you didn’t need to win those rolls your alter ego would be pretty much infallible because in order to make them do something you but need to say it.

Go ahead, try to do that in a real time video game. I’ll wait.

Didn’t work out so well, did it? That’s the thing. ‘Telling’ your character what to do is so much more complex and, at times, difficult in Action RPGs, MMORPGs and other games of their ilk nowadays that this already is the challenge. Adding an arbitrary dice roll to decide whether you succeed or not is not only unnecessary, it’s downright mean.

So you’ve positioned your character correctly, selected the right target and pushed your myriad of buttons in the optimal order and all at the right time? Well done to you, mate, but unfortunately the dice roll says that you failed to interrupt the boss’s one-shot mechanic, and now you’re dead.

Sounds like fun? Yeah, didn’t think so.

In order to minimize those frustrations you can try to maximize your Accuracy-stat of course. I see two problems with that though.

One, more than a few games that have a Chance To Hit mechanic also have a hard cap for it, so you’ll still fail a roll every so often no matter how much of the stat you stack on your gear, which makes it even more unfun.

Two, and this is what bugs me the most, it’s a must-have stat that does basically nothing for you. In The Secret World and SWTOR I stacked as much Accuracy on my tank gear as theorycrafters had figured out was necessary to practically (in SWTOR’s case literally) have a 100% chance to hit in any situation, just to be sure I’d never miss an important impair or taunt, respectively.

So what I did was, in essence, to waste a whole lot of my available stat pool to make sure I’d never realize it’s even there.

Ok, maybe I just fell off the platform this time…

But isn’t raising our characters’ stats supposed to be one of the really fun things about playing RPGs? Hitting harder, running faster, jumping higher, all that jazz…that’s fun! Notice how “Missing less often” isn’t on that list, and it feels even worse when I’m basically forced to pour stats into this instead of those other things that are actually enjoyable.

And, again, having another way to fail in video games where the difference between victory and defeat hinges as much on my skill as a player as it does on my character’s stats anyway is just not necessary. I can easily manage to screw up on my own, thank you very much.

So, yeah, I know where the Accuracy stat is coming from and why it makes sense in its original context. But can we please get rid of it in MMO- and Action-RPGs? Like, for good?

Don’t miss out on this – Genshin Impact

An event is currently running in Genshin Impact – as per usual – and I highly advise anyone who’s played and liked the game before to put Valheim away for a bit (c’mon, we all know you’re playing that one right now) and take a look. It’s so worth it on every level!

The event is called Lantern Rite and is most likely based on the Chinese spring lantern festival. Storywise it’s full of feelgood-moments and laughs, the new gameplay mode is awesome, rewards are great and festively decorated Liyue Harbor is a sight to behold.

The quests are all centered around helping Liyue’s populace with their various preparations for the festival, and they’re quite numerous.

I won’t lie, gameplay-wise these aren’t revelatory in any way, shape or form. But, again, the stories are mostly quite good, and you learn a lot about various people, many of which you’ve already met before while doing world quests or daily comissions. I’m really curious now about what the future might bring for some of those NPCs, which is a feat not many games have managed to accomplish.

The new game mode is called Theater Mechanicus, and it’s basically tower defense, Genshin Impact style.

On first glance it’s simple: monsters come out of one or more purple portals and walk (or run) towards one or more blue exit portals. You can’t deal damage with your characters directly, but applying elemental statuses with your attacks works. The only way to actually damage the mobs is to build automated turrets. They come in different flavors, and those that deal elemental damage can also trigger one of the various elemental reactions for even more damage.

The turrets have varying ranges and attack speeds, so careful placement is key, as is choosing the right characters going in. Those that match the turrets you’re intending to use best for setting up the strongest elemental reactions will yield the most devastating results.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like this mode as tower defence isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I gotta tell you, this is so much fun!

It’s incredibly satisfying to set up big reactions and see a whole bunch of those big shield-wielding hilichurls explode in an instant. Or, even better, once I’d upgraded my hydro turret to level 5 and thus unlocked its ability to trap monsters in a bubble of water I instantly knew what I was going to do: give those annoying Abyss mages a taste of their own damn medicine!

Setting this up took a bit of work, but the result made me squeal with glee

It’s even more fun with a partner – yes, two player Co-Op is enabled for this mode. Lakisa and I play at least a couple of rounds every evening since the event went live.

Of course the rewards are nothing to sneeze at either.

As you can see I’ve already accumulated a lot of the event currency. What can I say, I’m saving up for a big shopping spree, hehe. There’s talent and ascension materials on offer, XP scrolls, Mora, the lot. A very rare Crown of Insight, an item needed to get a character’s talents to level 10, can also be bought, as well as an event-exclusive namecard style.

Probably the best reward of all, at least for F2P players, is a free four-star character. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, but which character we’d get had always been predetermined until now. Well, not this time:

All of these characters are really strong in their own way, so there should be something there for everyone.

At the time of this writing there’s 10 days and 15 hours remaining to play the event, so there’s still plenty of time to see and do everything. What are you waiting for?

I gotta say though, in my opinion it’s a shame that it’s all going to go away so soon. I really hope miHoYo is at least considering leaving Theater Mechanicus in the game in some form. It would be a real waste to take it out completely because it’s well made content that surely took quite a while to develop, and, well, is a lot of fun.

Thanks Paimon, I’ll take it!

Technically not tied to the event, but still worth patching up the game for too, is the current log-in campaign. Most notable are the up to ten Intertwined Fates you can get, which means ten free pulls from one of the time-limited gacha banners containing characters and weapons exclusive to those banners. There’s 8 days and 15 hours left to claim these seven reward tiers, so better get to it right now.

I’m still surprised about the high quality and quantity of content this game keeps getting. Again though, it’s a shame that so much of it isn’t permament, and I really hope they’re planning to bring the best events back at some point – maybe on a yearly schedule or something?

Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me, those turrets aren’t gonna build themselves…

Events done right – Genshin Impact

Yep, I’m still playing Genshin Impact every day. As great as the game is, I honestly didn’t expect it to have this much staying power in my gaming lineup, what with the likes of Cyberpunk 2077, EVE Online and ArcheAge Unchained vying for my free time, and as if those still weren’t enough I also longed for some more adventures in Black Desert Online around mid-December (as per usual), so I’m playing that one again as well.

Even so, the thing about Genshin Impact is that its developers, miHoYo, definitely do not rest on their laurels – nor their piles of Dollar bills, probably high enough to make Uncle Scrooge blush. Quite the contrary. Frankly, I haven’t seen such a high cadence of new and interesting stuff to do in an online game, like, ever.

Now, granted, in terms of what’s usually referred to as content patches we “only” got two since the game’s release at the end of September, with update 1.1 being rather smallish (yet pretty epic) and 1.2 giving us a whole new region to explore and lots of other cool stuff. Not too shabby overall for just over three months’ time, especially given the current circumstances.

However, what really makes all the difference, at least to me, are the events – lots and lots of events.

Always accompanied by these really nifty charts to guide you and track your progress

It certainly feels to me like the periods of time with at least one event up and running exceeded those without any by quite a bit. Impressions can be deceptive though, so let’s check.

Here’s an overview of all ‘proper’ events we’ve had until now (stuff like Gacha banners, test-scenarios for new characters or login-campaigns don’t count, obviously):

    • Elemental Crucible (October 12th-19th)
    • Marvelous Merchandise (October 26th-November 2nd)
    • Stone Harbour Treasure Journal (November 13th-22nd)
    • Unreconciled Stars (November 16th-30th)
    • Gliding Challenge (December 4th-14th)
    • While it’s warm (December 11th-18th)
    • A thousand questions with Paimon (December 18th-20th)
    • The Chalk Prince and the Dragon (December 23rd-January 5th)

The game was released on September 28th, which was exactly 100 days ago at the time of this writing. If I didn’t miscount (which is entirely in the realm of possibility though) 65 of those had at least one event active, which means that my gut feeling was indeed accurate.

Yummy…I’d rather have kept these for myself to be honest

Having events running constantly is all well and good, but of course the deciding factor is whether they are actually fun to do, isn’t it?

Unfortunately the very first one, Elemental Crucible, wasn’t all that good. It was forced Co-Op, meaning that bad pings or other players not doing what they were supposed to could really mess things up. It was also pretty grindy, and to add insult to injury the rewards weren’t even worth all that hassle. I didn’t have high hopes for any future events after this one, to say the least.

Clean sweep, gold medals all around

I don’t know whether it’s because folks at miHoYo actually took player feedback to heart or if they just needed some time to get into a groove, but in my opinion each and every event that came after the first was much better in every regard, and they still keep getting better yet.

As for technicalities, they’re less grindy, Co-Op is always optional and the rewards are decidedly on the generous side now. More importantly though, they’re really fun to do, and there’s something there for everyone.

Gliding Challenge, for example, was all about…well…gliding challenges (which Lakisa hated, but I had so much fun doing them that I earned all the gold medals on her account too). While it’s warm tasked players to deliver food from one place to another within a certain time frame, always with some caveats like not being allowed to sprint, glide and/or climb or take damage. Stone Harbor Treasure Journal was more like a browser game than anything, but pretty fun too.

Also definitely more on the silly side, this one

Of course combat-loving players weren’t left out in the cold either, especially the two multi-week events provided lots of it. If I have one criticism about the last one, The Chalk Prince and the Dragon, it’s that the repeatable boss fight that made up the fourth and last stage of the event was actually harder in Co-Op than alone and rather annoying in general. Other than that though I was really happy with this one too.

What’s more, the next three events are already announced, all coming in January. Lost Riches will run from 8th to 18th, Hypostatic Symphony from 16th to 31st, and the second run of Marvelous Merchandise from 23rd to 30th.

This is what astounds me the most: until now absolutely no part of any event has been reused for another, it’s all been brand-new every time.

Just look at this one, it’s almost a piece of art

Of course there are also two possible downsides to miHoYo’s approach.

One, it certainly seems like a lot of developmental time and effort spent on something that’s only in the game for a week or two. One might argue that this much effort – we’re talking multiple chapters of story including fully voiced cutscenes in some cases – should rather be spent on content that stays in the game permanently. As it is now, if you haven’t played the game while the events were active you’re simply out of luck. Unless they bring them back at a later time you won’t be able to experience them.

And two: fear of missing out. If you play the game more casually, maybe not even every day (imagine that!) the time-limited nature of the events combined with the generous rewards they offer may well make you feel like you have to log in and do them regardless. I know that Lakisa would much prefer the events to come at a much slower cadence than they currently do.

Free character? Hell yeah, I’ll take it, even if it’s a nutter like this one…

Personally though, I’m pretty happy with how things are going. Again, the gameplay is mostly fun, the rewards are great, and it isn’t actually all that much to do every time either. On average I’ve probably spent about twenty to thirty minutes per day on event stuff while any were active, and with few exceptions it was absolutely possible to take a day or two off and still finish everything. Seems like a pretty good balance to me.

The most important bit though is this: I have always stuff to do, but it’s pretty much always something new. This is so much better than running the same dailies over and over and over, and I’m tremendously thankful for that.

So, yeah, as far as I’m concerned look no further than Genshin Impact for ‘events done right’. Keep ’em coming!

How to level up slowly in Genshin Impact

Whenever a new game with any kind of RPG mechanics hits the shelves it usually takes mere hours until a plethora of videos pops up on YouTube showing us how to LEVEL UP FAST!!, or something along those lines. Of course it’s been no different with Genshin Impact, as you can see above.

My general bewilderment about people’s urge to be “finished” with a game as quickly as possible notwithstanding, in this particular case it really, really puzzles me. As I talked about last time, while playing at my usual pace my adventure rank kept rising much faster than I would have liked, all the way up to 40, and although the required amount of XP increases with each rank it didn’t slow down all that much even then.

To prevent the ever increasing world level from ruining my enjoyment of the game I decided to do something about it, so I took a closer look at how much adventure rank XP each activity actually yields. It’s true that a lot of stuff awards some of it, but as it turns out the amounts vary by quite a bit.

Without further ado, here’s what you can do to LEVEL UP SLOWLY, as it were, in Genshin Impact.

Let’s start off with the big kahuna: daily commissions.

Once you’ve reached adventure rank 12 you can do up to four daily quests, depicted on your map by a purple symbol. They are usually quick and painless (also sometimes fun) to do, and they award a whopping 250 AR XP each, as well as another 500 once you’ve completed all four. That’s 1,5k XP per day right there, or up to 10,5k per week.

To put this in a bit of context, at AR 12 you only need 1,650 XP for the next rank! At AR 24 it’s 4,300 XP, and still only 7,175 XP at rank 34. As you can see refraining from doing these commissions will slow down your levelling speed considerably.

Unfortunately there is one big drawback to this however, as these quests are also a source of free primogems, the game’s funny money used to buy more resin and, most importantly, to wish (gamble) for characters and weapons. By not doing the commissions you’re missing out on 60 primogems total per day, so you need to decide what’s more important to you.

Personally, I’ve stopped doing them almost two weeks ago and I’m much happier with the game for it.

The next biggest source of AR XP are non-repeatable quests, meaning your archon, story and world quests.

Of course I’m absolutely not suggesting to ignore those, as they are one of the game’s strong suits and so much fun. However I do advise to take your time with them. There isn’t that much story content in the game yet anyway, so rushing through it will only make you run out of ‘stuff to do’ sooner (as per usual).

Also, world quests usually award 100-400 XP each, story and archon quests even more on average, so doing quest after quest after quest will contribute to raising your AR pretty quickly while not helping a lot with progressing your characters to match.

Then there are the various repeatable activities you need resin for: ley lines, abyssal domains and bosses. These all award AR XP too, but as your available resin is limited you can’t do them ad nauseam anyway.

Hence my only advice here is not to use primogems to buy more resin – which I wouldn’t do anyhow as I’d rather be able to make more wishes.

The other source of additional resin, fragile resin, one-use items awarded by some quests and for hitting certain adventure rank milestones, are best saved up until you reach at least AR 40, as you’ll get much more bang for your buck then. At that point the 100 XP per 20 resin spent aren’t going to speed up your levelling all that much anymore, so knock yourself out.

Various aspects of game world exploration also reward AR XP.

Treasure chests, for example, spit out some XP in addition to weapons, artifacts and upgrade materials, but the amounts are pretty negligible. A common chest gives a mere 10 to 20 XP (I believe it’s 20 when you open it for the first time, and 10 after respawn), exquisite chests yield 20, precious chests 30 and luxurious chests 40. At least the latter two types don’t respawn (I’m not sure whether there are exquisite chests that do), so overall this doesn’t contribute to your AR all that much.

Unlocking teleport points, turning in Anemoculi/Geoculi to level up your Statues of the Seven and stuff like that also gives you some AR XP, but these are things that you’ll always want to do at the first opportunity for obvious reasons. As none of this is repeatable it isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things anyway, so I don’t see any potential nor need for savings here.

Of course there are also activities that don’t award any AR XP at all.

Running around the map and killing stuff, for example mini-bosses like ruin guards or abyss mages, is fun and supplies you with many different materials you’ll need to ascend your characters and weapons.

While you’re doing that you can and should take the time to also pick up any flowers, fruits, ores…basically anything you come across that isn’t bolted down. These, too, are needed for ascension as well as cooking and forging. Keep in mind that some characters can help you hunt down specific stuff. Having Klee or Qiqi, should you be lucky enough to own them, in your active party makes region-specific gatherables appear on your mini-map in the Mondstadt and Liyue regions, respectively, and Ningguang does the same for all kinds of ore no matter where you are.

You can also always do Spiral Abyss, but since I’m not a big fan of that mode I can’t tell you much about it. I think that it doesn’t award any AR XP though, so there’s that.

One last tip, if you want to finish your weekly battle pass challenges but don’t have enough resin and/or don’t want to get the AR XP you can still do ley lines, domains, elite bosses and weekly bosses, just without claiming the rewards at the end, and you will get credit for the battle pass.

In summary, if you want to slow down adventure rank progress in Genshin Impact you should stop doing the daily commissions, take your time with questing, not use primogems to buy additional resin and only start using fragile resin at AR 40 and up. Other than that you can pretty much do whatever you fancy while levelling up at a much more casual pace.

I enjoy the game a lot more when I play like this, and maybe you will too.

Genshin Impact – A Janus-faced jewel

For about five weeks now I’ve been playing Genshin Impact each and every day, and I still enjoy it a lot. A couple of days ago we got the first content patch since the game’s release, which gave us some more things to do, new characters to chase and a whole bunch of great quality-of-life upgrades.

I’m playing in my usual middle-of-the-pack kind of way, neither chasing to max-level (or max-something) as fast and efficiently as possible, nor “just” exploring and goofing around.

That being said, I’m now rapidly closing in on adventure rank 40, which means that my world level and thus the game’s overall difficulty will increase for the fifth time (the world level goes up every 5 ranks starting from AR 20), and let me tell you, this is having a dramatic impact on how I play the game. Or rather, how it pretty much has to be played.

Casual players’ reaction to the difficulty curve; power-gamer in the back, smirking

I feel Genshin Impact is basically a mashup of two very different types of game, and if you plan on playing it long-term you’d better like both of those, else you might find yourself having a hard time.

On the one hand it’s a lighthearted and funny, well-written story-driven RPG-light with lots of exploration and many oohs and aahs along the way. I haven’t laughed this much while gaming for a long time, and that world…just wow.

It’s also one of the few games that give me dialogue options I would actually say myself

Until about AR 25 I was primarily running all over the place, doing quests, opening chests and collecting anything that wasn’t bolted down. I didn’t pay much attention to my characters’ stats at all, only when I saw mob levels noticeably higher than mine did I use some XP items – of which I had plenty –  to push my weapons and characters to match.

However, at AR 30 at the latest the game turns its head and shows its other face, and this one is a very much progress-oriented and exceptionally grindy not-so-light-RPG that gets harder and harder quickly and has you scrambling just to keep up.

Sounds bad? Well, again, it depends on whether you like this sort of stuff or not.

I am liking it thus far, yet I can clearly see the downsides too.

This required more effort than meets the eye

My main DPS character, Razor, is maxed out for my current AR bracket, meaning that he’s level 70, as is his weapon, and his skills are all level 6. My go-to support DPS, Xiangling, and my main healer, Qiqi, are close behind.

All other characters I own are much below that though, and many are still at level 1. Which is a shame, as I would really like to, for example, check out Fischl as another support alternative, or see if Chongyun could be a good main DPS for my second team, but I just can’t afford to “waste” any resources on them. I don’t even have a second team to speak of. Because, again, I need to focus on my main characters as the next world level increase looms.

For the last three weeks or so I’ve even kind of followed a schedule, as this is just how the game works.

On Mondays and Thursdays I farm talent mats for Qiqi and, to a lesser extent, Barbara. Leftover resin, if any, is used to farm whichever elite boss I need character ascension mats from.

On Tuesdays and Fridays I’m going for Razor’s and Xiangling’s talent mats, as well as ascension materials for some of my secondary weapons.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays it’s heavy farming for Razor’s claymore, my main source of DPS, and more elite bosses.

Lastly, on Sundays I only kill bosses as the domains are on a weird random-drop rotation that’s pretty ineffective.

Getting the three aforementioned characters up to snuff required spending pretty much all my available resin – which, by the way, is the game’s slowly-regenerating energy resource aka gating mechanic most mobile games have (or so I hear) – on these activities. Even now I’m not allowing myself to branch out much as I want to be ready for AR 40, meaning that I continue to farm the exact same mats so I can spend them on these characters the moment the game lets me.

In addition to the above I do the daily comissions, try to fulfill all daily and weekly tasks for the battle pass, and also make my rounds around the map to kill various mini-bosses for their drops. It’s a busy day, every day.

As I said, so far I’m having fun doing all this stuff. I’m just not sure how long it will last. I really hope that adventure rank progress slows down significantly after 40, because it just rises too fast for my taste. I’d like to try out other characters, I want to go and explore again (still have some Anemoculi and Geoculi to find), and do all the quests I haven’t done yet because I didn’t have the time (and because they give massive amounts of adventure rank XP, speeding up the treadmill even further).

Technically there is a way to slow this process down a bit. At AR 25 and 35 you are offered an ascension quest. Until you’ve finished it you don’t get the perks attached to that rank (being able to ascend characters and weapons further, getting more/better loot etc.), your rank doesn’t go any higher and the world level stays the same too. At the time I didn’t see the benefit – who doesn’t want to get better rewards for the same activities? In hindsight I would have liked to stay at 35 for a week or two. Or maybe rather not, as the XP you get during that time isn’t lost, and you might well skip a couple of ranks if you wait long enough, possibly even resulting in a double world level increase. *shudders*

Bottom line is, there’s no escaping it. If you like the game and play a lot your world level will rise constantly no matter what you do, and you’ll have to try and keep up if you don’t want the game to become tough as nails.

Now, of course I know that some players like their games tough – or don’t perceive the same things as tough that I do – so your mileage may vary. Personally, I was fond of the gameplay as relaxed as it was in the beginning. I get by, but I really don’t want it to get any harder still, hence I keep grinding to be as strong as possible.

So…is it even worth playing if your preferences are more on the casual side, then?

Right now my answer would be yes. The characters are fun to play, combat is slick and the progression systems motivating. It’s grindy, but doesn’t feel like a chore, is what I’m saying. That story, character development and voice acting are far above average by video game standards and the game’s open world just sublime goes without mentioning at this point….and yet I did just now. Fucked that up, didn’t I? Anyway, yes, it’s worth it.

This doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never played a game quite like this though – one that combines two extremely different and, arguably, contradictory playstyles and absolutely does not let you opt out of either. Maybe over in Asia this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but to me that switching of gears came very unexpected.

At least you now know what you’re getting yourself into should you pick up this game, if you haven’t already. What to do with it is up to you.

This is why I don’t play video games on mobile

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing Genshin Impact. A lot. It’s really awesome. I’ll probably talk about it in more detail sometime, however Bhagpuss’s first impressions and his fondness of the game’s fantastic exploration aspects mirror mine to a T, so I feel like I don’t have much to add at this point.

What I do want to talk about is my experience playing it on mobile, which is what the majority of players seems to be doing (I don’t know this for a fact, but I highly doubt that the PC and console versions combined come even remotely close to mobile’s 23+ million downloads).

In a word: Thanks, but no thanks!

Ok, that’s actually four words, but you get the idea.

Of course I was pretty stoked about the possibilities at first. Being able to play my current favourite game on PC when I’m at home and on my phone whenever I’m not? Hell yeah!

During my first two weeks in GI I made it a habit to fit 10-15 minute play sessions into my lunch breaks to burn some resin, the obvious benefit being that I didn’t run into the resin cap before getting home. Also, well, playing a great game during lunch break for a bit – what’s not to like?

Here’s the thing though: it isn’t nearly as much fun to play on the phone. At least to me it isn’t.

Genshin Impact might have been developed with mobile platforms in mind first and foremost, yet as far as I’m concerned it is a ‘real’, a ‘proper’ video game. What I mean by that is that it sports a fair amount of complexity, not only in terms of progression systems and such, but also when it comes to the actual gameplay and control schemes needed to execute said gameplay. Play itself this game does not.

Maybe I’m just too old for that kind of stuff, but playing the game on my phone instead of the PC kinda feels like playing with one hand tied behind my back. Hitting the right buttons for normal attack, special attack, ultimate and dodge, swapping characters in and out as needed, all while making sure to actually face the enemy I want to hit and being in range…it’s too fiddly and, frankly, too much for my thumbs to handle. I have only two, after all.

It isn’t just the combat either. Exploring the game’s gorgeous open world, collecting countless doodads and solving puzzles is tons of fun – actually more fun than the combat in my opinion – if the controls play ball. Which, on mobile, they do not.

On PC I have no problems whatsoever climbing walls and statues, doing balancing acts across narrow ledges or performing pinpoint-accurate landings with my glider. On the phone though? Oh boy. I couldn’t walk in a straight line with those controls if my driver’s licence was at stake. When one quest asked me to scale the largest statue in Mondstadt, stand on its hands and spread some dandelion seeds to the winds I was this close to throw the damn thing out the window.

So, yeah, it’s not fun and I’ve stopped doing it.

Gameplay issues aside, my phone doesn’t like the game much either.

I use an iPhone SE2, which sports the same CPU as the iPhone 11, so processing power shouldn’t be lacking. The game runs smooth enough for sure, but the device gets freaking hot within minutes. I’m not talking Need-to-wear-oven-mitts-hot, but it comes really close to that.

Also, the game sucks battery life like crazy. I usually charge the thing every three days or so; while I played those mere 10-15 minutes per day I had to plug it in every evening. Longer sessions would only be possible while charging at the same time – provided the phone doesn’t melt when doing that – which kind of defeats the purpose of playing on a mobile device, no?

In conclusion, playing Genshin Impact on my phone has, in my mind, confirmed what I’d assumed all along: there are mobile games and there are high-quality video games, and a game can be one or the other, but not both.

When I think of mobile games I mean those that are quick and easy to play, can be interrupted at any time and don’t strain hardware or player too much. Back when I had to commute I played stuff like Bejeweled or SEGA Heroes (which is Bejeweled, essentially) every now and then just to kill some time. It’s a good thing that games like those exist, don’t get me wrong. Even so, going by my definition this kind of game has as much in common with high-quality video gaming as Big Brother has with high-quality TV entertainment.

So yeah, please keep your promises of Our mobile game will be just as great as its predecessor on PC/console to yourself, dear developers – *cough*Blizzard*cough* – because it fricking won’t be.

Screen real estate, hardware specifications, power supply and, above all, controls – these are important things that set phones and tablets apart from ‘real’ gaming hardware, which is why even the highest-quality mobile game in existence – which, most likely, is Genshin Impact right now – can’t be nearly as enjoyable as its stationary counterpart, if it has one.

Hence, however great your game might be, if it can only be played on mobile I’ll never touch it, period.