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From Gacha to Glory: Navigating Progression in Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact may be a gacha game, but there's much more to love about it, it's progression systems most of all.

Progression in Genshin Impact takes many forms; the most (monetarily) important is the gacha system, the days and weeks leading to a dopamine hit at the chance to get a high-value character or weapon. Then there’s leveling that character, ascending them, taking them into new content, and optimizing their build either for endgame grinding or exploration — in other words, the best part of the game.

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Building Your Characters: The Heart of Genshin Impact

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Sure, the rush of getting a character you’ve been saving (or spending) for is a great feeling, but it only lasts for a few moments. Moreover, other significant reasons exist besides the characters to engage with the gacha mechanics. There’s also how that character plays, how they’ll integrate into your current roster, or even how they can form the foundation of an entirely new team.

That fact is incredibly important for Genshin Impact, as no amount of content updates can sate the millions of players worldwide who will devour everything new in a matter of days. So, making a character that redefines a meta or is otherwise just fun to play is a vital part of Genshin’s ecosystem.

The real fun, I think, comes from theory-crafting, seeing how good (or not) new characters and weapons are, and getting them endgame-ready. I’m not just talking about the game’s many “number go up” mechanics. I appreciate seeing big damage numbers as much as the next guy, but I enjoy the process of reaching those numbers.

Some of that enjoyment will, of course, drain away as you engage in the same tedium that can make Genshin Impact very unfun. Farming for hard-to-reach materials, hunting for yet another set of Artifacts with near-perfect stats — none of that process is much fun. On the flip side, when new content drops, like the recent Fontaine 4.0 update, suddenly collecting what you need to improve a character takes on a new shine. Not only are you farming for materials, but you’re also exploring someplace altogether unfamiliar.

Then there’s the softer science of building a workable team around the new addition to your roster. After all, you don’t have to get them to max level right away. Testing your limits is part of the fun of progressing in Genshin Impact. How far below my enemies’ level can my new character be and still kick ass? What do they change about how I play content I’ve already mastered? Can I push myself to clear the hardest activities faster, drive the damage numbers even higher, and take on an endgame challenge without being damaged once?

Attention Only Holds for So Long

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As Genshin Impact receives updates, its world continues to grow in physical size and narrative scope. It’s almost as enjoyable to watch the writing in the game improve, discover new and more interesting characters, and uncover the hidden stories at the fringes of the world. This drive is especially true for Fontaine, as space is the only thing that can rival the ocean’s depths for mystery.

Genshin’s story might not win any awards, beholden as it is to so many anime tropes, but it’s enjoyable enough and filled with quirky characters I can’t help but identify with. And I genuinely want to see where the story goes, if only to see everything the world will eventually have to offer. The breaks between updates, and thus major story beats, give the player base time to discover and master anything they might have missed in the rush to see all the big moments. And in that lull period, more characters will come in gacha banners. Unless you’ve been playing for Genshin’s entire lifecycle or have thrown money at the game, there’s a chance you’ll want to add them to your team, and the cycle begins again.

There is a definite endpoint to enjoying most progression in Genshin, as with any live-service game. Once you have two or three teams you enjoy using, they’re built as well as you can get them, and you’ve seen all the major content in the game; there’s only so much left on the bone. There will come a time when the upcoming banners either don’t offer anything you want or at least that you don’t need.

At that point, a new, less all-consuming way to progress takes hold. Genshin goes from an “only game you play” title to a “check-in regularly” game. We tend to know what the next three months of banners will offer, so it’s during those times that saving up your Primogems (Genshin’s in-game currency) takes precedence. Genshin’s drip feed of in-game events is both a fantastic addition and an unfortunate victim of this particular stage of the game.

Preparing for Next Time

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On the one hand, many events tie directly into the currently featured region, expanding on the story or offering some fun distraction from daily chores. The best of them might even provide some of the best gameplay, map design, and writing the game’s seen in a while. Not every event can be that deep, but the ones that tend to be fondly remembered long after they leave the activity pool. 

On the other side is that Genshin Impact in-game events are ultimately Primogem farms, with a hefty pile of them awarded for engaging with the event’s many facets. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying them, especially if they teach me something valuable for progression later on. For instance, the Relic Records event that launched with Fontaine shows where many of the material sources and world bosses are, and if you want to improve any character from the region, having been rewarded for learning how is a nice bonus.

Progression in Genshin Impact, then, is more multifaceted than “make character powerful to big numbers,” there’s more to it than wishing to the RNG gods for characters, weapons, and Artifacts. There are softer skills at play, as well as room for experimentation and meta-commentary, all of which combine to make Genshin a more complex, rich experience than just a gacha game. However, it does remain unquestionably that, as well.

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John Schutt
John Schutt is a contributing writer at Gamepur focusing on guides, particularly of the shooter and Souls-like variety. He is a fan of just about any RPG. John has been an active part of Game Journalism since 2010, and is determined to continue his journey on that path.