So you're interested in trying out Genshin Impact, but there's something you're a bit worried about. While Genshin Impact is a free download, you're told it makes money from something called "gacha." And judging from what you've heard about other free-to-play games, you assume gacha is suffering. You've witnessed tales of woe on social media, of people spending hundreds of dollars in hopes of obtaining rare characters with nothing to show for it. You're afraid of getting sucked into a vortex that invites you in for free but will proceed to empty your wallet and your soul.
Well, there's good news for you--it's very easy to enjoy Genshin Impact and take part in its gacha system without spending much, or anything at all! In fact, this may be one of the best gacha-driven free-to-play games for gamers on a budget. Even if you don't get the luckiest results, you can enjoy exploring and questing through the game for free. To help you figure out how best to spend your resources, we've made a guide explaining Genshin Impact's gacha mechanics and what to look out for. If you've any further questions about how it all works, be sure to leave them in the comments below. Otherwise, be sure to read our full thoughts about the game in our Genshin Impact review.
What is "Gacha"?
Gacha (named after popular toy-dispensing machines) is a popular monetization scheme that's akin to loot boxes and often found in free-to-play games developed in East Asia. In games with a gacha system, the base game is offered as a no-cost download and is playable without spending money. However, you can choose to buy special in-game premium currency and spend it to "roll" for randomized elements that have an effect on gameplay--usually weapons, equippable items, and even playable characters. The system is especially popular in mobile games like Fire Emblem Heroes, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, and Fate/Grand Order.
In Genshin Impact, the gacha system is called "Wish." Each wish costs a certain number of Fate items (either Acquaint Fate or Intertwined Fate). You can trade for these Fate items using an in-game currency called Primogems, and they can also be earned as in-game rewards and gifts. You can use either 1 or 10 Fates at a time for your Wishes. Each Wish rewards you with a weapon or character of 3-star or greater rarity, and the rarer the item or character, the better it is. The odds are definitely not in your favor for getting 4- and 5-star results; however, you have 5.1% odds of a 4-star pull and a mere 0.6% for 5-star stuff. But there are ways to get what you want eventually, which we'll explain later.
So How Does Real Money Factor Into This?
As you play, you can choose to buy an item called Genesis Crystals, which can only be acquired through real-money purchases. While they can be used for other things besides rolling (such as buying special in-game item bundles), the primary use for most players will be trading Genesis Crystals for Primogems, which can then be traded for more Fates to Wish with.
Can I Wish Without Spending Money?
Yes. You earn a lot of Primogems just by playing the game normally. Exploring, completing quests, defeating enemies, opening chests, and even checking your adventurer's handbook when prompted are just a handful of things you can do to get Primogems without spending a penny. It takes 160 Primogems to acquire a single Fate item, so you'll have to earn quite a few for a Wish, but by playing regularly, you'll earn enough for many rolls on the gacha.
I'm Willing To Spend Money. What Offers Me The Best Value For My Dollars?
If you're willing to spend larger amounts at once, your money will go a bit further. For example, buying the 1,980-Crystal pack once at $29.99 is a better value than buying the 60-crystal pack for 99 cents. You'd need to buy the 60-pack 33 times to get the same amount of Crystals at the cost of $32.67. (Also, each first-time purchase of a particular Crystal bundle games with extra Crystals, which are not included in subsequent purchases.)
The minimum you can spend for a single Wish roll is $2.97 by buying three 60-Crystal packs at 99 cents each. This will get you 180 Genesis Crystals, which you can convert into enough Primogems to get a Fate with 20 crystals leftover.
One helpful option for those willing to spend money--but not too much--is the Blessing of the Welkin Moon. This item costs $4.99 and gives you 300 Genesis Crystals upfront, along with an "allowance" of 90 Primogems every day for 30 days. Basically, by the time its benefits expire, you will have the equivalent of 3,000 Primogems for a fraction of what buying them all at once would cost. (For reference, a 3,280-crystal pack is $49.99.) Unfortunately, only one Blessing can be purchased every 30 days.
Is There Any Way To Influence The Wishes To Get What I Want?
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting higher-quality items. While you can't increase the odds with your in-game accomplishments, you can aim for specific items and characters by spending your Fates on "banners."
When you go to the Wish screen, you can scroll left or right to see different banner images advertising available characters and items. Each of these banners offers a slightly different item and character pool that it will pull your goodies from, with different odds for each. Some banners focus on weapons, while some focus on characters. There is always a "default" banner you can spend Acquaint Fate on that offers a curated selection of characters and weapons. This banner never rotates out, but does have new items and characters added to its pool periodically.
The banners to look out for are time-limited "promo" banners that advertise a specific character or weapon. After a while, these banners are not permanent and will rotate out to be replaced by banners with new characters and weapons. Generally, if you roll a 4-star or 5-star character on a promo banner, the odds are 50% that it will be a featured character. Also, many promo banners have exclusive characters and weapons you can only obtain on that banner. So if you see a banner featuring a character or weapon you want, you should spend your Fate items there--while you are not guaranteed to get them, if you do get a high-quality roll, your odds of getting what you want in particular will be better.
It is likely that, at some point, banners focused on specific elements and weapon types will be added, making it easier to get characters and weapons with particular alignments. Other gacha games often have a period of a few days each month where roll rates for high-rarity items are increased. Genshin Impact is still very early in its life, however, so it may be a while before these sorts of banners are implemented--if they ever are.
Still, the best way to increase the chances of getting a specific weapon or character is to save as many Primogems and Fates as possible, then wait to spend them all on a banner that offers higher drop rates for what you're looking to get. This also makes it easier to utilize mechanics like collecting Masterless Starglitter/Stardust and "Pity rolls."
What Are Pity Rolls?
Many gacha games offer a feature where, if you roll a certain amount of times but still don't get the item you want, you'll be able to get the item anyway through alternative means. This prevents people from spending absurd amounts of money chasing after a single thing and getting frustrated. It's not a complete safeguard, but it does mean there's a finite spending cap.
In the case of Genshin Impact, if you roll nine times on a promo banner and don't get a 4-star, your next roll will be 4-star or better. If you roll 89 times on a banner but don't get a single 5-star, the 90th roll will be a 5-star. So if you save up and roll enough, you will get a 5-star eventually. If you're rolling on a banner featuring a specific character and roll a 5-star that isn't that character, the next 5-star character roll will be the featured unit. Taking all of this into account, it makes sense to pool your resources and repeatedly roll on a promo banner if there's a specific character you really, really want--or if you just want a 5-star character/weapon in general.
Also, with every roll, you're given either Masterless Starglitter or Masterless Stardust. You can trade these under Paimon's Bargains in the shop for rare items, characters, and more Fates for rolls. There's a limited number of trades per month, and characters rotate in and out, so it pays to keep track of when the shop's options renew.
Who Are The Characters I Should Aim For?
It really depends. Each character you can get from wishing offers a unique mix of abilities to aid you on your quest. While there is more to each character that makes them desirable beyond gameplay utility--appearance and personality are big factors--some of the available cast are comparatively very powerful. Also, more characters will be added into the mix as time passes, so the tier-list meta is likely to change, making any assessments we make here outdated in time.
Generally speaking, 5-star characters are superior in terms of stats and abilities, but there are many great 4-star team members. Here are some of the best characters to aim for if you're just getting started:
- Diluc, 5-star: Generally considered the best character in the game as of this writing. He's a Pyro-wielding, Claymore-slinging pretty boy whose elemental affiliation makes it easy to tear down enemies' defenses. He can then go to town with regular and charged strikes before making everything toasty with a big elemental burst.
- Venti, 5-star: This bard of the wind is currently on the promo banner as of this writing. Venti's offensive draw is an elemental burst that traps enemies and can be powered up through elemental reactions. But perhaps more useful are his exploration boosts: a 20% reduction in stamina usage and an attack skill that also sends him skyward are phenomenal aids in a game so heavy on field exploration.
- Keqing, 5-star: A shocking beauty who excels at slashing up foes. She has a robust, easy-to-learn offensive skillset that is great early on and only gets better over time.
- Fischl, 4-star: Fischl is a long-range Electro fighter who specializes in archery. Her main gimmick is a crow familiar who acts as an independent damage dealer and sticks around if you swap characters, letting you pull off lots of fun element interactions easily. Plus, she's a 4-star, which makes her much easier to obtain.
But let's be clear here: All characters in Genshin Impact are useful! Getting a big roster involves a substantial investment of either time or money, so most players have a more limited selection. Even a comparatively "weak" character can put in the work for you if you invest time in building them up. Also, if you have a limited pool of characters to pick from--say, you only have one Hydro user--they're automatically going to be more useful to you than if you had every Hydro user.
One thing to note is that ongoing games like Genshin Impact tend to buff characters that appear to be lagging in the overall metagame after a while. So even if you get a character that seems to be lackluster now, there's a good chance that sometime in the future, their abilities will be augmented significantly. It's worth your time to put some effort into keeping all characters--including your lesser-used teammates--in top shape, particularly if they get improvements down the line.
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