Genshin Impact’s online concert last Sunday was a nonstop series of bangers, but the game really didn’t need one to convince me that it has one of the best video game scores I’ve heard in the past several years. So even if you’ve never played Genshin, I’d still like you to experience some of the incredible tunes that I’ve been listening to in and out of the game over the past year. For those who don’t want to sit through an hour-long concert (understandable), I’ve picked out seven tracks that encapsulate the setting of Genshin Impact.
Every time I wander around the fantasy world of Teyvat, I’m getting an earful of world-class orchestras. Literally. The Genshin soundtracks are composed by music director Yu-Peng Chen, but most of the music is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The complete collection of Genshin music spans four main albums that encompass three major world regions and their major plot beats. The concert was made up of tracks from the Mondstadt and Liyue regional albums, in addition to several character-specific themes. I’ve narrowed my focus to a few Mondstadt and Liyue tracks that appeared at the concert and a few that didn’t, but every composition from Genshin’s score (which features over 300 and counting) is worth your time.
The Wind and the Star Traveler is the first album that miHoYo’s in-house music team released. It shares considerable overlap with the Mondstadt region’s album, and “The Wind Catcher From A Foreign Land” is undoubtedly its crown jewel. This airy flute melody seems fairly ordinary at first, like a softer variation on the main theme. Then the brass and strings come in to elevate the sound to a track worthy of a heroic epic. The unique percussive beats stand out in an album where strings and flutes dominate. When I listen to it, I think of how the protagonist started out insignificant and unassuming, only to shape their legend through perilous circumstances. The main melody also exits on a quiet singular note, as softly as it arrived. While the instruments and musical styles of the albums to come would vary, “Wind Catcher” is a worthy place to begin listening to the Genshin soundtracks.
City of Winds and Idylls was the first major regional album of Genshin Impact, and players know it as the soundtrack that played throughout their adventure in the city-state of Mondstadt. What I really love about tracks such as “Bustling Afternoon in Mondstadt” is the sheer amount of energy in them. In most tracks for the “City of Freedom,” freedom is a mood. It’s the fearlessness that players take into every step. The bouncy beats help build up a constant feeling of progression, which is so essential for a starting area like Mondstadt.
But Mondstadt isn’t all just harmonious ballads and nostalgic flute melodies. “Symphony of the Boreal Wind” captures an ominous strangeness that lurks in the depths of Mondstadt’s history. The brass notes are much heavier here than on the rest of the album. Both the choir and the soft ticking of a clock convey the feeling of alienation without making the melody unpleasant to listen to. On the other hand, “Startled” is intentionally mischievous and discordant. Though it’s one of the shorter pieces on the album, there’s so much distinct personality in how the flutes, the strings, and the brass enter at wildly different times. Both tracks are tense, but they create tension in very different ways.
Jade Moon Upon a Sea of Clouds is the regional album for the city-state of Liyue. While the city is formally known as the City of Contracts, the “Liyue” track reminds me that it’s also an industrious city of hard workers. The consistent beats feel a lot more structured compared to the music in Mondstadt. As I listen to the bold, swaying notes of the flutes, I think of the fishmongers at the seaside market and the diligent shipbuilders who ensure that the city never wants for trade vessels. The gods claim the sacred grounds in the countryside, but Liyue Harbor belongs to these diligent laborers who show up from dawn until dusk.
“Rapid as Wildfires” and “Chasing the Torrents” are combat tracks that play when you fight enemies in Liyue. What I love about the battle music in Genshin is that there are no hard stylistic distinctions between ‘battle music’ and ‘background music.’ This particular track relies on fast-paced strings to create a sense of tension, but the soft melodies are soothing and harmonic. After listening to the Genshin Impact soundtracks, I started to reevaluate what battle music was. I always took for granted that it had to be hard, chaotic, ominous, or percussive. In truth, it doesn’t have to be any of those things. These tracks help frame hostile encounters as meditative rituals, rather than stressful confrontations that I would rather avoid.
“Another Hopeful Tomorrow” is my favorite track in the game, and I like to put it on when I’m working. The main piano melody meanders slowly at the beginning. With every passing verse, the music becomes steadily louder. It’s not a complex piece, and the melody never changes. But it’s a fitting track for a region that celebrates honest labor, set in a game built around daily routines. While the Genshin concert had unique and energetic remixes, it’s the gentle piano in “Another Hopeful Tomorrow” and “Moon in One’s Cup” that eases me into the daily labors of gathering supplies and completing my daily quests.
Despite his impressive output for the game, Yu-Peng Chen doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The composer stated in an interview that he intends to incorporate more folk music into his future compositions for Genshin Impact.
“Most of the creative inspiration of Genshin Impact comes from the classical music and Chinese folk music that I listened to when I was young,” he said. “In the future, I will continue to learn from the elements of folk music from all over the world and integrate them into my personal style.”