There are two sides to gacha in Genshin Impact. One is the normally infuriating and wallet-draining character gacha. Its more sinister brother is the weapons gacha, which is widely considered by the community to be a massive scam, especially for players who aren’t made of gold bricks (Thankfully, they’re also entirely unnecessary—the more common weapons are perfectly usable). Given its notorious reputation, I’ve gone over two years without spending a dime on the weapons gacha. However, that all just changed. A few hours ago, I sank $150 worth of currency into the weapon banner for Genshin’s newest playable character Alhaitham, the unassuming scribe who, it turns out, is definitely more than just some dude.
Here’s why fans have a hate-hate relationship with the premium weapons gacha. Genshin is primarily a character-collecting game, but you don’t get a discount for rolling on weapons instead. Each RNG attempt at scoring a premium weapon costs as much as you would spend for a roll towards a fully voiced and animated character. And once you factor in how the gacha works, it’s actually statistically costlier to get the exact weapon that you want.
When you roll for Genshin characters, the game keeps count of how much you’ve spent. Once you cross a certain threshold, the game increases your probability of getting the featured five-star character until it hits 100 percent. It takes a maximum of 180 gacha rolls to get the character that you’re aiming for. Hitting the same condition for weapons, however, takes a whopping 240 rolls. If you fail to hit that many rolls for characters within a season, your count rolls over to the next. Not so for weapons. Owning multiple premium weapons is often a signifier of wealth and/or stupidity.
Most seasoned players know that the weapons banner is a raw deal. The competitive players spend money on it anyway because they genuinely provide better stats compared to the weapons obtainable in the regular gacha. The catch is that these weapons aren’t simple damage boosters. They provide stats that are useful to specific characters. So if your character doesn’t scale their damage based on health points, then you probably can’t use Staff of Homa (which boosts HP) to its full effectiveness. Other players want a weapon that matches the design and color scheme of their favorite character, and this is the motive that I related to the most. It absolutely broke my heart when I had to give a red-and-black sword to the ice princess Ayaka, clad in regalia of black, purple, and light blue. It helped her deal so much damage, but I’m not sure that justified how badly her sword clashed with her outfit.
But what, you may be wondering, compelled me to finally leap into the weapons gacha? Well, full disclosure: I’m extremely weak for characters who kick their weapons during their attack animation. When I saw Alhaitham thrillingly use the “Light of Foliar Incision” sword as a projectile in his demo video, I had a difficult decision to make. Do I give him the less-optimized Skyward Blade that I already lucked into during one of my character pulls, or should I sink the funds I’d saved for the next character (Hu Tao) into scoring his signature weapon?
I’m the type of player who never spends premium currency for dupes (which improve a character’s skills) or weapons. As someone who writes about Genshin for a living, it’s in my best interest to play a large array of characters in order to better understand the meta. This was doable in the first year of Genshin. But as the developers added additional regions to the game, it became increasingly difficult to actually build all of my new characters with the time-gated resources that I could obtain every week.
But is the weapons gacha really worse than the character one? I used to think so when I first started my account. Now I’d max a character’s level, throw some subpar artifacts at them, and raise only a few skill levels. And then I’d never use them, because I knew that I wasn’t getting the “optimal” experience yet. On any given week, I probably only rotate through 8-12 different characters out of the 54 I’ve collected. Again, this is as someone who plays the game for work. Most people don’t care that much for the characters outside of their favorites. So if someone wanted to spend three months’ worth of free premium currency on a specific character, was that really a “waste”? Is it worse to gamble for weapons than characters that I’ll never get a chance to properly use?
Maybe the true value of the weapons banner depends on how many characters you’ve already got on your account. When you first start playing the game, you want a balanced roster of different elemental characters. You don’t need premium weapons as urgently because the weapons you get from the character gacha (as well as from limited-time events) are perfectly usable, so you need more diverse characters more than you need weapons. But there’s a point when more characters doesn’t equate to more varied gameplay. For example, I hate using characters with a health management gimmick. Those characters will simply never see as much use on my account. I enjoy far-ranged sniping, but many players don’t. Meanwhile, one friend of mine is a freak who enjoys parrying mechanics—more power to him, even if he’s wrong.
Gacha games are the most fun when you play them based on which characters you like the most. They’re not simply about the combat, but about loving an anime man or woman and sharing that love with millions of other fans around the world. Some people think it’s a waste of money to spend hundreds of dollars to see their favorite pop star. I used to be one of those people. Then I took a good look at the map in the latest update, and I realized I wanted to explore it with Alhaitham at his best. And his best-in-slot is a sword that boosts his critical damage and scales off the Elemental Mastery stat.
Now that I’ve spent three months of gems on Alhaitham’s sword, I’ve finally reconciled that it’s not shameful to spend time and/or money on something that you love. It is shameful for HoYoverse to give us raw deals like resetting our guaranteed count.
Sorry, Hu Tao. Maybe I’ll roll my primos for you next year.
Correction: 1/20/2023 at 10:00 A.M. E.T.: Corrected the roll count on the weapon pity.