I have a complicated relationship with Genshin Impact. I adore its vast, lovingly handcrafted world and charming characters. I hate how its intertwining systems whisper to me in a million different voices: “Spend money.” But there’s no denying that the system works; to date, I’ve probably spent around $60 on the technically free game. Now, though, I can’t spend a single cent. The game won’t let me.
It’s been this way for the past few weeks: I try to buy the game’s purchasable currency (Genesis Crystals)—which can be converted into a different currency (Primogems), which can be converted into a one of a couple additional currencies (Intertwined Fate or Acquaint Fate), which can then be used to make “wishes” in an attempt to obtain characters (phew)—only to be told that my credit card was declined. There is no good reason for this. According to my favorite video game resource, People Complaining Online, this is a long-running issue, especially with Genshin Impact’s PC version. Sometimes it just decides it hates your credit card, and there’s not a ton you can do aside from switching to a different platform.
It’s a pain. I don’t really want to download a 3.1 GB game onto my iPhone’s already almost-full hard drive just to make occasional purchases. But it’s also a deterrent to spending more money. For the time being, even when I’m overwhelmingly tempted to drop $5-$15 to watch Genshin Impact put the “gotcha” in gacha (and maaaaaybe give me a character I want), I can’t. I can still use currency I earn by playing the game to make wishes, but otherwise, I’m cut off.
It’s an especially bad time for this to be happening, because the game is currently running one of its regular festival events, during which certain hyper-rare characters become less hyper-rare for a limited time. Right now, it’s Venti, the bard who’s also a god who’s also an alcoholic. He is almost unanimously regarded as one of the best characters in the game. I want him—not just because he’s useful in combat, but because he’s a fun character. Quests, including a new batch of event-specific stories, have shown him to be a carefree airhead with an opportunistic streak that puts him humorously at odds with other characters, like your maniacal flying baby sidekick, Paimon.
Developer Mihoyo knows this is how its players think. Characters are the main draw of the game’s monetary systems, and anything that makes them more enticing helps line its already jingling pockets. In the latest big update, Mihoyo added a dating sim-like “hangout” system that creates an even more powerful bond between players and characters. On one hand, these dialogue-driven quests are cute and fun. On the other, you enter tricky territory as soon as you pair emotional ties with the ability to spend money in a video game. Just ask Riot and League of Legends’ Seraphine.
As a result of all this, I find myself at odds with... myself. I want to spend money to make sure I get Venti. Frankly, my odds still aren’t great if I exclusively use Primogems I’ve earned in game. Also, I’ll have to play a lot (which is obviously what the developers want). These past few days, I’ve suffered from what feels like FOMO watching players on the Genshin Impact subreddit talk about hitting the Venti jackpot.
But at the same time, it’s freeing to not have the option to spend money. I don’t regret having previously spent $60 on this game—which is easily on-par with other $60 games—but there’s an unavoidable guilt that comes with watching money swirl the toilet bowl of a glorified slot machine. You hope a top-tier character will come out, but most of the time it’s a crappy item with a pun name, like the Debate Club—which I laughed at the first time I got one, but which has since led to the rapid development of new frown lines in my face. I do not miss that feeling.
I’m sure I’ll eventually resume spending money on Genshin Impact, either because Mihoyo will fix the credit card glitch—which seems weirdly at odds with its goal of making as much money as possible!—or I’ll give in and download the game to my iPhone. But until then, I’m enjoying making do with the characters I have and learning to appreciate their skillsets. Nagging pressure to assemble the ultimate team of anime Avengers has never meshed entirely well with Genshin Impact’s otherwise laid-back, exploratory vibe. The game coheres better, in my opinion, when I’m focused on the next couple steps I intend to take over a hill or mountain, rather than some 900-step galaxy brain plan to min/max a hypothetical optimal party.
That said: If anybody knows any tips, techniques, or rituals that will maximize my chances of getting Venti, I’m listening.