More people are finally getting a look at the Chinese game Genshin Impact, and the response has been surprisingly favorable. The game once widely criticized for looking too much like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now being praised for beautiful graphics and an element-based combat system.

Some players are getting an early look at the game from developer miHoYo in its second closed beta before it’s eventually released for PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and mobile. Ever since its reveal last year, the free-to-play, open-world, multiplayer action-adventure game has been subject to intense scrutiny. But despite what appears to be a heavy Zelda influence in aesthetics, gamers are saying Genshin Impact is a quality game that differs significantly in style from Breath of the Wild.

The aesthetics of the game are still a draw, but it’s not the only thing people like. In addition to the graphics and character designs, players are praising the voice acting, the large open world and a combat system that challenges players to be creative.

Genshin Impact’s art has impressed a lot of gamers. (Picture: @So_Ethereal/Twitter)

While the game still looks like Breath of the Wild, players say Genshin Impact’s gameplay has more in common with other action online multiplayer games like Final Fantasy XIV.

To level-up your characters in Genshin Impact, you complete story quests, side quests, challenges and dungeons. Once you reach level 16, you can enable a co-op mode in which you and as many as three other players form a squad to take on more challenging quests. And the quests have plenty of content to draw on.

“Honestly, the map is huge,” Twitch live-streamer MuchLoveNicole said. “It’s basically the size of the GTA5 map, if not bigger… [Even] the ocean is explorable. I wasn’t expecting it to be that big.” She added that miHoYo is looking to add an additional region to the game. 

Many characters and localities across Genshin Impact’s sizable map have Chinese-sounding names. (Picture: @So_Ethereal/Twitter)

ChibiSayu, another live-streamer, said the second beta test has content that can keep her playing for days. While she reached level 16 on her third day of streaming, other gamers have already reached as high as level 40, she said. 

So far, ChibiSayu said she’s been impressed with the game. She’s especially been impressed with the game’s combat, which she said allows players to switch between characters. To maximize damage, she said, players have to constantly switch characters to get ones equipped with the necessary elements of attack, like choosing the right Pokémon to counter your opponent.

“If [an enemy] is affected by hydro, you’ll see a little symbol above his head if I use Lisa, who is electro… it will actually create a reaction, which is what the game encourages you and teaches you to do in the very beginning,” ChibiSayu said.

“Switching between characters makes [the combat] very, very fast-paced,” she added.

ChibiSayu also said the game’s production value exceeded her expectations.

“The animation is beautiful. The English voice acting is really good... And ninety percent of the cutscenes are voiced,” she said. “Also, they clearly have tried their best to introduce interesting lore to the game.”

The only complaint ChibiSayu had was that the game doesn’t work well with controllers yet. ChibiSayu said she’s a lifelong console gamer, but she still wound up testing the game with a mouse and keyboard because she wasn’t satisfied with the current state of controller support.

If you’re excited by the positive response so far and can’t wait to get your hands on this game, then there’s some bad news. Genshin Impact was originally slated for a spring release, but that looks less likely now. A closed beta at the end of March suggests the rest of us will probably have to wait a bit longer to try it ourselves.

When it’s finally released, though, the game will be available on plenty of platforms. And more importantly, it’s free. But that raises another question: How is miHoYo making money from you?

There are already some clues about one way Genshin Impact might monetize: Lucky draws for game characters.

Remember, Genshin Impact encourages players to use several different characters in combat. The beta test shows there are many free characters to choose from -- but other characters have to be unlocked through gacha.

Gacha is essentially another type of loot box. This mechanic incentivizes players to enter a lucky draw with undisclosed odds in order to obtain certain items in a game. Similar to how certain games motivate gamblers to keep going, gamers often wind up paying real money just to enter into another lucky draw. In this case, players pay in pursuit of getting just the right character. But ChibiSayu said she doesn’t think Genshin Impact’s gacha mechanics destroy the balance of the game.

“The gacha characters don’t overpower others,” she said. “You don’t need gacha characters to enjoy the game.”

MuchLoveNicole also said she hopes that monetization schemes don’t affect the core gameplay experience. “I really think they should add some type of housing system,” she suggested. “People would buy furniture to decorate.”

But for all that might be unique about Genshin Impact, it might have a hard time completely shaking its reputation as a Breath of the Wild knockoff. The landscape, monsters and even basic character movements will look familiar to Zelda fans. 

But those things might not affect the game’s success. After all, Genshin Impact is a free game that will be available on a variety of platforms. All it needs is a release date.