Genshin Impact’s Summertime Odyssey is Ambitious But Boring

The current event clearly shows signs of design ambition, but fails to really be interesting to play.

It’s probably difficult to really fathom the size and flow of games like Genshin Impact, a title that reportedly makes about $2 billion a year for developer Hoyoverse. The game has a seemingly unrealistic development pace, pushing out significant content every few weeks to keep players logging in and doing new quests and activities constantly. The business model, wherein players pay for battle passes and some pay money for more gacha rolls of characters, requires a pretty constant stream of keeping people engaged, for better or worse.

These activities have followed a pretty consistent pattern along the way: a NPC has found a new area or door to a battle realm or something along those lines and new daily content appears for a few days or so. Sometimes it’s more involved than that, but largely this is how Genshin operates. The latest ongoing event, Summertime Odyssey, bucks that trend with something decidedly more involved and more reliant on a player’s personal sense of pacing. It’s probably the most ambitious thing Genshin Impact has done with a non-whole number update in memory.

It’s just unfortunately not all that that fun to play.

Genshin Impact Summertime Odyssey Event

The setup for Summertime Odyssey focuses on the four-star electro-archer Fischl. Having received a set of islands from Klee’s mother Alice, a powerful magical being herself, Fischl hopes to bring back her kingdom at that site and brings along Mona, Xinyan, Kazuha, and the Traveler to bear witness. The group discovers that the islands themselves are magical, however, and the Golden Apple Archipelago begins producing illusory dungeons prompts has each of the characters to face their individualized traumas.

It’s a neat idea, if not wholly inspired by Persona games at the least, and sets up backstories for characters that have only had their stories hinted at or recited as events without personal context. It gets surprisingly deep into why Fischl acts the way she does and I actually rather appreciated how Xinyan’s parade of people who did not believe in her merely rolls off her back in the face of her passion for music. In terms of storytelling ambition, it’s a bit of a leap beyond Genshin’s usual narrative work, which more often than not uses way too many words to say very little.

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That ambition also extends, in theory, to the dungeon designs. Kazuha’s involves replacing rooms to find different paths, Xinyan’s uses what are essentially light mirror puzzles to progress and an interesting river flow mechanic when playing outside the dungeon. Fischl’s is perhaps the most fascinating, essentially borrowing mechanics from the 2020 game Superliminal to create bridges for the player to cross. The problem is that none of this works super well, especially and most unfortunately Fischl’s, which can be incredibly persnickety about when an object is placed just right.

Genshin Impact Summertime Odyssey Event

That kind of frustration when you know you have the answer and just want to proceed is present all over the event. You go into a little bit of the dungeon, beat one-third of it, and are then prompted to go back into the open world to grab an item or clear an obstruction that varies in both effort and interest. I get the sense Hoyoverse did not want to keep players in a dungeon for too long, as the game functions on the idea of doing daily quests you need to travel around to do, but I’d have preferred slightly shorter dungeons rather than taking a hammer to the pacing several times.

The dissatisfaction with the gameplay kind of compounds for how interesting the whole thing feels like it should be. This is what Genshin Impact should be doing, it should use gameplay to explore the many, many characters it has and endear them to the audience. This feels like an attempt at doing so, but the event itself fails to be compelling enough to cross the finish line. As it stands, the Golden Apple Archipelago event just feels like not enough. It’s a thing to do for extra primogems and some neat backstory but not a whole lot more.

As 3.0 looms with a new region, a new element, and presumably a major push for events, characters, and battle passes once again, I imagine Hoyoverse is stretched pretty thin. The blistering speed at which Hoyoverse puts out updates means that something somewhere has to eventually give. That’s actually totally fair! But this Summertime Odyssey event gets so close to a fascinating leap forward for Genshin Impact and it’s frustrating that it fell short.