In the second act of Hamlet, Polonious is talking to the king and queen and trying to convince them that their son’s gone mad. It would be easy, he argues, to do all the pleasantries and flowery language and complicate the message by telling them at length every possible thing that could be said. Instead, he insists it’s better to be brief, because “brevity is the soul of wit.” If you have something to say, boil it down to what needs to be said, because saying too much sometimes harms the message.
That lesson was imparted in 1603. Here we are, 419 years later and I don’t think Genshin Impact developers Hoyoverse have really grasped it.
A week ago on 99 Potions, Fanbyte’s premiere general game podcast, we talked a bit about Genshin Impact’s general wordiness. That was on the day the 3.0 update launched with a new region and new set of quests and it still remained to be seen if the game’s long-term problem of just talking and talking and talking persisted in the newest update. Well, a week later, I can confirm that it not only persists, it might somehow be worse now.
A typical scene in Genshin Impact involves characters having a conversation with Paimon — the silent protagonists’ flying traveling partner and mouthpiece — acting as an audience cipher to question things and express incredulity. The NPCs will talk about the subject at hand and Paimon will repeat whatever they are saying and this will continue for about three times longer than it needs to. Occasionally, the player will be given a choice between dialogue options, but they in no way matter, and are often just one sentence split into two choices to reinforce their minimal relevance. They serve little purpose beyond acting as stop signs to Auto-Advance so you do not just look at your phone while a cutscene plays out.
From a few days’ timings with my stopwatch, I worked out that button mashing through each cutscene takes about 2-3.5 minutes from start to stop. That means it still takes that long when you’re skipping the dialogue.
I don’t mind story-heavy games. I cut my teeth on RPGs, there are visual novels I count as some of my favorite video games, but Genshin just does not need this much text. Every character says the same things over and over and they say it with their full chests. These aren’t world-building or character-building lines, they’re digressions and jokes that don’t land and they happen in every single cutscene. They aren’t reserved for the big moments where a character is explaining their motivations or backstories; every time the scene fades to black and the game wrests control from you, you’re probably in for a few minutes of dialogue that just absolutely do not matter, making the cutscene itself feel like it doesn’t matter.
This has always been a problem in Genshin, born primarily of the fact that Hoyoverse steadfastly does not want players skipping cutscenes. It has gotten worse recently, though, as the game also does not let players skip through dialogue if an animation or camera pan is happening. As the cutscenes get more involved and filmic, they start requiring more direction and animations, which means less and less of it is getting skippable. It’s no more interesting or compelling, but it’s now a lot slower than it used to be.
I do not know what Hoyoverse’s motivation is here. It seems logical that less dialogue means less voice acting which means lower costs when localizing and voice acting into the multitude of other languages Genshin Impact is released in. At some point you would assume that sheer number crunching alone would get them to pare this down a little bit. We all know you’re rich, Hoyoverse, you don’t need to flex it like this.
The only thing I can imagine is that maybe the only metric (aside from money spent) that matters to Hoyoverse is time spent logged in, thus the longer cutscenes and the inability to skip or button through so much of it. They must prize that number beyond most other things, because otherwise I cannot imagine what is keeping them so tied to this writing style. On every survey, I request that they show more restraint with their cutscenes, though I guess people might also be saying the opposite as well.
There are indeed probably people who really like all the dialogue and don’t agree with any of this, but I genuinely cannot imagine how. For me, that’s like wishing my favorite book had the exact same story but it was three times as long so I could have more of it. At some point, that will just make me hate the book. There’s likely a lot of good dialogue in Genshin Impact that I am missing, but I’ll never know, because the excessive and redundant surplus of dialogue that’s in there has already pushed me past the point of really wanting to read any of it.
Please, Hoyoverse, exercise some self-discipline here.