The Many Elements of Genshin Impact’s Action-RPG Combat

Genshin Impact is a game that quickly became the talk of the town in the gaming community, and for quite a couple of reasons. The cross-platform gacha game is the milestone product of chinese developers Mihoyo Co, Ltd., and is widely-acclaimed for featuring a vast, open-world experience with thrilling action-RPG mechanics to boot–something rare yet novel for the gacha genre. There are many praiseworthy things to note about Genshin Impact [setting aside the bad things], but let’s specifically discuss the ins and outs of its combat system. As an action-RPG, the game is rife with fighting and enemy encounters wherever you go. So what makes all the fighting and monster-slaying in Genshin Impact different from other games of its kind? 


It all boils down to the seemingly complex mechanics that the game introduces: Genshin Impact boasts an elemental system at the forefront of its in-game combat, while integrating a sort of hack-n’-slash format that may draw similarity from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Despite that, we’re here to say that it’s not all too complicated, and just knowing the following details about it will ease you into knowing what to do when faced with a giant, rock-wielding mitachurl.



Run of the Mill RPG Things

There are a lot of combat mechanics that Genshin Impact borrows from the usual array of action-RPG staples. You can perform ‘normal attacks’ at the press of a primary button (e.g. left mouse click for PC), and holding this button down lets your character unleash a more powerful, charged attack. However, in these types of games, we all know it’s not just about dishing out the numbers that appear on top of enemies’ heads–you’ll have to avoid seeing them on yourself, too. Dodging is a mechanic in almost any action-RPG in the market, and it’s also key to ensuring your survival in the open-world of Teyvat. Dodging in Genshin Impact is integrated into a character’s sprinting, right at the beginning of its animation. Be careful, though–when a lot of sprinting and dodging is involved, a traditional practice for these games is having the presence of a limitative, stamina system. This is a basic resource that effectively restricts continuous usage of dodging and charged attacks, both of which take up a fair amount of stamina. 


The characters in-game each wield a different weapon, and the different types are linked to unique yet collective movesets. Fancy a fast rate of attacking at melee range? Polearm-users and sword-users would be the ones for the job. Some weapons are used for specific gameplay facets, such as catalysts for elemental attacks and claymores for mining ore veins and breaking through tough rocks.

To stray a bit from all the seemingly standard stuff, Genshin Impact features an additive spin that makes gameplay at least a bit more interesting than discussed so far: elemental skills and bursts. These are two unique abilities that establish the identity of each character you obtain, and also simply gives players more options to work with when navigating the battlefield. Elemental Skill is a character’s bread-and-butter ability, usually on a set cooldown and defines how they are meant to be utilized. Elemental Burst is usually a stronger ability at a character’s disposal, akin to an ultimate or “Super” ability in other games. However, this skill requires players to recharge it by absorbing elemental particles: small, glowing orbs that are primarily acquired from using elemental skills on opponents, or are otherwise gained by reducing enemy HP and defeating them. Pretty straightforward, but once you get to building team compositions–which will be the point of discourse later on in this article–players will find that these two character abilities are gears to the engine that ensures Genshin Impact’s overall combat doesn’t feel stale.

The stats of my Xiangling, featuring her ATK, DEF, Max HP, Elemental Mastery and Max Stamina values (Source: Author)

Your professors aren’t kidding when they say that mathematics can be observed in every aspect of life. That is because this is especially true for Genshin Impact’s characters and the enemies that dwell within its massive world. Behind the flashy skills and dynamic pace of fighting, lies a bunch of numbers that puppeteer the strings behind combat difficulty. If you find yourself struggling against your day-to-day encounters in the game–the monsters get stronger as you progress in your Adventure Rank–then maybe it’s time to turn your attention to the main stats for your characters. These are attributes that generally decide their effectiveness in-game. Most of what matters are self-explanatory; i.e., Maximum HP and DEF (defense) enables your character to tank more damage in case you forgot to dodge, ATK (attack) increases the damage output that the character deals to enemies, and Maximum Stamina determines how much you can dodge and do charged attacks before you’re temporarily disabled from doing so. These and other stats, like critical hit damage, can be easily found in a player’s Character page. Knowledge of what to increase for the right character is the key to overcoming any challenge that stands in your party’s way.

A critical hit is very intuitively displayed on your screen as printed in large, bold numbers (Source: Author)



The Elemental System

After observing everything run-off-the-mill in Genshin Impact as an action-RPG, it gets better as players get to utilize the game’s elemental system. This system is designed around seven elements (Dendro, Pyro, Cryo, Geo, Anemo, Hydro, and Electro) whose interactions are fundamental to combat strategy and even for just exploring the world of Teyvat. At its core, this system focuses on using one element to react with another in order to produce a certain effect.

It is important to know which element synergizes with which, and in turn which character is best suited to a player’s preferences; each character specializes in their own element, tied to their elemental skills and bursts. By now it may seem obvious, but each element is strong against a certain other and, adversely, weak against some. If you find a creature that’s purple, glowing, and has sparks flying in its general vicinity, then you might not want to use characters such as Beidou or Lisa that possess the Electro element.

Did I make myself look like a total noob by hitting Electro with Electro? I did it so you don’t have to. (Source: Author)

However, you should also observe which element is especially strong against another. During some encounters in the game, players can find themselves scuffling against an enemy that is maybe simpler to defeat with a different approach–find a Cryo slime and your sword attacks aren’t too effective? Switch to a Pyro character and watch its defenses get melted down in no time.

We all know Amber, our resident Pyro character–even if she’s not that strong, you can utilize her charged attack to shred through a Cryo slime’s shield (Source: Author)

Take note that you can also use your surroundings to your advantage whenever you’re battling out in the open. The element Dendro, i.e., grass, wooden boxes and shields, are extremely vulnerable to the Pyro element. You can set these elements on fire and cause a unique burning effect that deals damage over time. The way you can interact with the elemental world, manipulating what’s around you and figuring out the best strategy against every encounter, makes for an immersive combat gameplay. And it only gets better with elemental reactions.

Elemental reactions is a mechanic inclusive to Genshin Impact’s core combat system, and is achieved through the combination of elements in quick succession. These specific reactions are eventually fully-introduced to players in the game’s tutorial pop-ups, but to save you some time, we’ve detailed below the elemental reactions that are currently present in Genshin Impact. This way when you’re finally in-game, less reading, more playing, right?

The bible of elemental reactions; take note of the following, however:
Vaporize: Vaporize is a multiplier effect, dealing greater damage if you place Hydro over Pyro (2x Hydro damage). If you place Pyro over Hydro, it will only deal a lesser version of the reaction (1.5x Pyro damage).
Melt: Melt is a multiplier effect, dealing greater damage if you place Pyro over Cryo (2x Pyro damage). If you place Cryo over Pyro, it will only deal a lesser version of the reaction (1.5x Cryo damage).
Superconduct: Causing superconduct will reduce all affected enemies’ Physical defenses by 50%. Additionally, the more opponents hit with the reaction, the stronger the Cryo damage inflicted is.

It takes a while to get used to, but once you’ve familiarized yourself with elemental reactions it becomes second-nature to achieve them soon enough. Not only does this mechanic add more depth to the already-immersive elemental system, but it ensures that players have more room to tinker with in terms of achieving desired playstyles. In addition to all of this, let’s return to a character stat that you may have seen tossed around on artifacts or weapons, and noticed that it did not have a proper explanation. Elemental Mastery is a value directly concerned with elemental reactions. The higher it is, the more amplified the effectivity of each combination is. If you read the fine print, it says that elemental mastery “increases the damage dealt by Swirl, Superconduct, Shattered, Overloaded, Electro-charged, Vaporize, and Melt–while increasing the damage-absorption power of Crystallize shields–by a certain percent (%).” Disregarding Melt and Vaporize, both of which are only multiplier effects, from what value does this percentage actually increase?

What the game doesn’t explicitly tell you is that elemental reaction damage is based off of the level of the character triggering that reaction. By trigger, it is meant that the character is the one applying the second element and subsequently causing an effect. The character or source inflicting the first element of the reaction has no contribution to the damage, aside from being the set-up for the next element. Likewise, it is the only triggering character’s elemental mastery that enhances the reaction.

After Beidou initially inflicts the Electro element, Xiangling swoops in with her Pyro skill in order to inflict an Overloaded reaction that’s purely based off of Xiangling’s level and elemental mastery. (Source: Author)

If we switched it up and started with Xiangling’s Pyro, we wouldn’t be seeing the same Overloaded damage. Beidou, who possesses a lower elemental mastery than my Xiangling, only afflicts 1.4k reaction damage as opposed to the first picture where it did 2.6k. (Source: Author)



Party Setup: A Dynamic Playstyle

Last, but most definitely not the least, is party composition. This mechanic is what makes Genshin Impact’s combat riveting and undoubtedly flexible; there are over a dozen characters assigned with their respective element, their own skills and elemental bursts, as well as talents and weapons that carve their unique identities. In Party Setup, there will be four open slots for a roster, to be filled-in by choice characters available to the player. In action, these characters can freely be switched to and fro, allowing you to have multiple options to approaching encounters. 


With the elemental system in mind, there becomes an added layer of complexity and macro strategy that’s neither overwhelming nor insignificant in this mechanic–each party composition offers something different based on your preferred outcome in the battlefield. Do you want to focus on physical damage? Maybe rake in a Cryo and Electro composition, coupled with a heavy-hitting, claymore-wielder that will take advantage of the defense decrease caused by superconduct. Opting for big bursts of elemental damage? One way to go about it is to place a character such as Kaeya on your team who could inflict consistent Cryo damage, and then switch into a Diluc or Amber for massive Pyro multipliers. 

One more important thing to note that most new players aren’t really informed of off the bat, is a party composition’s Elemental Resonance. This is a roster-wide effect that’s based on the presence of elements in the party, activated upon setting up two characters of the same element.

Before you berate me for unironically using my Amber and ascending her to character-level 50, take a gander at what double-pyro does for my whole team first. (Source: Author)


Combat System: Yay or Nay?

At first glance, Genshin Impact may seem like a simple hack-n’-slash derivative of others of its kind that came before it, with added complexities that may seem bizarre to a new player. However, the more you delve into what is termed as its ‘core combat mechanic,’ the more you can observe how confluent its system is. Everything–elemental system, environmental interaction, team composition–ties together perfectly to create a vast space of freedom for players to construct a “dream team.” While getting more characters proves to be difficult due to the inherent gacha system, if you make use of what you have you can still have fun and pull off lethal combinations–5 stars or not! There is enough allotted agency to mix and match what best suits a player’s preferred style of combat, and in an open-world of opportunities there is no doubt that every encounter can go differently each time. For a gacha game at-heart, Genshin Impact was able to provide a quality combat system that rivals the thrilling action seen with similar action-RPGs, and as such, is impressive on its own. If you’re looking to play alchemist and create reactions while beating up hill goblins at the same time, Genshin Impact might just tickle your fancy. The game is available to play for free on PC, PS4, and mobile Android or iOS.




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