I think part of the reason why I find games like Ghost of Tsushima and Genshin Impact so compelling is that their non-Western settings are a form of personally familiar fantasy. The aesthetic is familiar and yet unfamiliar, and so the games just feel more immersive to me, even in their surrealist beauty. The difference between a Western-made game like Ghost of Tsushima and an Asian-made game like Genshin Impact is immediately obvious, of course. Not just in the names, which make sense for the setting, but also in one detail that any Asian-led fantasy game worth its salt should include: food.
Food is a big part of the game -- as the main way you resurrect and heal characters or buff up for fights. There's a huge menu available to cook, about 40 recipes at the least to master. A lot of the menu is unashamably Chinese, with names like Qingce Stirfry, Jade Parcels, and Adeptus' Temptation (a riff off 佛跳牆). It looks fantastic. It's fun to make, at least for me. You can pick up a celebrity chef, Xiangling, for free in your party, who happens to be the world's version of René Redzepi. Even the kitchens look amazing.
Not to mention the banquets, which happen fairly often as part of the storyline:
Genshin Impact is free to play, but it's a gacha game -- a game that's sort of like gambling, where you have to spend in-game currency on a "Wish" lootbox system to try and get the better characters and items. You don't have to in order to progress: the game is fine in its free form, and you do accumulate enough of the in-game currency to do some rolls now and then. So far I've only paid $8AUD for the monthly blessing, which gives you a little of the currency everyday, but the game would've been fine even free, as long as you're willing to just play it slowly and log in 1-2 times a day.
The way the game is set up is rather predatory if you desperately want to have certain characters (you'd have to pay hundreds of $ to get specific characters under events if your luck with rolls is bad). However if you're just playing the game for fun and are happy to trust to luck / take your time playing, given the amount of content you get, I'd give the game a shot. It's incredibly beautiful. It is a grind, especially where I am (AR30+), but you'd get to explore its vast, fantastically gorgeous world at that point.
My only real gripe with the character design is about the same as a lot of these kinds of games -- seriously, why is boob physics still a thing? Watching my Ningguang's chest section bob and weave like two alien glob creatures trying to yeet their way out of her torso feraks me out every time I see it. That should not be possible in a cheongsam. Or with any kind of nonmagical bra. Do a certain branch of gamers seriously find this kind of thing hot? Boobs do not move like that.
tldr: This game, for all its controversy, is fun, free, and while a hell of a grind, is worth a try if you're not prone to falling into the gacha gambling mechanic. It's definitely tanked my Nanowrimo this year.
Things I Wrote
We Are Still Here • Shoreline of Infinity • [ Buy ] • A story about life after radical climate change, collective adaptation, mer-creatures, and the nature of self-isolation and its effects. Bit of a love letter to Changi Airport's new Jewel section.
Umami • Fantasy Magazine • [ Buy ] • Did not think it would be possible to get into Fantasy Magazine, especially on a first attempt, but this weird story about sacrifice, xiaolongbao, creatures being eaten to extinction, and celebrity chefs somehow made it in. I loved writing this story and hope you enjoy it just as much. Try xiaolongbao! You might be able to find a Din Tai Fung near you. If you're in Melbourne, there's also Hutong.
Things I'm Watching
If you loved the Untamed, the author's first three books actually have donghua seasons out. The latest to get the donghua treatment is 天官赐福 (TGCF), which is available to watch for free over on Bilibili. The animation is beautiful. As to the book, it's probably the least favourite for me of her set, but I don't read much xianxia, so I don't get a lot of the in-jokes. To turn off the stream of comments, move the little blue slider next to the view count under the progress/play bar.
Things I'm Reading
I'm in the middle of working my way through the extremely thick Obama book, The Promised Land, but last month I read:
P. Djèlí Clark | Ring Shout | A tightly-paced, highly entertaining novella about the KKK being demonic were-monsters, and the slayers who have to deal with them. Loved this book, a cathartic read.
Various | After Australia | An anthology of stories edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, exploring themes of climate catastrophe, genocide, totalitarian rule, police brutality and more. Fantastic read, with many great stories, including one by Claire G. Coleman.
Kwame Mbalia | Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky | Entertaining YA book about stories within stories.
Sarah Raughley | Fate of Flames | Very much Buffy the Vampire Slayer with magical elemental powers, worth a read especially if you love that genre of magic girl anime.
Charles Yu | Interior Chinatown | Loved this difficult to read, satirical, depressing, funny, and poignant book from Charles Yu, very much an experimental novel set within a world written like a movie script.
A Final Note
I love, love Liyue Harbour.