Everything We Learned From Genshin Impact’s Version 3.3 Special Program

My fellow Ittorou shippers, our time has finally come.

What’s that? You thought I’d start off by talking about the long-awaited gameplay preview for Scaramouche, who graces the thumbnail of the Genshin Impact Version 3.3 trailer (above)? Well, if it’s commentary on Scaramouche’s redesign and unique gameplay mechanics that you’re looking for, allow me to redirect you to a post from earlier this month where I went over most of the information that was only officially revealed in yesterday’s Special Program, including what I would consider to be a far more concise description of his Elemental Skill than what was offered on the livestream, which got a little bogged-down with ornate names for everything under the sun. Seeing as that post has not yet been outdated by any new information from the game developers, there’s actually not too much more to say about Scaramouche – I mean, besides the fact that he’s getting his own Archon Quest, apparently. Don’t worry, we’ll go over all the details in due time.

Arataki Itto in Genshin Impact
Arataki Itto

But first thing’s first, and the thing in question is Ittorou – which I suppose is its own kind of ornate term, so let me explain. “Ittorou” is the nickname for a popular queer ship in the Genshin Impact fandom that involves the characters of Arataki Itto and Gorou. The one is a Geo on-field Main DPS, the other a designated Geo support, and they are apparently both at their best when played alongside each other (I wouldn’t know, having never gotten my hands on a copy of Gorou, despite him theoretically being the easier of the two to obtain as a four-star character). They debuted simultaneously in December 2021, and Gorou has only ever received a drop-rate boost on Itto’s limited-time banners; in fact, he is likely to reappear on a banner next month when Itto gets his second rerun. Yet despite their obvious synergy, they’ve never interacted onscreen.

Until now, that is. For the main Event of Version 3.3, Akitsu Kimodameshi, characters from all over Inazuma have been invited to participate in a “test of courage” organized by the Yashiro Commission…and the trailer confirms that Itto, Gorou, Heizou and Yoimiya are amongst the champions hoping to venture into Chinju Forest on Narukami Island, where malevolent spirits roam under the cover of eternal darkness, and come out the other side unscathed both physically and mentally. Now, as much as I hate to see my favorite characters suffer, just think of the potential interactions we could see – Itto cowering behind Gorou at every strange sound, Gorou leaping into Itto’s arms in a moment of weakness, Gorou’s fur bristling and Itto trying to comfort him by patting his head like a dog. Even though we know damn well that MiHoYo has no intention to put any of its characters, straight or queer, in canonical relationships, they’re giving me what I want, which is a canonical basis for the very much non-canonical fanfic I intend to consume in massive quantities after the Event.

And to be fair, despite never having interacted with each other previously, Itto and Gorou are already about as blatantly queer-coded as the male characters in Genshin Impact can get (it’s a very different situation for female characters: although they’re just as unlikely to ever state that they’re queer, it’s no secret that Jean and Lisa, Ningguang and Beidou, and Ei and Yae Miko are more than just extremely close friends). The reason fans started shipping Ittorou in the first place is because Itto has a voice-line where he talks about the warm, fuzzy feeling that he gets around Gorou, and also because he has a massive crush on Gorou’s alter ego, the advice columnist “Ms. Hina”, who is depicted on posters and standees as Gorou wearing a dress. But we still don’t know how Gorou feels about Itto, so this new Event is sure to be very illuminating in that regard.

As an additional incentive for participating, one of the limited-time rewards obtainable through the Akitsu Kimodameshi Event is a new weapon named the Toukabou Shigure, technically classified as a sword but more closely resembling an umbrella with a claw-like handle, a leering mouth, and a single eye. The weapon’s distinctive design is based on depictions of the Kasa-obake, a type of yōkai or demon, found in Japanese art and literature dating back to the Edo period. And looking at the amount of research that went into this one weapon, I can’t help but again be reminded of the stark difference between how MiHoYo lovingly takes inspiration from Japanese culture when expanding the region of Inazuma and its accompanying lore, and how they grabbed a bunch of random, orientalist stereotypes of Southwest Asia and North Africa when it came time to do the same for Sumeru.

Kaeya in Chinju Forest posing with a Tanuki, in Genshin Impact
Kaeya posing with a Tanuki in Chinju Forest

In fact, despite the region still being fairly new, Sumeru and its roster of characters are already being neglected by MiHoYo in favor of Inazuma, Liyue, and Mondstadt, with only one Sumeru-based Event announced for Version 3.3 and no Hang-out Event for the new four-star character, Faruzan, whom I was excited to learn more about after it was revealed during the Special Program that she’s over a hundred years old and knows a great deal of lore pertaining to Sumeru’s desert-dwelling ancient civilization, having spent decades trapped in the ruins beneath the desert. Unfortunately, it’s possible we won’t see or hear from Faruzan until some random side-quest or Event brings us back to the desert, and that could take a while. She was not mentioned in association with Misty Dungeon, a popular Event that will return in Version 3.3 with a desert theme.

Cyno posing in the desert of Sumeru, in Genshin Impact
Cyno in the deserts of Sumeru

Misty Dungeon first appeared in the spring of 2021 under the title Battlefront: Misty Dungeon, and was so popular it was brought back later that same year as Misty Dungeon: Realm Of Light. This year’s reskinned version of the Event is titled Misty Dungeon: Realm Of Sand, and will take place in Sumeru, but it will still follow the same general concept, requiring players to move through a labyrinth, completing puzzles and timed challenges until they unlock an encounter with a final boss. And it won’t be the only fan-favorite Event making a comeback in Version 3.3 – Windtrace, Genshin Impact‘s version of hide-and-seek for co-op mode, will also be returning with some cool new perks for both hiders and seekers, including giving players the ability to continue participating in the game even after being captured.

And if you don’t share in the nostalgia for Misty Dungeon and Windtrace, well, Genshin Impact has got you covered with Across The Wilderness, a brand-new Event where players run around rooftops capturing balloons. From the description and preview, it looks relatively stress-free, but there’s no doubt that having multiple Anemo characters like Venti, Xiao, Kazuha, and Scaramouche on your team will give you a literal boost while running, jumping, and climbing (if you needed any more reasons to pull for Scaramouche, he’s about to make exploration in this game ridiculously easy).

On that note, I guess it’s time we talked about Scaramouche’s Archon Quest: Interlude, which presumably picks up right where the final chapter of the Sumeru Archon Quest left off, with Scaramouche hidden away at the Sumeru Akademiya in the care of the Dendro Archon and making a full recovery from the traumatic head injury he sustained after falling from the cockpit of his giant robotic exoskeleton (long story). But of all things, an Akademiya inquiry into the events on the island of Tatarasuna leads the Traveler back to Scaramouche and forces the former Fatui Harbinger to begrudgingly sift through his scattered memories and construct a full account of what happened there roughly four-hundred years ago.

Scaramouche getting an Archon Quest in place of a Story Quest is interesting because Archon Quests aren’t optional, so whatever dark secrets are contained in Scaramouche’s backstory, MiHoYo wants us all to know this stuff. The only other characters in the game with that level of personal significance to the overarching storyline, besides the literal Archons of each region, are…honestly, maybe only Dainsleif and Kaeya, and they’re both so integral to the story of Khaenri’ah and its destruction that they literally can’t appear for too long or one of them will inadvertently spoil the game’s ending. I pray that we get a little more time with Scaramouche before he’s put in a similarly awkward position.

Genshin Impact Genius Invokation TCG gameplay
Genius Invokation TCG | pcgamesn.com

One more thing before we finish up here: new, completely optional permanent gameplay is coming to Genshin Impact in Version 3.3, in the form of an animated card game named Genius Invokation TCG, but for the time being there are no plans to offer rewards or allow players to track their progress in the game, and it’s subsequently unclear how MiHoYo intends to keep players from growing bored of this after the novelty of challenging friends and random NPCs to duels wears off, as I’m sure it will sooner rather than later. Until I sit down and actually read the rules, my first impressions of Genius Invokation TCG are neutral. Admittedly, I’m a little bitter about the absence of Itto – he literally plays Genius Invokation TCG! How is he not featured on a character card? – but the art and animations are the only things catching my eye in the gameplay preview.

Anyway, what did you think of the Version 3.3 Special Program? Will you be spending your hard-earned Primogems on Scaramouche’s banner, or waiting for another character? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Genshin Impact Finally Revealed All 11 Fatui Harbingers – And They’re Beautiful

We’ll probably never know if MiHoYo, anticipating backlash to the first official look at the three new playable characters coming to Genshin Impact in Version 3.0, revealed the identities of the game’s mysterious villains, the eleven Fatui Harbingers, as a distraction – something to keep the fans content, by feeding them hollow promises of more varied and interesting character designs in the far-off future while in the here and now, the game developers couldn’t even be bothered to experiment with different skin-tones for new playable characters, much less designing entirely new character models. But there can be no doubt that, whether by design or by coincidence, the distraction worked.

Genshin Impact
Fatui Harbingers | progameguides.com

In a new Teyvat Chapter Interlude Teaser titled “A Winter Night’s Lazzo”, nine of the ten remaining Fatui Harbingers gather in Snezhnaya to mourn the recent loss of their troupe’s eleventh member, La Signora, and to bury what little remains of her. But the solemn evening quickly devolves into chaos as the Harbingers begin hurling insults at each other from opposite sides of La Signora’s coffin, until only an intervention by the mysterious Pierro, first and foremost of the Harbingers, can put an end to their little lazzo.

For those unfamiliar with the now somewhat archaic Italian term, a lazzo is any short comedic routine in the Commedia dell’arte, typically improvised by its performers to smooth transitions between scenes or recapture an audience’s waning interest. The Commedia dell’arte were comedic or satirical plays performed by wandering troupes of actors that originated in Italy sometime in the 16th Century and later became popular across southern Europe (until they were outlawed by Napoleon in 1797) – these plays always involved the same stock characters with exaggerated personality traits, outlandish outfits and grotesque masks, but the plots would change around them depending on the audience a troupe was catering to at any given moment.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Harbingers have each adopted or been assigned the name of a stock character from the Commedia dell’arte, and they each share a handful of similarities with their Commedia counterpart – although there are key differences worth mentioning as we work our way through the Harbingers in order of appearance. But first, a little background on how the Harbingers came to be: don’t be impatient, this part’s not very long, anyway.

The only thing we can say with absolute certainty regarding the Harbingers’ origins is that they were formed shortly after the Cataclysm (the destruction of the nation of Khaenri’ah and the systematic genocide of its people by Celestia, or by Archons responding to Celestia), and that their founding member was a survivor of the Cataclysm known only by the Commedia alias he took when he first established the Harbingers – Pierro, the Jester. In the roughly five-hundred years since the Cataclysm occurred, Pierro has recruited ten new members (that we know of), and each one seems to harbor a grudge against a particular god, or just against gods in general.

Rosalyne, who became known as La Signora after joining the Harbingers, hated the Anemo Archon Barbatos because he was nowhere to be found when she prayed to him for help during the Cataclysm. Kunikuzushi, or Scaramouche as he was later known, was designed to be a container for the Raiden Shogun’s Electro Gnosis – but she deemed him unfit for the task and discarded him, leaving him to wander the earth aimlessly for centuries until he found the Harbingers. As for Ajax, later Tartaglia…well, I don’t really know what his deal was, but after falling into the Abyss at the age of fourteen and having to battle his way out I wouldn’t blame him for hating the gods just because.

Genshin Impact
La Signora | pockettactics.com

But gods can hold grudges too. At some point, Pierro aligned himself with the nameless Cryo Archon of Snezhnaya, who – despite being a god herself – was also angry at Celestia. We still don’t know why (although it’s been postulated that perhaps the Cryo Archon regrets the role she played in Khaenri’ah’s destruction, as she seems to have been a gentle goddess before the Cataclysm) and we don’t know whether Pierro is actually loyal to her or whether he’s been exploiting her guilt to get what he wants out of the arrangement. It’s telling that Pierro is playing chess with the Gnoses collected from the Anemo and Geo Archons at the beginning of the teaser, indicating that he hasn’t handed them over to the Cryo Archon despite taking them in her name.

Speaking of chess, I know for a fact that I was not the only one who gasped out loud when I saw the Anemo and Geo Gnoses on Pierro’s chessboard, standing in for the white queen and remaining white rook, respectively. The Genshin Impact “chess theory”, which has been around for a while now, has always hinged on the idea that the Archons correspond to specific chess pieces represented by the design of their Gnoses, but this outright confirms it: the Archons – or at the very least their Gnoses – are the pieces that Celestia has been using to protect themselves, but based on the layout of this board time is running out for them and the Fatui would have to make a grievous error for the gods to take back control of the game.

Mind you, we don’t know for sure that this chessboard represents the current state of affairs in Teyvat or if this is just one of many scenarios envisioned by Pierro for how the war could proceed, but the fallen black pawn certainly seems to stands in for La Signora, which means the white knight that took it off the board presumably represents Raiden Shogun, the Electro Archon whose Gnosis is still in the hands of the rogue Harbinger, Scaramouche. Pierro, however, is playing as white (I assume he’s gauging what his enemy will do next), and white is losing badly – at least according to people more knowledgeable about chess than me. I’m starting to regret having never finished The Queen’s Gambit

Speaking of queens, which piece on this board represents the Cryo Archon, and why doesn’t Pierro have her Gnosis in his possession? That’s very interesting to me. The Cryo Archon’s Gnosis should be the easiest for Pierro to obtain, but if he doesn’t have it does that mean she’s still somewhat distrustful of him even now? And who here represents the Traveler, and their twin sibling? If Celestia is white, what happened to both of their bishops, their other knight, and their other rook – or is Pierro leaving those pieces off the board because he hasn’t obtained the equivalent Gnoses yet? Is Pierro himself the black king, black queen, or neither? Are we overanalyzing all of this?

Anyway…I mentioned that La Signora is the fallen black pawn in this scenario, and that’s largely because a red moth symbolizing her lands on the pawn. Later, near the very end of the teaser, it alights on the stone lid of her coffin and bursts into flame. Because this is Genshin Impact we’re talking about here, we can’t be 100% certain that La Signora is dead. I mean, she’s definitely dead, but if a little bit of her consciousness was able to stay alive in a moth long enough to fly all the way from Inazuma to Snezhnaya, there’s no saying that other moths carrying fragments of her being couldn’t have escaped to various far-flung corners of Teyvat, where they’re just waiting for us to piece them back together and reconstruct Rosalyne.

Genshin Impact
Pierro’s chessboard | oneesports.gg

But for the moment, she’s dead – and for her sake, I hope that her little moth fragments can’t hear what her so-called comrades are saying about her over her literal dead body, because it’s appalling. The only Harbinger in mourning is Columbina, the Damselette, a young woman with what looks like a biblically-accurate angel strapped to the back of her head. Columbina (or Colombina, which translates to “little dove” in Italian) is arguably the most prominent of the female characters in the Commedia dell’arte due to the frequency with which she appears and her close relationships with other characters – she is Pierro’s adulterous wife, Arlecchino’s flighty lover or best friend, the Innamorata’s gossipy confidante and the object of Pantalone’s desires. It makes sense that her Fatui counterpart would be the only character close enough to La Signora while she was alive to even shed a tear for her now that she’s dead.

By contrast, the Harbinger Pulcinella declares loudly that he thinks half a day is all the time needed for Snezhnaya’s citizens to mourn La Signora before getting back to work, with a callousness in his voice that surprises even Pantalone and Arlecchino, who are both equally appalling in their own ways.  But if you know anything about the Pulcinella of the Commedia dell’arte, you probably know this much: that he cares about no one but himself. He takes no course of action that is not guaranteed to benefit him, and even when he misjudges a situation or is deceived and led into a trap by his enemies, he still somehow manages to come out on top in the end because he is extraordinarily lucky. The Fatui’s Pulcinella is referred to as “Mayor”, and I have no doubt that he weaseled his way into a position of power by the same means his Commedia counterpart would employ – bribery and deceit.

Before we move on, I want to take a moment to appreciate Pulcinella’s nose. Genshin Impact‘s characters are typically designed in such a way that their noses are almost invisible, but Pulcinella’s not only dominates his face, it dominates the entire space directly in front of him – it’s extremely long and pointy, extending far out beyond his bushy white mustache. We can safely assume this is a reference to the rooster, the bird from which Pulcinella’s name is supposedly derived, and to the long-nosed mask worn by Pulcinella in the Commedia. It hasn’t made him very popular with the Genshin Impact community, sadly, but if there’s any justice in this world, Pulcinella will one day be a terrific five-star unit – just you wait.

If Pulcinella is remarkably alike to his Commedia counterpart, however, than Pantalone is surely the furthest removed. Gone is the skinny old man dressed in tight, brightly-colored trousers and a comically large codpiece, his face hidden behind a half-mask with exaggerated wrinkles – in his place now stands a tall, broad-shouldered, bespectacled man of indeterminate age sporting a tumbling mane of luxurious raven hair and a permanent smirk. It’s only when he opens his mouth that he betrays his true identity, because just like the Pantalone of the Commedia dell’arte, this Harbinger can’t string together a sentence without slipping in a boast about his wealth.

There’s still a difference in their delivery, because whereas Commedia Pantalone is deeply insecure about himself and therefore boasts loudly to ensure his listeners know he’s still richer than they’ll ever be, Genshin Impact‘s Pantalone seems to be content, and thus his boasts are so subtle they might fly over a listener’s head entirely, only to circle back around later like one of those insults that our brains don’t register as insults at first. In short, he’s everything that Commedia Pantalone desperately wishes he were, but could never be.

I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll meet Pantalone in-person shortly before Version 4.0, probably as part of an Event Quest involving Yelan or in a second chapter of Yelan’s Story Quest, Umbrabilis Orchis. The two characters have already been established as archenemies, with Yelan’s character profile revealing that the Harbinger once stole an heirloom belonging to her family – so as payback she snuck into a Fatui camp, stole a priceless fur-coat that Pantalone had intended to present to the Cryo Archon as a gift, tailored it to fit her, and now wears it around all the time. I also firmly believe that every Harbinger has a nemesis amongst the cast of playable characters who will one day either face them in battle or convince them to turn their back on the Fatui.

Genshin Impact
Pulcinella | Twitter @dailypulcinella

And on that note, let’s move on to Arlecchino – because in my research for this post, I came across this theory by Reddit user u/catcul7 linking the Fatui Harbinger to the character of Eula, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. I’d call it a coincidence that the two women look remarkably similar if not for the fact that Eula’s family, the Lawrence Clan of Mondstadt, is known to have ties to the Fatui and at one point was even plotting to overthrow the Acting Grand Master of the Knights of Favonius with their help. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since we last had the chance to sit down with Eula and chat about her family, so here’s hoping she pops up randomly in an Event Quest sometime soon.

Arlecchino in the Commedia is a little bit of everything rolled into one character and stuffed in a checkered costume. He can be the trickster, the fool, the romantic lead, the master of physical comedy – and he can be all of these things separately, or simultaneously, depending on what will hold the audience’s interest at any given moment. The person playing Arlecchino needed to be able to quickly determine what that might be, and to improvise accordingly – sometimes even requiring the entire play to change course and follow after him. He is an agent of chaos, and there’s really no telling what he’ll do because even he doesn’t always know for sure.

That said, there’s only so many different routes you can take a character after two centuries of Commedia dell’arte performances, and certain patterns in Arlecchino’s behavior began to emerge – he was frequently the rival of Pierro, and the lover of Columbina (among countless other women, but Columbina was always his one true love). With Genshin Impact deliberately casting a woman in the role of Arlecchino, they’re teasing the kind of queer representation that fans have pleaded for in the past and never received, and there’s nothing to suggest this will be any different. Arlecchino and Columbina will have flirty voice-lines about one another, they’ll talk about each other in their birthday messages to us, their character arcs will intertwine and they’ll be inseparable in every event where they’re together…and their relationship will linger in that state of nearly-but-not-quite canon forever.

Next up, we have Tartaglia – but players will have already met him during the Liyue Archon Quest and might even have him in their party already, so I’ll just run through the basics real quick before moving along. Tartaglia is a fairly minor character in the Commedia dell’arte, just as he is the weakest of the Fatui Harbingers in Genshin Impact, and both are subjected to constant ridicule. The similarities end there. Tartaglia in the Commedia is typically a civil servant who stumbles through long speeches and “often will find himself stuck on the most obscene syllable in any given word”. Tartaglia the Harbinger is a friend and ally of the Traveler, but nonetheless remains devoted to the Cryo Archon and is currently hunting Scaramouche with the intention of recovering the Electro Gnosis in her name.

His attempts to capture Scaramouche have proved unsuccessful, and the other Harbingers need no further excuse to pile on the insults, with Sandrone remarking that he is “utterly risible”. Sandrone, typically depicted as a peasant from the Italian city of Modena with wooden puppets for a wife and son, has been reinvented as a small girl who uses Khaenri’ahn Ruin Machines as her playthings and servants, earning her the title of “Marionette” from her fellow Harbingers. Now, we know for a fact that Tartaglia is the youngest of the Harbingers, so despite her childish appearance, Sandrone must be older than him – and there’s a strong chance that even this child we think is Sandrone being carried around in the massive hand of a Ruin Machine (dressed rather handsomely, I must admit, in a top hat and ruffled collar) is actually a puppet speaking with the real Sandrone’s voice.

Genshin Impact
Il Capitano and Sandrone | Twitter @sandrone_fatui

Who knows, maybe the real Sandrone is one of those Russian nesting dolls – maybe we’ll never find her, we’ll just keep finding dolls inside of dolls inside of dolls inside of yet more dolls, until our minds fracture and reality crumbles around us and we begin to question whether there ever was a Sandrone to begin with, or whether this is all an elaborate prank. I’m just throwing out ideas here, but it could be cool in a trippy, existential-crisis inducing kind of way.

Then we have Il Capitano, the great military strategist responsible for leading the Fatui to their recent victories in…uh, somewhere we obviously haven’t been yet! The Harbinger talks a big talk for someone we’ve never once seen at the frontlines during any of our frequent battles or skirmishes with the Fatui – trust me, I would remember a seven-foot tall man with no visible face behind an iron mask. And what’s up with that, anyway? Is he hiding his face, or the fact that he’s not even in the suit of armor? That would track with what we know about Il Capitano from the Commedia dell’arte, which is that he’s almost always depicted as a coward who pretends to be a decorated war veteran in the hope that women will find him more attractive.

It’s still very early in the game, but I suspect that Capitano will play a significant role in Natlan (so probably around Version 5.0 and onwards), when we meet the Pyro Archon who has modeled her nation around the ideal of War. And until Capitano’s true identity is actually revealed, I’m gonna cling to my headcanon that he’s somehow associated with Natlan because I need Genshin Impact to finally acknowledge that Natlan actually exists. We’re two years into this game and we haven’t even met any NPCs from Natlan. I worry that there’s a correlation between that and the fact that we know of exactly one playable character from Natlan, who happens to be darker-skinned than the majority of the cast…but I’m also steeling myself for the inevitable reveal that the rest of Natlan’s playable characters are either light-skinned or white.

That was a bit of a tangent, but maybe not given that our next character is Il Dottore, and he’s the Harbinger we’re almost sure to meet in Sumeru when Version 3.0 releases just about a month from now. If I ignore everything about Sumeru that infuriates me to no end, like the white playable characters dressed in orientalist parodies of Southwest Asian clothing, I could maybe get excited for those interactions because Il Dottore is a character we’ve been waiting a long time to see (he first appeared in the Genshin Impact manga, albeit in a very different form), and he’s blessed with a phenomenal English voice actor (whose identity has not yet been revealed, as of this writing).

In the Commedia dell’arte, Dottore is a doctor – usually a very bad one, whose methods range from humorous to horrific. But because he went to university (or at least, so he claims), he regards himself as the foremost authority on every subject and often spouts utter nonsense to make himself sound smart. He is the rival of Pantalone, and in stories that revolve around the Lovers these two are usually the fathers of the male and female love interest, respectively. In Genshin Impact, Dottore studied at the prestigious Sumeru Academiya to become a doctor, but only avoided being expelled because he became very good at hiding the evidence of his abhorrent experiments on unwilling human test subjects. Yikes.

Genshin Impact
Il Dottore | Twitter @haithamhour

Based on an exchange between Columbina and Dottore later in the teaser, where the Damselette asks after one of the Doctor’s other “Segments”, specifically “the Segment in the prime of his life”, it sounds like the Doctor was able to successfully clone his younger self for posterity’s sake. Whichever Segment is actually present at La Signora’s funeral is presumably the most senior of them all, but he clearly has a great deal of faith in his younger self, because as he says to Columbina, he’s assigned him a task; some vague “experiment in blasphemy” that involves a burning tree somewhere. I’m guessing it’s somewhere in Sumeru, because from there we immediately cut to Collei, one of the new playable characters from Sumeru, waking up in a fright after a terrible dream.

Collei, another character introduced in the manga, was one of ll Dottore’s test subjects who narrowly escaped from his laboratory after being pumped full of Archon Residue to see if her body could contain the raw powers of a god. I don’t know whether everything that happened in the manga is still canon (Dottore, for instance, now wears the distinctive one-third mask of his Commedia counterpart, and his hair is longer, wavier, and a slightly paler shade of green than it once was), but I doubt there have been too many changes on that front. Collei is obviously the prime candidate for the role of Dottore’s archenemy, but there’s a strong case to be made for Dottore himself being his own archenemy.

In other words, at least one of Dottore’s younger Segments has probably had a lot of time to think things over and maybe they’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t actually want to be the person they know for a fact they’ll become if they continue down the path they took the first time around. I’m not saying this will definitely happen, but if Dottore is going to be a playable character someday (and he’s rumored to be, as are most of the Harbingers), I just hope people know that his playable version is probably not going to be the one whose hobbies include murdering children. The playable version of Dottore might have contemplated murdering children, but I highly doubt he’ll have gone ahead with it.

The first of the Fatui Harbingers is also the last to step out of the shadows and into the light – but Pierro seems oblivious to the theatricality of his own delayed entrance, and commands his minions to stop playing their parts so he can deliver a booming monologue about seizing authority from the gods and burning away the old world. That’s the thing about Pierro; he’s never in on the joke. In the Commedia, he’s most frequently depicted as a naïve and gentle-natured clown who is hopelessly with Columbina, although she will never notice him. When he tries to help his friends, they dismiss his advice and ignore his warnings. When he tries to take matters into his own hands, accidents ensue and he is shamed and laughed at by his castmates and the audience.

So for this man – whoever he may truly be – to go around calling himself Pierro and embracing the identity of the Jester (although not the outfit), well, that takes either remarkable courage or an equally remarkable lack of self-awareness on his part, and I have a feeling we won’t know which it is until we finally confront the guy…which probably won’t be for several years, but in the meantime I guess we can speculate about what he’s hiding behind that antlered mask that only covers the right half of his face. It’s a variation on the eyepatches that Kaeya and Dainsleif wear over their right eyes, which is notable because all three of these characters are originally from Khaenri’ah and we have reason to believe that their right eyes either contain esoteric secrets or somehow are esoteric secrets in and of themselves.

Genshin Impact
Pierro | oneesports.gg

It’s complicated. But basically, eyes are a big part of Genshin Impact‘s lore, and it’s very rarely a coincidence when two or more characters have similar eyes. There are already theories floating around that Pierro is Kaeya’s father, or Dainsleif’s father, or both their fathers, or perhaps their grandfather, and honestly…all of those sound plausible. It would be one thing if their left eyes weren’t all identical, but they all share ice-blue eyes with diamond-shaped pupils, and I refuse to believe that’s not intentional. The only problem is that even if it is, we still don’t know what it means or why it’s significant (Genshin lore is like that, though).

But now that we’ve made it through all eleven Harbingers (excluding La Signora and Scaramouche, because one’s dead and the other one wasn’t in the teaser so there’s nothing new to say about him), it’s time for you to tell me which of the newly revealed Harbingers is your personal favorite, and when you expect to see them in-person. Feel free to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Everything We Learned From Genshin Impact’s Eventful Version 2.8 Livestream

The Genshin Impact Version 2.8 livestream will be remembered by viewers for exactly two reasons – firstly, because it finally gave us a teaser trailer for the upcoming region of Sumeru, and secondly, because the official English livestream abruptly stopped and rewound itself precisely two seconds after said teaser trailer began playing (after numerous instances of that same problem occurring earlier in the stream), then went offline entirely before the trailer could finish, forcing viewers to hop on social media and find the video elsewhere. Coming after a string of leaks related to Sumeru that have left Genshin Impact‘s fanbase reeling, the lagging livestream and botched trailer release can only be interpreted as an ill portent for the near future.

Genshin Impact
Sumeru | Twitter @genshinmains

So…what did we learn? Genshin Impact‘s livestreams serve as previews for upcoming patches, highlighting new characters, events, features, and the 2.8 livestream was no different, although I felt that there were fewer announcements and new details regarding each of the aforementioned aspects of the game than usual – perhaps because so much has been leaked already, but even the fact that there were no small QoL (quality-of-life) updates came as a bit of a surprise, and not a welcome one, either. Honestly, even with the lag, we still got a better look at Sumeru (releasing in Version 3.0) than the Golden Apple Archipelago, which will be returning in Version 2.8 as a temporarily explorable region for the first time since Version 1.6, accompanied by a bunch of cleverly-designed minigames. You’d think that would be a bigger deal than the livestream made it out to be.

Based on the snippets of gameplay we saw, I think the minigame I’m most excited for is Reminiscent Regimen, a co-op event where two (or more? I think just two) players can participate in unique combat challenges involving boats and wind-currents, all in the middle of the ocean. At the start of one particularly intriguing challenge, players find themselves on a floating platform high up in the air and must descend towards the surface of the ocean through a process of gliding and eliminating enemies on platforms. Plunge-attacks will probably come in handy here; just make sure that you’re actually lined up with the platform before plummeting into the water and getting stuck down there while your friend(s) complete the challenge without you.

Then there are the Event Domains, which are specifically tailored to match the personalities of the four playable characters who will feature prominently in the Version 2.8 storyline – Fischl, an imaginative cosplayer of the Adventurers Guild’s Mondstadt branch; Mona Magistus, a penniless astrologist of unknown origins, but believed to be from the upcoming region of Fontaine; Xinyan, a Liyue-born pioneer of rock-n’-roll music who also, coincidentally, spent time in Fontaine learning the guitar; and Kaedehara Kazuha, a wandering swordsman and poet exiled from his homeland of Inazuma. It’s a well-traveled group we have here, and we can see that reflected in their respective Domains, which range from eerie to downright trippy.

Fischl’s is by far the largest and most elaborate, at least from what we can see. Her Domain houses an entire castle with stacks of circular turrets like chimney-pots, steep walls lined with windows, and lovely gardens, hedge-mazes, and fountains. It’s clearly inspired by Neuschwanstein and other fairytale castles of Bavaria, the region of southern Germany on which Mondstadt is based (although funnily enough, we have yet to see any castles like it in Mondstadt proper). There’s a twist, of course, because Fischl isn’t just a princess, she’s also an interdimensional traveler, and so the castle is upside-down and suspended in mid-air, with various pieces standing right-side up and other bits jutting out horizontally. The purple-hued sky above is shattered, exposing a gaping black hole directly above the castle. Fun.

Genshin Impact
Fischl’s Domain | Twitter @genshinmains

But as a Xinyan main, I’m particularly excited to explore her Domain as many times as Genshin Impact will allow me if it means I’ll get to learn more about one of my favorite characters who has been sadly underutilized by MiHoYo (probably because she’s one of exactly two brown-skinned playable characters, and burdened with a poorly-designed kit). Apparently, these Domains all have lore attached to them, which I think we can definitely see with Mona (whose Domain is filled with glowing stars, astrological symbols etched on the floor and walls, and cosmic panoramas visible through the windows) and Kazuha (whose Domain is a darkly-lit Inazuman mansion with creaky wooden floors built around an atrium with a large tree), so I hope there’s a good reason for why Xinyan’s Domain is all thorny vines, rope-bridges, and weird floating doorframes opening onto nothing.

Unfortunately, neither Xinyan nor Fischl is set to receive their own Hangout Event in 2.8, but players will get a chance to interact with the new playable character Shikanoin Heizou in a Hangout Event titled Trap ‘Em By Storm, presumably referencing Heizou’s use of the Anemo Element and the fact that we’ll inevitably be helping the world-famous detective from the Tenryou Commission as he goes around Inazuma City solving petty crimes (which, on the one hand, means Itto and the Arataki Gang might be involved…but on the other hand, it means Kujou Sara will definitely be involved and I don’t know if I can stomach having to cooperate with her).

As for Heizou’s kit, I think everything we suspected about him has turned out to be true. He’s Genshin Impact’s first male catalyst user – and MiHoYo even invented a whole new playstyle exclusively for him. Instead of standing still and using his catalyst to hurl fireballs or ball-lightning or some similar projective at an opponent from a short distance, the way all of the female catalyst-users do, Heizou can get right up in an enemy’s face and hit them repeatedly with his fists and feet, infusing his punches and kicks with Anemo energy that activates the Swirl reaction when it comes into contact with Pyro, Hydro, Electro, and Cryo. We love to see it, we really do, but I can’t help but wonder when MiHoYo will give us a female catalyst-users who can do the same – or if they’ll ever give us a more graceful and serene male-catalyst-user.

Heizou will have an increased drop-rate on the first event banner of Version 2.8, during which players will also have a shot at obtaining Kazuha, one of the strongest five-star characters in the game. To go along with his first rerun since his debut just over a year ago, Kazuha is also finally getting a Story Quest centered around him – titled Acer Palmatum, which if you’re wondering is the Latin name of the Japanese maple tree (the same tree we see growing in his Domain).

MiHoYo released a couple of screenshots from the Story Quest during the livestream, of which the most interesting (and potentially concerning) shows Kazuha with glowing purple eyes, using a hammer infused with Anemo energy to forge a sword. Kazuha is the descendant of renowned Inazuman swordsmiths who just barely escaped slaughter at the hands of the Raiden Shogun’s homicidal puppet (long story), and I believe that we’ll learn a lot more about his family and their secret practices, along with lore related to Kazuha’s nameless friend who died in a one-sided duel with the Raiden Shogun herself before the story opens, and whose reforged sword this appears to be (does that mean Kazuha’s nameless friend will finally…get an actual name? The fandom has been calling him “Tomo” – short for tomodachi, or friend in Japanese – for so long that I don’t know if they’ll accept a new name at this point).

Moving on, both Klee and Yoimiya will apparently rerun alongside each other during the latter half of Version 2.8 – and both characters have their fans, although I can’t say that my love for Yoimiya is strong enough that I’m willing to spend all my hard-earned Primogems on her. I got Arataki Itto on his rerun, that’s enough new five-star characters for me until at least Version 3.2, when Scaramouche (the Raiden Shogun’s aforementioned homicidal puppet) is rumored to become playable. I’m exhausted, but good luck to everyone trying to pull five-stars in 2.8.

You’ll also have the option to purchase the game’s very first five-star outfit in 2.8, although you’ll first need to get your hands on the five-star character Diluc, who, to be fair, is available in the standard banner. Diluc’s new outfit or “skin” comes with unique special effects and idle animations, and – as noted in the stream – does not feature the character’s Pyro Vision, which he wears on his belt in his default skin. Some have speculated that Diluc’s new outfit will have lore attached to it regarding the Fatui Harbingers and the Pyro Delusion that they gave to Diluc’s father, which would theoretically allow Diluc to use Pyro without needing his Vision. There will be a combat event at the Dawn Winery centered around Diluc, so keep an eye out for that if you want to learn more.

A four-star character will receive a new skin simultaneously with Diluc in 2.8, and it’s…Fischl, who I don’t think urgently needed an upgrade the way other characters do (ahem, Kaeya), but hey, I guess it’s nice to have options. Her new skin doesn’t have any neat features like Diluc’s (at least that I know of), but it does switch her eye-color from light green to red, which I’m glad Fischl’s voice-actress pointed out during the livestream because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have noticed. It’s a cool detail, though. I really hope it’s important.

Towards the end of Version 2.8, there will be another event much like the one currently ongoing, so if you’re having fun constructing cute little robots to place in your Serenitea Pots be sure to check out Evermotion Mechanical Painting – during which, players will be able to design even more steampunk furnishings with the assistance of another mustachioed NPC from Fontaine named Horatio or Archibald or something. I think MiHoYo comes up with some of these random events because they just want to drop bits of Fontaine lore, which is amusing because Fontaine is probably over a year away, but I’ll admit, having the guy selling robots suddenly reveal that his gadgets are part of the Hydro Archon’s hunt to find an alternative energy source for her people does make me interested to know what kind of crisis is going on there.

Genshin Impact
Sumeru | Twitter @nahidadailys

And that, of course, brings us to the final topic covered in today’s livestream, albeit more briefly than intended – Sumeru, the realm of the Dendro Archon Kusanali and the region we’ll have to explore before we can move on to Fontaine. I will try to refrain from discussing certain leaks that have come out recently and dampened my enthusiasm for the release of Sumeru by a considerable amount, but just enough was revealed in the teaser trailer today that I think we can safely have a conversation about the pervasive colorism and orientalism in Sumeru without even touching on those leaked character designs. I mean, let’s start with the fact that every NPC from Sumeru we’ve ever seen in-game and now every NPC we see in Sumeru in the teaser trailer is pale.

With the exception of Xinyan, Kaeya, and, depending on the lighting, possibly Baizhu, every other playable character and human NPC in Genshin Impact currently is either pale or a light shade of white (or gray, in the isolated case of Rosaria), and even the two characters who are clearly darker-skinned are whitewashed constantly in fan-art, so frankly it comes as no surprise that MiHoYo is perpetuating colorism with character designs. They’ve been doing that all along. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating that a region we know was explicitly modeled after parts of South Asia, Southwest Asia, and North Africa is made up almost exclusively of blindingly white people in the game (again, this is without even getting into the leaks), when these areas are in actuality very diverse.

There are, of course, light-skinned people in all of these areas, and if there was a broad range of diversity in the characters we’ve seen from Sumeru thus far then having a few light-skinned or pale characters to reflect that wouldn’t be a problem. But when they’re all pale, NPCs and playable characters alike, what that says to me is that MiHoYo (not necessarily the individual artists and animators who work there, but definitely their bosses) simply doesn’t care about accurately portraying the diversity of these regions, much less challenging the colorist beauty standards that have caused so much damage in Southwest Asia and India particularly.

But adjusting the characters’ skin-tones would be an easy fix, one that MiHoYo could probably make at the last minute if they were so inclined. I think it’s much too late to fix the even larger issue here, which is that Sumeru and its characters were doomed from the beginning to look like an awkward mishmash of widely differing aesthetics and mythologies thrown together haphazardly in a blender because…that’s exactly what MiHoYo did. They made a diluted orientalist milkshake out of Egypt, India, and all of Southwest Asia.

Genshin Impact
Cyno | in.ign.com

It’s a shame, too, because the painstaking accuracy and attention to detail in Genshin Impact‘s worldbuilding is one of the primary reasons this game is beloved, at least by me, and I had hoped the developers would care more…or at all…about upholding their reputation for accuracy. But I’ll honestly be shocked if they do anything to fix any of these problems before the release of Version 3.0. I just don’t think they care, and the only way they’ll maybe start to care is if the backlash grows louder and people don’t pull for a certain upcoming five-star character from Sumeru (just to be clear, not Cyno – he’s lighter than Xinyan, but darker than everyone else in Sumeru, and I want his banner to do well).

Have you seen the leaks or are you doing your best to steer clear of spoilers entirely? Either way, share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Miranda Otto Returns to Middle-Earth To Narrate “War Of The Rohirrim” Anime

When Miranda Otto scored the coveted and contested role of Éowyn in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers back in 1999, she probably didn’t anticipate that twenty-three years later she’d be asked to reprise the role once more – and that this time around, Éowyn wouldn’t just be a supporting character in someone else’s story, but the star and selling-point of a completely new story set in Middle-earth hundreds of years before the events depicted in The Lord Of The Rings.

War Of The Rohirrim
Eowyn | spotern.com

For better or worse, we live in a wild world where both Warner Brothers and Amazon Prime have the ability to tell new stories set in Middle-earth (the rest of us will have to wait until sometime around 2050), but as long as they continue to use this power responsibly by fleshing out the stories of Middle-earth’s ancient history found in the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings, you won’t see me complaining. And that is exactly what Warner Brothers is aiming to achieve with their upcoming feature-length anime film, War Of The Rohirrim, which has just today enlisted Miranda Otto to narrate the epic tale of one of Éowyn’s ancestors, King Helm Hammerhand.

Helm (who will be voiced by Succession‘s Brian Cox in the anime), lived about two-hundred and fifty to three-hundred years before Éowyn, roughly. He was the ninth King of Rohan, and of all the Kings after Eorl the Young by far the most belligerent. In the eighteen years he reigned, he managed to alarm or offend most of his relations, ultimately incurring an invasion of Rohan in the year 2758 that inconveniently coincided with a blight and a resulting famine brought about by the Long Winter, the effects of which were felt all across Middle-earth. Rohan’s enemies took control of the city of Edoras and the golden hall of Meduseld, while Helm and the Rohirrim were forced to retreat to the fortress of the Hornburg in the White Mountains, where they endured a terrible siege for at least five months, probably six or seven. Friends and foes alike froze to death in the heavy snow, people started eating each other to survive – it was not a happy time.

Both of Helm’s sons died in the war, one while defending the doors of Meduseld and the other during the Long Winter…but Helm also had a daughter, and we don’t know anything about her besides the fact that she existed and that four years prior to the invasion of Rohan she was the subject of a brawl between Helm and a local baron named Freca, who unwisely suggested marrying her off to Freca’s own son Wulf (voiced by Luke Pasqualino of Shadow And Bone), at which point Helm “smote Freca such a blow with his fist that he fell back stunned, and died soon after”, which in turn led Wulf to seek vengeance for his father’s death by joining forces with the Dunlendings and planning the assault on Edoras.

War Of The Rohirrim
War Of The Rohirrim concept art | ign.com

The Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings aren’t devoid of female characters entirely, but they’re filled with women like Helm’s daughter who aren’t so much characters as they are placeholders for characters – and even that is a generous description, when you take into consideration all the blank spaces on the family trees where there ought to be women’s names, the dates of their births and deaths, the details of their lives alongside those of their husbands, brothers, and sons (all of whose exploits Tolkien recorded in occasionally excessive detail). These women are implied to have existed…Tolkien just didn’t care enough about any of them to give us more information than that.

But this new generation of writers entrusted with adapting his work do care, or at the very least everything I’ve seen so far from both The Rings Of Power and War Of The Rohirrim gives me the impression that they care about expanding and diversifying the world of Middle-earth to include more women (and not just white women, either) and therefore create more opportunities for actresses in this franchise who might otherwise have a total of three or four roles to choose from. Helm’s daughter, now named Hera (and voiced by Gaia Wise of A Walk In The Woods), will apparently play a major role in War Of The Rohirrim as she leads a resistance movement opposed to Wulf.

Additionally, Bridgerton‘s Lorraine Ashbourne – the wife of Peter Jackson’s close friend and frequent collaborator Andy Serkis – has been cast in a supporting role in the film, although we don’t have any details regarding her character. Serkis may or may not have been involved in getting her the part, but regardless her casting forms another link between War Of The Rohirrim and Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy that now includes Miranda Otto, Jackson’s co-writer Philippa Boyens, and concept artists Alan Lee and John Howe, who probably won’t stray too far from the aesthetics they established for Rohan over twenty years ago that have remained iconic and beloved.

None of this is all that surprising, seeing as Warner Brothers has probably had the entire cast and crew of Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy on speed-dial for the last two decades waiting for just such an opportunity to present itself, but if nostalgia for Jackson’s trilogy is what both Warner Brothers and Amazon will be trying to elicit from audiences throughout their respective marketing campaigns for War Of The Rohirrim and Rings Of Power (and that certainly seems to be the case), then Warner Brothers will have the upper hand in that fight as long as they own the rights to the trilogy and can continue to use all the same imagery and all the same actors without needing to worry about accidentally benefiting their competitors.

War Of The Rohirrim
Eowyn vs The Witch King | cbr.com

Leaving all that aside, who else is just excited to hear Miranda Otto as Éowyn again? I know I am. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!