Everything We Learned From The Genshin Impact Version 4.4 Special Program

Of all the reoccurring events in Genshin Impact (and there are many), none is more hotly-anticipated by players than the annual Lantern Rite Festival that coincides with and reflects the celebration of the Chinese New Year. Set in the nation of Liyue, itself a patchwork of references taken from various different periods in ancient Chinese history and several distinct Chinese subcultures, the event nonetheless typically features characters from all across the world of Teyvat, and allows for some truly unexpected but delightful interactions. In the case of this year’s Lantern Rite, set to be the crowning event of Version 4.4, the former Hydro Archon Furina will make an appearance, her first in an event held outside Fontaine, which is a pretty big deal given that she’ll be in close proximity to the Geo Archon Zhongli and the two might drop some juicy tidbits of lore in their conversations – but for all that Furina usually commands the spotlight, one must first turn one’s attention to the long-awaited debut of the aloof adeptus Cloud Retainer as a playable character.

Xianyun, a tall woman with long black hair pulled into a ponytail with a hairpin shaped like a feather holding it in places, standing on a mountaintop with her arms crossed. She is wearing a black bodysuit with gauzy turquoise and pale blue ribbons forming a cape around her, and red spectacles.
Xianyun | destructoid.com

Genshin Impact‘s first five-star female Anemo character since Jean in Version 1.0, Cloud Retainer – or “Xianyun” – was described during the Special Program for Version 4.4 as a dedicated support for Plunge Attacks, the relatively little-used Normal Attacks that all characters in the game can perform when jumping or falling from a height. For most characters, gaining the height needed to perform a Plunge Attack in the first place is more of a hassle than it’s worth, because many battlefields – including almost all Domains, Boss Battle arenas, and the Spiral Abyss – are completely flat surfaces. A number of Anemo characters like Xiao, Venti, Wanderer, and Kazuha can propel themselves into the air, and Keqing and Alhaitham have similar abilities, but in all these cases the effect is limited to the character responsible for triggering it. Xianyun removes that obstacle: casting her Elemental Burst imbues every character in your party with a temporary jumping boost, meaning that anyone can perform Plunge Attacks, no matter the terrain. Of course, the characters who currently make the most of Plunge Attacks are the ones already most likely to be capable of performing them on their own, like Xiao, but Xianyun is only an asset to him. Additionally, every Plunge Attack performed while Xianyun’s Burst is active deals AoE Anemo DMG on top of the character’s own DMG, meaning that Catalyst characters (whose Plunge Attacks deal Elemental DMG by default) and characters with Elemental infusions on their weapons will be able to trigger the Swirl reaction more consistently. And as if that’s not enough, her Burst also heals your active character.

Her Elemental Skill allows Xianyun herself to perform three consecutive jumps high into the air, with the option to perform a Plunge Attack that will target nearby opponents and deal AoE Anemo DMG upon impact. From my (admittedly only partial) understanding, Xianyun’s Skill isn’t a necessary investment unless you’re building her to be an on-field DMG dealer. However, for players who enjoy climbing to the highest spots in Teyvat to take in the game’s breathtaking scenery or who struggle to harvest hard-to-reach local resources and always seem to find themselves running out of stamina while trying to maneuver around some slight overhang in a cliffside, Xianyun can be added to the list of (almost exclusively Anemo) characters who make world exploration effortless. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she has a beautiful design, with her Signature Weapon, a Catalyst shaped like a fan, being one of the game’s most exquisitely detailed, coupled with an endearing curmudgeonly personality.

Xianyun will be available during the first half of Version 4.4 alongside Nahida (and followed in the second half by Xiao, her best teammate, and Yae Miko), with the new four-star Pyro Claymore user Gaming featured on both their banners, and as a free reward of choice during the Lantern Rite Festival. Before we go any further, because Gaming’s name has unfortunately been turned into a joke, mostly amongst English-speakers, because “haha, video game character is named Gaming”, let’s get this out of the way right upfront – Gaming is an actual Cantonese name, and in Cantonese it is pronounced as “Gaa-Ming”, not “Gay-Ming”, and we can debate over whether Genshin Impact‘s English localization team could or should have added a hyphen or a space or a second “a” to his name to make it easier, but I’m just gonna point out that there’s a character in this game named Wriothesley. If you can manage that, Gaming should be no problem.

Anyway, Gaming has a very unique playstyle based around the energetic dance-moves of Chinese Southern or Cantonese Lion Dance, one of the two main forms of Chinese Lion Dance, whose performers wear large, brightly-colored lion masks and costumes. Because lions are not native to China, the dance is believed to have possibly originated in Southern or Central Asia, and that is reflected in Genshin Impact, where the dance is said to come from Chenyu Vale between Liyue and the South Asian-inspired region of Sumeru, furthermore being inspired by legends of lion-dragon hybrids living in the mountains, called “suanni” (an obsolete Chinese word for creatures of a similar nature, with roots in Central Asia). The largest of these beasts, the Solitary Suanni, will be a new Daily Boss in Version 4.4, and will likely drop Ascension Materials for both Xianyun and Gaming.

Gaming from Genshin Impact, crouching on top of a spectral golden cylinder on the wharf, holding a glowing neon-gold grinning lion mask over his head. He has short dark brown hair, and is wearing a long-sleeved dark green and black jacket over a red shirt with black trousers.
Gaming | oficinadanet.com.br

Back to Gaming, his kit is Plunge Attack-dependent, and he synergizes well with Xianyun. His Elemental Skill launches him into the air, allowing him to deal a powerful Pyro-infused Plunge Attack at the cost of a portion of his HP, while his Burst summons an adorable suanni sidekick named Man Chai to provide healing and accelerate his Skill’s cooldown. I don’t know how strong he is, but he’s cute, and he’s a Pyro Claymore, so I feel like I have to get him. I own all three Pyro Claymore-users released thus far, and use two of them for nearly every scenario in the game, hence why they’re both currently at Lvl. 90, outfitted with some of the best weapons and Artifacts I’ve got, and with Talents nearly maxed out (hint: Diluc isn’t one of them). Gaming could be my next obsession. And I have a feeling that I’m gonna be throwing all of my Primogems at Xianyun’s banner (as if I have any chance of getting her this soon after Navia), so there’s a good chance I’ll obtain at least one or two copies of him in the process.

I’ve already mentioned Chenyu Vale in passing, but there’s much more to be said about this next major expansion to the map of Teyvat, a subsection of Liyue best known in the present day for its high quality tea and optimal location at the intersection of three nations, and in the past for being the abode of many powerful and revered adepti who rivaled even Rex Lapis himself, including the Golden Carp, Fujin, who is still worshipped by the people of Chenyu Vale (and, rather curiously, goes by the name of a Japanese, rather than Chinese, deity), and the White Snake (whom we don’t know much about, but I’ll eat my metaphorical hat if they aren’t either related to, or one and the same as the other magical white snake from Chenyu Vale, Changsheng). The region is said to be rich with history and lore, its mountains dotted by the ancient ruins of adeptal mansions and structures dating back to before the Archon War, and I for one can’t wait to explore all of it. It’s also stunning. Like, genuinely some of the best environment design I’ve seen from Genshin Impact to date.

As for Events, well, obviously, there’s Lantern Rite, and all that that entails – various creative and charming minigames, mostly. In one, players can team up in Co-Op Mode to perform a lion dance, one in which you can dress up as a giant lion and fling your teammates into the air as you barrel around the arena picking up coins, though the developers stressed that the aim here is not to cause chaos, and that working together is essential to complete various stages of the game. In another challenge, similar to something I remember from last year’s Lantern Rite, players will have to navigate through a vibrant fireworks display, though the catch here is that you’re playing as a flying golden carp. And there’s a really cute, straightforward enough boardgame involving Xiangling and Yao Yao’s animal familiars, Guoba and Yuegui, where you have to guide them through the forest on a search for ingredients. Players will be rewarded for their participation with a new skin for the four-star Hydro sword-user Xingqiu that appears to be heavily inspired by Furina’s outfit – like, it’s literally just genderbent Furina cosplay, minus the hat and a few other details? I mean, I’m still gonna add it to my collection, because it’s free, but it’s not at all on the same level as free skins that have been released for Kaeya and Lisa, among others, and of course it doesn’t hold a candle to the new skins for five-star Cryo characters Ganyu and Shenhe.

Yilong Wharf in Genshin Impact, a village of white-walled buildings with black-tiled roofs at  the base of a waterfall in the mountains, with a massive white tower built into the falls, connecting the settlements above and below. There are ships in both harbors.
Yilong Wharf | multiplayer.it

A lot of players have been begging for the return of the addictive Of Drink A-Dreaming Event from Version 2.5 (one of the first Events in which I participated, soon after I started playing Genshin Impact), and at long last it is returning, though with a slight makeover. Rather than brewing cocktails at the Angel’s Share in Mondstadt, players will instead find themselves temporarily taking over the duties of the head chef at Wangshu Inn in Liyue and plating delectable dishes for playable characters in Receiver Of Friends From Afar. Timing and precision are of the essence in this game. In Journey Through Hilinigmatic Terrain, players will have to possess the bodies of hilichurls to investigate strange occurrences in Dadaupa Gorge, before unlocking a Domain where they can fight a giant Samachurl with a bunch of different Elemental abilities. And finally, in Triumphant Frenzy, a standard combat Domain gets a bit more challenging with the player being limited to using random trial characters in each round (I’m hoping that some of the bizarre team-comps to come out of this turn out to be weirdly good).

And that’s Genshin Impact Version 4.4 in a nutshell! What are you excited for? Who do you plan on pulling for? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Everything We Learned From The Genshin Impact Version 3.4 Special Program

As we all sort of suspected going in, the hotly-anticipated announcement of Genshin Impact‘s annual Lantern Rite Festival, which has coincided with the Chinese New Year early each year since the game’s launch, was the highlight of the Version 3.4 Special Program. Despite having an overwhelmingly large number of new events to promote before the upcoming patch (some of which, in my premature opinion, deserved to be the centerpiece of their own separate patch), as well as limited-time banners for new and old characters, alternate skins for Lisa and Kamisato Ayaka, and even an expansion to the region of Sumeru, the HoYoverse developers returned time and time again to Lantern Rite throughout the livestream, hyping up what they promise will be an unforgettable experience for nostalgic veteran players who have experienced this magical event twice before and are yearning to return to Liyue, and for newer players who have heard the stories of Lantern Rite and desperately want to see it for themselves.

Lanterns rise over Liyue Harbor at night in Genshin Impact
Lantern Rite | forbes.com

If I recall correctly, I started playing Genshin Impact near the tail-end of last year’s Lantern Rite Festival, and hadn’t even finished the Mondstadt Archon Quest and unlocked Liyue before the celebration had wrapped up (otherwise I might have gotten Beidou, once my most coveted character, for free, without having to spend Starglitter in the shop as I ultimately resorted to doing). So as you can imagine, this is an exciting time for me. And this time around, I plan to not only participate eagerly in all the minigames, but to choose wisely between the nine Liyue four-star characters who will all briefly be available for free as an event reward. Feel free to help me decide, in the comments below, whether to go for Xinyan’s C3 (yes, I use Xinyan as my main DPS, what about it?), Beidou’s C1, Yanfei’s C5, or my very first copy of Yao Yao, the new Dendro healer, since I’m saving for Dehya in Version 3.5 and won’t be wishing on any of the banners where Yaoyao will receive a drop-rate boost.

I’ve got to say, I’m cautious of selecting Yaoyao, because for the past few months I’ve gotten away with rotating between just two Dendro-reaction focused teams (a Hyperbloom team, consisting of Dendro Traveler, Collei, Barbara, and Kuki Shinobu, and a Burgeon team where Shinobu is swapped out for Yanfei), and I don’t know if I have a spot for Yaoyao. Barbara and Shinobu already do enough healing, separately but especially together, to prevent the occasional Dendro Core explosion from doing much harm to my other characters, and Yaoyao’s damage output is probably too minimal (at least without high investment and Deepwood Memories artifacts that I’d rather be putting on my Collei) to make her Dendro-spitting leporine sidekick a valuable asset to either of my two teams. That said, she does have the ability to sneak up on Crystalflies without them immediately ascending out of reach, which is a point in her favor.

Yaoyao will debut in the first half of Version 3.4, appearing on Alhaitham and Xiao’s limited-time banners, before being added to the permanent Standard Banner in Version 3.5. Keep that in mind before impulsively throwing your precious wishes at either character’s banner in an attempt to get her! Although participating in Lantern Rite will reward players with wishing currency (and, in an uncharacteristically generous move on HoYoverse’s part, ten Intertwined Fates ready to be spent on the banner of your choice will be provided to each and every player as a reward for logging in daily), it’s probably safer to wait unless you actually want Alhaitham or Xiao, because summoning a five-star character at the wrong moment can completely wreck your plans. I’ve already mentioned that I intend to skip Alhaitham’s banner, but let me go into a little more depth.

First and foremost, I committed to pulling Dehya and Cyno from the moment it became depressingly evident that they would be Sumeru’s only two nonwhite five-star characters. I was just barely successful in my attempts to obtain Cyno, and I would ideally like to do even better on Dehya’s banner, picking up either her signature weapon or a second copy of her, just to prove how much she means to me. Secondly, Alhaitham’s playstyle is very similar to Keqing’s, right down to his Elemental Skill allowing him to teleport across the battlefield and deal Dendro DMG on impact, which would be great if I enjoyed playing Keqing, but she was my very first five-star and to this day I only ever bring her out when I’m having difficulty reaching the top of a tall building. I wouldn’t intentionally pull for a character just like her unless he could do more for me in a Hyperbloom or Burgeon team than Dendro Traveler can for free. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I dislike Alhaitham. Not only do I find him pretentious and catty, but I’m still annoyed that his character model has proper muscles while Itto has sticks for arms. It’s not fair, HoYoverse.

Official artwork of Alhaitham from Genshin Impact, depicting the character - a tall man in black sleeveless clothing with short silver hair, wearing headphones made from gold and turquoise - standing in front of a white and green background
Alhaitham | yardbarker.com

My opinion of Alhaitham could change, if his first Story Quest answers any of my burning questions regarding the Sumeru Akademiya and its relationship with the Dendro Archon following the Sumeru Archon Quest that left off with Alhaitham serving as Acting Grand Sage of the Akademiya under the leadership of Lesser Lord Kusanali. I still don’t understand how or by whom the region is truly governed (and I can’t even begin to guess where the mysterious Temple of Silence fits into all of this), but that’s where Alhaitham’s Story Quest has the potential to be illuminating on multiple levels and why I’ll be extremely disappointed with HoYoverse if their writers drop the ball. At least I know that I can always count on the writers who brought us the poignant Golden Slumber World Quest, so I’m happy to hear that Golden Slumber is receiving an extension in Version 3.4, with fan-favorite NPCs Jeht and Benben returning as our guides into the new Hadramaveth Desert region.

There, Jeht hopes to find the legendary Eternal Oasis mentioned in the Flower of Paradise Lost Artifact set description; an evergreen garden of purple padisarahs built by King Deshret to house the body of the Goddess of Flowers after her death, now buried deep beneath swirling sands that form a vortex miles-high. In the wind-whittled ruins that cling to the canyon-walls in the Hadramaveth Desert, various Eremite tribes who claim descent from the Goddess of Flowers have scraped by for centuries, believing that each day they inch closer to the discovery of the Eternal Oasis where time stands still and death has no power. Whether Jeht will make it that far remains to be seen, but the trailer outright confirms that the Traveler will arrive at a place matching this description, with birds suspended in mid-air and fish frozen under glassy water like some kind of immersive Natural History Museum exhibit. Be sure to complete the Golden Slumber World Quest soon if you haven’t already, so you can be one of the first to piece together the untold story of the Goddess of Flowers.

Speaking of powerful yet mysterious women associated with purple flowers, Mondstadt’s very own Witch of the Purple Rose, Lisa Minci, is getting her deserved moment in the spotlight with a new alternate skin set to be released in Version 3.4 as a reward for participating in the Second Blooming combat event. The challenges seem pretty straightforward to me, but it’s not every day that Lisa returns to Sumeru since graduating at the top of her class and immediately thereafter retiring, yet here she is, dressed up for the special occasion in a personally-commissioned outfit evocative of those worn by students at the Sumeru Akademiya. I’ll be interested to learn if there’s a quest associated with this event, since there was a time when Genshin Impact theorists believed that Lisa might have gone off the radar in part because of what she learned at the Akademiya. Maybe now, with the corrupt sages banished to the forest, it’s time for her to make a comeback?

While Lisa’s alternate skin will be free, a new alternate skin for Kamisato Ayaka named Springbloom Missive will only be available through the shop, and players will need to be prepared to spend real money if they want to dress the Inazuman noblewoman in the pastel-colored finery of a lady from Fontaine (as seen in the illustrations of light novels popular with Inazuman readers). Ayaka, who already has the distinction of being Genshin Impact‘s most profitable character, with record-breaking sales on her rerun banner, is now the first limited five-star character to receive an alternate skin, even before characters with larger fanbases like the Archons. There’s no denying that HoYoverse recognizes her worth to the company. Ayaka will appear wearing this skin in the Warrior’s Soul event hosted by the Yashiro Commission, described as a series of challenges that will limit players to using their normal attacks, in which the act of parrying will significantly boost your damage output.

While you’re in Inazuma, stick around for the Almighty Arataki Extraordinary and Exciting Extreme Beetle Brawl, an event that allows players to finally share in the joy of pitting Onikabuto beetles against one another and strategically maneuvering them through a series of epic duels, something that Itto has been hyping up for ages. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Itto returning in a new event so soon after his first canonical interaction with Gorou during the Akitsu Kimodameshi event (will he mention Gorou?), but I wish it wouldn’t be completely overshadowed by Lantern Rite. This event sounds like fun! I want it to be recurring, and I haven’t even played it yet.

Yaoyao from Genshin Impact, a small girl with large golden bells in her hair, wearing a green vest over a white shirt with puffy sleeves
Yaoyao | pcgamesn.com

Have I missed anything? Besides the announcement of Alhaitham’s new signature weapon and a new boss battle beneath the Hadramaveth Desert with a giant flying sandworm named Setekh Wenut that will almost certainly provide Alhaitham’s Ascension Materials, I mean (full offense to Alhaitham, but I already hate fighting the Ruin Serpent that I actually need to level up Kuki Shinobu, a character I use regularly; I’m not willingly fighting a flying variation on that same abominable idea, all for a character I never intend to pull). If I have, drop it in the comments down below, as well as any thoughts, theories, and opinions you wish to share!