I don’t know about the rest of you, but I for one am happy to have the monotonous golden-brown deserts of Sumeru in the rearview mirror at last, after several months of increasingly enormous expansions to the Nation of Wisdom that brought as many new convoluted gameplay mechanics, exhausting environmental hazards (I’ll never need to equip the racist sandstorm-dispersing bottle again!), and overpowered monsters (Consecrated Beasts, you will not be missed), as they did fragments of intriguing lore, a couple of fun Events, compelling character stories and well-written World Quests. We’ll surely be passing through the desert again on our way to Natlan, the volcanic Nation of War, around this same time next year, but that’s a long time from now (until suddenly it’s not). Up ahead, it’s crystalline lakes, misty fjords, and winding rivers set amidst lovely alpine vistas as far as the eye can see. We are now less than two weeks away from the long-awaited release of Fontaine, the Nation of Justice – fifth of the seven regions that altogether make up the world of Teyvat in Genshin Impact – in Version 4.0.
Friday’s Special Program, consisting of interviews with writers, combat developers, and environment designers at HoYoverse, concisely introduced the setting and key players in the next chapter of the game’s over-arching storyline, with a particular focus on underwater exploration and gameplay, a new feature in Genshin Impact which sets Fontaine apart from previously released regions – because while Mondstadt, Liyue, Inazuma and Sumeru each have their own large bodies of water, players have only ever been able to swim across the surfaces of these (and even then, only for as long as their rapidly depleting stamina bar allowed). In Fontaine, and only in Fontaine, the stamina bar will no longer be a hindrance because it will no longer exist, and players will have no restriction on how long they can spend underwater (no frantic ascents to the surface for oxygen!), or what characters they can use underwater.
The one major difference between underwater and aboveground gameplay is in the adaptation of Genshin Impact‘s unique combat system for an environment with weaker gravity, greater pressure, lower visibility, and permanent Hydro infusion, all of which proved to be insurmountable challenges for the developers, leading to the implementation of a theoretically simplified underwater combat system where characters use basic aimed attacks to absorb temporary special abilities from sea-creatures called Fontemer Aberrants that will assist them in more difficult battles. Besides the Aberrants, an abundance of sea monsters exist in the waters of Fontaine, some unfortunately rather cute. Prioritizing players’ comfort underwater, the developers opted for bright colors and soothing shapes wherever possible, which is strangely both a relief and a disappointment to me, as someone with thalassophobia (fear of the deep ocean). Perhaps a future expansion to Fontaine will allow us to dive into darker, polluted waters filled with the kinds of nightmarish creatures that I’m realizing now I was subconsciously hoping to encounter in Version 4.0.
It’s not that far-fetched a theory, given that mention has been made of a horrific explosion with wide fallout at the inaccessible Fontaine Research Institute of Kinetic Energy Engineering, and each of the previously released regions has a subarea that’s been scourged from within by some toxic influence, whether it’s the corrosive blood of a dead god on Yashiori Island, or Forbidden Knowledge leaking out of the Abyss in the Nursery of Lost Dreams, or radioactive fragments of a Celestial Nail on Dragonspine. In-game sources like the traveling salesman Liben have been warning us for some time now that the urgent threat facing all of Fontaine is an environmental disaster brought on by an energy crisis. The nation’s automatons (including an elegant duo who together comprise the Icewind Suite World Boss) are powered by “Arkhe”, the product of destructive reactions between volatile new elements called Pneuma and Ousia, and every playable character in Fontaine uses one of these two mysterious forces in their kit alongside the Element bestowed on them by their Vision (so, for instance, Lyney is a five-star Pyro Pneuma bow-user and Lynette is a four-star Anemo Ousia sword-user). An uncontrolled reaction between Pneuma and Ousia is assumed to be responsible for causing the explosion at the Fontaine Research Institute.
And if all that isn’t complicated enough, the capital city or Court of Fontaine runs on a separate, far more nebulous energy source called Indemnitium – derived from the citizens’ belief in their Archon’s Ideal of Justice and generated in the courthouse during the judicial process by a somewhat sentient mechanism titled the “Oratrice Mecanique d’Analyse Cardinale”. The people of Fontaine have come to rely so heavily on the condemnation of their own neighbors for everything from lighting to public transportation that they have turned the pursuit of justice into a spectator-sport to assuage their guilt. Trials are held in the Opera Epiclese, and are full-day affairs with intermissions featuring magic-acts, music, and dance. Justice is served by the Oratrice, and the onlookers are so giddy from the experience that they have no reason to doubt the absolute and unequivocal fairness of its strict sentences until they’re inevitably put on trial themselves.
But the Oratrice is finally breaking down, whether because people are losing their faith in the Hydro Archon or because there’s simply not enough people left to judge. Rainfall, interestingly, is seen as a sign of the mechanism’s failure. The people of Fontaine have a paranoid obsession with rising sea-levels, having unwisely built their capital upon the subaquatic ruins of a city that was flooded centuries ago, when the waters were last in a state of flux. If it’s truly the Oratrice that keeps out the heavy rains, then without it Fontaine will soon be submerged, fulfilling an ominous prophecy that has been circulating around the region, which states that the Hydro Archon alone will remain, “weeping on her throne”, when all of her people have dissolved into the waters. To avert this grim fate, Lyney and Lynette, twin magicians regularly employed at the Opera Epiclese, have covertly been collecting data on the Oratrice right under the Hydro Archon’s nose. But if the shot of Lynette drowning while trapped in a water-tank onstage is anything to go by, it seems they may have underestimated the lengths to which Focalors will go to stop anyone from getting close to the truth.
It’s reasonable to assume, however, that at the center of everything is Celestia, the island floating in the skies somewhere above Fontaine where the gods dwell, armed against the world with Nails that can reduce thriving civilizations to ash and destabilize climates – and wherever Celestia is, it’s safe to assume the Fatui are there too, plotting to overthrow them with the accumulated power of the seven Archons. We know that the Fatui Harbinger Arlecchino plays a significant role in the Fontaine Archon Quest, and is possibly even pulling the strings on Lyney and Lynette, but another Harbinger appears in the trailer, and this one we’ve met before. Tartaglia, a.k.a. Childe, a.k.a. Ajax, has been a frenemy of the Traveler’s ever since that time we helped babysit his younger brother. If he’s in Fontaine to help Arlecchino, he’s presumably back to being our foe, but that didn’t stop him from befriending us in the first place, and his loyalties have never really been with the Fatui, but rather with the Tsaritsa of Shezhnaya.
Coinciding with his second appearance in an Archon Quest, Tartaglia will be returning on a limited-time banner in the back-half of Version 4.0 alongside the Geo Archon Zhongli, following the debut of Lyney’s limited-time banner and an inevitably successful rerun for the coveted Hydro bow-user Yelan. Lynette will be featured on Lyney and Yelan’s banners, but most players will be able to obtain their first copy of her for free, through the Events page, along with enough of her Ascension materials to reach Lvl. 40. Freminet, a four-star Cryo claymore-user, will be featured on Tartaglia and Zhongli’s banners, before both he and Lynette go to the Standard Banner in Version 4.1. On top of that, one of the best all-purpose characters in Genshin Impact, Pyro sword-user Bennett, will be a reward for completing Mega Meka Melee, which looks like a fairly pleasant Event where players will construct clockwork toys based on “Champion Duelists” such as Bennett himself, and the enigmatic Clorinde from Fontaine.
Other Events in Version 4.0 will include Relic Records, the aim of which is to help players get acquainted with the locations of various local specialties and opponents in Fontaine, and Studies In Light And Shadow, a photography game that will lead players to some of the most scenic spots in the new region. Finally, Verdict Of Blades is a strategic combat challenge where players can test out Pneuma and Ousia reactions against different enemies – and if these new elements aren’t enough, a whole treasure-trove of new weapons will become available in Version 4.0, including a forgeable weapon-set matching the classical aesthetics of Fontaine obtainable through the region’s smithy, a sword sold by the Fontaine chapter of the Fishing Association, and Lyney’s signature five-star bow, featured on the limited-time Weapon Banner. However, players will have to spend a small amount of money if they want one of the five new weapons going to the Battle Pass.
Two new Artifact-Sets, Golden Troupe and Marechaussee Hunter, will be available through a Domain in Fontaine that players should consider prioritizing, as both sets are very good and likely to get even better. Golden Troupe isn’t even out yet, and it’s already widely considered the new best-in-slot set for Fischl, Yae Miko, and almost any character who can make use of the 4-piece set’s 25% Elemental Skill DMG increase and additional 25% Elemental Skill DMG increase when the wearer is off-field, on top of the 2-piece set’s existing 20% Elemental Skill DMG increase. Marechaussee Hunter is a little more niche, tailored specifically for Lyney, but the 2-piece set’s 15% Normal and Charged Attack DMG increase would also work well on Yoimiya. The 4-piece set offers a 12% CRIT Rate increase for 5 seconds after the wearer’s HP increases or decreases, making it very suitable for Xiao, Hu Tao, and possibly Dehya.
Last but certainly not least, much-needed adjustments are finally being made to Genshin Impact‘s map and character selection screens. Given how much of Teyvat (and Sumeru in particular) is underground, it’s long been a source of frustration that the in-game map is essentially no help in navigating intricate cave-systems and buried ruins, and ever since the Interactive Map on the game’s companion app HoYoLAB was updated to have multiple layers, it’s felt like a massive oversight on the game developers’ part that they wouldn’t do the same. But in Version 4.0, the in-game map of Teyvat will become multi-layered, and players will no longer be expected to go raving mad as they explore beneath the deserts of Sumeru. The character selection screen, meanwhile, is getting a new look, with beautiful backgrounds that change depending on where players are in Teyvat, and unique animations for every character in the game so that they’re not all just staring blankly ahead.
Of course, with all this new content, Version 4.0 is presumably going to be massive, so you might want to start cleaning out some extra storage space on your devices. As someone who plays Genshin Impact on a PC that already runs relatively slowly, I can’t even imagine how much worse it’s going to be for mobile gamers, and I don’t know how HoYoverse realistically intends to keep expanding the world of Teyvat with the addition of at least three more regions in the next few years, because at this rate, my computer will probably burst into flames by the time we reach Natlan, land of the Pyro Archon. How are you preparing for the release of Fontaine, and what are you most excited for in the new region? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!