All The New Info From The Genshin Impact Version 2.7 Livestream

It’s official! After being delayed for several weeks due to the COVID-19 lockdowns currently in place in Shanghai, Genshin Impact‘s next patch will arrive at the very end of this month, on May 31st. This morning, players got their first look at the new patch through the official 2.7 livestream, which highlighted upcoming character banners (including some hotly-anticipated character reruns), a brand new chapter of the game’s over-arching storyline, new Story Quests and hang-outs, several intriguing limited-time events and minigames, and a couple of relatively minor miscellaneous announcements.

Genshin Impact
Xiao | gameinformer.com

As expected, the two new characters debuting in Version 2.7 will be Yelan and Kuki Shinobu – the former a five-star character available through a limited-time banner during the first few weeks of the new patch, the latter a four-star character releasing in the second half of the patch but immediately thereafter becoming a permanent addition to the standard banner. I’ll be going after both of these characters, and hoping to nab at least one, but I’m especially intent on getting Yelan, a Hydro bow-user…not so much because I’m blown away by her playstyle demo (as I mentioned in my last post, I don’t love Genshin Impact‘s archery mechanics), but because Yelan’s backstory is intimately entwined with the lore of the Chasm and the nation of Liyue, even more so than I originally guessed.

Yelan is the owner of the Yanshang Teahouse in Liyue Harbor, a building currently inaccessible to players (who will be turned away from the doors by the Teahouse’s impolite hostess, Chuyi). It’s pretty apparent from Chuyi’s evasive voice-lines and the heavily-armed mercenaries guarding the building at all times that there’s more to the Teahouse than meets the eye at first glance, and most fans agree that Yelan is probably operating a casino or gambling-den in there (the dice-cube she wears on a choker around her neck lends credence to this theory).

If you’re wondering how on earth Yelan has gotten away with running a casino right under the noses of the Liyue Qixing all these years, then you’ll definitely want to check out her Story Quest when it debuts alongside her character in Version 2.7 – but I’ll share a little of the information I’ve gleaned from today’s live-stream to tide you over until then. Basically, it appears that the Teahouse is a front for a casino, but the casino itself is also a front for the Liyue Qixing’s own covert eyes-and-ears network on the streets of Liyue Harbor, and Yelan keeps files on all of the city’s most notable residents (including the player themselves) and reports back to Lady Ningguang, head of the Liyue Qixing, with any pertinent information she comes across. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that’s better or worse than simply running a casino.

In any case, we have Yelan to thank for rescuing us from the Ruin Serpent at the bottom of the Chasm, so I can’t be too hard on her for spying on me all this time if it means she keeps following me around and getting me out of trouble at convenient moments (she will continue doing that, right?). In Version 2.7, during the Archon Quest “Perilous Trail”, players will join Yelan on an expedition into the Chasm to discover what else is lurking down there, including the nameless Electro Yaksha who went missing in the Chasm after leading Liyue’s Millelith to victory in a battle against monsters from the Abyss five-hundred years before the start of Genshin Impact.

We won’t be the only ones looking for the Electro Yaksha, either. For whatever reason, the Liyue Harbor-based lawyer Yanfei will accompany us, as well as two characters from Inazuma – Arataki Itto (who will be one of two five-star characters returning for limited-time reruns in Version 2.7) and Kuki Shinobu, the new four-star. Meanwhile, the Anemo Yaksha Xiao (the other returning five-star) will enter the Chasm separately after apparently hearing the Electro Yaksha’s voice calling out to him, and we’ll probably have to stop him from sacrificing himself in a desperate attempt to save his long-lost friend.

Genshin Impact
Yelan | altchar.com

I won’t be surprised if in the end it turns out that the Electro Yaksha has actually been dead for centuries, and that the voice luring Xiao to the Chasm belongs to a lingering memory of the Electro Yaksha preserved in the strange dark mud of the Chasm. Yes, the mud in the Chasm somehow retains memories…don’t ask me how, I don’t understand it fully yet, either, I just know that after Zhiqiong accidentally stumbled into the mud she started rambling on about Khaenri’ah or some other ancient civilization and ugh, Genshin lore makes my head hurt.

The main character’s twin sibling also shows up in the teaser trailer for the new Archon Quest, in some kind of hallucination or dream-sequence brought on by the dark mud – their memory, and that of the Electro Yaksha’s, is almost certainly being used to deceive the player and Xiao into descending to the depths of the Chasm, whether or not the malevolent being behind all this is the Electro Yaksha, the Electro Yaksha’s sentient memory, or someone else entirely; perhaps a member of the Abyss Order who might know how to manipulate the Chasm’s dark mud?

As for everyone else accompanying us into the Chasm, Yelan is the only other character who has any ties to the region – and in the live-stream this morning, it was even hinted that she might have been born in or near the Chasm. Yanfei, Arataki Itto, and Kuki Shinobu probably get entangled in our mission while celebrating Shinobu’s graduation from law school in Liyue, but I can’t imagine what their role in the quest will be. The answer might lie in their elemental powers, which correspond to those of the missing or murdered Yaksha, something I first saw pointed out by Genshin theorist Ashikai on Twitter.

Speaking of Shinobu, she’s the four-star Electro sword-user from Inazuma whom players will have a chance to obtain in the standard banner in Version 2.7, and she’ll receive her own hang-out event in which we’ll learn about her backstory – including her time as a shrine-maiden at the Grand Narukami Shrine, studying to be a lawyer in Liyue Harbor, and putting her skills to good use helping Arataki Itto and the Arataki Gang do crime without actually breaking any laws on the streets of Inazuma City. Players will also get to participate in a limited-time rhythm game called The Almighty Arataki Great And Glorious Drumalong Festival where you can celebrate Shinobu’s graduation by playing special tunes to win rewards and by composing your own melodies based on Genshin’s original soundtrack.

As for the other limited-time events in Version 2.7, Realms Of Guile And War will feature several rounds of challenge domains where players will have a chance to win a new weapon, the event-exclusive bow Fading Twilight, while in A Muddy Bizarre Adventure players will need to clear the Chasm’s dark mud and battle mud-infected monsters (I’m telling you, that mud is important), and in Core Of The Apparatus players will help a toy-merchant assemble cute little robots that you can then place in your Serenitea Pot.

Genshin Impact
Inside the Serenitea Pot | pockettactics.com

A new soundtrack album for the Chasm, Genshin Impact Funko Pops, new features on the character screen to help players choose artifacts and level-up Talents…let’s see, did I miss anything else? Oh, of course, I almost forgot to mention the most important thing! As of Version 2.7, the Serenitea Pot will no longer be under maintenance, meaning players will finally get to refurbish and remodel their Pots, as well as place characters in their Pots and feed them flavorful dishes from this month’s Spices Of The West cooking event. As someone who didn’t get a chance to put any characters in my Pot before maintenance began, I know that’s what I’m most excited for, how ’bout you?

So what do you think of the announcements from the Version 2.7 livestream, and how excited are you for the new patch? Which characters will you be trying for, if any? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Arcane” Season 1 Finishes Off With A Bang

SPOILERS FOR ARCANE: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS SEASON ONE AHEAD!

After keeping me on the edge of my seat for three weeks, Arcane: League Of Legends season one is finally complete; but the story is only just beginning, and Netflix, Riot Games, and French animation studio Fortiche have barely even scratched the surface of what League Of Legends‘ vast world of stories can offer. Yes, a second season is officially in production, but the end of season one has me in the mood to hop onboard one of Piltover’s famous airships and explore the rest of Runeterra. It all seems wondrous to me as a casual viewer who knows next to nothing about League Of Legends lore.

Arcane
Jinx | dotesports.com

And in its last batch of three episodes, I think Arcane masterfully capitalizes on that feeling shared by so many viewers new to the franchise by giving us a glimpse into the many League Of Legends stories yet to be told onscreen, any of which could be explored in successive seasons of Arcane or in spin-offs if the show is successful enough to warrant them. The extraordinary new character of Ambessa Medarda (voiced by Ellen Thomas) all but invites our heroes to join her on a journey far beyond Piltover to her own world of subterfuge and political intrigue, which sounds like a very good offer if you ask me.

But at the same time, what I really appreciate about Arcane is that it knows exactly where its center lies, and it always comes back there. If this final batch of episodes is perhaps lighter on epic action and spectacle than some might have hoped (although there’s still enough that it’s not underwhelming in that regard, either), that’s only because the finale is focused on delivering satisfying character moments for the main cast, some of which resolve season-long arcs and some of which only close one chapter of a character’s story to prepare them for the next.

In the end, Arcane comes down to one family and two sisters: the microcosm through which we witness the long-lasting effects of Piltover’s brutality against the undercity of Zaun. Orphaned in one war between the two cities, ripped apart by another, and reunited in a third, Violet (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) and Jinx (voiced by Ella Purnell) have spent every day of their lives fighting to carve out some kind of foothold in a world that would happily purge them from existence if it cared about them at all. Jinx forces the world to notice her through the chaos and colorful graffiti she leaves in her wake, and the world responds by hunting her until she has nowhere left to turn.

In a tragic twist of fate, Jinx’s terror leads her to believe that everyone close to her will betray her – “everyone” in this case being her sister Violet and her father figure Silco (voiced by Jason Spisak). There’s no question that Silco was an abominable man, but I think he genuinely loved Jinx and he wasn’t lying when he said he would never have let her go. He would have given up everything to do what he thought would keep her safe, and in the end – fittingly – he lost his own life to Jinx while trying to kill the one person he saw as a threat to her; Violet.

The whole sequence stung, but in the best way, because it’s never a clear-cut issue of who’s right and who’s wrong. Violet did abandon Jinx as a child, when she needed her the most…but Silco also lied when he told Jinx that Violet never tried to come back for her afterwards. They both want to protect Jinx, but Violet never explains how she plans to do that with the limited resources at her disposal. Sure, she’s got a powerful ally in Caitlyn (voiced by Katie Leung), but ironically Jinx might have blown that alliance to smithereens along with the council-chamber she blew up in the finale, which very likely killed Caitlyn’s mother.

Arcane
Violet | deadline.com

That’s another thing I love about Arcane. The heroes are never automatically right by virtue of being the heroes, and likewise with the villains. Violet and Jinx should have been each other’s solid ground, and perhaps they still could be, but it’s going to take a lot of work and self-improvement from both characters. Jinx has legitimate reasons to distrust Violet, and the show acknowledges that without trying to make excuses for Violet’s actions. Arcane makes you fall in love with a character for their virtues and their flaws, because nobody in this world is comprised wholly of one or the other.

Topside, that holds true of characters like Jayce (voiced by Kevin Alejandro), who finally confronts the reality that his idealism doesn’t necessarily make him a better politician than anyone else on the city council, and that you can’t always win battles by assuming the moral high-ground. Viktor (voiced by Harry Lloyd), his lab partner, uses these last three episodes to reach a similar conclusion about life in general, but whether because of his harsher upbringing or awareness of his own mortality, he doesn’t have the same qualms as Jayce – he’ll do whatever it takes to survive, even if that means replacing his weakening body with Hextech.

Then there’s Mel Medarda (voiced by Toks Olagundoye), the enigmatic councilwoman who’s stayed on the sidelines throughout season one – until the finale, when at long last her plan starts to come into focus. Turns out, this whole time that’s she been pulling the strings behind Jayce’s greatest accomplishments she’s also been engaged in a Game Of Thrones-style grudge match with her mother, who banished her to Piltover because she believed Mel was weak and couldn’t handle the responsibilities of ruling their own realm. So Mel took over Piltover.

Mel’s mother Ambessa erupts onto the screen, effortlessly showing off through her flippant mannerisms, confident gait, and disarming personality why Mel was right to fear and revere her as a child, and why she makes such an fearsome opponent now. There’s simply nothing that rattles her, and that characterization is significant – because when Ambessa reveals to Mel that their family is in real danger from an enemy who’s already killed Mel’s brother, we realize instantly the enormity of that threat if it’s something that scares even Ambessa. And don’t forget, all of this development is packed into just three episodes. It shouldn’t work, yet it does.

Hopefully Ambessa and Mel’s storyline becomes a major subplot in season two, but I’m very interested to see how it connects back to Violet and Jinx. Mel was in the council-chamber that Jinx blew up in the finale…and while I can’t imagine that Arcane would kill her off so early, even an injury might give Ambessa a reason to seek vengeance on Jinx or for Mel to do so herself. Those are the kinds of unexpected connections that these final three episodes sold especially well, as the interactions, particularly between characters from either side of the social divide, felt organic and intriguing.

On that note, I have to talk about Violet and Caitlyn. They’ve been partners in the League Of Legends game for a long time, but Arcane (at least to my knowledge) offers the first canonical hint that they’re more than just friends. I don’t want to call it confirmation of a queer romance just yet because they talk about their relationship in terms that are a little vague for my taste, and they don’t kiss (even though they came pretty darn close last week) but Jinx refers to Caitlyn as Violet’s girlfriend and Violet instantly knows who she’s talking about, so…make of that what you will.

Arcane
Mel Medarda | dualshockers.com

For a series I had virtually no interest in until its release day, Arcane: League Of Legends has surpassed my wildest expectations and quite possibly taken the top spot on my list of favorite TV shows from this year. As one of the few shows telling this kind of complex and mature story through uniquely beautiful and dynamic animation (if there’s any justice in this world, Fortiche’s talented animators should be in high demand from now on), Arcane easily stands out from the competition and raises the bar for the whole medium. Season two can’t come soon enough.

Series Rating: 9.5/10

“Arcane” Part 2 Flies High And Falters Only Slightly

SPOILERS FOR ARCANE: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS PART ONE AHEAD!

Netflix’s release strategy for Arcane: League Of Legends makes it one of the few original series’ on the steaming service that we get to enjoy across a span of multiple weeks, but Netflix has found a way to marry their hallmark binge-watch formula with the weekly format that other platforms have adopted to great success over the past two years. Instead of releasing just one episode each week, Arcane drops a bundle of three – each no fewer than forty minutes long – so that you still get to binge sizable chunks of the show, and the viewing experience will easily fill an evening whereas episodes of some Disney+ series’ fly by in less than an hour.

Arcane
Jayce | dualshockers.com

It’s a method that I think Netflix would be wise to utilize more often, at least for established series’ with large audiences willing to stick around week-to-week. One major complaint about the binge model is that even Netflix’s best and biggest series’ rarely get a chance to stay in the general conversation for more than a single weekend before viewers have finished the entire season and moved on to their next fleeting obsession. That in turns pulls focus away from the content of individual episodes and puts pressure on showrunners to write cliffhanger season finales that will keep general audiences from forgetting their show entirely.

But personally, I relish having an opportunity to review Arcane in segments. I pulled the first season of Shadow And Bone apart episode-by-episode, but that was an adaptation of a book series I already loved. If all ten episodes of Arcane had dropped on one day, I’d have only written a single review because I don’t know enough about the League Of Legends franchise to support ten separate posts – but I’d have missed the chance to dive into all of the animated series’ nuances, which are highlighted by this wonderful weekly-binge release strategy.

Episode four picks up several years after the events of episode three, which I think also helps support the weekly release – you feel like you’re actually watching the premiere of Arcane season two. And not only is it more epic in scope and heavier on action like the second season of an established series would usually be, but the characters have also developed exponentially. With just three episodes behind us, all that development could easily feel rushed or even unearned, but Arcane somehow makes it work. Every character is more abundantly alive and interesting than before, which might be why episodes four through six have a harder time focusing on any one in particular.

Positioned as the heart of the narrative both thematically and emotionally, yet slightly at risk of getting shoved aside by the jostling subplots of other characters this week, the orphaned and estranged sisters Violet (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) and Powder (now going by the name of Jinx, and voiced by Ella Purnell) don’t actually meet until episode six, and even then only briefly, which prevents us from exploring the evolution of their relationship with each other. Individually, however, they’re still compelling co-leads.

Fascinatingly, despite Violet being the only member of Vander’s family to escape from the crime-lord Silco (Jason Spisak) at the end of episode three, it’s she who’s regressed and landed in a dank undercity prison while Jinx is thriving under Silco’s tutelage, moving freely between Zaun and Piltover. Over the years, she’s been fashioned into a killing machine and outfitted with an arsenal of hand-made weapons and gadgets, although her flair for the melodramatic is seen in her colorful carnival-performer aesthetic and the glee she derives from violence. She’s strongly reminiscent of DC Comics’ vivacious antihero Harley Quinn.

Arcane
Jinx | pcgamer.com

Somehow I get the sense that that comparison is overused and that League Of Legends fans everywhere are probably rolling their eyes at me, so I’m going to follow up by saying that there are two crucial differences between Jinx and Harley Quinn. One is Jinx’s struggle with childhood trauma, specifically the guilt of having caused two of her friends’ deaths and the shame and horror of being abandoned by her older sister. Watching her fight those feelings is extremely compelling, and it’s a shame that Arcane doesn’t put as much effort into crystallizing the dynamic between Jinx and Silco that I felt is another defining element of her character.

In fact, Silco almost disappears entirely in these three episodes, perhaps because there’s just one too many antagonists at this point. His new goals are hastily sketched out, but the show loses sight of the tormented and in my opinion quite fascinating character behind the menacing façade, leaving him with surprisingly little to do except sit behind a desk and brood, or else pop up here and there to frighten his various business partners into submission. The only consolation is that I’m sure his methodical preparations for the approaching war between Zaun and Piltover will pay off in the long run, and the results will be epic and catastrophic.

On that note, however, I’m also disappointed that we spend less time in Zaun over the course of these three episodes – and of the time we do spend there, significantly less of it is devoted to expanding on the themes of class and social divides that were established in the first three episodes. As the city of Piltover advances far ahead of Zaun, leaving the undercity’s inhabitants increasingly destitute and desperate, we’re only afforded brief glimpses into how life has changed for them since Vander’s death and the estrangement of the two cities.

Instead, these three episodes focus more on what’s happening “top-side” in Piltover, where brilliant inventor Jayce Talis (Kevin Alejandro) bridges the gap between science and magic to create all kinds of incredible technology for the city. But with fame and fortune comes power, and with power comes opposition. Jayce is reluctantly forced to navigate Piltover’s political scene and outmaneuver his enemies on the city’s council if he plans to achieve everything he knows he’s capable of, all while racing against the clock to save his business partner and closest friend Viktor (Harry Lloyd) from death.

Political intrigue is one of my favorite fantasy tropes ever, so it’s neat to see that element woven into the story, but Jayce isn’t really the focal point of this narrative as far as I can tell, and Arcane suffers from being spread a little thin in these three episodes as it struggles to find any connections between Jayce’s journey to the top of the world and Violet and Jinx’s intensely personal conflict mirroring the social divide for which Jayce is at least partly responsible. Their storylines will eventually overlap, but currently the only substantial crossover is through the character of Caitlyn (Katie Leung).

Although she only had a small role in the first three episodes as one of Jayce’s friends, Caitlyn really comes into her own in episode five, as she embarks on a solo mission into the undercity to locate Jinx and bring her to justice, only to discover that she’s become inextricably entangled in something much larger than herself – a vast corruption scandal linking Piltover’s law enforcement to the criminal enterprises of Zaun. She eventually meets Violet, and their romantic chemistry/sexual tension is off the charts. We stan a morally righteous queer character who will let her morally ambiguous girlfriend get away with just about anything.

Arcane
Jinx | elintranews.com

There’s plenty to love in these three episodes, despite their flaws. The action in particular is even more dynamic and creative, and all the characters have matured into better fighters. The animation is still luscious, with Piltover even more beautiful thanks to Jayce Talis’ enhancements to the city. And this story continues to expand in unexpected directions across a world that is rich with detail. As we gear up for the final batch of episodes next week, I can only hope that Netflix decides to build out this franchise across multiple seasons and spin-offs. It’s what we deserve.

Episodes Rating: 7/10

Netflix Developing An “Assassin’s Creed” Franchise!

As the end of the year – and the release of another installment in Ubisoft’s massively successful Assassin’s Creed video game series – draws nearer, Netflix is cashing in on the game franchise’s enduring popularity/profitability, having just announced a partnership with the Ubisoft game studio that will allow them to develop their own Assassin’s Creed universe on the streaming service, kicking off with a live-action series that is already in pre-production. Although a previous attempt to bring the excitement of the video game to the big screen proved to be pretty lackluster, Netflix doesn’t appear to be trying to develop any films based on the games: their attention is focused on creating series, both live-action and animated.

Assassin's Creed
gamesradar.com

As of right now, we know very little about the series that is planned to kickstart the Assassin’s Creed TV franchise – two Ubisoft executives, Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik, will serve as executive producers on the series, but Netflix is currently looking for a showrunner to bring this whole thing together, and we don’t know if they’ve got a writing team assembled behind the scenes just yet. It’s also unclear whether the series will adapt one of the game franchise’s eleven total installments, or combine elements from several, or act as something entirely new and different.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise’s overarching story revolves around a war between the order of the Assassins and the Knights Templar, a war spanning millennia: throughout the ages, these two opposing factions take various different forms (for instance, in Ptolemaic Egypt, they were the Hidden Ones and The Order Of The Ancients, respectively), but their goals are almost always the same – the Knights Templar seek to oppress free will and control the human race by force, through the use of magical artifacts, while the Assassins believe in free will and challenge them secretly. The game series has focused on a number of interesting historical periods, from the American Revolution and the Third Crusade to Peloponnesian War-era Greece, and over the years has gained a reputation for being one of the few video game franchises that actually takes time to research each era and achieve some level of historical accuracy.

Assassin's Creed
gameinformer.com

This has recently caused a great deal of conflict in the fandom, with the newest Assassin’s Creed game (set in the Viking world) promising (historically accurate!) women warriors and same-sex romances – something that has prompted a certain subgroup of gamers to loudly object about what they mistakenly and ignorantly perceive as “the SJW agenda”. Never mind that women fought alongside Viking men or that Vikings were marginally more accepting of same-sex relationships than many of their contemporaries; apparently inarguable historical fact is “SJW” now. Anyway, I hope and pray that the Netflix series will follow in the footsteps of the most recent games and include more diverse protagonists, even if they are adapting the earlier games in the series.

The different historical settings will certainly give the series a unique selling point with which to differentiate itself from a steadily growing crowd of video game adaptations: but I worry it could be very expensive to do as many as in the games right up front, so my guess is that the first season of the series won’t jump to too many time periods, but will probably settle on one from the earlier games that most Assassin’s Creed fans are familiar with and enjoy, such as the Holy Land or Renaissance Italy. I’ve seen it suggested that each season of the series might jump to a new time period, like the games, which would definitely be exciting: but that does raise the question of whether they would follow the in-universe chronology of the plot, or the release order of the games themselves? If it’s the latter, then my favorite character, Kassandra Misthios of Odyssey, won’t be popping up for a long while. But who knows? At the moment we really don’t know anything at all about what Netflix and Ubisoft are planning to accomplish with this partnership, or how they’re going to go about this.

Assassin's Creed
digitalspy.com

So what do you think? Which historical setting do you hope Netflix settles upon for this first series, and which Assassin’s Creed characters do you hope to see? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!