I had to dig through my site’s archives to find the first post I wrote about Gollum, but even so I was shocked to discover that it’s been over two years since the first footage from the game was revealed to the public. I can just barely remember feeling disappointed with the titular character’s unexpressive face and janky movements at the time, but it seems I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, because Daedalic Entertainment has spent the last two years reworking the game. I would have probably forgotten about it entirely, were it not for a new full-length trailer for the game released on Thursday that tentatively hints at a 2023 release date and urges gamers to add it to their wish-list now.
Gollum follows the character’s circuitous journey across Middle-earth in pursuit of Bilbo Baggins during the sixty-year interlude between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, a journey that takes him from the Misty Mountains to Mordor, where he is detained in the dungeons of Sauron and tortured until he reveals who took his precious Ring, and then to Mirkwood, where he is detained in the dungeons of Thranduil and tortured until he reveals what he revealed to Sauron, and then back to the Misty Mountains to continue his long-delayed original mission, only to unexpectedly run into the Fellowship of the Ring led by Bilbo’s nephew Frodo Baggins and begin hunting them. The game promises to flesh out these events with new material and original characters to keep Tolkienites and casual gamers alike on their toes, but Gollum’s goal, the player’s goal, is the same – survive, and find the Ring.
With everyone and everything in Middle-earth out to get you, this goal can only be achieved by being strategic about when to lean into the character’s violent tendencies as Gollum and when to unlock their deeply suppressed better qualities as Sméagol, something that is sure to be one of the game’s most interesting and unique features. Reinforcing the idea that Gollum stands in the middle of the rift between Middle-earth’s cosmic forces of light and darkness, the character’s potential allies come from both sides of the conflict, including an Elven woman named Mell who appears to hail from Mirkwood and Shelob, a monstrous demon in spider-form.
Even though many of the game’s characters are recognizable by name to even the most casual Tolkienite, including Shelob, Gandalf, Thranduil, and the Mouth of Sauron, their designs are remarkably…original, borrowing far more heavily from the bizarre, whimsical Rankin/Bass 1977 animated adaptation of The Hobbit and Ralph Bakshi’s borderline-psychedelic 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings than from either of Peter Jackson’s hyper-realistic film trilogies or Amazon’s The Rings Of Power. Gollum‘s Elves, for instance, are sinuous, reed-thin creatures with hooded eyes, drowning in layers upon layers of voluminous fabric and enormous, ornate headdresses. It’s the kind of game where a Tom Bombadil cameo wouldn’t seem entirely out of place, and that’s saying something.
Whether the gameplay matches the quality of the visuals remains to be seen, but I’ll leave that to professional gamers to determine: for me, as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works who simply enjoys analyzing new adaptations and debating the thematic consequences, great and small, of making changes to the source material, the main appeal of Gollum is the agency it gives to the player to make choices that will decide Gollum’s ultimate fate. I don’t know yet if the game allows you to go running off in any direction, with alternate endings depending on how you choose to play, or if it eventually forces you back on the path that leads Gollum to his canonical confrontation with the Fellowship of the Ring, but I’m excited to see how the developers at Daedalic have integrated the character’s internal struggles into every aspect of their game from the narrative to the actual gameplay.
If you thought the two-year wait for playable Scaramouche was unbearable, just think of how Baizhu mains (to be) have been suffering since before Genshin Impact was even released, when the green-haired, Dendro Vision-wielding doctor was among the characters first introduced in the game’s early closed beta tests – only for him to be a quest-exclusive NPC upon launch. Now, it’s not uncommon for a future playable character to appear in the game shortly before their release, giving them a chance to develop a fanbase, but few characters have had as long an interval between their introduction and their official release as Baizhu, or disappeared for so long during that interval period. Even Scaramouche became a major antagonist whose story spanned several Events and two Archon Quests. Baizhu, by contrast, has only appeared a few times, and it is still unclear if he’s actually all that relevant.
But it seems that HoYoverse has finally remembered Baizhu exists, or else he has some role to play in the story yet to come that requires him to be playable, because in Version 3.6 the long wait ends and Baizhu will join Genshin Impact‘s ever-growing roster alongside Kaveh, another Dendro character. We know next to nothing about either character’s kit and playstyle, so today’s post will be brief, focusing exclusively on the characters themselves (of course, there are the usual number of leaks going around, but I won’t be discussing any of that or entertaining discussion of leaked content in my comments section…what I will say, however, is that every leak I’ve seen pertaining to Baizhu has directly contradicted another, so take them all with a grain of salt until the Version 3.6 beta test begins).
Baizhu, from what we currently understand of his backstory, was born frail and sickly, and has spent his entire life working as a doctor in the hopes of one day stumbling across a treatment to his own relentless maladies. At some point, however, he became discontent with surviving and started aspiring to live – forever, that is. I imagine this is about the time when Baizhu received his Dendro Vision, although the green gemstone has probably proved less useful to his pursuit of immortality than the whispered advice of the magical white snake named Changsheng, who remains loosely coiled around his neck, and his study of the undead child Qiqi, who is something like an adopted daughter and apprentice to him now. Baizhu manages Liyue’s Bubu Pharmacy with assistance from Herbalist Gui, and has established a reputation for being one of Teyvat’s greatest doctors – though in early appearances of the character, it was suggested that he might be overcharging or even swindling his patients. I believe HoYoverse abandoned that idea, for there is no trace of Baizhu’s deceitful side in more recent months.
Kaveh, dubbed the “Light of Kshahrewar” by students of that Darshan which studies technology, is Sumeru’s most in-demand architect and interior designer – although you wouldn’t guess it from his current living conditions, which leave much to be desired. Conned by an elusive client out of his fortune, a frantic Kaveh had no other choice but to ask for help from Alhaitham of the Haravatat Darshan, his financially well-off rival. As roommates, the two men do everything in their power to avoid each other during the day, because when they absolutely must interact, one of them always finds something trivial to quarrel about (redecorating Alhaitham’s apartment, in particular, poses a challenge for two people so fundamentally at odds on the matter of interior décor), but that hasn’t stopped players from shipping them – quite the opposite! And you know I don’t even like Alhaitham all that much, but him and Kaveh both being so goddamn irritating is exactly what makes the “frenemies-with-benefits” trope work in this instance.
Assuming that Baizhu and Kaveh will debut together on the first banner of Version 3.6 (technically, it’s not officially confirmed that Baizhu is a five-star and Kaveh a four-star, but it’s pretty likely), will you be pulling for them or skipping their banner entirely based on what you know of the two characters thus far? In time, we’ll start to see kit leaks, and then there’ll be all the usual discourse about whether you should pull for either one, but which one do you want? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Having spent the last four months dutifully collecting Primogems and stockpiling Intertwined Fates in preparation for the release of Dehya in Version 3.5, I was cautiously optimistic that the 3.5 Special Program would give us new details about her character that would finally put a rest to the pervasive rumors that her kit is one of the worst ever designed by HoYoverse. I was not expecting HoYoverse to instead throw a wrench into my plans for obtaining the five-star Pyro claymore user I’ve been waiting for since Sumeru’s characters were first leaked by announcing without warning that she’s headed to the permanent Standard Banner in Version 3.6, joining such undervalued characters as Diluc, Keqing, Jean, and Qiqi. It’s practically tantamount to an admission that Dehya’s kit is indeed as bad as has been speculated all along, and that HoYoverse doesn’t foresee players spending enough money on her banner to make successive reruns worthwhile. You’d think they would just…improve her kit, but apparently not.
As for how this affects me, well, I’ve always intended to get Dehya on her debut banner, and that hasn’t changed. I didn’t pre-farm all of her Ascension Materials for nothing, and I’ve already got a Burgeon team where I think she’ll fit nicely. But my motivation to collect at least one additional copy of her character (the first six of which are referred to as Constellations in Genshin Impact, and provide upgrades that Dehya in particular needs to be viable) has admittedly dwindled somewhat now that I know I’ll probably get her randomly at some point in the near future…though with that said, I’ve been playing Genshin Impact for over a year at this point and I’ve only ever obtained two of the six Standard Banner five-stars currently available (Keqing and Jean). Going after her event-exclusive signature weapon, Beacon of the Reed Sea, might be a better investment.
Fortunately, for those of us who have had never had much luck on the Weapon Banner, Dehya can make use of the new four-star claymore, Mailed Flower, that will be available for free in Version 3.5 as a reward for participating in the Windblume’s Breath Event held annually in Mondstadt to celebrate love and romance. The highly-anticipated Event will feature a minigame based on Pac-Man where players will run amok in the Knights of Favonius Headquarters (yes, even the building’s out-of-bounds upper floors) collecting balloons and evading floating enemies, and a rhythm game in which players can perform pieces of the Genshin Impact original soundtrack on three sonically distinct instruments. The Event’s main storyline will reunite Outrider Amber and Trainee Forest Ranger Collei for the first time since the events of the semi-canonical Genshin Impact manga where Collei visited Mondstadt as a child.
In fact, characters from all across Teyvat will be in attendance, including Cyno and Tighnari from Sumeru (Tighnari’s disgraced English voice-actor, Elliot Gindi, appears to have already recorded his lines for the Event, and will not be recast quickly enough to spare players from having to hear his voice, so consider switching languages or simply muting); Ying’er, a fan-favorite NPC from Liyue (who at first glance seems rather out-of-place in this particular Event, though it seems there’s something going on between her and a Mondstadt NPC, alchemist Timaeus); and of course, practically everyone from Mondstadt (with the possible exception of Kaeya, who is occupied elsewhere).
Specifically, players who have completed Requiem Of The Echoing Depths can expect to find Kaeya hanging out in Sumeru, where Genshin Impact‘s overarching story will continue with a new Archon Quest titled Caribert (seemingly a reference to Charibert I, the name of a 6th Century Merovingian king who was the first of his dynasty to be excommunicated – for having four wives simultaneously, but I doubt that’s relevant). Kaeya, the long-lost heir to the even longer-lost throne of Khaenri’ah, and Dainsleif, a morally ambiguous survivor of the Cataclysm that destroyed Khaenri’ah five-hundred years ago, will accompany us on an expedition deep into the bowels of the earth in search of answers to our questions regarding the Abyss Order (of which our protagonist’s sibling is a high-ranking member), whose stated purpose is to resurrect Khaenri’ah and usurp the gods responsible for wiping it off the face of the earth. Unfortunately, that’s everything we know for sure about the Archon Quest so far, but anyone who’s familiar with Kaeya and Dainsleif’s extensive lore knows that these two characters meeting onscreen could have game-changing consequences. When we’ve met them individually in the past, they’ve always avoided saying too much about themselves, shrugging us off when we press them about it, so having Kaeya on our side to help grill Dainsleif (and vice versa!) will hopefully force everyone to be a little more forthright.
The first chapters of Dehya’s Story Quest and Faruzan’s Hangout Event are also set to be released in Version 3.5, and I have a feeling from the brief synopses provided by HoYoverse during the Special Program that I’ll enjoy both – Dehya’s Story Quest in particular, as it will see the return of Dunyarzad, a beloved NPC who had a significant role in the Sumeru Archon Quest and was originally responsible for getting Dehya tangled up in the plot to rescue Lesser Lord Kusanali from the clutches of corrupt scholars at the Akademiya, because even though Dehya might have been hired to be Dunyarzad’s silent and stoic bodyguard, she’s too much of a big softie to turn her back on her friend (or girlfriend, depending on how you interpret their relationship dynamic). Anyway, with Dunyarzad now cured of the debilitating illness that required her family to hire a bodyguard for her in the first place, I’m excited to see how their relationship will evolve, and what new adventures they’ll go on together. Faruzan’s Hangout Event, by contrast, will primarily take place in the heart of the Akademiya, and explore the distinctions between the six Darshans and their conflicting philosophies.
As intriguing as this sounds, I still do not understand why Faruzan, of all the four-star characters from Sumeru, is first-in-line for a Hangout Event while Collei and Candace are still waiting months after their release, and Mika, the new four-star Cryo polearm user being introduced alongside Dehya in Version 3.5, is apparently going to be dropped into the game without any accompanying story content to remind players why they should want to pull for him besides the fact that he buffs ATK Speed and Physical DMG while providing a little bit of healing, making him a good support for characters like Eula (and Xinyan, especially if you’re using her as your Main DPS, the way I do). If only it made sense to run Mika on Eula’s banner, given that she’s canonically his commanding officer…or, you know, rerun Eula in general, seeing as it’s been over a year and there’s a Mondstadt Event in Version 3.5 and the aforementioned reward for participating in said Event is a claymore, Eula’s weapon…nope, definitely the logical choice by HoYoverse to slap Mika on a banner with Kamisato Ayaka and Shenhe, two characters with whom he has no real synergy, making for an inharmonious Mono-Cryo medley in the latter half of Version 3.5.
Beyond that, a few small adjustments and improvements are being made to the game in Version 3.5, of which the simplest and most popular by far is the new system of rewarding players for completing currently released and upcoming chapters of Genshin Impact‘s main storyline with one Intertwined Fate – exchangeable on any limited-time banner – for every Archon Quest. Whether generous or merely exploitative, I will be taking those Intertwined Fates, thank you very much. Dehya will come home to me, and that’s final. But how about you? Pulling for anyone in Version 3.5, or skipping the patch entirely? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
A long time ago, in the summer of 2022, when the cast of playable characters from Genshin Impact‘s then yet-to-be-released region of Sumeru leaked, I took one look at the line-up and committed right then and there to pulling just one – Dehya, whose name, rarity, Elemental type, weapon type, skills, and abilities were all unknown to me at the time. She was just a “tall female” character with what looked like cat-ears protruding from her head (we now know that’s just how her hair bunches up in the back), but I knew from the moment I saw her that I would burn through all my hard-earned Primogems for her.
For me, it came down to the fact that Dehya was the first (and for a while the only) character from Sumeru that we knew for sure had brown skin…although brown, in this case, is arguably only relative to the other characters from the region, who have an even more blindingly pale complexion than those from Mondstadt (the region of Teyvat inspired by Renaissance-era Germany). I am sure this came as no surprise to many, but I had not long been playing Genshin Impact at the time of those leaks and when I had inquired as to why there were only two dark-skinned characters in the entire game, I had been assured by other players that “in Sumeru, there will be diversity!”, so I was deeply disappointed to realize that HoYoverse wasn’t even being subtle about their egregious colorism, the use of orientalist stereotypes in their designs, and the general appropriation of SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) cultures in their worldbuilding. To this day, they have not officially addressed any of these issues, and that is in no small part due to a fandom that aggressively suppressed the backlash with harassment and abuse.
As a result, I have only pulled for a single five-star character from Sumeru – Cyno, who I ought to clarify is probably only brown-skinned by Genshin Impact‘s very low standards. He’s lighter even than Dehya. In my pursuit of Cyno, I successfully obtained several copies of Candace, currently the darkest-skinned of the three non-white playable characters from Sumeru and – by a total coincidence, I’m sure – the only one that’s a common four-star unit obtainable for free through the permanent Standard Banner, immediately making her less desirable to the majority of Genshin‘s player-base due to her lower base stats. But even Candace is light in comparison to Xinyan, a four-star character from Liyue who released near the start of the game (who just so happens to be my Main DPS and the only character I’ve ascended to Level 90).
Well, now the first drip-marketing for Dehya is finally here, and – despite her already being light-skinned, as I mentioned earlier – HoYoverse felt the need to brighten her official artwork to the point where she essentially appears white, although we know for a fact that her in-game character model has a significantly darker skin-tone. I can’t say I’m surprised, because they’ve done this before with Genshin Impact and their other games, but I will never not be disappointed when they attempt to advertise their few brown-skinned characters as lighter-skinned than they are in the hopes that players will be more incentivized to pull for them.
I will not be going over Dehya’s leaked kit and playstyle in detail at this time, as that information is currently subject-to-change anyway. If you’ve played the Sumeru Archon Quest, you already know she wears a Pyro Vision on her belt, and carries a claymore. That’s pretty much all I can say, but I can tell you that the leaks are out there if you want to get a clearer idea of the role Dehya plays for her party and start farming the Ascension Materials she’ll need (not all of which, I will warn you, are yet available to us). If you’ve seen the leaks, I urge you to at least be considerate in the comments below for those who haven’t and don’t wish to be spoiled.
As for Dehya’s role in the story of Genshin Impact, I don’t expect her to have that much lore significance, but that’s not an issue for me. I honestly appreciate that there are smaller-scale character stories woven throughout Genshin Impact that keep us firmly grounded in the human drama unfolding across Teyvat even as the conflict between the gods becomes cosmic in scope. I only hope that Dehya’s Story Quest brings back the fan-favorite NPC Dunyarzad Homayani, Dehya’s employer and closest confidante (and the other half of Dehyarzad, the most popular fan-pairing involving Dehya). Those two had terrific chemistry in all their scenes together, and I need more of their adventures now that Dunyarzad is presumably recovering from the effects of Eleazar and itching to explore the world.
The four-star character set to be released alongside Dehya in Version 3.5 is Mika, a cartographer from Mondstadt whom I’m sure I will obtain several times over despite the visceral loathing I have for his bland design and grating personality (if you don’t recall, we were introduced to Mika in Version 3.1 during a limited-time event, and he was so awe-struck in the protagonist’s presence that he basically hid behind Kaeya the entire time…mind you, this boy is a fully-fledged Knight of Favonius and a member of Grandmaster Varka’s expedition to Snezhnaya who apparently interacted with the high-ranking Fatui Harbinger Capitano). Again, his kit is out there if you want to take a look, but you’ll probably get him through the Standard Banner eventually, whether you want him or not.
So how are we feeling about the drip-marketing for Dehya, and which of these two characters do you intend to add to your team in Version 3.5? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!