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.
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.
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.
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.
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!