With the release of Genshin Impact Version 3.0 just around the corner, game developer HoYoverse has already begun hyping up the playable characters arriving over a month from now in Version 3.1, as part of a carefully coordinated process dubbed “drip marketing” by fans. Today’s 3.1 drip marketing consisted of official splash-art of three new characters – two we’ve seen before, and one we haven’t (well, unless you’ve been following Genshin Impact leaks very closely, in which case you’ve seen all these characters and probably more).
All three of these characters hail from the soon-to-be-released region of Sumeru, which will receive its first expansion in Version 3.1 alongside a new chapter of the Sumeru Archon Quest, Story Quests for the five-star characters Cyno and Nilou, and presumably a Hangout Event centered around the four-star character Candace. In other words, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend time with the characters you like (as long as you do your Daily Commissions and save up Story Keys), before obtaining one or more of them through a limited-time banner. Like all four-stars, Candace will head directly to the permanent Standard Banner in Version 3.2, but if you want either Cyno or Nilou you’d better start stockpiling Primogems and strategizing, because with so many five-stars in the game at this point there’s a chance they won’t rerun again for months.
But who to pull for? The answer to that age-old question will vary depending on your personal preferences – someone who pulls for characters based purely on their damage output and the comfiness of their gameplay might feel differently about, say, Nilou, than someone looking for visually appealing characters with an endearing personality and/or lore relevance – but with the limited information at our disposal I think I’m ready to hazard a guess at how different players will answer that question for themselves, and which of these banners will be most successful as a result (with the caveat that we’ll never really know how many people pulled specifically for Candace, because she’s free).
Going in alphabetical order, let’s start with the character we know least about, Candace – a Hydro Vision-wielder who is rumored to have healing and shielding capabilities befitting the fierce “Guardian of Aaru Village”. With the help of her trusty polearm, Candace ensures that the inhabitants of Sumeru’s humid rainforests and its arid deserts alike respect her village’s neutrality in the conflict between these two forces of nature, and that no harm comes to her people that is not at once reciprocated. In terms of gameplay, she’s very likely either a sub-DPS or a niche support for Nilou and other Hydro characters, but there haven’t been many leaks regarding her kit.
As for whether she’s lore-relevant or will be going forward, that too is difficult to determine – she will play a role in the Sumeru Archon Quest, but as of right now, so will every playable character in Sumeru, so we’ll just need to wait and see if her role is especially prominent. It could be one of those situations where she shows up for all of thirty seconds to help us finish a fetch-quest (i.e. Sayu in the Inazuma Archon Quest), or she might deliver a thirty-minute long, exposition-heavy, unskippable monologue about the ancient history of Sumeru (i.e. Albedo, Dainsleif, and Zhongli any time they open their mouths).
One thing about Candace that we can discuss here and now is her name and her design, which are greatly at odds with each other. Candace is the Latinized form of Kandake, a title reserved for the sisters of Kushite kings in the ancient kingdom of Kush (which sprawled across most of modern-day Sudan and Egypt). There were several notable Kandakes of Kush, but most if not all of these women were Black, just as the population of their kingdom was predominantly Black. The character designers over at HoYoverse must have conveniently glossed over that little detail while “researching”, because they’ve transposed the sacred title of Kandake onto a light-skinned woman in vaguely Egyptian clothing.
Knowing that Candace ought to have been depicted as an unambiguously Black woman, that her name ought to have been spelled a certain way, that she ought not to be wearing garments inspired by those of the Kushite kingdom’s culturally distinct rival to the north…all of these things combined make it a lot harder to celebrate the fact that Candace is at least somewhat darker than the other characters in Sumeru (though still significantly lighter than either Kaeya or Xinyan, who are theoretically German and Chinese, respectively). And on top of all this, the list of countries on which Sumeru is loosely based just keeps growing – at this rate, we’ll be lucky if Genshin Impact doesn’t compress the entire continent of Africa into this one corner of Teyvat.
Cyno is yet another example of how HoYoverse is playing mix-and-match with cultures that aren’t theirs to experiment with, although in his case it’s subtler. His name is derived from the Ancient Greek word for dog, kúōn, while his official title, General Mahamatra, comes to us from the Maurya Empire in India, and his design borrows heavily from depictions of the Ancient Egyptian god of mummification, Anubis. Once again, I’m not sure whether to be excited for Cyno’s release because he’s almost as tan as Candace or just disappointed in HoYoverse for their lack of focus.
Well, at least Cyno’s kit sounds promising. The five-star Electro polearm user is intended to be used as a main DPS, synergizing particularly well with Dendro support characters via the “Catalyze”, “Quicken”, and “Aggravate” reactions when Electro encounters Dendro or vice versa. Dendro reactions are a bit complicated, but Cyno will probably be useful in just about any Electro-centric team comp, thanks to his Energy Particle generation and an Elemental Burst that infuses all his attacks with Electro for a short period of time. I am tempted to pull for him; I just need to save up enough Primogems that I can ensure Dehya comes home shortly thereafter or whenever she releases.
And if you’re pulling for characters based solely on their appearance and aesthetics, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Cyno. His hat has jackal-ears and the jackal-ears have ear piercings, need I say more? His personality is also highly endearing – at first glance, he’s stern, severe, even a little intimidating, but once you get to know him you’ll soon learn that he’s a bit of a dork, who tells really bad jokes and collects trading-cards in his spare time. He’s also one of the highest-ranking members of the Sumeru Akademiya, so he’s got lore-relevance if that’s a deal-breaker for you.
Then again, Nilou is also lore-relevant with an endearing personality, and I happen to think she’s the least appealing of the three characters HoYoverse promoted today. Sure, her dance moves are mesmerizing (unsurprisingly, given that she’s modeled on Persian dancers of the Sassanid Dynasty), but her outfit is almost exclusively rooted in orientalist stereotypes of Arabian belly-dancers and bears little resemblance to the dresses and long jackets worn by Persian dancers, which were – and still are – typically very colorful, almost floor-length, and modest, exposing significantly less of the stomach, arms, and legs than Nilou’s. Her design is overtly sexualized in a way that feels extremely disrespectful to the women of modern-day Iran, and to the entire region in general.
But even beyond that, her kit and intended gameplay don’t sound all that interesting at the moment, given that she basically has to be used as an off-field sub-DPS alongside Dendro characters to unlock her full potential, and my initial reaction to all the Dendro reactions is that they’re overly complicated, requiring more strategy than I typically dedicate to the combat in the game (I play primarily for the lore and the characters, if that wasn’t already clear). Nilou’s greatest strength is her ability to activate and amplify the “Bloom” reaction when Hydro (her element) encounters Dendro, but you still need to run a Dendro main DPS with her and at the moment we have exactly one of those, Tighnari, to choose from.
Additionally, there are rumors that Nilou will require a shield to sustain damage from the very reactions she causes (which could be where Candace fits into her teams), so all in all we’re looking at a potentially very niche character with an uncomfortable playstyle. Without access to Dendro reactions, Nilou is a sword-user whose viability, if she has any, will likely derive from her consistent Hydro application – and still, I can’t see her ever beating out all-purpose characters like Yelan and Xingqiu in that department. But I’m not a Genshin Impact theorycrafter, either, so I could very well be overlooking whatever redeeming qualities to her kit there may or may not be.
Anyway, those are all the new characters we were officially introduced to today, and I’m very curious to know which of the three you intend to pull for, which you’ll skip, and how you feel about their designs and rumored gameplay. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!