As we all sort of suspected going in, the hotly-anticipated announcement of Genshin Impact‘s annual Lantern Rite Festival, which has coincided with the Chinese New Year early each year since the game’s launch, was the highlight of the Version 3.4 Special Program. Despite having an overwhelmingly large number of new events to promote before the upcoming patch (some of which, in my premature opinion, deserved to be the centerpiece of their own separate patch), as well as limited-time banners for new and old characters, alternate skins for Lisa and Kamisato Ayaka, and even an expansion to the region of Sumeru, the HoYoverse developers returned time and time again to Lantern Rite throughout the livestream, hyping up what they promise will be an unforgettable experience for nostalgic veteran players who have experienced this magical event twice before and are yearning to return to Liyue, and for newer players who have heard the stories of Lantern Rite and desperately want to see it for themselves.
If I recall correctly, I started playing Genshin Impact near the tail-end of last year’s Lantern Rite Festival, and hadn’t even finished the Mondstadt Archon Quest and unlocked Liyue before the celebration had wrapped up (otherwise I might have gotten Beidou, once my most coveted character, for free, without having to spend Starglitter in the shop as I ultimately resorted to doing). So as you can imagine, this is an exciting time for me. And this time around, I plan to not only participate eagerly in all the minigames, but to choose wisely between the nine Liyue four-star characters who will all briefly be available for free as an event reward. Feel free to help me decide, in the comments below, whether to go for Xinyan’s C3 (yes, I use Xinyan as my main DPS, what about it?), Beidou’s C1, Yanfei’s C5, or my very first copy of Yao Yao, the new Dendro healer, since I’m saving for Dehya in Version 3.5 and won’t be wishing on any of the banners where Yaoyao will receive a drop-rate boost.
I’ve got to say, I’m cautious of selecting Yaoyao, because for the past few months I’ve gotten away with rotating between just two Dendro-reaction focused teams (a Hyperbloom team, consisting of Dendro Traveler, Collei, Barbara, and Kuki Shinobu, and a Burgeon team where Shinobu is swapped out for Yanfei), and I don’t know if I have a spot for Yaoyao. Barbara and Shinobu already do enough healing, separately but especially together, to prevent the occasional Dendro Core explosion from doing much harm to my other characters, and Yaoyao’s damage output is probably too minimal (at least without high investment and Deepwood Memories artifacts that I’d rather be putting on my Collei) to make her Dendro-spitting leporine sidekick a valuable asset to either of my two teams. That said, she does have the ability to sneak up on Crystalflies without them immediately ascending out of reach, which is a point in her favor.
Yaoyao will debut in the first half of Version 3.4, appearing on Alhaitham and Xiao’s limited-time banners, before being added to the permanent Standard Banner in Version 3.5. Keep that in mind before impulsively throwing your precious wishes at either character’s banner in an attempt to get her! Although participating in Lantern Rite will reward players with wishing currency (and, in an uncharacteristically generous move on HoYoverse’s part, ten Intertwined Fates ready to be spent on the banner of your choice will be provided to each and every player as a reward for logging in daily), it’s probably safer to wait unless you actually want Alhaitham or Xiao, because summoning a five-star character at the wrong moment can completely wreck your plans. I’ve already mentioned that I intend to skip Alhaitham’s banner, but let me go into a little more depth.
First and foremost, I committed to pulling Dehya and Cyno from the moment it became depressingly evident that they would be Sumeru’s only two nonwhite five-star characters. I was just barely successful in my attempts to obtain Cyno, and I would ideally like to do even better on Dehya’s banner, picking up either her signature weapon or a second copy of her, just to prove how much she means to me. Secondly, Alhaitham’s playstyle is very similar to Keqing’s, right down to his Elemental Skill allowing him to teleport across the battlefield and deal Dendro DMG on impact, which would be great if I enjoyed playing Keqing, but she was my very first five-star and to this day I only ever bring her out when I’m having difficulty reaching the top of a tall building. I wouldn’t intentionally pull for a character just like her unless he could do more for me in a Hyperbloom or Burgeon team than Dendro Traveler can for free. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I dislike Alhaitham. Not only do I find him pretentious and catty, but I’m still annoyed that his character model has proper muscles while Itto has sticks for arms. It’s not fair, HoYoverse.
My opinion of Alhaitham could change, if his first Story Quest answers any of my burning questions regarding the Sumeru Akademiya and its relationship with the Dendro Archon following the Sumeru Archon Quest that left off with Alhaitham serving as Acting Grand Sage of the Akademiya under the leadership of Lesser Lord Kusanali. I still don’t understand how or by whom the region is truly governed (and I can’t even begin to guess where the mysterious Temple of Silence fits into all of this), but that’s where Alhaitham’s Story Quest has the potential to be illuminating on multiple levels and why I’ll be extremely disappointed with HoYoverse if their writers drop the ball. At least I know that I can always count on the writers who brought us the poignant Golden Slumber World Quest, so I’m happy to hear that Golden Slumber is receiving an extension in Version 3.4, with fan-favorite NPCs Jeht and Benben returning as our guides into the new Hadramaveth Desert region.
There, Jeht hopes to find the legendary Eternal Oasis mentioned in the Flower of Paradise Lost Artifact set description; an evergreen garden of purple padisarahs built by King Deshret to house the body of the Goddess of Flowers after her death, now buried deep beneath swirling sands that form a vortex miles-high. In the wind-whittled ruins that cling to the canyon-walls in the Hadramaveth Desert, various Eremite tribes who claim descent from the Goddess of Flowers have scraped by for centuries, believing that each day they inch closer to the discovery of the Eternal Oasis where time stands still and death has no power. Whether Jeht will make it that far remains to be seen, but the trailer outright confirms that the Traveler will arrive at a place matching this description, with birds suspended in mid-air and fish frozen under glassy water like some kind of immersive Natural History Museum exhibit. Be sure to complete the Golden Slumber World Quest soon if you haven’t already, so you can be one of the first to piece together the untold story of the Goddess of Flowers.
Speaking of powerful yet mysterious women associated with purple flowers, Mondstadt’s very own Witch of the Purple Rose, Lisa Minci, is getting her deserved moment in the spotlight with a new alternate skin set to be released in Version 3.4 as a reward for participating in the Second Blooming combat event. The challenges seem pretty straightforward to me, but it’s not every day that Lisa returns to Sumeru since graduating at the top of her class and immediately thereafter retiring, yet here she is, dressed up for the special occasion in a personally-commissioned outfit evocative of those worn by students at the Sumeru Akademiya. I’ll be interested to learn if there’s a quest associated with this event, since there was a time when Genshin Impact theorists believed that Lisa might have gone off the radar in part because of what she learned at the Akademiya. Maybe now, with the corrupt sages banished to the forest, it’s time for her to make a comeback?
While Lisa’s alternate skin will be free, a new alternate skin for Kamisato Ayaka named Springbloom Missive will only be available through the shop, and players will need to be prepared to spend real money if they want to dress the Inazuman noblewoman in the pastel-colored finery of a lady from Fontaine (as seen in the illustrations of light novels popular with Inazuman readers). Ayaka, who already has the distinction of being Genshin Impact‘s most profitable character, with record-breaking sales on her rerun banner, is now the first limited five-star character to receive an alternate skin, even before characters with larger fanbases like the Archons. There’s no denying that HoYoverse recognizes her worth to the company. Ayaka will appear wearing this skin in the Warrior’s Soul event hosted by the Yashiro Commission, described as a series of challenges that will limit players to using their normal attacks, in which the act of parrying will significantly boost your damage output.
While you’re in Inazuma, stick around for the Almighty Arataki Extraordinary and Exciting Extreme Beetle Brawl, an event that allows players to finally share in the joy of pitting Onikabuto beetles against one another and strategically maneuvering them through a series of epic duels, something that Itto has been hyping up for ages. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Itto returning in a new event so soon after his first canonical interaction with Gorou during the Akitsu Kimodameshi event (will he mention Gorou?), but I wish it wouldn’t be completely overshadowed by Lantern Rite. This event sounds like fun! I want it to be recurring, and I haven’t even played it yet.
Have I missed anything? Besides the announcement of Alhaitham’s new signature weapon and a new boss battle beneath the Hadramaveth Desert with a giant flying sandworm named Setekh Wenut that will almost certainly provide Alhaitham’s Ascension Materials, I mean (full offense to Alhaitham, but I already hate fighting the Ruin Serpent that I actually need to level up Kuki Shinobu, a character I use regularly; I’m not willingly fighting a flying variation on that same abominable idea, all for a character I never intend to pull). If I have, drop it in the comments down below, as well as any thoughts, theories, and opinions you wish to share!