Of all the reoccurring events in Genshin Impact (and there are many), none is more hotly-anticipated by players than the annual Lantern Rite Festival that coincides with and reflects the celebration of the Chinese New Year. Set in the nation of Liyue, itself a patchwork of references taken from various different periods in ancient Chinese history and several distinct Chinese subcultures, the event nonetheless typically features characters from all across the world of Teyvat, and allows for some truly unexpected but delightful interactions. In the case of this year’s Lantern Rite, set to be the crowning event of Version 4.4, the former Hydro Archon Furina will make an appearance, her first in an event held outside Fontaine, which is a pretty big deal given that she’ll be in close proximity to the Geo Archon Zhongli and the two might drop some juicy tidbits of lore in their conversations – but for all that Furina usually commands the spotlight, one must first turn one’s attention to the long-awaited debut of the aloof adeptus Cloud Retainer as a playable character.
Genshin Impact‘s first five-star female Anemo character since Jean in Version 1.0, Cloud Retainer – or “Xianyun” – was described during the Special Program for Version 4.4 as a dedicated support for Plunge Attacks, the relatively little-used Normal Attacks that all characters in the game can perform when jumping or falling from a height. For most characters, gaining the height needed to perform a Plunge Attack in the first place is more of a hassle than it’s worth, because many battlefields – including almost all Domains, Boss Battle arenas, and the Spiral Abyss – are completely flat surfaces. A number of Anemo characters like Xiao, Venti, Wanderer, and Kazuha can propel themselves into the air, and Keqing and Alhaitham have similar abilities, but in all these cases the effect is limited to the character responsible for triggering it. Xianyun removes that obstacle: casting her Elemental Burst imbues every character in your party with a temporary jumping boost, meaning that anyone can perform Plunge Attacks, no matter the terrain. Of course, the characters who currently make the most of Plunge Attacks are the ones already most likely to be capable of performing them on their own, like Xiao, but Xianyun is only an asset to him. Additionally, every Plunge Attack performed while Xianyun’s Burst is active deals AoE Anemo DMG on top of the character’s own DMG, meaning that Catalyst characters (whose Plunge Attacks deal Elemental DMG by default) and characters with Elemental infusions on their weapons will be able to trigger the Swirl reaction more consistently. And as if that’s not enough, her Burst also heals your active character.
Her Elemental Skill allows Xianyun herself to perform three consecutive jumps high into the air, with the option to perform a Plunge Attack that will target nearby opponents and deal AoE Anemo DMG upon impact. From my (admittedly only partial) understanding, Xianyun’s Skill isn’t a necessary investment unless you’re building her to be an on-field DMG dealer. However, for players who enjoy climbing to the highest spots in Teyvat to take in the game’s breathtaking scenery or who struggle to harvest hard-to-reach local resources and always seem to find themselves running out of stamina while trying to maneuver around some slight overhang in a cliffside, Xianyun can be added to the list of (almost exclusively Anemo) characters who make world exploration effortless. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she has a beautiful design, with her Signature Weapon, a Catalyst shaped like a fan, being one of the game’s most exquisitely detailed, coupled with an endearing curmudgeonly personality.
Xianyun will be available during the first half of Version 4.4 alongside Nahida (and followed in the second half by Xiao, her best teammate, and Yae Miko), with the new four-star Pyro Claymore user Gaming featured on both their banners, and as a free reward of choice during the Lantern Rite Festival. Before we go any further, because Gaming’s name has unfortunately been turned into a joke, mostly amongst English-speakers, because “haha, video game character is named Gaming”, let’s get this out of the way right upfront – Gaming is an actual Cantonese name, and in Cantonese it is pronounced as “Gaa-Ming”, not “Gay-Ming”, and we can debate over whether Genshin Impact‘s English localization team could or should have added a hyphen or a space or a second “a” to his name to make it easier, but I’m just gonna point out that there’s a character in this game named Wriothesley. If you can manage that, Gaming should be no problem.
Anyway, Gaming has a very unique playstyle based around the energetic dance-moves of Chinese Southern or Cantonese Lion Dance, one of the two main forms of Chinese Lion Dance, whose performers wear large, brightly-colored lion masks and costumes. Because lions are not native to China, the dance is believed to have possibly originated in Southern or Central Asia, and that is reflected in Genshin Impact, where the dance is said to come from Chenyu Vale between Liyue and the South Asian-inspired region of Sumeru, furthermore being inspired by legends of lion-dragon hybrids living in the mountains, called “suanni” (an obsolete Chinese word for creatures of a similar nature, with roots in Central Asia). The largest of these beasts, the Solitary Suanni, will be a new Daily Boss in Version 4.4, and will likely drop Ascension Materials for both Xianyun and Gaming.
Back to Gaming, his kit is Plunge Attack-dependent, and he synergizes well with Xianyun. His Elemental Skill launches him into the air, allowing him to deal a powerful Pyro-infused Plunge Attack at the cost of a portion of his HP, while his Burst summons an adorable suanni sidekick named Man Chai to provide healing and accelerate his Skill’s cooldown. I don’t know how strong he is, but he’s cute, and he’s a Pyro Claymore, so I feel like I have to get him. I own all three Pyro Claymore-users released thus far, and use two of them for nearly every scenario in the game, hence why they’re both currently at Lvl. 90, outfitted with some of the best weapons and Artifacts I’ve got, and with Talents nearly maxed out (hint: Diluc isn’t one of them). Gaming could be my next obsession. And I have a feeling that I’m gonna be throwing all of my Primogems at Xianyun’s banner (as if I have any chance of getting her this soon after Navia), so there’s a good chance I’ll obtain at least one or two copies of him in the process.
I’ve already mentioned Chenyu Vale in passing, but there’s much more to be said about this next major expansion to the map of Teyvat, a subsection of Liyue best known in the present day for its high quality tea and optimal location at the intersection of three nations, and in the past for being the abode of many powerful and revered adepti who rivaled even Rex Lapis himself, including the Golden Carp, Fujin, who is still worshipped by the people of Chenyu Vale (and, rather curiously, goes by the name of a Japanese, rather than Chinese, deity), and the White Snake (whom we don’t know much about, but I’ll eat my metaphorical hat if they aren’t either related to, or one and the same as the other magical white snake from Chenyu Vale, Changsheng). The region is said to be rich with history and lore, its mountains dotted by the ancient ruins of adeptal mansions and structures dating back to before the Archon War, and I for one can’t wait to explore all of it. It’s also stunning. Like, genuinely some of the best environment design I’ve seen from Genshin Impact to date.
As for Events, well, obviously, there’s Lantern Rite, and all that that entails – various creative and charming minigames, mostly. In one, players can team up in Co-Op Mode to perform a lion dance, one in which you can dress up as a giant lion and fling your teammates into the air as you barrel around the arena picking up coins, though the developers stressed that the aim here is not to cause chaos, and that working together is essential to complete various stages of the game. In another challenge, similar to something I remember from last year’s Lantern Rite, players will have to navigate through a vibrant fireworks display, though the catch here is that you’re playing as a flying golden carp. And there’s a really cute, straightforward enough boardgame involving Xiangling and Yao Yao’s animal familiars, Guoba and Yuegui, where you have to guide them through the forest on a search for ingredients. Players will be rewarded for their participation with a new skin for the four-star Hydro sword-user Xingqiu that appears to be heavily inspired by Furina’s outfit – like, it’s literally just genderbent Furina cosplay, minus the hat and a few other details? I mean, I’m still gonna add it to my collection, because it’s free, but it’s not at all on the same level as free skins that have been released for Kaeya and Lisa, among others, and of course it doesn’t hold a candle to the new skins for five-star Cryo characters Ganyu and Shenhe.
A lot of players have been begging for the return of the addictive Of Drink A-Dreaming Event from Version 2.5 (one of the first Events in which I participated, soon after I started playing Genshin Impact), and at long last it is returning, though with a slight makeover. Rather than brewing cocktails at the Angel’s Share in Mondstadt, players will instead find themselves temporarily taking over the duties of the head chef at Wangshu Inn in Liyue and plating delectable dishes for playable characters in Receiver Of Friends From Afar. Timing and precision are of the essence in this game. In Journey Through Hilinigmatic Terrain, players will have to possess the bodies of hilichurls to investigate strange occurrences in Dadaupa Gorge, before unlocking a Domain where they can fight a giant Samachurl with a bunch of different Elemental abilities. And finally, in Triumphant Frenzy, a standard combat Domain gets a bit more challenging with the player being limited to using random trial characters in each round (I’m hoping that some of the bizarre team-comps to come out of this turn out to be weirdly good).
And that’s Genshin Impact Version 4.4 in a nutshell! What are you excited for? Who do you plan on pulling for? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!