Monday, December 5

Genshin Impact’s Sumeru Update Arrives Right As I Hit Live Service Burnout

Sumeru characters stand in front of a glowing green tree.

Image: HoYoverse

Burnout eventually comes for everyone who plays live service games. Still, I didn’t notice that my relationship with Genshin Impact was headed in that direction until I stopped logging in every day. The summer event felt bloated with lackluster puzzles. The lore revelations never reached the epic heights that Enkanomiya or the Chasm once did. The whitewashing controversy dampened my enthusiasm for the new character reveals. And artifact farming continues to be the worst part of the game. As I scrolled down my list of unfinished quests, I started to wonder if it was finally time to address my RPG backlog. I hear Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is good?

Version 3.0 “The Morn a Thousand Roses Brings” Trailer | Genshin Impact

So with all of this in mind, I’m trying to manage my expectations for Genshin’s 3.0 update. This patch will add the Sumeru region, new Dendro element characters such as Collei and Tighnari, and quality-of-life updates that promise to make farming, fishing, and cooking less grindy. The trailer hints at some interesting lore about the region’s scholar-government and some kind of ideological divide about knowledge.

Unlike the marketing leading up to Inazuma’s release, HoYoverse is more evasive about the main conflict in the Sumeru storyline. Though I’m not sure if the secrecy is really having the intended effect. Without knowing what the dramatic stakes are, it’s difficult to place my emotional investment in the new characters or worldbuilding that the developers have shown off so far.

Genshin players are used to putting a ton of trust in the developers while they have very little information. For the most part, the game has rewarded that faith with well-written characters and memorable adventures, so I’d feel less ambivalent about how close HoYoverse is holding its cards to its chest if Genshin’s recent event, Summer Fantasia, hadn’t been so lackluster.

Instead of giving us world-specific lore or character quests that truly feel revelatory, I felt I was shuttled around some generic-looking islands to complete uninspired puzzles (The only exception being Fischl’s raven castle. Those looking-glass puzzles were extremely good). And Summer Fantasia suffered from the same issue as the Irodori Festival: The event tried to focus on too many characters. It was fun to watch the rock star Xinyan interact with the wandering samurai Kazuha. But it’s hard to get invested in their relationship if you’re not sure if they’ll ever interact again in the longterm (it didn’t help that we met Childe during the last roguelike event, and she hasn’t brought him up since). Normally, I wouldn’t care. But viewing those scenes required me to complete a ton of dungeons in a specific order. If I’m being forced to complete a ton of puzzles, then the payoff needs to be worth it.

What Genshin really needs right now is narrative focus. For the past several months, we got content that felt bloated for the sake of padding out the schedule until 3.0. I’m willing to guess that some of this is because the pandemic messed up HoYoverse’s schedule. But I’d rather the developers left us alone to build our rosters while they focused on making sure that Sumeru is the best that it can be. Even after the main storyline concludes, players will be revisiting the region for seasonal events. If players aren’t sold on Sumeru now, then it’ll be harder to sell them on content further down the pipeline.

Mondstadt and Liyue had the advantage of being the starter cities at launch. Inazuma was partially buoyed by the soft power of Cool Japan. Sumeru has a lot to prove, and its success or failure here could set the tone for another year’s worth of content.

Depending on your timezone, the Sumeru update will be released on August 23 or 24.

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