After the electrifying events that transpired in the nation of thunder and lightning, Genshin Impact took travelers to new areas around the world of Teyvat. But even after exploring the enigmas within the mists of Tsurumi Island, the depths of Enkanomiya, and the mines of the Chasm, nothing could beat the anticipation of finally heading west from the land of contracts, and move on to the next big adventure in the main storyline—where they are  greeted by none other than Sumeru.

The nation of wisdom offers a large expanse of terrain that is sure to be both a blessing and a curse, with bountiful rewards awaiting those undaunted by mind-boggling puzzles and challenges within hidden passageways and underground caverns. As travelers embark on the next act of their main quest and work with new friends, encounter old foes, and unravel secrets hidden in the vast forest and the desolate desert, they are in for a wild and fulfilling journey—one that will teach them the true power of knowledge and wisdom.

The truth about wisdom

The Sumeru questline takes pages from the Inazuma act’s book, introducing fresher perspectives and intriguing plot points that make it much better than its precedent. Similar to the plight of Inazumans, the traveler must band together with key characters in Sumeru to expose and thwart the plans of the Akademiya, a scholar-run institution that grew to controlling power and became a leading yet oppressive authority in the absence of the original Dendro Archon.

One particular thing that stands out in the main story is how much more involved the nation’s reborn Archon is during its progression compared to previous chapters. While the Anemo and Geo Archons played supporting roles in the traveler’s quest, the Electro Archon served as the main antagonist in Inazuma. The story of Sumeru is unique in that it allows the Dendro Archon to journey alongside the traveler and encounter discoveries of her own that are crucial to her personal development, revealing a side to Archons that is more relatable and taps more into reality.

Sumeru is able to present a very intricate conflict, asking mysterious questions that leave players hanging, but offering just enough intrigue to keep them hooked. By introducing multiple issues that are seemingly independent at first glance—from the state of the highly important Irminsul tree, the existence of withering zones around Sumeru, the Eleazar disease that plagues some of its residents, and even the very existence of the current Dendro Archon—progressing through the story reveals how all of these issues are actually consequential events stemming from an original problem.

The nefarious plans of the Akademiya alongside Fatui Harbingers Scaramouche and Dottore, also known as the Balladeer and the Doctor, fall into place as the final obstacle in resolving Sumeru’s conflict. Players will find themselves in an epic battle that will test their strength, reflexes, and agility on the battlefield, but the reward at the end of it all holds plenty of promise—including something no Archon had bestowed upon them before.

Branching out to new allies

Sumeru’s release brought not only a new layer of lore and worldbuilding, but also a game changing mechanic: the botanical element, Dendro. The fourth character of this element to become playable, Nahida is 3.2’s heroine, the Dendro Archon herself. Featuring a new element with a refreshingly new playstyle, it is no surprise that her banner has been breaking records within just a few days after release. Nahida’s elemental skill echoes the camera mechanic in the game’s 3.0 event, Fayz’s Trials, and comes with special uses outside of combat. To boot, her elemental burst comes with a large AOE, a long duration, and unmatched Dendro application—establishing her status as an archon and making her one of the game’s strongest supports.

Joining Nahida in the first half is Pyro archer Yoimiya, now on her second rerun, who’s had a track record of unfortunate banner timing—her initial release coming right before the arrival of the Raiden Shogun and after Kamisato Ayaka: two of the game’s strongest damage dealers. Her first rerun then came in the same patch as Kaedehara Kazuha, Genshin’s highly-coveted Anemo support. While Yoimiya’s kit has its own niche, being convenient for beginners and mobile players alike, her placement in 3.2 unfortunately does not grant her any spotlight.

Lastly, coming in 3.2’s the second phase are Electro mage Yae Miko on her first rerun, then accompanied by Hydro user Tartaglia on his fourth, leaving him with the highest rerun count among all Genshin characters. While the responses to their last banners were lukewarm, players excitedly await their return knowing that Dendro’s introduction, along with its new elemental reactions, have made these familiar characters feel new again.

However, the lack of cohesive character design of the Sumeru characters takes away from the overall glamor of the update. Despite becoming fan-favorites due to their lore and personalities, players struggle to pinpoint elements of Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures in the characters’ clothes that Hoyoverse claims to pull inspiration from. Aside from Desert natives Cyno and Candace, all other playable characters are indistinguishable shades of whitewash pale. The character motifs, if put side by side, make the playable Sumeru natives appear more like fantasy game expatriates than figures representative  of their lands. The designs from one character to another are mismatched at best and culturally appropriated at worst, leaving players disappointed in its stereotype-reliant representation.

Lay of the land

As the world of Teyvat continually expands its borders every patch, the latest era of the game presents rejuvenating terrains unique to the lands of Sumeru. Lush with evergreen rainforests possessing trees reaching  the sky and giant glowing flora lining the traveler’s path, the sights of the region are filled to the brim with foliage. 

Sumeru’s exploration mechanics make players feel as though the forest is alive. Various Tri-lakshana creatures are introduced as the traveler’s newest tools to traverse the land. Four leaf sigils help players seamlessly swing across the ground as compared to Inazuma’s Electrogranas. Other creatures such as bouncy mushrooms, rocklifting branches, and Tri-Yana seeds help uncover hidden treasures—however, many of these require the use of Dendro and Electro to unlock their full potential, making exploration in Sumeru difficult without at least one character capable of utilizing these elements in a player’s on-field party.

Almost completely inverse to the abundant greenery in Sumeru’s forest, patches 3.1 and 3.2 broaden the country even further by unveiling a vast desert. Underneath the grains of sand, Sumeru’s desert hides many out-of-sight riches, including transparent ruins that necessitate new mechanisms to be revealed—if at all. The desert isn’t the easiest place to explore, especially with the lack of an underground map, but the learning curve is a welcome addition, as it keeps players on their feet while the game progresses. 

As the traveler concludes this chapter of their journey, what has been learned in Sumeru will never be forgotten, though there is always room for growth. Ultimately, Sumeru is deserving of its epithet as the land of wisdom. With new technology and innovation embedded deep into not only the nation’s history, but its landscape and inhabitants, the land of Dendro has rooted itself firmly into the world of Genshin Impact through what have been some fun and memorable updates to the beloved game. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0
Clarisse Bernal

By Clarisse Bernal

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