Genshin Impact’s events can often feel puzzle-driven and sparse. Last year’s Lantern Rite Festival was a bit like a festive museum display. The Windblume Festival and Moonlight Merriment events, meanwhile, were little more than vehicles for seasonal minigames. In contrast, this year’s Chinese New Year-themed Lantern Rite contains tender character moments that help make the city-state of Liyue feel like a dynamic place, rather than a resource location on a map. And that’s exactly what a live-service game like Genshin needs.
Some of the game’s most vocal critics often claim that the daily grind is too repetitive, and that the constant pressure to spend all their resin (resource points that regenerate over time) starts to feel like a job after a while. Part of this is by design, of course. The developers can’t constantly push unique content outside of major updates, and there has to be some pressure for impatient players to buy resource packs. But eventually, players start to feel fatigued with the same boss enemies and farming dungeons.
Seasonal events act as pressure release valves for miHoYo to remind players why they fell in love with Genshin in the first place. For most players, it was because of the immensely popular gacha characters who are constantly trending on Twitter. For miHoYo, these moments that rekindle players’ attachment to the characters aren’t fluff. They’re key to the game’s long term survival.
The event, which features a questline in which you investigate the theft of some fireworks and another in which you retrieve Ningguang’s lost salvage from the sea, is full of lovely moments of character development, connection, humor, and romance. Here are some of my favorite moments from Genshin’s annual new year’s festival:
Players who play as Keqing have been starving for a very, very long time. Finally, they have some relief. Keqing is a top-ranked official of Liyue’s government, and a fan favorite despite her disadvantageous Electro-typing. She has a brief appearance in the main Liyue story quest, but it doesn’t give players a very nuanced sense of her character. The developers also didn’t give her a character quest, which is highly unusual for a Genshin character.
The Lantern Rite Festival’s main questline was functionally the character quest that she deserves in much the same way that winter Dragonspine quests effectively serve as Albedo’s. Keqing had a moment to shine during last autumn’s Moonchase Festival, but the lively chef Xiangling was the true star. In the Lantern Rite event, she works her ass off to catch the thieves who stole the fireworks, and she displays exceptional leadership abilities. You can even play as her during one of the fights, alleviating the FOMO for players who haven’t rolled her yet.
Since the game launched, so many sparks have flown between the not-pirate captain Beidou and the government official Ningguang that players viewed the duo as practically married. They work closely together on government affairs, but their opposing personalities clash at every turn, creating a tension that has been the subject of countless queer fanworks. While my character discussed the salvaging efforts at Guyun Stone Forest, I thought it was a little bit suspicious that Ningguang was talking about “compensating” Beidou with non-monetary means. Maybe it was a knowing nod from the developers?
The nod turned into full-blown homo when I got to the final cutscene. Beidou complimented Ningguang’s dress, and Ningguang openly approved of receiving her attention. Normally, the two are intensely at odds in their daily business, and their character profile voice lines have openly denied even so much as a friendship. This moment was unusually soft (and gay), even for them.
It’s become a running gag that the novelist Xingqiu keeps making up ghost stories so that the exorcist Chongyun will spend time with him. The Lantern Rite Festival continues that time-honored tradition. While Xingqiu helps players catch the thieves who stole the fireworks, he even makes an Ace Attorney reference:
Fear not, heterosexuals. There’s even a cute get-together featuring Vlad and Nadia, the two day and night guards of Snezhnaya’s bank, whose separate shifts have ensured that they rarely meet in person (despite sending regular letters to each other). While the Northland Bank itself is a shady organization that “disappears” its debtors, its masked guards are just lonely employees who have been posted overseas. One Reddit user even documented the full saga of how these two became unknowing penpals, despite working at the same bank.
The pair have since become an incredibly popular ship in the Genshin community. For most of the year, they continue to write to each other without ever knowing each other’s identity. They only ever got to unknowingly meet during Liyue festivals, since they worked different shifts. This year, they got to watch the festival fireworks together in the main cutscene, where Vlad seemed apologetic for being late. While they haven’t realized each other’s identities yet, players continue to anticipate how their relationship will evolve during future events.
This was an attack on me personally. Shenhe is the most recently released five-star character in Genshin, and she’s arguably one of the saddest. Her mother died when she was young, and her father tried to sacrifice her to bring her back. Throughout the game, I have never once seen her fully smile. She only does so if you talk to her during the Lantern Rite Festival. And it is adorable.
Most players didn’t realize how foul-mouthed our favorite captain could really get, but I laughed when I played the salvaging quest in Chinese. English players might have scratched her head at the unusual phrasing: “You’re going to get as far away from me as is physically possible.”
In Chinese, Beidou told the thieves to “滚,“ which literally means “roll away.” When it’s directed at a person, it means “fuck off.” It is one of the rudest things that you could possibly say to someone, and borders on profanity. Her fierce expression was perfectly suited to the words that were coming out of her mouth. The translators were just faced with the impossibility of writing “fuck” in a family-friendly game.
The Lantern Rite Festival references one of the most quintessential aspects of going home for Lunar New Year: being asked if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend yet. The experience is so excruciating that many young career-minded people actually dread going home for the holidays. The dance goes like this:
Do you have a boyfriend yet?
No, I’ve been too busy.
If you don’t hurry up and get a boyfriend, then every nice guy will be taken.
I’m working towards a promotion at work/it’s busy season/some other excuse.
How about that boy you grew up with?
We’re just friends.
I’ll schedule a meeting date for next week.
Ganyu was the perfect victim for this gag. She is the most hardworking secretary in all of Liyue, which makes it very difficult for her to go on dates. For now, she managed to dodge the question from the crane who raised her. But she’s also practically immortal, which means that she might have to continue escaping the question for another thousand years to come. Good luck, Ganyu.
Of course, there are also various other fun interactions throughout the event. You can find Xiao near Pervases’ shrine, and Hu Tao is loitering near the funeral parlor. These little touches help the event feel more alive, and can alleviate the fomo of not having certain gacha characters in your party. Hopefully, future events will continue to incorporate these whimsical moments into seasonal festivities.