I adored Genshin Impact at launch and I still have a lot of love for it now. That being said, live service titles rarely suit me. I don’t necessarily like the idea of sticking to a single game for several months on end, tediously grinding for narrative crumbs, especially when playing a variety of different games is a necessary part of my job.
Although I played Genshin Impact throughout all of October, I went on to review Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and Immortals Fenyx Rising in a marathonic sprint, before diving headfirst into the trenches for Cyberpunk 2077 coverage. And so, when I clocked out of work at 5:30pm each day, the last thing I wanted to do was clobber a bunch of hilichurls with an impractically oversized claymore. If I played games at all, it was for a story, a captivating experience after which I felt my time had been fairly compensated. I played Yakuza 0, went back to Persona 5 Royal, and flitted between a variety of fascinating indies like Necrobarista and Paradise Killer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still been slowly ticking away at Genshin Impact on the weekends. What I mean by all of the above is that I fell off the wagon of making regular, steady progress in the game’s main story, primarily because other games proved far more capable of catching my wandering eye. I’ve stated in the past that Genshin Impact is best played for a single hour every day – but when that single hour is the only one you have, it’s easy to devote it to something entirely different.
Fortunately, with update 1.3 on the horizon, I’m feeling pretty good about returning to Liyue for the gorgeous Lantern Rite festival. This is mostly because Mihoyo is gearing up to finally add Genshin Impact’s most uniquely intriguing character yet: Xiao.
Xiao has been playable in the test servers for quite some time, to the extent that several short gameplay reels have leaked online over the last few months. As a result, we not only know what Xiao’s elemental affinity and weapon preference are – we’ve also been able to see how his abilities look in action, allowing us to consider how he might fit into the meta and our own personal squads.
The thing about Xiao is that he’s probably the most unforgiving character yet. While there are some excellent S-tier characters in the game already, like Diluc, Ganyu, and Tartaglia, Xiao’s core gimmick is that he is capable of boosting his damage output at the expense of his own health. It reminds me of leveling a Bloodtinge character in Bloodborne, in that it’s this high-risk, high-reward style of play that allows those who have mastered it to deal unparalleled damage, but causes those who haven’t to sacrifice their own health bars before landing a single hit. On top of that, Xiao has absurdly liberal mobility potential, to the extent that he looks like the most fast-paced and agile character in the game yet – all in all, he’s far more experimental and nuanced than anybody else (so far).
When you consider all of this together, it points to a brighter, more versatile future for Genshin Impact. Although I thought the insta-switch, elemental-chaining combat was intriguing at the beginning, I eventually grew to miss having a single character that you just click with, someone you learn inside out in order to use their mechanical abilities as an extension of your own real-time logic. For what it’s worth, I’m sure a lot of people have managed to find that in other characters already. I’m just saying that, personally, there was nobody in Genshin Impact that screamed at me as my main, aside from occasionally Razor.
With Xiao, though, I imagine that’s finally going to change. He’s lightning quick, has a remarkably clever tradeoff gimmick, and is capable of wreaking havoc no other characters could ever dream of. He’s also one of Liyue’s Adepti, meaning that we could get even more insight into one of the most fascinating facets of Genshin Impact’s established lore. While I’m mostly interested in the idea of playing as Xiao, I’m excited to unravel the seams of mystique invisibly wrapped around him, too. I imagine there’s going to be a lot more to this morally ambiguous Adeptus than meets the eye.
I also think it’s funny that Xiao is one of the only characters to explicitly threaten Paimon with death by consumption. I reckon we’re all going to get a good, hearty laugh out of Xiao, and I can’t wait to see how Genshin Impact’s edgelord poster boy shapes up once we get to know him a bit better.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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