When Genshin impactThe annual update finally arrived last week, I expected minor tweaks to the open world formula. Instead, the Sumeru region feels like a completely different game. As I raced through the canopy in all directions, I began to forget the main mission and my daily farming routine. HoYoverse has eliminated the frustration factors of its previous regions while rewarding players who have a keen eye for detail about the environment. This is Genshinopen world formula at its best. Sumeru is based on the element of plant life, yet feels the most vibrant and vibrant of all the regions I’ve explored to date.
Before I get into what makes Sumeru’s exploration good, let me explain what made previous regions an exercise in patience and common sense. Mondstadt was the learning area, and the different sub-areas felt very simple and unobtrusive. Liyue was distinguished for its towering mountains, but climbing them meant spending a lot of time watching the stamina bar with your nose pressed against an ugly gray cliff. Inazuma gave us seven completely different areas, but the… constant danger and difficult puzzles made it hard for me to enjoy it to the fullest. Until you unlocked quick travel points, exploration was a chore you had to get through before the real fun could begin.
Sumeru, on the other hand, invites players for a pleasant “walk”. The four-leafed characters scattered all over Sumeru allow players to instantly zoom to their location even from great distances. Not only does this make traveling incredibly efficient, it also makes it easier to enjoy the beautiful views when I’m not trying to figure out how to overcome a physical obstacle. Sigils were also present for puzzles and challenges. When I had to climb a mountain, I would look for stamina-filling flowers perched on some rock faces. I didn’t always feel the need to use them, but this was the first time a region felt like it was trying to guide me rather than being laissez-faire about open world design. In fact, Apam Woods has become my favorite area in Sumeru. I loved being able to zip around the canopy in any direction I chose. Usually fall from a high area in Genshin means you have to travel back to the top quickly. Here I find my four-leafed seal and go back to my platform.
When there’s no fast travel point nearby, I often have to make informed decisions about where to go. These decisions are mostly shaped by local resources in the area, and I almost never had a reason to go elsewhere. There are whole parts of the tutorial region (Mondstadt) that I don’t remember because they don’t have exclusive resources. But since the sigils took away a lot of the friction around travel, I always ended up somewhere I didn’t intend to go. This completely changed my experience Genshinthe open world. The changes are so strong that I feel significantly more frustrated when I revisit the older zones.
Normally I would end up anywhere in the region to finish my quest list. When I’m done with everything, I’ll look up the areas with certain types of flowers and fruits, as they’re needed to raise future characters. I only visit those specific areas every few days. Once I’ve built up a significant stash, I’ll finally start looking for treasure chests and puzzles for the special types of currency that I can use to exchange for materials and furniture blueprints. Sumeru feels so good to discover that I am in a completely different region, far from where I was looking for a certain type of mushroom. Sumeru proves that the best player experiences are not guaranteed by a hands-off design philosophy. Sometimes a game needs more tricks to push us out of our comfort zones.
Sumeru is also bringing back element-based puzzles. By charging a green mushroom with Electro power, you can use it to bounce to even greater heights than if you just jumped on it. Certain puzzles only respond to the new Dendro element. And if you want to fight certain Ruin Guards for chests, you’ll need to set their binding seals on fire. Genshin has always used elemental powers as the basis for many of his puzzles, but their use is more common in Sumeru. I was constantly rotating with my travel party, whose type elements are more varied than I usually travel with (doubling elements gives certain combat bonuses).
The new Dendro element is also a fascinating and complex element. Previously, applying Pyro to Dendro would simply set an enemy on fire. Now if you apply Hydro to Dendro it will spawn a seed pod, which could be: further caused a Hyperbloom (Electro) and Burgeon (Pyro) response for AoE damage. Applying Electro to Dendro causes the enemy to take extra damage from Electro and Dendro attacks. For years, Genshin players have complained that Electro is the weakest element. But the elemental additions have revived an element that most theorists considered non-viable. Rejoice, Yae Mains. Your time has come.
Before Sumeru was released, I felt: Genshin went through a bit of an identity crisis as an open world game. allegations of “Breath of the Wild clonedominated early coverage of the game, which was largely softened by the game’s visual style and engaging story. Inazuma felt like overcompensation. The region was hostile, difficult to traverse, and full of puzzles that were difficult for no discernible narrative reason. Sumeru is a return to what was made Genshin fun first: being able to see fascinating sights no matter which direction you looked.