It’s hardly surprising that it feels as if HoYoVerse puts more effort into the Lantern Rite than any other event. It’s essentially the Genshin Impact equivalent of Lunar New Year, which is one of the most important holidays for Chinese (and other Asian) people. Just like in real life, you gather to break bread with your friends and family, and wish each other good luck and prosperity for the future. This year, the Lantern Rite story focuses on the theme of music, as well as distant memories and lost friends.
To start with, let me say something that’s a bit personal. As a Taiwanese diaspora who does not live with her family, the Lantern Rite in Genshin Impact has been my way of spending the Lunar New Year since the event’s debut in 2021. This couples with how Genshin Impact was my Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the lockdown. So Lantern Rite is one of the more special annual events in Genshin Impact for me. Yes, I’m aware of how sad that sounds.
But even though I have a soft spot in my heart for the Lantern Rite does not mean that all Lantern Rites are equal. The first Lantern Rite, where it was just talking to NPCs and fetch quests, was objectively very boring. This year, we got a semi-continuation of the Iridescence Tour story thread that started from the Labyrinth Warriors event in Version 2.2. Xinyan and Hu Tao – both very fun characters – having lots of screentime is great, except for the fact that Lantern Rite the year previous was Fleeting Colors in Flight. It’s honestly pretty hard to top the writing in that event.
That’s not to say that an event needs to be emotional or tell an impactful story to be good. I personally did not really enjoy the second Golden Apple Archipelago event, despite it exploring and developing characters that I like. However, even flipping through all of the screenshots I took for Lantern Rite 2023, I honestly have no real memory of anything that happened in the festival’s plot. It was a fun idea in theory, but the execution needed some oomph. For example, the Traveler could have had a more active role in organizing the event, rather than following the Ganyu or Keqing around as they worked.
Maybe that’s not the point, though. Like how Lantern Rite 2022 was more about Shenhe than anything, this year’s event does the same thing in placing Madame Ping and Guizhong’s past in the center stage. The problem is that everything is told through dialog and cutscenes. Once again, it’s too much telling and not enough showing, which is a constant problem in Genshin Impact’s writing. There is nothing to be done for Guizhong because she’s long gone. But what about Madame Ping? How come Madame Ping only appears for one short scene in a Lantern Rite story that arguably focuses on her? I feel like I’m in the minority for this opinion because of how many people I saw gushing about Madame Ping and Guizhong online, but though I thought it was cute, I did not feel as engaged as I could have been.
Speaking of engaged, major regional festival events usually feature lots of mini-games, and Lantern Rite 2023 was no exception. This year, you could perform a shadow puppet show, steer a boat around, and race through a time attack. All of them are fairly easy to get through if your only goal is the Primogems, and the Paper Theater mini-game felt unique from other Genshin Impact puzzle games. It’s certainly a lot more enjoyable than the Wondrous Shadows one from last year, even if I had to resort to asking the game to dumb things down for me.
Finally, let’s talk about the Liyue characters! To begin with, I wish that the story had taken greater advantage of the fact that this is Yaoyao’s debut event. She barely appeared, which makes her come off more like a novelty than anything. Kind of like when companies and brands release rabbit-themed goods because it’s the Year of the Rabbit. It’s easy to forget about that when the epilogue scene stole the show of the entire event, though! Everyone eating dinner and pushing the responsibility of lighting the essence onto each other was fantastically funny. It really brings to mind all of those fancy family dinners where you’re sitting there with your friends and watching the adults duke it out.
Despite it all, I still enjoyed the Lantern Rite this year. It balanced the light-hearted and comedic musical plot with the much more serious and lore-heavy Guizhong one. This combination works to satisfy both players who just want to have fun and players who wish to know more about Teyvat’s messy past. In that sense, Lantern Rite 2023’s epilogue serves as a fantastic way to wrap it all up. After all, what’s a family reunion without someone digging up old drama in between all the cheery chatter? As a reminder, next year is the Year of the Dragon! And we all know who the most important dragon in this game is. So here is an early congratulations to the Zhongli fans. I wonder what story will play out under the lanterns then?
Genshin Impact is readily available for the PS4, PS5, Windows PC, and mobile devices.