Whenever a new Genshin Impact character appears, there’s a sense of excitement. You wonder how they’ll fit into rosters. Or maybe it will come down to if their appearance makes them as fun to watch and spend time with. The latest Genshin Impact update introduced Hu Tao and, as the second Pyro polearm user from Liyue in the cast, she might not seem as exciting. But she’s a trickster who relies on other elements to become a success. Which means making her work well involves adapting to her.
Hu Tao basic mechanics favors taking risks and hoping for chances to present themselves. For example, you might get her and not really have a place for her right away. That’s because her critical damage and elemental mastery are both pretty great, but her normal damage output isn’t the best. So you have to rely on risky maneuvers, like using the Guide to the Afterlife Elemental Skill, to cut her health, boost her attack, and start dealing Pyro damage for a limited time. You need to start gathering Artifacts for her that will increase her odds of landing critical hits, to take advantage of the extra damage percentage. She’s even riskier to use than Xiao, the other character who sacrifices health for a buff, because I noticed I had to have her dip into her own HP more often and I had to resist urges to heal her and decrease the opportunities for more damage when she was at half her health. (Especially since the Spirit Soother Elemental Burst works better when I put her in danger.)
It also felt weird realizing that no, I can’t start using her right away. Because unlike every other character I’ve pulled in Genshin Impact so far, Hu Tao needs to be built up a bit first. She desperately needs that Flutter By passive, which you get after having her ascend once, to give everyone in the party a 12% better chance of landing a critical hit. While I’ve been experimenting with party compositions for the last few days to see how she might fit, and having fun making her work with Keqing, Klee, and Zhongli, I didn’t really start making headway until I got Sanguine Rouge from her fourth Ascension. That extra 33% Pyro damage bonus from it is a godsend, since you really do have to try and fight to keep her around 50% health in battles. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but one that can feel rewarding as you discover her subtleties.
This can also apply to her personality. We’ve seen quite a bit of this in trailers and voice lines. Hu Tao likes to tease people! She has coupons for adventurers who will be needing the funeral home’s services! One of her idle animations involves an annoying hilichurl chant. There’s wisdom and insight there too. After all, someone wouldn’t get to be the Wangsheng Funeral Parlor director without it. But the idea that we have someone in-game who isn’t perfect or some sort of ideal is refreshing. Am I ever going to have Hu Tao cook? Probably not when people like Barbara, Diona, and Xiangling will occasionally make extras while cooking. But knowing a suspicious dish could be there is funny!
While she’s the character I’ve had to spend the most time “learning” to use, the only real issue I’ve had with Hu Tao has to do more with timing. She appeared about a month after Xiao. Both characters are competing for the same Juvenile Jade Ascension resource. Each one uses a polearm and, due to their high risk/reward gameplay, benefit from ones that would boost their damage output. Each one, if in the party, is best suited as a primary damage dealer. Since I have both, I find myself constantly debating using one over the other. And, considering I also like to bring Zhongli in to act as a supporter, I find myself overwhelmed with people with spears.
Everything about Genshin Impact’s Hu Tao comes together in a way that sets her apart as a character. We have someone who is different from what people might expect. Which is good, considering how we have some characters you might look at and go, “Well, I have a good claymore user like Diluc, so that makes all other claymore users who aren’t him useless.” Even if you have Xiangling, the other Pyro polearm user, it doesn’t feel like Hu Tao makes her obsolete. Her unique moveset and potential role are different and can be more technical and specialized. It means more time spent adjusting, but shows promise for her and possible future additions to the cast.
Genshin Impact is available for the PlayStation 4, PC, and mobile devices. A Switch version is also on the way. The Genshin Impact Hu Tao banner will be available until March 16, 2021.