Anyone who talks to me about games knows that I haven't been able to shut up about Genshin Impact since its launch this past fall. It's a game with a lot of faults--namely its predatory monetization scheme--but it also provides a vast (and interesting!) open world, a novel and nuanced combat system, and a surprisingly compelling story, all of which you can experience without spending a dime.
Since my initial burst of playing in September, though, my excitement to log in every day was beginning to wane. New events and characters were nice new additions, but they weren't entirely well-conceived or received. That is, until miHoYo pushed their 1.2 update which unveiled a new region of Teyvat: Dragonspine Mountain.
Before I get too into this overview, I just want to say that many sites (ours included) tend to focus on rewards or event participation when it comes to gacha games. Dragonspine released just before Christmas though and the event associated with it is already half over at the time of this writing. Because of this, the focus here will be on Dragonspine itself, what it adds to Genshin Impact overall, and what it might mean for the future of the game. If you want to see what the event is like though, feel free to check out the videos in this post.
Dragonspine itself is a towering, snowy peak full of mystery and danger. This isn't all just an aesthetic choice, either. There's a ton of climbing you have to do in this region to reach places, and there's a new mechanic that forces you to manage your adventurers' warmth by making sure to light torches or risk freezing to death. Dragonspine is a region you're constantly fighting against, even if you aren't actively in combat with any enemies there.
If not for Dragonspine's condensed landscape (it's only slightly larger than Stormterror's Lair, a dungeon that takes up well under a quarter of Mondstadt's overall total landmass), managing the cold and crawling all over the place would feel pretty tedious and annoying. It still can be, particularly as you get used to the demands of the environment, but there are tons of quests and loot peppered across the mountaintop that do a lot to guide your exploration and reward you for it.
I have loved every second I've spent in Dragonspine, mostly because it's the region where Genshin Impact's core components feel the most cohesive. Having powerful adventurers is good, but it means nothing if you aren't minding your surroundings at all times. Given the dangers of the mountain, it's also likely you'll be cooking and consuming more food than you ever have before. More than these things, though, Dragonspine brings the importance of elemenal interactions out of combat and into the rest of its world better than it ever has, and I hope they continue to do this with each new region added to the game.
Chests can be trapped in ice, getting wet can advance your freeze meter more quickly, and torches lit by pyro abilities can thaw out your bone-chilled adventurers. I want to see more of this kind of thing in Genshin Impact, and I was worried for a while that I wouldn't. The cause for this concern was an incident when miHoYo pushed a short-lived update that made environmental effects more dangerous. Due to community pushback, they rolled back this change in less than a day, but I was disappointed by the move.
I want the interplay of elements and the landscape to be at the forefront of Genshin Impact. Pyro characters--as powerful as they are--should feel dangerous and explosive, even to themselves, while Geo should be the non-reactive protection from these dangers. Until the release of Dragonspine, miHoYo felt like it was only dabbling with these ideas. Now, it seems like they have a plan to keep updating the game to challenge players to master the challenges of new landmasses, and I'm more than ready for it.