Our return to the beautiful Golden Apple Archipelago was nothing short of extraordinarily fantastical.
With Genshin Impact version 2.8's Summertime Fantasia event, we’ve encountered new stories, new friends, and new questions as we explored the islands — each with a special connection to our motley crew of Fischl, Mona, Kaedehara Kazuha, and Xinyan.
Each story, told through their own mirages, was unique, heart-warming, and at times gut-wrenchingly relatable.
Who knew exploring domains and solving (at times very difficult) puzzles would be such a great way to bring depth to characters we thought we already knew?
Here are my thoughts on each domain!
A Dream of Bonsai
Kazuha’s story has finally been further explored in his own little island domain.
Set in Pudding Isle, we find his heirloom bonsai plot (the one we found during the Raiden Gokaden storyline involving the mysterious Fatui Harbinger Scaramouche in Irodori Festival) settled nicely in a small islet, with his signature maple tree motif.
We find out his bittersweet past while exploring a mysterious domain modelled after his childhood home that we access by touching the bonsai pot, and witness his struggles as the successor to his dying family name.
In the end, Kazuha’s family could not rise from the disgrace they had faced during the fall of the Raiden Gokaden, and so, Kazuha was left orphaned with nothing but a few belongings to his name.
It was indeed a tragic time for Kazuha, but as he waited for us as we learned his story, he came to terms with the fact that the wandering life was indeed his true calling, and that the tragedy of his past was not an obstacle to his freedom from his clan’s fall from grace.
In a sense, we learn that our past shouldn’t be shackles to our growth as people. We are free to choose who we want to be.
But although he is living a life of no connections tethering him to a place, he still has his regrets and desire to be connected.
As we finish his domain, he resolves to give life to his beloved heirloom bonsai pot, and picks up on making a rock bonsai, like his father before him.
Xinyan’s domain, located in the singing islands of the Broken Isle, can be accessed through a drum, which is most fitting as Xinyan values her love for music and self-assurance the most.
A lot of players may have resonated with her story, as we explore her struggles of being rejected by the people around her solely for her aesthetic as a rock musician and the music she chooses to play.
It’s a sad reality that most people face when choosing the path of creativity in a world that values “practicality” or “elegance” — most evident when we encounter Liyue citizens either chastising her for her lack of lady-like attributes or her music being too noisy.
But Xinyan imbued her “Rock Spirit” through all the obstacles she faced, and blasted away the disdain she received from the people around her with her overflowing optimism and positivity.
In the end, we are given a hopeful message of acceptance and individuality, and that nothing anyone can say should deter us from pursuing our passions and displaying our unique styles.
“I Am Thou... Thou Art I…”
Fischl’s story is bittersweet.
As we explored each domain we found that Fischl seemed to become hesitant and withdrawn from us, surely wanting to avoid exploring her own past through her domain. Indeed, it was understandable why when we finally experienced it.
We end up at Twinning Isle where we access her domain through a book, which transported us into the majestic realm of the Immernachtreich, as well as what we could deduce to be Fischl’s childhood home.
For people like me who have maxed out their friendship level with Fischl, we find out her true identity as a lonely girl named Amy who found solace in the world of the novel series “Flowers for Princess Fischl”, eventually roleplaying the princess and taking her identity as her own.
This “Chūnibyō” delusion would follow little Amy into her future career, giving us the adventurer Fischl that we know today.
The domain explores Amy’s struggles with herself and her fantasies, terrified of how the others would react upon knowing about her true self.
In the end, Amy literally faces herself (which is very reminiscent of how the protagonists in the Atlus game series Persona do when accepting their shadows) and accepts her inner darkness of cowardice, fear, and want for acceptance, and asserting herself as unique and loved, making her truly worthy of donning the name and title of Fischl, Prinzessin der Verurteilung.
Mona’s mirage, located in Minacious Isle, has us explore her heart through a pool of clear water.
Inside is a breath-taking view of water and stars housed in a mysterious domain, befitting Mona's pursuit for truth and clarity through astrology and divination.
Within, we find out her struggles that come with her craft.
Mona faced ridicule and hatred for her matter-of-fact divinations, as she pursued only to speak the truth without any reservation.
And although the great genius Astrologist Mona Megistus we have now would brush them off as if they were nothing but dust on her shoulder, you can tell that deep inside she still harbours hurt from being seen as "annoying".
Another thing that Mona harbours is her belief that in the face of resolute fate is a chance for "miracles", which defy astrology’s principles.
This would seem absurd for an astrologist like her who believes that there can only be one fate mapped out in the stars — but the "fantasy" of seizing one’s own destiny is Mona’s own miracle.
Puzzles Galore and so much more
The domain designs were beautiful, each inspired from aspects of each character’s past and personality.
The twists and turns, as well as the difference in each scenery as we entered seemed to reflect the highs and lows each character had to go through before meeting us, and could be bleary, mysterious, melancholic, and nostalgic.
But the mechanics of each domain heavily rely on unique puzzles we need to wrack our brains to solve, which at times seemed more frustrating than fun to do.
Out of the four domains, the easiest puzzles to do were Xinyan’s, while you’ll end up losing your mind trying to solve Mona’s puzzles (and maybe get an intense migraine like I did, too).
But maybe we can just chalk it up to Xinyan being an easy-going person, while Mona is a renowned genius (laughs).
Compared to the previous summer escapade to the Golden Apple Archipelago with Klee, Jean, Barbara, Kaeya, Diluc, and Razor, which was light-hearted and full of that summer getaway flavour, this return to the mysterious isles is tinged with a nostalgic bitter sweetness.
We aren’t lobbing harpastum balls at targets or bombing locations anymore, but are confronted with the shadows of our beloved companions.
And although this return to the archipelago may seem more sombre than before, there’s still a tinge of summer fun left in the islands with the interactions we have with our friends.
Genshin Impact is currently in version 2.8, which will run until 22 August.
Yan Ku is a full-time dog parent, part-time (gacha) gamer, and part-time writer.
If you like Genshin Impact and would like to know more about the game, the characters, the mechanics, and even the lore, check our our Genshin Impact page. From character builds and weapon recommendations, to how the pity system works, to diving deep into the story of the Genshin Impact universe, we've got you covered.