Developed by: Nihon Falcom
Published by: NIS America
The Ys franchise is well established in the scene of Japanese role-playing games and has found an audience of dedicated fans across the globe. You may not always hear about Ys, but it’s definitely an important series in gaming. The Ys series of games is well known for its fast-paced action, rememberable characters, and high energy music. These traits helped Ys make a name for itself. The latest entry in this long running series, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, is no different from the rest of the pack.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana stars longtime hero Adol Christin and his partner Dogi as they embark on another adventure. They find themselves volunteering on a luxury ship, known as the Lombardia, in order to make some extra cash. Under the darkness of night, a mysterious monster attacks the Lombardia. Despite Adol’s efforts to ward off the monster, he is overwhelmed and the beast destroys the ship. After the destruction of the grand vessel, Adol awakens on the cursed island of Seiren, a place in which nobody has ever returned from. Adol eventually finds a small group of survivors, who decide to work as a team to discover the mysteries behind Seiren and find a way to escape. With all of these events set into motion, Adol has found his next grand adventure.
Comradery is the key theme in Ys VIII. A driving force while exploring the Island of Seiren is to find other survivors to populate Castaway Village, the community formed and maintained by the people you save. Populating the village is incredibly rewarding for a number of reasons. Every character you encounter has a different personality and background, making the cast very diverse. Getting to know each character’s strengths and weaknesses makes growing with them even more special. I loved meeting new people along my journey and seeing what they can add to the village. Some individuals offer special traits to the community, such as cooking or weapon crafting, and others offer simple moral support.
While you’re searching for survivors, you are given the opportunity to explore the vast and beautiful island of Seiren. Seiren is grand in scale, giving players plenty of areas to explore. This isn’t a completely open world, though. Instead, Seiren is divided into small sub-sections of land. Having smaller areas, in a much bigger world, to explore makes discovery more manageable. While the island is beautiful, there is plenty of danger lurking everywhere. Players will face a number of enemies, including the powerful and menacing Ancient Species, a dinosaur-like set of beasts that roam the island.
Players will also find themselves fighting through many dungeons in Ys VIII, which can be found in the form of caves or ancient buildings. Dungeons are where the core gameplay really shines. Lacrimosa of Dana features a fast-paced, real-time combat system. With a party of three, you will hack-and-slash your way through hoards of enemies, earning experience points and items to enhance your character. You can switch between any of the characters in your party, giving players the option of discovering different styles of combat. Personally, I found sticking with Adol to be my preferred choice, but I also gave some attention to other party members, if needed.
Each character also has a set of special moves, which can be activated if the player has enough power to do so. These special moves can be used to find weaknesses or breaking points, making some enemies easier to defeat. The combat in Lacrimosa of Dana is easy-to-learn, but still complex in it’s own way. Combining special moves and regular attacks makes for fast, fluid battles, but don’t expect enemies to just die out easy. Seiren’s monsters are tough and require some planning before jumping into action. If you get into a scuffle with a monster you can’t compare to, they will wipe your party in a flash. Fast-paced fighting that’s easy-to-learn, smooth, but also with plenty of strategy. That’s a part in what makes the battle system so special, and it’s something you need to experience for yourself.
In between your time exploring Seiren and conquering its dungeons, you will be given several opportunities to take part in various optional activities. Interception Battles are (mostly) optional events that occur in Castaway Village. The village might come under attack from enemies, so it’s up to you to take on hoards of enemies to protect what you have built. Interceptions definitely do not represent the most enjoyable moments of Ys VIII, as they tend to drag on and become repetitive, but it does give players a good excuse to enhance the village’s defenses. An optional activity that is generally enjoyable, however, is fishing. Yes, there is a modern role-playing game with a fun fishing mechanic. What makes fishing fun in Ys VIII is rooted in its simplicity. There are no complicated tricks to catch fish and there are no upgrades to worry about. Cast your line, match some on-screen prompts, and you got a fish. Fish actually serve a purpose, too, as they can net you some valuable items if you offer your haul to the right individual. It’s makes an optional activity that’s usually not fun in RPGs rewarding and actually fun.
The driving narrative of Lacrimosa of Dana is surprisingly rememberable. The plot is split between two viewpoints: the tale of Adol exploring Seiren for survivors, and the tale of a young woman named Dana, who appears in Adol’s dreams. Eventually, their paths will officially cross, but I won’t go into the specifics on how this happens. The world building of Seiren is where the story stands out the most. While the characters are interesting on their own, the mysteries behind the island kept me wanting more. Seeing the history of the island unfold and the relationship between humanity and nature was fascinating to watch unfold. Lacrimosa of Dana establishes a lore that will keep players coming back for more answers, which is definitely welcomed.
Unfortunately, there is one major flaw in the progression of the story: the pacing. The pacing in Lacrimosa of Dana is irregular throughout the entire game. There are six chapters in the game, each having different lengths. Chapter 2, for example, is approximately 10 hours long, while the next chapter is about half of that time. Each individual chapter does have its high points, but those highs might happen right in the middle of the chapter. A moment that feels like an end to a chapter might only be the first half of it, leaving the other half to drag on with less significant moments. Ys VIII‘s pacing issues also carry over into the actual gameplay. Combat and exploration in Seiren may be interrupted by mandatory interception missions or slower segments featuring other charatcers. Encountering these moments brings the entire flow to a halt, which is incredibly frustrating for a game focusing on fast-paced action. The flow will eventually pick up again, but this is a feeling most players will experience during their time with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.
On a more positive note, the music featured in Ys VIII lives up to the Ys series standard. The soundtrack, composed by Falcom’s internal sound team, is a mix of beautiful orchestral music and action-packed rock music. Battles are even more exciting and more sincere moments become more emotional, all thanks to the fitting score. If you want to hear pieces of the soundtrack for yourself, Falcom has uploaded an official playlist of music from Lacrimosa of Dana. I even listened to a selection of the soundtrack while writing this review, and will probably use it again while writing other reviews. It’s good stuff!
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a great fast-paced action game with really solid gameplay, fun characters, and an intriguing setting. However, it does suffer from some serious pacing issues, in both story progression and combat. Despite this, though, if you’re looking for a fun action role-playing game to sink some time into, Ys VIII is a good choice that I can safely recommend. Falcom hasn’t lost their touch in making this long running series shine bright.
Final Verdict: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is fast-paced action at its finest. Despite suffering from some pacing issues, it still manages to also convey an exciting story. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was played for 45 hours on PlayStation 4 for this review.
[Note: This product was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.]