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Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana Review


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On 06/19/2018 at 11:38 PM by Nick DiMola

By the end, the island of Seiren is one you won't want to escape.
RECOMMENDATION:

Those seeking a sprawling RPG adventure with strong action gameplay won’t go wrong with the latest in the Ys franchise.

At some point in everyone’s life, they’ve wondered what it would be like to find themselves on a deserted island, removed from the comforts that make civilized life so easy. I’d also wager that many have also dreamed of what it would be like to uncover ancient ruins and be the first to gain a glimpse into the past. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA capitalizes on both of these contemplations through the lens of Adol Christin. While serving as crew on the Lombardia, Adol is treated to tales of the mythical and uninhabited isle of Seiren, which is thought to be cursed. Upon passing, in classic fashion, a Kraken attacks the ship and despite Adol’s best efforts, destroys it, thrusting him and the ship’s passengers into an unexpected adventure on Seiren. These circumstances setup the experience, pitting the castaways against the harsh nature of the island, as they struggle to escape back to the life they’ve known. As the adventure kicks off, players are quickly treated to solid action RPG combat, an intriguing story, and an addicting gameplay loop that will keep them coming back for more.

The heart of Ys VIII is truly its combat. While there’s a pretty steady stream of exploration and other tasks to accomplish, just about everything involves battling the wildlife of Seiren. And thankfully, the combat is snappy, smooth, and quite a bit of fun, though generally simple. At any point in the field, you’ll have a total of three party members to swap between and each possesses a particular strength, Slash, Pierce, or Strike. Enemies may be weak to one of these attacks and hitting them will eventually force a Break, where they’ll take extra damage. As such, you’ll be making consistent swaps to make a best effort to force an enemy break and quickly dispatch them.

While the core capabilities of the combat system are returning from Ys 7, the Flash Move and Flash Guard move bring a risk/reward element to the combat offering new depth. With the push of a button you can easily dodge, but timing it perfectly with an enemy attack will slow down time and allow you to quickly deliver a flurry of critical attacks to heavily damage your opponent. Executing a special move just in time will produce the same effect, both of which put you at risk of taking heavy damage. It’s hugely rewarding to consistently pull off these Flash abilities and it makes the combat that much more engaging and fun. With a healthy helping of enemies around every corner, you have countless opportunities to master the dodging and timing and movesets of the enemy force.

With an SP gauge in the mix, you can also execute varying special moves with each character. The four that can be equipped at a time can be switched out to your preference and you’ll consistently learn new ones as you progress and level up in the game. Dropping special moves intermingled with normal attacks will keep your gauge from being fully exhausted and it creates a nice cadence to the combat to keep from just rapid jamming the attack button.

Though the combat is truly the engine that powers the experience, the gameplay loop that keeps it so engaging plays heavily on the castaway themes of the plot. While it might seem obvious, the game has no form of currency, but offers all of the usual systems one would expect of an RPG. You have armor, accessories and even weaponry that can be swapped and upgraded.

Given that the Lombardia was chock full of passengers, presumably those that survived, all washed ashore in Seiren. Each passenger offers a unique and useful skill, but are scattered about on the island. Rescuing these castaways is key to progression, as they all come to the apropos centralized hub, Castaway Village. Here, for the greater good of the budding civilization, they will offer their skills to perform all the aforementioned capabilities leveraging the loot that’s gathered around the island. Additionally, finding more village residents means new pathways can be opened. Certain areas are blocked and require a set number of able hands to clear the path, which many times will in turn lead to rescuing new castaways.

As such, exploring produces loot, levels up your key characters, and expands the village, which brings new abilities and gear enabling you to push further into Seiren and uncover more. It’s an incredibly gratifying progression loop that keeps you engaged at all times because there’s always something else to see or do. There are also a limited number of side quests that allow you to enhance your relationship with the villagers, which will in turn improve your stats and supply potentially rare items or gear, that also improve your survival odds on Seiren.

There’s also a few other small side activities like fortifying and protecting the village during the occasional raids from the neighboring fauna. Additionally there are also hunts and night exploration missions to gather materials that will box you into a particular area, but change the makeup of its contents to freshen things up.

As the game progresses, you slowly explore more and more of Seiren, which is fun in and of itself. The sprawling landscapes offer plenty to see and lots to collect and uncover. Filling out the map is a pleasure and uncovering the secrets of Seiren and its ancient ruins becomes a new and exhilirating driver that helps push the game along in its later chapters.

Unfortunately, there are a few blemishes on the experience that I’ve found easy enough to overlook. When you begin uncovering some of these secrets of Seiren, Adol finds himself dreaming about Dana, the character referenced in the title. These dreams/flashbacks are important to the progression of the story, but often grind the game to a halt. Most of the dialog and gameplay in these segments are throwaway and feel like they could’ve been shortened and tightened up to keep the experience moving at its default brisk pace.

Outside of the gameplay itself, performance on the Switch can be spotty at times. Oddly enough, playing docked causes some slowdown and, generally speaking, the game’s visual fidelity seems a little worse for the wear on the big screen. That being said, the majority of the time it plays very smoothly and the slowdown is more of a short hiccup than a persistent issue.

I also found the dialog to feel stilted in a number of the interactions. I have no comparison point for the original Japanese dialog, but there are times where the localization definitely seems to fall a short.

Putting these minor complaints aside, I’ve found my time with Ys VIII to be extremely enjoyable. The experience lends itself well to the Switch platform despite some of the technical hiccups and I greatly enjoyed playing it portably when I had a free moment to further explore Seiren. Those seeking a sprawling RPG adventure with strong action gameplay won’t go wrong with the latest in the Ys franchise.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

06/20/2018 at 10:18 PM

Ys 8 is a great game.  I loved it on the PS4.  

I only had two main problems with it.  I think the game is a bit overbloated.  And I didn't like how you could only get the true ending by completing a number of those optional quests.  I was only like, 3 points away at the end of the game, and couldn't find a way to earn more points.

One of my brothers described Ys 8 as "Jurassic Park: The JRPG."  I told that to the folks at NIS at E3 and they said that was a fitting description.

I sitll like Ys Seven a little better, though.  Man that game had good music!

mothman

06/24/2018 at 04:31 PM

Thanks Nick, I've been waiting for this to come out on Switch and wondering whether to buy or wait. I'll probably pick it up on Tuesday now.

Blake Turner Staff Writer

06/26/2018 at 11:53 PM

If the dialogue seems stilted now, you should have seen it before! They've patched it to fix a lot of the localisation problems.

I found this game to be too fuckin long. The true ending is kind of dumb, and Danas part only really get interesting towards the end.

i still liked it, but i like my Ys to be a bit more focused. They have almost the same exact same items you find in every other ys, except they're spread over 50ish hours rather than 8-12 so progression seems scarce. The exploration was great, but I wish there were more items, more metroidvania progression, or less runtime.

Combat also could have been a touch faster and a Bit more difficult. I played on hard and died only twice - and neither was to a boss. Ys games in the past have kicked my ass on normal difficulty, so to get so little challenge out of the bosses in this game was mildly annoying.

 That Said, at the end of the day, I did enjoy it, I just have a lot of problems with it.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

07/19/2018 at 11:08 AM

This looks effing great. Havent bought it yet though.  Soon.  

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