Long awaited by fans of the series, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana takes the series in bold new directions that for the most part serve to make one of gaming’s most daunting action/RPG’s franchises a lot more accessible to new players while keeping thing interesting for those who have played the previous games in the series. However like I said in my previous review of Ys Origin – “It’s one of those games that for everything you find enjoyable something comes along to counterbalance it and pull the experience back down to Earth” and that statement holds true in this latest Ys game, just to a slightly lesser degree.
The game opens with out hero and longtime series protagonist, Adol Christin & his friend Dogi working on a passenger liner while en route to his next adventure. During their daily toils we hear of the mysterious and dangerous Seiren Island, a place where those who venture too close are seemingly lost forever. Well like any good RPG you soon find yourself – where else – but near the very place that you need to be avoiding. Disaster strikes, the ship is scuttled and our hero is thrown overboard only to awaken on the shores of the cursed island. Now so far this about your standard fare for a game in the Ys series but it soon becomes apparent that Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a different beast that is not so much about fulfilling a prophecy or saving the world from disaster but instead about surviving your new home.
Maybe this supposedly cursed island isn’t so cursed after all since it soon turns out that many of the crew of the doomed liner Lobardia are stranded somewhere on the island and so it comes up to Adol and his friends to reunite everyone at a new settlement called Casteaway Village which not only serves as a means of survival but also the game’s hub world filled with shops, quest givers and story elements to discover. And while I liked the story in Ys Origin just fine (admittedly the only other game in the series I’ve played) I did find it a bit generic, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana doesn’t have that problem at all and kept me hooked from start to finish.
Like previous games in the series, Ys VIII is an action/RPG where combat takes place in real-time letting you hack and slash monsters to your heart’s desire. But it’s also so much deeper than that. At any point in a battle you can switch between any of the three characters in your party and use their special abilities to help topple a beast. More than that the game also uses a variant on the traditional rock-paper-scissors formula where mastering the slash-strike-pierce mechanic will not only allow you to take down enemies with ease but is also crucial if you want to have any kind of success in the game’s later quests. All in all though, combat in Ys VIII is fast, fluid and engaging and a blast to play… I just wish I could say the same about the parts in between.
You see, when you are not busy fighting monsters you’ll mostly be doing one of two things: either exploring the island of Seiren or defending Castaway Village from swarms of invading baddies. And while neither of these portions of the game are ‘bad’ per say they aren’t very inspiring either. Seiren for example is mostly made up of gigantic web of caverns and narrow paths connecting larger areas which all tend to hide goodies and treasures in practically the same place, which makes not so much a challenge to get 100% completion but a chore. Defending Castaway Village during Interception / Suppression fares a little bit better but I found the pacing to be thrown off every time these missions would come up.
When it comes to the game’s soundtrack it’s hard to find any fault here. The Ys franchise has always been known for its incredible, sweeping musical numbers and Lacrimosa of Dana is definitely no exception. From the game’s opening moments to the climactic ending, every single track perfectly encompasses the exact moment you are experiencing in the game and I dare say this one of the best soundtracks of any game released in 2017 to date – it’s just that good. The game even makes good use of voice acting, which while it insist always present does accentuate important moments and gives the game’s varied and diverse cast even more life, even if it is just a few lines.
When it comes to the game’s graphics though… well it’s a bit hard to say. I reviewed the game on the PlayStation 4 which was definitely fine in terms of visual fidelity but nowhere near the level the console can muster. However if I were to take the same experience and translate it to the PS Vita version I would say “wow this looks great!”. Breaking it down a bit I do have to say the game’s character models and designs are top-notch and give the game a playful, colorful look like another ocean-bound game, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. However, unlike that game, the detail in the environments here could use some sprucing up, especially when most of the game’s scenery just ends up looking the same and blending together after about 15 hours.
Speaking of length, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana will run you around 60-70 hours if you’re just going through the story to reach the credits and a lot more if you want that 100% completion status. While this is pretty standard fare for an RPG if its ilk in 2017 I do feel it worth pointing out that Ys VIII is the type of game that keeps you hooked in thanks to its great story and interesting setting. So while it may take you 60 or so hours before the credits are rolling it definitely doesn’t feel that long and by the time it’s over your just left wanting more Ys. Hopefully the wait for Ys IX isn’t too long if this the caliber of game we’ll be getting.
Ys VII: Lacrimosa of Dana is not only a worthy heir to the Ys title but one of the better RPGs to release in a while. The world and setting are interesting, the story enthralling, the combat exciting and the soundtrack is the stuff that dreams are made of. It might not be perfect but if your fancy yourself a fan of the series or just like RPGs in general then you owe it to yourself to get lost with this game.
A copy of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was provided to Link-Cable by the publisher for the purpose of this review.