Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana opens with our buddy Adol, the hero of the Ys series finds himself sailing on the grand cruise ship, the Lombardia. Headed towards a new destination, his friend and fellow Adventurer, Dogi, are looking for yet another adventure. Little do they know that this adventure is right around the corner as the ship is attacked by some unknown creature. After Adol successfully fends it off, the Lombardia is struck, and everyone is dragged into the cold ocean. Later where we find Adol waking up sometime later on a deserted island. But this is no ordinary island, but the cursed island of Serien. It’s rumored that no one has ever made it back alive from this island.
Was it an accident or was it fate that brought you here? It is here that story of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana begins.
Game Name: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (reviewed), also on PC, PS Vita
Publisher(s): NIS America
Developer(s): Nihon Falcom
Release Date: September 12th, 2017.
PS4 Pro Support: Yes
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As with all RPGs, the story either makes or breaks the game and I’m happy to report that the story here is decent. Sure, it is a bit cliché and we’ve seen this done over and over, but it works. It’s the storytelling, the pacing and the characters that help make this game so enjoyable for me. There’s a huge assortment of characters that you’ll interact with throughout your time with the game. Some are colorful, cheerful and seem like people you’d love to know. Then there are those that are untrustful, annoying and you just want to punch in the face. But they’re conveyed so well that you can’t help you love or hate them, as I have. The story has enough character development and struggles, with the right amount of action and exploration. The island is also pretty huge with several zones to battle through, each with varied enemies, bosses to defeat. Every area has a district atmosphere and unique creatures roaming around.
Not everything is perfect when it comes to the story. It tends to drag at times, especially where you’re forced to go looking for more survivors. There are conveniently placed roadblocks that require you to have a certain amount of survivors to get passed. Some of these roadblocks contain items, while others will halt your story progression. The story paces also slows down a bit as you get near the end, but it does make up for it at the climax. Then there’s the tower defense mini-game that’s embedded into the story, called Interceptions and Suppression Missions. At certain times, mostly when you’re trying to progress through the story, you’ll be informed that something is happening back in the town and that you’re needed. Turns out something is invading the town and you’ll need to fight them off in several waves. I didn’t mind this but it did bother me that it I always got summoned when I was in the middle of doing something. I mean, there’s only four of the characters out in the world, while there’s usually six or more in the town. They can easily beat back those baddies, right? Still, those missions will grant you items when you finish it up, so it isn’t entirely a waste of time.
Then there are the individual NPC quests that you’ll need to complete. These help flesh out the characters and the relationships that are formed. Some are pretty cool, which some are somewhat cringe-worthy. Ultimately, they serve to enhance the story and even provide a nice stat boost to both you and the NPC. That said, I wouldn’t pass up any of the quests as they’re worth the bonuses they provide.
The combat system in Ys is super fun. Not only do you have complete control over every little aspect, but you can also take advantage of the fights by paying attention to your enemies. Most of the enemies you encounter are weak to several attack attributes — Slash, Strike and Shoot. Exploit them by switching your characters who possess that ability in mid-battle or by ordering them to attack it. Switching out your characters is also pretty simple. Pressing Square will switch over to a different character at any time while pressing the left on the touchpad will command the AI characters to either attack or go defensive. There’s is also what is called the Break State, which is when enemies are rendered helpless and any attack will work against them. Furthermore, this also results in enemies dropping higher quality items. I wasn’t sure what to think about controlling multiple characters at once, thankfully it is handled really well here.
During combat, you’ll earn experience points as well as skill points. Performing specific attacks or techniques repeatedly will provide you with what are called skills. These skills are special attack moves that are flashy and do more damage. Every playable character will earn more skills over time, yet it never feels cluttered as you can only assign 4 skills at a time. This lets you customize not only Adol but your entire team. This also lets you min/max to your heart’s desire and set up your team to your exact specification. In addition to the skills you also have a skills meter that will build up while you use them. Upon filling up that meter you’ll have an Extra Skill, which can be triggered by pressing L1 + R2. Using this will unleash a spectacle of an attack, landing some meaty damage while giving you a very nice animated sequence. You can also access a lock-on feature, which keeps you targetted on whoever you’re attacking. It tends to have issues when there more than a handful of enemies on screen. For some reason, it would tend to switch off to other enemies after I was done, or on others that were nowhere close to me. We’re talking about enemies that were located way out of my view, yet the lock-on function would contort my camera angle and focus on them.
Of course, combat isn’t all about attacking, you have to defend at times. That said, you have a dodge/evade move that is set to the L1 button and a block assigned to R1. Pressing L1 before you get hit will allow you to evade attacks, while R1 lets you block for a brief moment. If you happen to time the evade before you get hit at the last second, you can trigger two what is called “Flash Move”. This which basically slows down time or speeds you up, allowing you to get a few extra hits and even get behind an enemy. The block has a similar mechanic called “Flash Guard”, which I found it to be a bit more useful, as it gives your entire team a buff. Both require specific timing to pull off but are rewarding once you master them.
The combat isn’t the only thing that Ys has going for it. There are a number of things to do outside of combat, such as fishing, cooking, a crafting system for upgrading your weapons and armor, as well as other helpful items. There’s even a vast amount of side quests that you can take on, which will reward you with experience points and other items. I definitely recommend doing a few of those to pad your characters – especially for the end game.
The graphics in this game are crisp, vivid, colorful and have that cartoonish look to them. The models are very detailed, sharp and have great animations. The facial animations are fantastic, and they drive home the emotions that are being expressed – especially when a certain character blushes. The foliage blows to and fro, streams of water glisten, lots of destructible structure and more. The environments here are alive and are impressive to view. The framerate is top notch as well, I didn’t experience any slowdown or notice any framerate drops during my entire gameplay. The interfaces are neat, slick and are easily accessible during the game. This is possible due to Ys VIII being a current-generation title, unlike the previous releases of Ys games on the PlayStation 4. Sure it won’t win any awards for the best-looking title on the system, but they aren’t shabby either. It is worth mentioning that I did see some sort of artifact from time to time. It looks like a transparent gradient overlay and is apparent over the entire screen at times. It doesn’t cause any real issues but can be annoying at times. Hopefully, this is fixed by the time the game is released.
PlayStation 4 Pro owners will be happy to also note that this game does support 4K on the system. Though I don’t know if this supports native 4K or if it uses checkerboarding. Either way, the game looks fantastic at 4K.
You’re also able to select and switch between both English and French text, as well as English and Japanese voices. I’m sure this is going to make more than a few people happy as there’s just something about playing a JRPG with the original Japanese voices. That said, I switched between them both and I really didn’t find any issues with the English dub. I found it exceptional and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Though some of the voices are just over the top at times.
** By now, many know that NIS America simply dropped the ball on the localization efforts for this title. Lots of misspellings, as well as changes that don’t convey what’s actually being stated. Definitely a bad effort on getting this localized. This review as based on the non-patched game, but since then, a patch was released that addressed the localization efforts. As such, the game was reevaluated and the score provided still stands. Thankfully, the update brings the game closer to its Japanese counterpart. **
The voiced segments switch at random, which bothered. One moment you’re engaged in a voiced conversation, then the next moment it’s over. At one point I skipped over some voiced dialogue because I thought it was finished, only to hear the character say something as I skipped past it. It’s not a huge issue, but I feel that it is a wasted opportunity. I would have either like to have had completely voiced lines or honestly, none at all. Your characters will also say random things while out in the world. They’ll point out when an item is nearby, or enemies, which I thought was a nice touch. I would have walked past some items or food if my characters hadn’t pointed those out for me. Sometimes they even break out into song or start bittering with each other, with hilarious results. It’s a nice touch and helps create the immersion. The music is full of solid high-energy music and soft tunes. There isn’t one bad track and the majority of selections are fantastic pieces that will have you admiring how damned good the music is. One, in particular, stands out, that being Sunset Coastline – it’s soo damned good.
Ys VIII has several options to customize your gaming experience. You’re able to toggle a number of things, from auto-save, game difficulty (easy, normal, hard, nightmare and inferno), text speed and auto-mode (thank you!), the game’s camera, loading screen options, display options and so much more. To be honest, a number of options that have been provided are a bit overwhelming and some of it I didn’t even bother with. You can also skip the scripted events if you choose to. Sure, you’ll miss out on some interesting conversation, but sometimes you just want to go smack things with your sword. It’s nice to see the amount of work that has gone into making the game’s experience that much better.
There’s even a quick travel function that makes getting back and forth between objectives that much easier. Finally, the loading times are really short. When loading a new level or event, there’s only a 2-3 second wait, at other times it’s even shorter. Don’t worry about the length of the game’s story either. I was 25 hours into the game and I hadn’t even scratched the surface before I even started on this review. Yes, this game has some legs and will definitely require plenty of play time to complete it. In total it took me about 47 hours to finish out the game and I had missed out on several side quests. I’m told that to do everything in the game that it can take up to 60 hours.
Review Disclosure Statement: Copy of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana was provided to us by NIS America for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Nihon Falcom has crafted yet another fantastic entry in the Ys series. The same great gameplay and storytelling elements that have become synonymous with the series, along with exceptional graphics. Sure, the top-down view has been replaced but the new 3D graphics help brings the world to life and I enjoyed the voice lines. Combine that with some enjoyable character development and a game that spans over 40+ hour and you got a game that you won’t want to put down for a while.
A great showing for the first next-generation Ys title and I can’t wait to see what Nihon Falcom & Nippon Ichi Software have in store for the next entry.
- The gameplay is a blast
- Tons of skills that make sure the combat doesn’t get stale
- You get attached to the characters, good or bad
- The 3D graphics really help bring the world to life
- The lock-on gets overzealous at times
- Not fully voiced
- Music gets repetitive at times