Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a fantasy RPG, following the adventures of Adol Christin. It’s the eighth main series game in the Ys series. Adol finds himself aboard a boat named “Lombardia,” traveling across the sea in exchange for temporary work. However, when the ship is attacked by an unknown monster, he has a very abrupt change of plans.
It’s almost an interesting plotline. Unfortunately, the execution is horribly lacking. To cover this, let’s start from the top.
Game Name: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Platform(s): Switch (Reviewed), also available on PS Vita, PS4, and PC
Publisher(s): Nihon Falcom/NIS America
Developer(s): Nihon Falcom
Release Date: June 26, 2018 (Switch)
Concept and Story
Lacrimosa of Dana begins with the protagonist, Adol, on the Lombardia. The opening cutscene has him talking to his friend and the acquaintances he’s made on the ship. It’s very blatantly an excuse for exposition, as his friend Dogi rattles off in detail the events that lead to them boarding the Lombardia in the first place, and elaborates on their current situation.
This would almost be excusable, as it’s normally a decent storytelling technique, but what makes it worse is that the thinly-veiled exposition force feeding doesn’t stop there. Shortly after Dogi leaves to return to his work, you’re sent to see the ship’s captain, who then unloads more exposition.
While Lacrimosa of Dana’s primary storyline lifts heavily from real-world legends, and even places and names, it emphasizes those real aspects in a distractingly corny way. Several times throughout the prologue, nearby places and destinations are named, including but not limited to, Greek (whose legends are called “Greshun”), Roman (whose people are called “Romuns”), and the isle of Creet. What’s most baffling about this aspect, though, is that the Ys series has actual, original fantasy names in its stories, and they sound really good, so the only explanation is that this is some sort of parody. However, for parody, it largely falls flat.
The story lifts pretty heavily from tales of the Bermuda triangle: Any ship that enters those waters sinks, and no one escapes. Anyone who does land on the island in the middle can never leave. However, I will give them credit for one thing. Having the Kraken be the cause of all those sinkings is a fairly cool twist. At the very least, it’s flashy, which I can respect.
The rest of the story, before and after the Kraken attack, is weak and lackluster. RPGs as a genre build their foundation on a solid story, and this really failed to capture that essence. There’s no real identifiable hook nor enough interesting elements to grab and hold my attention.
To make matters worse, there are dialogue choices but none of them are particularly interesting. There’s a point in the prologue where Adol is tasked with ensuring there are no suspicious people on the ship. Even after finding three suspicious people, you can report none of them to your superior, since your only choices are “There’s no one suspicious” (a lie, and a boring choice) and “Everyone looks suspicious,” which then prompts the NPC to call you paranoid. From a design standpoint, asking the player to identify more than three people could cause a negative impact to the gameplay and make that part of the story drag on so I understand the need to limit the amount of interactable NPCs; however, the dialogue and choices should better reflect that rather than swaying from one extreme to the next.
All of this culminates in the game leaning heavily on cheap jokes and poorly-executed tropes to survive. When Adol lands on the cursed island, the very first person he meets is a woman who is bathing at the time, wrapped only in a towel. When she tries to draw a sword on him, he disarms her, and, of course, her towel falls. Haha! Except it’s not sexy or funny, it’s just uncomfortable and annoying.
Graphics and Sound
The sound design is rather good, in music and in voice acting. Lacrimosa of Dana’s soundtrack is squarely in the “exciting adventure music” category, but one of the biggest crimes the game commits is using it incorrectly. The music doesn’t ebb and flow with the action, or change depending on what happens in the scene. It remains stationary the whole time. It’s one of the most frustrating aspects of the sound design, because you can tell how good it could have been, if only it was arranged slightly differently.
Being that this a Switch port of a 2016 game, all in all, the looks aren’t bad. The 3D modeling is pretty solid. Ys VIII is the first game of the series to be in 3D, and it looks incredible. The Lombardia’s layout is clean, beautiful and intuitive, as well as fittingly complex for a ship her size. The island landscape is lovely. The maps are one of the only redeeming qualities of this game.
The biggest challenge, though, is that inside the caves, you can’t see… anything. While it’s understandable that a cave network wouldn’t have good lighting, there are ways to convey “darkness” without actually making it difficult to see – for instance, shading everything in blue, and limiting color palettes. If, for some reason, absolute darkness is required, those portions of the game should be extensively tested to ensure visibility is present. This is especially when seeing something is critical to participating in your plot. There are games that will allow you to adjust your brightness before the game even starts. Where was this feature in Lacrimosa of Dana? Are they simply behind the times?
The camera movements are smooth and fluid, which is absolutely a dream. However, the character designs are weak and sloppy, so even with a beautiful camera, there’s not much to look at. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana brings you all the cliche bikini-outfit designs for women, now with some stereotypical native fetishism on the side.
I was almost sold on the game’s combat system. Adol’s attacks feel satisfying, and slashing with the sword, although boring, eventually gets the job done. The fights are slow and repetitive, but hey, sometimes that’s just how it is, right? The satisfaction of seeing action lines and hearing metallic sounds tends to make up for it.
In fact, the few combat experiences I had playing the game almost made me change my mind about it. When I found out that you could change out which character you controlled in your party, I was excited. I wanted to see what the other characters’ weapons could do, and if their attacks would feel the same.
To my dismay, I discovered they were, in fact, too much the same. Laxia, the second member of your party, wields a rapier and uses it for piercing attacks. However, the action lines for piercing are the exact same action lines used for Adol’s slicing. There’s no real difference, except that she’s much more underpowered. Sahad; however, does have a slow, yet, heavier attack with a broad range that can dispose of enemies a bit more easily; however, the recovery time really slows down the pacing of the combat.
One of the nice features is that you can end fights in different ways and receive a bonus for doing so. Add in the fact that you get more skills as you level up does add diversity to the combat but it takes a while to reach that point. Timing your guards and evasions perfectly can result in you hitting a chain of critical hits or slow your enemies down to where you can dispose of them rapidly.
While the combat seemed a bit redundant from character to character, it is improved over previous games of the Ys series, and that effort should be commended. Enemy designs are sometimes interesting, but not interesting enough to act like combat is truly fun.
The game definitely has some good parts. The 3D modeling is rather decent. The animation in the intro sequence is pretty. Aesthetically, the game is very pleasing.
Unfortunately, in concept and in execution, the entire rest of the game is wasn’t really all that enjoyable. The first Ys game came out in 1987, and it’s pretty obvious that the development team is running out of steam now, in 2018. Nothing really felt interesting or exciting. Everything felt like a chore. Your actions hardly impact the story at all, to the point where Ys VIII would be better off adding onto the existing anime series. Games are supposed to be an interactive medium, and very little about this game is interactive.
While it didn’t resonate with me, fans of the series may enjoy all of the improvements made over previous installments of the series. Die-hard Ys fans will probably love this game as it does offer something familiar to them, in a new and interesting medium.
While it wasn’t fun or all that enjoyable, I can definitely see others enjoying this game. Reviews are meant to be reflections of a personal experience and everyone’s experiences will differ.
I do apologize to all the members of the team who made this game possible, because their heart and hard work really shows through in a lot of places. However, I also think it’s important to be honest. As a lover of RPGs, this game is extremely lacking, and it caters only to previous fans of the series.
Lovely on a strictly aesthetic level, but not worth the investment of time or money. Save yourself the trouble.
- O.K. soundtrack
- Good 3D map design.
- Everything else.