Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana PS4 Review

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: NIS America  Developer: Nihon Falcom  Genre: Action RPG  Players: 1  

Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: Vita

It has been eight long years since the release of the seventh instalment in the Ys series, so it goes without saying that fans would have been clamouring for more. Thankfully, those fans don’t have to wait any longer as Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana has finally received a release on Western shores. I’m also happy to say that it’s a hugely impressive Action RPG that has adventure and discovery at its heart.

Going into Ys VIII, I was a complete Ys virgin, although I can happily say that it’s possible to play the game without having any prior knowledge of the narrative from any of the previous games in the series. The plot this time around sees longtime protagonist Adol Christin get shipwrecked on a mysterious island when the Lombardia ship he is a passenger on is sunk by a giant sea creature. Considering that he is a spirited adventurer, being shipwrecked isn’t the biggest headache that our hero could suffer. Along the way, he’ll meet other survivors from the sunken ship as well as discover secrets of the island.

Interception battles have you protecting the village in rewarding but optional battles. You can also enhance the village’s defences with materials.

As you share such a huge chunk of your time with the characters and the stories of such Japanese RPG’s, it’s certainly not unreasonable to venture into such a game hoping that the characters and the world that they inhabit will be some of the strongest points, and I’m happy to say that Ys VIII’s narrative is very well constructed. True, you do get certain clichés, but there’s certainly a likeable cast of characters, the secrets of the island intrigue, as does the titular Dana, whom Adol starts seeing in his dreams and is actually controllable for portions of the game. There’s much to like in the narrative, and the fact Adol and company are attempting to leave the island that they find themselves on is reason enough to stick with it.

The island of Seiren is a character in itself, and the game encourages you to explore every nook and cranny of it. As you progress through the adventure, you’ll get to see more of the island, filling in the map as you go. This cartography is also rewarding in the way that you’ll find hidden treasure chests, and one of the characters will even give you items based on how much of the island that you have explored. It certainly all sits very well with Adol’s desire to explore, and the game also echoes Metroidvania style games in the way that you can only explore certain areas of the island when you have particular abilities available to you, and also when you have enough characters to shift obstacles that lie in your way. The island is an interesting and varied place, and the level designers deserve plenty of praise for making it a place that is just asking to be explored.

As fantastic and memorable of a place that the island is, it’s not perfect, and a number of things remind you that you are playing in a rather limited virtual world and that it was originally a Vita game. There were times that I often found myself hindered by an invisible wall, forcing me to go down some steps as opposed to being able to jump to the ground below for example, which did admittedly break the immersion a little for me. With huge open-worlds constantly loading in the background in many games today, it’s also a little disappointing to see areas split into smaller sections, with the game having to load as you move between them. Saying all the latter though, and on a more positive note, the loading times are extremely swift, at least when playing on the PS4 Pro. Loading actually happens so quick that it can be difficult to read the text that appears on the loading screens.

As the island is quite a sizeable place, you’d hope that it would also be easy to get around, and I’m happy to say that the game includes a fast travel system. You can move between any crystals that you come across, cutting down potential travelling time dramatically, and eventually you can also move between landmarks.

Being castaways, the characters are forced to build a small village, and as you find more survivors, the village begins to grow livelier as well as receive more facilities. Certain characters will open up shops, you’ll be able to improve your weapons at the blacksmith, mix potions, access side tasks to improve your standing with different characters, and so on. It’s heart-warming to see the village go from absolutely nothing to something close to decent, and it’s also where you’ll get to learn about the castaways that you discover on your travels. Each character has personality as well, which means that the doctor that mixes your potions isn’t just a guy that is there to mix your potions, or the woman that enhances your weapons isn’t merely there as a tool to make your sword more powerful. There’s definitely a real sense of character and community, and,  fantasy stuff put aside for a moment, it just makes things feel all the more believable.

Dana’s sections are distinct in the way the island looks as well as the fact that she is able to alter her form in battle.

Being an action RPG, obviously you’ll be taking on enemies during your adventure. The combat is fast, flashy and fluid, and as some deal with certain enemies better than others, the game encourages you to switch between characters , causing their defences to break a lot quicker, opening them up to any attack. With slash, pierce, and strike attack types, it’s definitely worth switching between the three currently selected characters to make shorter work of your enemies, although left to AI control, they’re also in capable enough hands. Typically, each character also has their powerful skills, which work through SP points, and if you finish an enemy off with one of these skills, you’ll earn back half of the skill points that the move is worth. Dodging or blocking at the last moment also results in Flash Dodge and Flash Guard respectively, with the former slowing enemies down and speeding you up, allowing for you to seize the opportunity with some free strikes, and the latter making you stronger and invulnerable for a short while. Like many other areas of the game, there really is so much to like in the combat system, and that’s a really good thing considering that you will be doing a lot of it.

As it was originally a Vita game, Ys VIII isn’t the most visually spectacular looking game in the world, but what it does have a is a very bright and attractive art style, which comes across as rather warm and welcoming. Aurally, the English voice acting does leave a fair bit to be desired, and comes across as cheesy and unconvincing, although there is an option for the original Japanese voices, if you’d prefer. The music in the game, however, is excellent, and I always looked forward to hear what the next fresh track would sound like.

Eight years is a long time to wait for a sequel in the gaming world, but Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a fantastic action RPG with fun combat and a memorable world and story. With all the latter said, the eighth instalment in the Ys series marks a very successful return for the series, and I’m sure that many fans will think it has been well worth the wait. If you’ve never played an Ys game before, on the other hand, then there’s absolutely no reason at all as to why you can’t start here.