Published on October 11th, 2017 | by Sean Warhurst
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana PS4 Review
Summary: While obviously not without its flaws, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is one of the stronger, albeit more obscure, JRPG offerings to hit the PS4 this year.
How Does One Say Ys?
Before Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, I have to admit to barely being familiar that the Ys series even existed; although held in reverence in certain circles and maintaining a steady output of titles since the Eighties, the series never really had a big breakout hit on our shores in order to propel it into the limelight and, as a result, more casual JRPG fans gravitated towards the big name franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Thankfully, much like the aforementioned Final Fantasy, players don’t need to be boned up on the stories of previous instalments in order to enjoy Ys VIII; while there are some nods towards fans with a longstanding familiarity with the series in the form of minor returning characters and brief references to past events, for the most part the story of Ys VIII is entirely self-contained and can be enjoyed on its own merits by newcomers and ardent fans alike.
The story follows the flame-haired series protagonist Adol as he embarks upon a new adventure on the high seas. After an intense battle with a sea creature results in his ship being destroyed, Adol finds himself washed up on the shores of the mysterious Isle of Seiren.
Apparently cursed, the deceptively beautiful island plays host to all manner of despicable beasts and Adol must locate his fellow survivors and formulate a way to return to civilisation, preferably with all of their lives intact.
This proves to be a more difficult task than anticipated when Adol starts experiencing visions of a young girl from the past named Dana, eventually realising that he must unravel the secret behind this mysterious connection between the two of them in order to discover the true nature of their perilous island prison.
The narrative is engaging enough to keep players pressing forward but hits quite a few predictable notes for anyone with more than a cursory interest in the genre. This is a problem that has plagued the genre for years now, however, and shouldn’t be interpreted as a slight against the game; rather, just be forewarned that there’s no massively innovative narrative revolution on display here, just simply a solid JRPG that remains within the safe confines of the genre’s established formula.
Exploring the island is a satisfying experience and there’s a multitude of hidden treasures and locations to discover. In all honesty, the exploration elements were probably my favourite parts of the game, as you consistently feel compelled to push forwards and clear out just one more area, always eager to see what lies ahead.
That’s not to say the other primary gameplay component, the combat, is lacking in any way; in fact, it may be one of the most comfortable and intuitive systems I’ve come across in a JRPG, recent or otherwise. Switching between characters and unleashing their different types of attack and defensive manoeuvres in real time immediately feels fluent and comfortable, allowing for some intensely chaotic hack and slash encounters. Another bonus is that, on the off chance that the control scheme doesn’t click with you, you can entirely remap the controls to your preference.
Handling your party on the fly in order to compensate for the different strengths and weaknesses of your enemies never becomes overly complicated or an impediment to victory, but is a sufficiently deep enough system that also you never feel like you’re cruising on auto-pilot.
Once you’ve gathered enough fellow survivors Aldo and friends will set up camp in an area called Castaway Village, which you can use as a home base as you add to the population and unlock the different skills your fellow villagers possess, such as maintaining crops or providing medical relief.
I found that by the end I had spent more time mingling with the villagers and completing the myriad sidequests they had on offer than I did pursuing the main missions, such is the wealth of different activities on offer.
Different genres seep in during these missions, such as a short but entertaining tower defence sequence and crafting minigames, and attaining success raises your profile amongst the community, meaning that not only are these deviations a nice distraction but each task you complete adds to your positive reputation and, by proxy, increases the rewards available.
The localisation, however, is a bit of a weak point, although I have to admit that the full extent wasn’t immediately obvious to me until I started to see examples on Twitter; thankfully this has been hastily addressed with NIS promising that a new language localisation will be patched in by late November.
Graphics and Audio
Visually Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana has a vibrant Anime art style that is complemented by the clean lines of the graphics. Although not as graphically advanced as your big AAA blockbusters, the budgetary and technical limitations are charmingly compensated by the solid art direction.
The soundtrack is as lavish as you’d hope, with many of the themes burrowing their way into your mind only to reappear at random intervals during the day; despite the high level of polish in most areas of the game, it is the soundtrack that truly stands out and ultimately sells the fantastic aesthetic to the player.
As a newcomer to the Ys series, I couldn’t recommend Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana enough. Touted as being twice as long as previous instalments, the fast pace of the combat system and bountiful questlines available makes for a consistently entertaining experience with little in the way of grinding.
Coupled with sumptuous presentation and a narrative that is solid enough, if a little underwhelming, Falcom may very well have the breakout hit the series arguably needs on their hands and hopefully western audiences will sit up and take notice.
While obviously not without its flaws, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is one of the stronger, albeit more obscure, JRPG offerings to hit the PS4 this year and any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to at least check out what Falcom and their vastly underrated series have to offer.
Primary Format – Games – Playstation 4
Game Genre – Action & Adventure
Rating – M
Consumer Advice – Fantasy violence and sexual references
Game Developer – Nihon Falcom
Game Publisher – NIS America
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst