Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the latest in the long running and popular Ys series. I’ve played some of the previous games in the series and enjoyed them, but they weren’t on the top of my personal favorites list. That said, I was curious enough about the new game to pre order it, and while it has some stiff competition with Death of the Outsider, Destiny 2, and other recent releases, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a game that doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed. In fact, I bought and started playing all three, but once I got a little ways into Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, I set down the others in favor of seeing this one through to the end. A little more than 53 hours later, here I am, my thoughts buzzing with everything I experienced in the game. So, here we go:
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Story is probably the most important aspect for Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and man what a wild ride it was. You play as Adol Christin (who is the series protagonist). You and your friend Dogi are adventurers who have signed on as staff on a cruise ship to pay for passage to another land so as to continue on with their adventuring ways. A ways into the voyage, your ship passes by a legendary cursed island and is both attacked and destroyed by a giant sea creature. You wash ashore on said cursed island and that is where your adventure truly begins.
The overarching story is Adol’s quest to find other survivors from the shipwreck and get off the island while also staying true to his adventuring roots and exploring this mysterious cursed island. However, there are so many subplots and side plots interwoven into the main story that Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana really starts to seem like an intricate and long running book series. The kind of story writing you would expect from, for example, a Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones. I’m not saying the writing is on par with that, but the way disparate stories are woven together to create a greater whole is completely in evidence here and was thoroughly engaging.
Since this is an epic adventure, you will find influences in the writing from Indiana Jones to Tomb Raider to Robinson Caruso to Pirates of the Caribbean to the Lost World series and so on. There is a complete fleshing out of ancient cultures and a successful realization of the current state of affairs on the island. It’s also a very real study in humanity and how various personalities can come together to work towards a common goal.
Very, very interesting and approachable story with plenty of twists and turns that both make sense and keep you engaged throughout.
10 out of 10
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an Action Role Playing Game on the surface and a Japanese Role Playing Game at it’s core. The basic gameplay, which consists of exploration and combat is handled in third person view.
Initially, you just play as Adol, but as you find other castaways from the shipwreck, you start adding to your party. Some are support characters that won’t travel with you outside of perhaps one or two relationship quests, but there are six total playable characters, all of which will travel with you under most circumstances. You choose your party lead and up to three characters as active participants in battle (although all six party members have a role in the battle cut scenes and presumably also battled, just off camera). You can switch characters anytime you like and as often as you like, both in and out of combat.
The combat itself reminds me a lot of the Tales of series, especially the later entries such as the Xillia’s and Zestiria (I haven’t yet played Berseria, so no comparison to be drawn there for me). It’s real time, fast paced, incredibly busy, and filled with awesome combos and special abilities. Unlike the Tales of series however, the intricacy of combat here falls under the category of positioning and choice of attacks in a fairly straightforward manner. This is a combat system designed for any gamer to be proficient with. The actual special attacks are mapped to your four buttons, being unlocked by holding down the right shoulder button while executing your commands. So, you can have up to four abilities mapped at a time, but can also mix and match as you see fit. You’ll unlock plenty of abilities as you progress, and each ability can also be leveled up, making this a pretty interesting and efficient system. There is also a super special attack each character has which can be used once SP is charged up enough and functions as the cutscene type super attack you see often in JRPG’s.
There is no lack for quests, and some are in fact fetch quests, but each quest also helps in the game’s progression as well. For example, if somebody sends you to get a specific herb, it’s because they actually need it to make potions that you can then use while you travel. Perhaps you need a certain type of wood. It WILL be used in upgrading your base.
…and this game actually also features base building and tower defense as well. It isn’t the full hands on type of base building featured in that popular genre, but rather a progression of events as the story unfolds and you unlock new things. Tower defense comes in the form of enemy raids, but fortunately fences and such are some of the first things built in your castaway base, and so you always meet the enemies in a staged area outside of town. There are also player raids, where you go to different map areas to control the population of monsters congregating in said areas.
Relationships are important. There are twenty four characters you will potentially add to your town, each with their own specialty and outlook on things that will enhance your town and give you better options for equipment, support, and much more. You will need to build each relationship separately and there will be two or three quests or objects that accompany those attempts.
Really, everything I just mentioned simply scratches the surface of what is happening gameplay-wise with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. It is a deep and rewarding system that provides a ton of diversity and options. It’s also just straight up fun. You never feel like you are having to grind away. Everything has a reason and each thing adds to the story and the experience.
10 out of 10
The graphics in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana are also not dissimilar to other luminaries such as the more recent Tales of games. They have a cartoon-ey and yet distinctly Japanese anime style feel. They are lush, vibrant, and often time completely stunning. I actually got screenshot happy with this game and probably snapped upwards of four hundred screens while playing. There was just amazing and stunning image after amazing and stunning image. This is a living, breathing, and yet also completely mysterious and wonderful world. You will love the look of this game without any doubt.
10 out of 10
The audio in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is pretty spot on. The music is really cool and fits the mood and setting perfectly at all moments. Even as you hear the same tracks repeatedly over your 50+ hours spent playing this game, you will never grow tired of it, and it works effectively as background rather than forcing overt attention to its notes. The in game sounds such as combat, environment, and so on area also spot on. This was exceptionally well crafted.
The voice-over work however was easily Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana only real flaw. It wasn’t terrible, but it was more sparse than I would have liked, and I really don’t understand the decision to not completely voice Adol Christin. He gets a few mumbles and the occasional sentence, but mostly, he is a silent protagonist, which is a shame since his written dialogue would make for some great voice work.
Overall, and despite the pedestrian voice work, I still think the audio tracks taken as a whole were marvelous.
9 out of 10
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is my surprise hit of the year. I expected it to be good, but I didn’t even come close to having the expectation of it being as near to perfection as it turned out to be. I’m very glad I took the leap of faith with this game and expect that most everybody who gives it a go will feel the same.
One final note: there are actually multiple endings. I got ending #2 in my playthrough. I haven’t yet witnessed the others. The end game does provide a way for you to speed through the game in future playthroughs to see the other endings though.
9.8 relationships developed while fighting off the ancient species, breaking the curse of the islands, and generally having grand times adventuring on a lost island, out of 10 possible.