Eight long years after the PlayStation Portable release of Ys Seven, fans of the series were at long last introduced to a grand new adventure with the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 release of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA, this latest addition to Nihon Falcom’s hit Japanese role playing game series follows red haired adventurer Adol Christin as he unravels the secrets of a cursed island. The game’s original Japanese release was published on July 21st of 2016 for PlayStation Vita, the following year Japan received a PlayStation 4 release on May 25th.
The game was localized to North America by NIS America on September 12th of 2017 for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4, a PC version of the game was released on April 16th of 2018 and is available for purchase on Steam and GOG, a Nintendo Switch port is also expected to be released on June 26th of 2018. The Steam version includes over fifty unlockable Steam Achievements and a set of eight collectible Steam trading cards, there is also over twenty DLC that can be purchased most of which are for item sets except for the few that are available free for a limited time.
The game begins aboard a passenger ship known as the Lombardia as it travels towards Eresia, Adol is allowed to board the ship in exchange for working as a crew member but soon after hearing the tale of a cursed island he along with the rest of the passengers end up shipwrecked on that same cursed island after the ship is attacked by a gigantic sea creature. The Island known as Seiren Isle is home to dangerous wildlife and immensely powerful fiends, in order to survive the numerous dangers on the island the surviving passengers of the Lombardia must band together to fight off the powerful fiends that inhabit the island.
During his adventures on the island Adol will encounter a blue haired girl named Dana during dreams, the girl has a connection to the history of the cursed island and existed in a time long past. Playing through parts of Dana’s story gives you the potential to unlock areas of the map that were previously unreachable when the story turns back to Adol. It is up to Adol to gather the surviving passengers, explore the island to uncover its secrets, and to learn about the connection that Dana has to the unfolding events. During the game you will also have opportunities to interact with survivors, accept requests, go fishing, participate in intercept battles, and strengthen your gear. The unique setting backed by a variety of related in game activities and the ability to experience the story from different perspectives makes the story one of the strongest aspects of the game.
The game has received numerous features that add convenience and excitement to the game, one feature i immediately appreciated was the auto save process that can be switched off and on in the options menu under the game tab making it easier to simply enjoy the story without having to stop and save as often. Another feature I greatly enjoyed was the addition of choices during certain conversations, this added a bit of a visual novel vibe to the game and makes it feel like the player has more influence over the outcome of conversations and events. The ability to choose whether you explore an area during the day time or night time gives the player even more influence over their gameplay experience, exploring the unique and mysterious landscapes of the island at night adds another level of suspense to already explored areas.
The option to take on quests from the village bulletin board adds to the gameplay experience and increases Adol’s reputation, the game’s ending will depend on Adol’s number of reputation points making quests an integral part of the experience. Other ways to improve Adol’s reputation include partaking in the Interception battles, giving gifts to castaways, completing the map and showing it to the captain, and finding location points. Due to the influence of activities in the game over the ending Ys VIII has become about far more than simply adventuring and saving the day from some kind of mysterious evil as has been the case with most of its predecessors.
The gameplay mechanics in Ys VIII are some of the best in the entire series, The combination of updated mechanics from previous games and all new mechanics make this the Ys game many fans have dreamed of. The game includes three different damage types each with their own strengths and weaknesses, enemies in the game may be vulnerable to a specific damage type causing them to take more damage from that specific type. The first of the three damage types is slash which is dealt by sharp bladed weapons such as Adol’s sword and Dana’s crescent blades. The second damage type is Strike which is dealt by blunt weapons such as Sahad’s anchor and Ricotta’s flail, this damage type is the best against enemies that are armored or have thick skin. The final damage type is pierce which is dealt by weapons that are sharp pointed such as Laxia’s rapier, this is typically the weakest of the three in regards to attack power and characters who use this type have more vulnerability to non-frontal attacks. If you strike the enemy with their weakness consistently they can become afflicted with Break causing to become weak against all damage types.
The game also includes Flash Guard and Flash Move giving you the upper hand in otherwise tough battles. Flash Guard voids all of the enemies hits against you and after using Flash Guard all of your hits against the enemy will deal critical damage. Flash Move is activated by evading the enemy hit right before it reaches you, Flash Move causes everything around the character to move in slow motion. Flash Move can be used to put some needed space between you and the enemy or strike them from the side or behind, this can give you an advantage particularly against massive enemies with a shorter attack range. While the battle system is the same hack and slash style we all know and love it has been greatly updated to add more speed and action to battles.
The Steam version of the game remained practically unplayable for the first week after its release but I was finally able to play it after the publisher released several patches, the game still had other issues that were resolved by setting all of the graphic options to off and following the steps of a Steam user who suggested opening task manager, going to the details tab, right clicking ys8.exe, and unchecking all but the last CPU under the set affinity option. On the day of the game’s release the game would crash within 15 minutes of playing and the characters were not visible despite being able to see everything else, After a few patches there was no more crashing during gameplay but there were some issues with lagging and i was still unable to see the characters leaving me to play as Adol’s shadow, Turning off all of the graphics options sped up the game but i was still unable to see the characters, finally after finding the discussion thread recommending setting the affinity through task manager I tried it and was finally able to play the game without much of a problem. Other issues included crashing after changing the resolution and confusing controls made even more confusing by a tutorial that only shows the PS4 controls.
The issue of being unable to change the resolution due to resulting crashes is yet to be resolved so at this time I am unable to set it to a higher resolution. The control issue can be best addressed by customizing the controls in a way that is easy to remember, it is important to be comfortable with the controls due to the fact that there are so many actions in this game compared to its predecessors. It is unfortunate that such an amazing game received such a broken PC release, while it is great that the publisher is continuing to work on fixing the game it is unfortunate that the release’s reputation has been incredibly damaged in a way that may have a long lasting impact.
Ys VIII presents us with graphics that are far more beautiful than those of any previous Ys game, unfortunately the PC version of the game doesn’t do nearly as good of a job putting those beautiful graphics on display as the previous PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions did. There are of course ways that the quality of the graphics can be improved and I am hoping the publisher implements these fixes soon, namely being able to play the game on a higher resolution and having the graphics settings on without lagging or crashing. As far as character designs go I was excited to see the unique and refreshing designs for the familiar characters Adol and Dogi, The character design for Dana was absolutely stunning and the Design for Hummel stood out as one of the better designs for a male character. Unfortunately, during gameplay the characters don’t come out looking nearly as nice as they do in concept art images and nowhere near as beautiful as they do in the game’s opening they instead appear a bit rough around the edges and for some characters not nearly as vibrant in color.
The field and dungeon graphics were impressive and well blended, the illusion of landscapes in the far distance made the island and its surrounding feel even more vast than they already are. The only problem with the field and dungeon graphics was the fact that they at times seem too realistic compared to the character graphics, this perhaps might be why they didn’t make the characters as vibrant as they appeared in some of the concept art and cut scenes. Despite the weaknesses present in the games designs it still manages to be the most up to date and beautiful game in the series.
While I am enjoying the game on Steam I honestly can’t say I would recommend getting the game on Steam or GOG until it is completely patched, If you purchase the game and it does not work be sure to follow the steps I mentioned earlier in the review. It is also very important to make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements to run the game, if your computer does not meet the minimum requirements or you are unsure if it will run the game well I recommend purchasing the PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 4 version if you have either of those consoles since the game is of far better quality on those systems. The review score is based on how well I am able to play and enjoy the game at its current quality and may be revised once the game receives any more patches that improve the gameplay quality.
PROS (+): Solid Battle System, Unique Cast of Characters, Amazing Graphics, Beautiful Soundtrack
CONS (-): Screen Resolution Issues, Tutorials only show PS4 Controls, Need For Continuous Patching
SCORE - 7.5/10
This review is based on a digital copy of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA on Steam provided by NIS America.