Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana (PS4) Review – Padded Greatness
Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 12th September 2017 (NA) / 15th September 2017 (EU)
Price: 39.99 (Vita), 59.99 (PC, PS4)
Since 30 years Falcom is the home and creator of probably one of the best JRPG series out there, the Ys series. Inevitable, for its anniversary, there has to be a new entry in the main series, so here it is, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana. Can it build up on the things we love about the Ys series? Of course it does, its Falcom after all, in fact, Ys 8 is a great JRPG with only tiny flaws. That´s why I´m here to tell you why Ys 8´s giant amount of content is its biggest strength and flaw at the same time.
Once again we slip into the shoes of Adol Christin, a sailor on the Lombardia, when a huge beast destroys the ship, making all passengers shipwrecked on the mysterious Isle of Seiren. Soon after finding the first survivors, Adol and the captain begin to establish castaway village, to gather all remaining survivors. However, slowly Adol realises that nothing about the isle is as it seems, experiencing weird dreams about a girl named Dana, who lived long before they came to the island. Now, it´s our job to solve the mystery of the island, battling ancient beasts and keeping a band of strangers together.
In contrast to most previous Ys games, Ys 8´s story doesn´t only sound very appealing but actually offers a very intriguing, tense and mature take on a familiar theme. Unfortunately, to reach the point where the plot really kicks off, we need to chew through a massive layer of padding. During the first 8-10 hours Ys 8 does basically nothing with its plot, mainly sending us around the island to explore and gather survivors. It simply becomes boring.
Yet, the characters we rescue and encounter are all fantastic, each with their own dialogue, character and quests. No person is simply a cliché but rather evolves into a very likeable bearer of Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana´s storyline I quickly learned to love. Still, even though our hour-long searches may be rewarded with great characters, they´re still hour-long searches, lacking any kind of context. At the end of chapter 2 I was seriously worried about it, but then, it started to get interesting. Finally letting us play as the often teased Dana after presenting a very interesting murder quest to us, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana shows what it´s capable off.
Quickly, the events start to focus, simple exploration quests are getting a rarity and the mystery around the island steps into focus. Compared to the aimless first hours, the game really hooked me at this point. Not only is the story mature, not scared to show deaths, moral conflicts or very interesting lore when we play as Dana but is also filled with likeable, deep characters, if we choose to actually talk to them. Honestly, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana´s story could even challenge Ys Origins, if it wouldn´t have this repetitive first third of padding.
Surprisingly, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana´s open world is actually quite nice, especially for a first time. Stuffed with all kinds of different areas, from forests to swamps or mountains. The fact every areas offers dozens of chests and material collection points, used to upgrade or craft new items, is a great motivation to explore. Still, it isn´t a very unique one, there´s nothing truly new here, often simply replicating already known ideas. I really enjoyed exploring new areas or discovering new ways to secret rewards but at the end, I never was impressed by it.
Part of the lack of breath-taking, new moments of Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana´s world is the presentation. Following the Ys series (and othr Falcom games like Cold Steel) tradition, Ys 8 isn´t the prettiest JRPG on the market. Low resolution textures, lacking visual effects, an overall very simplistic style and partially stiff animations can´t impress nowadays. Surely, the open world has some great skyboxes and the loading times are only around two seconds on the PS4 but don´t expect a visual revolution here, it´s Ys after all. Luckily, the music didn´t change as well, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana´s OST is absolutely stunning to listen and play to, featuring everything from fast, “funky” to slow, relaxed tracks, all in an own musical way. I love the soundtrack.
Following the trend of unchanged things, the combat is amazing too. Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana copies the action based formula of the series, expanding on it in little ways, like the addition of a new, fast evading system. We can now either Flash Evade or Flash Guard, both pretty similar in execution with Flash Evade being slightly harder and more rewarding. By dodging the enemy attack in the last-minute, we slow him down, granting us extra damage and time to deal damage, making it an extremely big motivation to learn enemy patterns. In combination with the new hero classes, skills and some tinier enhancements, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana is a fast but very tactical game, which combat still isn´t boring after 35 hours. The only complaint I have, is the fact, that dead characters don´t get XP, so if someone is KO in a boss fight, he might miss 1-2 levels, leaving him a bit underleveled.
Speaking of bosses, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana has tons of them. Throwing one of its dozens of different bosses at us every few hours, each with their own weaknesses, pattern and style, they´re by far the absolute gameplay highlights. Unfortunately, in the middle part, we´re facing the same boss quite a few times, leaving a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. Otherwise, it´s great to dodge their attacks, find weak spots in their patterns and trying to keep your team alive, since healing items are rather rare.
Between exploration or questing, most of our time will be spent in Castaway village, where we can not only upgrade our equipment with found materials but also trade them for others, do quests, upgrade the village itself or even do some kind of optional defense battles. While upgrading plays out like in any other game, Ys 8´s quest system is particularly great. Each quest may be nothing special but always rewards us with an either cool story or visual upgrades for our village, making them nearly necessarily for upgrade addicts like me. Falcom really understood how to design a rewarding system for their optional missions.
Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana is without a doubt a great JRPG and one of the best entries in the main series. Keeping every element that made the series so great. Besides its gorgeous Soundtrack and great combat, it also features one of the best plots ever, being nearly as good as Origins, full of likeable characters and mature storytelling. Yet, its giant open world and playtime are it´s biggest problems at the same time, letting the first third seem more like aimless padding than a captivating element. However, this is basically the only complain I have, I enjoyed the latest entry in the Ys series way too much to not recommend it, Ys 8 Lacrimosa of Dana is truly an amazing JRPG.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]