Nihon Falcom's long-running action RPG series finally has a sequel after almost eight years. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a slight departure for the franchise but does it retain all of the magic that makes the Ys series fun?
Believe it or not, I've been playing the Ys series ever since the first game on PC and have become a huge fan over the years. Each game is its own self-contained adventure full of action-intense combat, memorable characters, and fantastic music. Thankfully, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana continues this trend albeit with a fresh twist. The tale begins onboard a ship that soon crashes due to unpredictable events. Upon waking up ashore a mysterious island, Adol takes it upon himself to gather all of the survivors and build a village with the help of his constant chum Dogi and everyone he can find. It's such a great premise and had me excited to see what would unfold right off the bat.
Along the way, you'll meet loads of interesting characters which is where Ys VIII's story shines brightest. Some of these folks set up shops in the village while others may just lurk around and a few even join your party. There's an element of trust in that people's fondness of Adol grows as he speaks to them and accomplishes certain tasks. On the other end of that same coin, some survivors may not exactly be trustworthy but I don't want to spoil anything. The funniest character is Sahad who's a fisherman with a free spirit. His attitude contrasts perfectly with the often uptight and proper Laxia. Watching her react to his farts around the campfire is hilarious.
The classic gameplay dynamic of Ys where you explore a massive world while hacking and slashing through enemies is back full-throttle. Running around, performing special moves, and collecting an assortment of materials that explode from defeated enemies is so much fun. The combat is especially intense whenever you face one of the enormous bosses. Each one requires a different strategy and they range from branch-hugging lizards to dinosaurs and giant swamp alligators to deadly living trees.
Besides combat, you'll spend most of your time exploring the island. Doing so is a bit trickier than you'd think as many obstacles get in your way. These are taken care of in one of two ways: getting a specific number of survivors to help you move an obstacle or using certain adventure gear such as boots that let you walk on swamps, gloves that allow you to climb vines, and a pendant that lights up dark caves. This aspect makes it feel very Metroidvania-like and creates an addictive exploration dynamic.
Unfortunately, the world of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana doesn't have much personality. Whereas previous games in the series had you explore truly magical environments (some of which were inhabited by unique races), the world here is mostly what you'd expect from a generic island. Sure, there are jungles, beaches, and complex cave systems to traverse but I wanted to see much more. Another downside tied to this is the fact that Ys VIII's graphics definitely aren't as appealing as many similar games. For example, looking at a vine wall from the side only to see that it's completely flat is disappointing. For a mysterious island, it sure doesn't look impressive.
Finally, I was hoping that Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana had more in-depth character growth mechanics. Instead, all you do is equip armour, upgrade weapons in the most basic way imaginable, level up, and assign skills for each character. This means that the time you spend in the village is consumed by seeing what certain characters can make with your collected materials and that's about it. Considering the premise of the story is survival, I wish that there were more to setting up your party than these basic components.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana provides more than enough thrilling action RPG gameplay to satisfy fans' appetites. Even though some of the magic is gone, there's no denying that this is one memorable entry in the series.
- + Fast-paced combat that's as satisfying as ever, especially with the incredible bosses
- + Great variety of lovable characters
- + Huge world that's fun to explore
- - World lacks the same level of personality as previous Ys games
- - Plenty of visual limitations
- - Inadequate character growth options