Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana Review

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an action role-playing game which released on PlayStation 4, Vita and now on PC via Steam with a Nintendo Switch version following in June 2018. The game has you participate in the story of Adol and Dana, the two main characters, while being able to alternate between them and a multitude of other characters in order to unravel and experience a deep and memorable plot involving the fate of the world. The cursed Seiren Island is an open world environment you can roam while taking down various monsters and enemies. Players meet new friends along with exploring and collecting materials for use in crafting healing items and stronger weapons.

The game opens with you, as Adol, on-board a famous ship, the Lombardia, which sadly doesn’t get to the destination he was headed for. The player crashes near an unknown island (called the Isle of Seiren), where they struggle to survive and unearth many mysteries while saving people scattered around different locations. While traveling this strange island full of ancient species of creatures that don’t exist anywhere else, you learn more about the extinction-level event known as Lacrimosa and the forgotten ruined city of Eternia. Will this game live up to the fantasy hype that it projects and the series it hails from?

Dual story-lines and emotional journey – The majority of the time you are in control of Adol, but there’s a period of the story-line where you go travel through time in order to relive Dana’s life that led to her becoming the Maiden of the Forest. This adds to the backstory and depth of the plot, making the world feel detailed and fleshed out as it allows you to play it rather than simply explain Dana’s backstory through dialogue. Throughout the whole playthrough, the plot evoked many emotions that were flowing within me. Whether it would be happiness to the extreme or the contrary being extreme sadness. The story in this game provides you with a beautiful journey and emotional roller-coaster.

Endearing characters – You’ll meet a wide range of characters, from ones you want to hug to others which you want to punch in the face. Normally, you’d wish the annoying characters would not exist but Ys VIII does a great job of eventually making you attached to everyone, even the ones you dislike. You learn more about them as Adol includes more into the party from either his fellow castaways or residents of the island, and realize that each has something to contribute to exposition for the plot (such as Laxia, a noblewoman, providing information on Eternia).

Entrancing music – The musical score in Ys VIII is simply outstanding and superb, the team at Falcom and Yukihiro Jindo (the composer) has produced music which has left a mark on me months after playing. I often find myself listening to the official soundtrack and humming Dana’s theme to myself when I’m working on various tasks. Each song and sound really enhances the experience during gameplay and provides a perfect complement for the fantasy nature of the world.

Areas, exploration and maps – The Isle of Seiren doesn’t skimp out with places to explore and different varieties of locations. There’s one point where you can even go underwater thanks to a handy relic which takes it beyond just land-based combat. There’s huge mountains, dense forests, dark caverns, boggy marshlands and so much more which really adds to the immersive nature of the open world genre. The variety of beautiful locations makes you awe in the design of it all, as well, as you can tell that the team at Falcom really wished to convey a sense of nature-meets-magic.

Longevity – Lacrimosa of Dana provides a real in-depth story and lasting narrative. Fortunately, at no point did the story feel like it was dragging on and it flows nicely through the course of 30 hours or so; yet, neither did it feel as if it was too short or left with any kind of cliffhanger. Ys VIII also provides a true ending for completing most of what the game has to offer, so it gives you more motivation to go through every nook and cranny of the Seiren Island.

Building up a base, surviving, and friend quests – Upon crashing onto the Isle of Seiren, you’re automatically plunged into a scenario which brings you back to having nothing. With the survivors, you can gather items and materials to build up the base and defenses as well as helping survivors with their quests and needs. This is a great amount of content that’s been integrated into the Seiren Islands and gives the player lots to do to fill up gameplay. It wasn’t too overdone and quests weren’t repeated too much to make the game feel padded and instead felt organic as any hero adventurer traveling through a fantasy universe would since helping villagers and solving mysteries.

Attention-seeking Raids – Every time I got engrossed and wanted to explore more, the little parrot would beep up and say “Alert! Alert! Camp is under attack”. While I believe you don’t have to do them, I didn’t want to take any chances and found myself constantly teleporting back to a ‘defend the base’ type mini-game, which I’m not really a fan of. That being said, if you enjoy ‘defend the base’ type missions, this may be a positive for you. This may seem like nitpicking but when something detracts away from my exploring to do a mundane task such as this then it has a negative impact on me.

Predictability of boss fights – Every single boss fight on Ys VIII is extremely predictable in terms of when they will show up. I found myself knowing and stocking up before each and every boss on the game. This took away from the element of surprise and made sure I was fully prepared for each and every encounter as there is no point at anytime that I was caught off guard. If there were more unexpected boss battles then it would add to a more challenging gameplay instead of ensuring I was always prepared. Many players may feel like this is a sort of hand-holding.

Customization is just a palette swap – When I unlocked the tailor I got extremely excited upon hearing of character customization. Excluding the DLC, the customization was a major let down as the different outfits were just color swaps of their regular uniforms. While I understand being limited on the physical side of character customization, I really wish that the outfits actually changed instead of being just a simple color change.

Accidental special usage – I found that when playing on PS4, to activate a special ability you need to press L1 and R1 together to activate it. The control scheme also has the dodge button on L1 and block on R1, which could cause the player to accidentally activate the special at times when it’s not needed. This, during more action-packed fight sequences, was a bit frustrating due to the fact that special attacks took a while to build up and could also save you from potential death situations in a pinch.

PC Port Issues – While this is a more technical point to the review, many people who have played the PC ported version thus far are having issues with it being buggy, crashing, glitching, and not acting how it should. I’m one of the fortunate few who’ve encountered zero problems in either version of the title, however, I felt it was worth noting here — for anyone considering to get it for PC — that many have noticed this and that it’s still unknown whether it has to do with the build of your computer or some other yet-unrealized software issue.

It’s not often you come across masterpieces, but Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is simply breathtaking and provided a voyage which has left a lifelong and emotional mark on me. There is minor annoyances to be mentioned for the game but none have seriously impacted my love for it as all the positives far outshine the negatives. From the wide range of characters to the scenery and an out-of-this-world musical score, I highly recommend this as a purchase to anyone who enjoys action RPGs that contain an in-depth story and fun gameplay.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is simply one of the best games that I’ve ever encountered and played in my life.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was developed by Nihon Falcom and published by NIS America. It was released for PlayStation 4 [reviewed] and Vita on September 21st, 2017 and PC [reviewed] on April 16th, 2018 and will release for the Nintendo Switch on June 26th, 2018. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.

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