The Ys series is one that I only just discovered this year. Over my summer break I bought and played every single Ys game that I could; they are some remarkable JRPGs that have very unique and interesting systems, adapting and changing over time. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the first new Ys in five years, and while the game is exceptionally fun and addicting there are a few caveats that come with it
The Ys series follows one main character, Adol Christin, over his many years of being an adventurer. The games are all connected and tell an overarching story but playing all of them isn’t needed to actually understand the story of the individual iterations. In Ys VIII Adol is a shipwright for a vessel transporting some upper class civilians across the ocean. Eventually things go awry and the ship capsizes, and he ends up on a mysterious island that nobody has heard of.
There are many things that I like about the Ys series and they are all present in this new entry. All of the game’s systems work together in a beautiful dance of unity. The combat is fast paced and punishing. The music is absolutely insane. The characters are fun to play and fun to talk to.
While playing through Ys VIII you get to control four main characters, each with a certain element type, like the paper, scissors, rock system of Fire Emblem. During encounters some enemies will be weak to a smash attack, so tactics would recommend a switch to the smash character. When the switch occurs, the party member you were playing prior to that starts fighting as an AI companion, with a smooth, hiccup-free transition. Every character has a deep arsenal of skills to use. You won’t be able to just stand still and wail on enemies;
the fights are active and there is a lot of awareness that is required. It’s fast paced but challenging. Every character has a roll that lets you get out of the way, but you can’t roll through attacks like you would in games like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. There’s a huge requirement on the player to be knowledgeable and smart.
Exploring the island will grant many treasures and surprises. There are a lot of areas to collect items for crafting, cooking, weapon upgrading, story progression and quests. A lot of the game makes the player feverishly explore and grind areas to find materials to craft an item for the town you’re building, armor you want, food you
are making for that buff for the next boss or an item to use for trade. With any RPG there’s a wall to smash through and in Ys there is a NEED for that new weapon, armor and skill. Even small enemies have the ability to give you a game over. The grinding is necessary, the side quests are necessary and the crafting is wholly necessary, and the game completely elevates it all together. There is so much to do, explore and find on the island. The Ys series is popular for being ridiculously difficult and the eighth installment is there to also prove that it ain’t a push over as well. It might not be the most difficult in the series but it’s definitely not the easiest by a long shot either. Fans of Ys will probably be very excited to hear this — shoot, I was super shocked and beaming myself.
To someone from the outside,
the game might look immediately dismissible because of its lackluster visuals [I rewrote this sentence because the previous one was a run-on]. Graphics and technical prowess don’t feel like the most important focus of the game, and loading issues and map size leave it feeling dated, but Ys VIII does a good job at proving that it can be an engaging and enjoyable experience in its own way. The Nihon Falcom team have done an amazing job of bringing the series into the modern era of action RPGs, however at the same time I find Ys VIII hard to recommend to anyone besides fans of the series.
This review is based on a code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.