After nearly seven years, it’s finally time for another adventure with Adol and Dogi in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Things begin in rather standard form with the two adventurers traveling towards their next destination, but the mood shifts suddenly when their vessel, The Lombardia, is attacked and sunk by a giant sea creature. Alone and stranded on the island, it’s up to Adol to reunite the crew of The Lombardia and escape the cursed island of Seiren before the situation becomes desperate.
While I was relatively unfamiliar with the Ys series, and Nihon Falcom, until the last few years, it’s one that quickly made an impression on me. I picked up Ys: The Oath in Felghana on a whim in 2012 and the fluid combat and intense difficult had me hooked instantly; I’ve been working my way through the other titles ever since.
The progression in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a little different from similar action RPGs, which is actually quite refreshing. Instead of moving from town to town meeting generic NPCs and occasionally purchasing better weapons, you have to rescue castaways in order to gain access to cooking, weapon smithing, tailoring and other useful services. The pacing is the same for the most part because the game won’t let you advance too far past the main story, but it does allow you to create a meaningful relationship with more characters than normal.
For example, Catherine is the granddaughter of a well-known blacksmith and is eventually in charge of your weapon and armor upgrades. As players progress through the game, they can obtain gifts and fuel stones that will expand what she can create. Furthermore, this will unlock information about her backstory and eventually she forms a bond with Adol that has an effect on her future endeavors.
Similar to Ys Seven, players will control one of three party members and the AI will direct the others. For the most part, the AI is competent and will even pick up items for you, but they shouldn’t be relied upon to deal significant amounts of damage. There is still an attribute system in place consisting of: Slash, Strike, and Pierce. Slash is powerful against soft enemies while Strike is effective against armored creatures and Shoot is best used against flying types.
Eventually, you’ll have access to two characters of each type in order to create a well-rounded team or one that is effective against a specific enemy type. In addition to the attribute system, players can also perform Flash Guard and Flash Move actions by blocking or dodging within a certain time frame. These will nullify enemy attacks, increase critical hit chance and slow down enemy movements.
The combat is definitely the strongest aspect of Lacrimosa of Dana. It feels incredibly rewarding to combine a series of attacks and special abilities while chaining Flash Guard and Flash Move when powerful enemies go on the offensive. Conversely, sloppy plays are punished by knockdowns, status effects, or heavy attacks that chunk health bars. For the most part, the bosses are the only real challenge, but it’s still a lot of fun to chain and juggle weaker enemies while blazing through the open zones.
In order to finish the game in a timely manner, I completed my first playthrough on Normal difficulty in just under 36 hours. During this time I rescued 22 castaways (all except one), uncovered 96% of the island, and gained 206 reputation, which was enough to unlock the True Ending. If you’re going to complete the game, I highly recommend reaching at least the requirement of 201 reputation for the True Ending because it really brings the story full circle.
There are a total of five standard difficulty modes including: Easy, Normal, Hard, Nightmare, and Inferno. Additionally, Infinity Mode is unlocked after clearing the game to make monsters even stronger while increasing item drop rates. Inferno Mode also places some extra restrictions in the form of a max item capacity, limited bottle uses, and faster enemy movement. Normal mode wasn’t too challenging, I never had a full-party wipe, but the difficulty ramps up quickly once you get to Nightmare or higher.
In contrast to the fast-paced combat, the story starts off slowly and doesn’t really get interesting until Chapter 4. Until then it’s rescuing the first batch of castaways, building the bare essentials for your village and putting your main party together. In the early parts of the game, it felt like there was more dialogue than necessary, which was sometimes quite cringeworthy, and it interrupted the flow of combat more than it should have.
However, once Dana arrives on the scene she truly steals the show. Early in the game, players are given snippets of information about Dana, but until she joins your party the main interactions are done by the mostly mute Adol Christin. I understand that players are supposed to feel like they’re controlling Adol in this situation, but Dana clearly outshines him in every way due to his lack of meaningful personality.
Most of the other characters on the island also have interesting backstories, but many of them are locked behind completing quests or finding gifts that can be overlooked. Due to this, I recommend completing all of the sidequests and exploring as much as possible in order to simultaneously learn about your companions and unlock the better ending.
With Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, Nihon Falcom has made clear visual improvements since the seventh game in the series. The 3D character models have quite a bit of detail while still fitting the anime-inspired art style and there are a lot of unique environments in the game. Moreover, each zone has its own unique assortment of monsters that aren’t simply reskins from previous areas.
Attack animations and spell effects look explosive while generally not creating an overabundance of clutter. The only aspect that felt visually lacking was the texture detail for some of the outdoor zones that felt a little drab compared with Adol and the beasts he was fighting. However, there were a lot of ‘interest points’ that did create beautiful scenery, and the ability to see other zones from high points of elevation was a nice touch.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana offers a unique combination of beautiful storytelling and challenging, twitch combat that generally isn’t found in the JRPG genre. It might take a while to ramp up, but this is one worth seeing through to the end. For fans of the Ys series, this should be an instant buy and it’s difficult not to recommend for fans of RPGs or action-adventure games.
- Gorgeous anime art style
- Rewarding combat system
- Engaging narrative
- Story has a slow start
- Dana steals the show