It took more than half a year, but Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is finally on PC (available via Steam and GOG). Was it worth holding off on the PlayStation 4 or Vita versions to get it on PC? Sadly, the answer is no. NISA is aggressively patching the game (several patches and a preview branch in the week since launch), but the current state of the game is regrettably inadequate. My understanding based on conversations with some of the beta testers is that even in its current state, it is much improved from back in September, but that provides little comfort to players still dealing with a plethora of issues.
The PC Port needs work…
I will say that things are much improved since launch day. Issues with audio stuttering, 360 degree movement and some performance issues and crashes have been resolved. Unfortunately, other types of crashes are still present, and there are visual problems as well, including strange shadows and a flickering background in certain areas. The crashes can be very frustrating. The game is pretty good about auto-saving, but there are a couple points in the game where crashes tend to happen after a 15 minute battle but before a saving opportunity. I was forced to replay one sequence 3 times, so I really can’t blame people for being upset about this situation.
Beyond all that is the script. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on PC features the improved script that was added to the game post-launch on consoles, and while the dialogue itself is much better than it used to be, its implementation is sloppy at best. There are frequent typographical errors, multiple instances of a mismatch between the text and the voiceover, and many cases where a line of dialogue is repeated twice where a second line should have appeared. This last problem is particularly jarring, as important details can be missed. There is even a dialogue choice at the very end of the game that is clearly missing a few words! I honestly don’t know how they missed that one, but the fact remains that this localization still needs a lot of work. It’s no wonder that despite glowing reviews on console, this game is getting blasted on Steam with “Mostly Negative” reviews.
Okay, but what about the game?
If you can look past the mess, you’ll find there is still a great game underneath. I’ve enjoyed every game in the Ys series, and Ys VIII is no exception. In fact, it is one of the best games in the series!
It features the same battle engine that was used in Ys Seven and Ys: Memories of Celceta, where you can switch between three different playable characters with the push of a button. Each character uses a different weapon type, and certain enemies may have weaknesses or resistances, which encourages the player to use multiple characters rather than sticking to one throughout the whole game. In addition, the battle engine features both dodge and block buttons, either of which can be activated with perfect timing to prevent damage. The dodge even gives the player a moment of invulnerable bullet time, so if you can learn the enemy attack patterns, these systems can be heavily exploited.
That is a good thing, especially on higher difficulties, where enemies dish out huge amounts of damage and are very aggressive. I played through the game on the hard difficulty, and found the challenge to be just the right level of punishing, without going overboard. An interesting thing about this battle engine is that—unlike earlier games in the series—healing items are plentiful, and they can be used to drastically offset the challenge. Even on Hard mode, most bosses can be defeated sloppily, assuming you bring enough healing items. An old habit from playing through the series on PC makes me try not to use healing items at all, especially during boss fights, but I eventually broke down and started using them. Unfortunately, the elation that comes with defeating a challenging enemy is diminished if you spend half the fight consuming meals and downing potions. Fortunately, there is also a time attack mode that unlocks after you beat the game, which lets you challenge every boss in the game on any difficulty, and presets your equipment and items. That’s a perfect place to really test your limits!
Outside of combat, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is very fun to explore. The island you spend most of the game on is quite huge, and filled with monsters, treasure chests, fishing holes and resources. Though I tire of collecting items in video games, this game does a pretty good job making such work meaningful, as the player is tasked with building up a settlement on a deserted isle from nothing. I always enjoy this sort of mechanic in video games (Suikoden got me hooked on it), where throughout the game, you get to bring people together and build a place for them to live and thrive.
Visually, Ys VIII isn’t all that impressive. It’s clear that this game was designed with the PlayStation Vita in mind, with muddy textures appearing in less travelled places, and generally simplistic visuals throughout. There are occasionally breathtaking vistas, and the monsters look pretty cool, but this is not a showcase game by any means.
That being said, the characters look great. Ys VIII is filled with likeable characters that you get to know reasonably well throughout the game. Perhaps the most interesting character is the title character, Dana. The game takes an exceptionally long time to introduce her (literally half the game), and by the end, it still feels as though she was the main character the entire time. No character is more thoroughly developed. We get to know about her and her relationships between two separate casts, and the game handles it wonderfully.
She also manages to wear an outfit that reveals what I can only describe as tasteful underboob, which somehow every character in the game fails to address or respond to in any way. The game definitely takes the scantily clad approach to nearly every female character in the game (even the nun!), so I guess that’s just where we are now, but I digress. RIP cleavage; long live tasteful underboob?
Then there is my favorite part of the whole game: the music. The Ys series has always impressed aurally and Ys VIII: The Lacrimosa of Dana follows suit. It’s filled with the kinds of high-tempo, drum heavy rock pieces that pump you up while fighting through dungeons and bosses, but also has beautiful orchestrations for calmer moments and story beats. This is one soundtrack I can see myself listening to outside the game.
In the end, there is a lot to love about Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and on PS4, the score I would give it would be two points higher. But in its current state, it’s hard to even recommend the PC version to a friend. The problems are very real, and no amount of tasteful underboob can make up for them. I hope (and believe) that in the coming weeks, the patches will resolve most of the issues I mentioned above, and if they do, feel free to imagine a 9 below instead of a 7. The bottom line is that this is an exceptional action RPG with likeable characters, a great town-building aspect, and 50 hours of gameplay… you just might want to play it on PlayStation 4 if you have the option.
Ari completed Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana in 53 hours. He received a copy of the game for review purposes from NIS America, Inc.
Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC
Version Reviewed: PC