Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the follow up to Ys: Memories of Celceta. It’s an action RPG which at its heart is all about adventuring and exploration. Ys is a long-running series that has been around since the 80s, but you don’t need to be familiar with any of the previous games to understand what’s happening here. While there are some returning characters and a few brief references to past events, each game features its own self-contained story, and this one's no different.
You’ll be in control of red-headed adventurer Adol Christin, who's on a voyage across the ocean. Of course, things never work out smoothly, and it’s not long before the ship is attacked by a giant tentacular creature, and despite your best efforts, the ship sinks. Thankfully you don’t get a one-way ticket to Davy Jones’ locker, instead washing up on the Island of Seiran. Continuing the theme of things not working out smoothly, you’ll soon see that this isn’t a luxurious and tranquil island, but instead a place with many vicious monsters and hidden mysteries, which include a blue-haired girl called Dana who keeps appearing in Adol’s dreams.
The game’s story is intriguing. At times it can admittedly be a little bit predictable, but there always seems to be something new happening with fresh quandaries for Adol and his companions to investigate and explore at a regular pace. Not that you really need much of a reason to explore anyway, as it truly is a joy to uncover more of the map and find all of the island's treasures.
As you roam around the island you’ll encounter many ferocious beasts which fortunately Adol and his companions are more than ready to take down. The game’s combat is fast paced with battles occurring in real time. You’ll be in control of one character while the computer controls two others. It’s a really intuitive battle system and it won’t take long before you’ll be hacking, slashing, blocking, and dodging with ease. Each character has an attack type – slash, pierce, or strike – with some types being stronger against certain enemies than others. You can easily switch between characters in your party at the touch of a button, and this is fun to do as every character has different weapons and skills. Even the characters with the same attack type feel unique, which keeps the combat feeling fresh throughout. It’s a simple hack-'n'-slash battle system but feels wonderfully gripping, especially in some of the boss fights where you really will need to master your timing.
After you find your first couple of shipwreck survivors, they’ll decide to create a little settlement called Castaway Village, which grows and develops as you find more survivors. There are lots of advantages to rescuing people as many of them can help you out by providing medicines as well as a forge and farm. The villagers don’t just act as mindless shopfronts, though - these are diverse and interesting characters with their own mini storylines. While some of them can be a little bound by Japanese RPG tropes, they’re all told with such charm that you can’t help but be enchanted by them.
When you’re not exploring you’ll spend a fair amount of time helping out the villagers by completing quests for them. Successfully completing their tasks will improve Adol’s approval rating in the village, and this approval rating has an impact on some of the minigames. For example, there's a tower defence style game where you’ll have to defend the village from waves of encroaching beasts. Before the battle begins you’ll be able to build and enhance defences using materials you’ve collected while out exploring. When things kick off, the villagers will sometimes cast support abilities which can provide huge advantages for your party. The higher your approval rating, the stronger their ability is.
Uncovering all of the island's secrets will take a great deal of exploring, so it’s good that the game is so engaging. There’re plenty of quests to complete as well as crafting, fishing, and cooking to indulge in, and there are warp points across the map which means that you can quickly zip to areas that you’ve been to before, which makes it easy to backtrack for any missing treasure.
Where Memories of Celceta looked a little bit like someone had smeared Vaseline over the in-game camera, Lacrimosa’s graphics, while still simplistic, are crisp, colourful, and beautiful. There’s a diverse range of locations for you to discover, ranging from pleasant beaches to dark caves and even creepy ghost ships.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an exhilarating adventure with plenty of secrets to uncover and a wonderous island for you to explore. If you're a fan of the series or are even just a fan of RPGs in general, then Lacrimosa of Dana is an easy title to recommend. Its fast paced combat system and intriguing storyline will keep you hooked throughout.