A work in progress

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By Alexander O. Cuaycong
and Anthony L. Cuaycong

THE NAMES Nihon Falcom and NIS America carry a lot of weight in the gaming industry. Both companies have time and time again proven their capacity to produce outstanding titles — among others, Legend of Heroes and Dragon Slayer for the former, and Disgaea and Phantom Brave for the latter. It came as no surprise, then, that when these two companies teamed up to create Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, the fruit of their work was nothing short of spectacular. Originally released in 2016 on the PS Vita, Ys VIII was praised as the best yet from the franchise. Featuring stellar combat mechanics, memorable music, and a compelling story to boot, it was a perfect candidate to be ported over to other platforms. The PlayStation 4 received its own version last year, and late last month, it made its debut on the personal computer.

In Ys VIII, longtime series protagonist Adol Christin again takes center stage, shipwrecked and stranded on the cursed island of Seiren, from which no one comes home. The game has him teaming up with other castaways, building and securing a base to house them all, and ultimately uncovering the mystery that surrounds the island. And for players, it helps that their sense of discovery is heightened in no small measure by the game’s compelling tone. The soundtrack sets scenes superbly; from the soothing orchestral pieces to the more intense combat music, the auditory experience evokes wonderment. Meanwhile, the visuals, while not spectacular, are vibrant and eye-catching; they’re not as detailed as some of the companies’ other titles, but they set the stage competently all the same.

Which is well and good, because no matter the setting (from lush jungle villages to dark and forgotten dungeons), there’s always something new for players to find. And, needless to say, exploration is integral to progression, much in the same way as in the series’ other titles. Players will run through dungeons, scavenge for supplies, rescue fellow survivors, and slowly develop their quaint little village. Keeping it safe is a top priority, thus requiring them to continually defend the village. Thankfully, the game’s combat system is on point; employing a rock-paper-scissors approach to fighting, it evolves from its seeming simplicity, underscoring the importance of developing multiple skills and special attacks. These, along with a fluid grasp of the controls, are integral to beating some of the tougher monsters and later bosses.

Story-wise, Ys VIII boasts of one of the better ones to come out of the series. Set up nicely by the underlying narrative of the island’s curse, the need to survive is given due prominence. In this regard, it’s a shame that the game’s intrinsic value is discounted by its underwhelming port. On the day of its PC release, players frequently experienced glitches and crashes. And while patches have constantly been made available in the intervening period, bugs remain and require additional programming improvements.

Overall, Ys VIII is arguably the best game in the series to date. Unfortunately, its PC incarnation remains a work in progress, and up until issues are completely addressed, it cannot but be a cautionary buy at best. Those who have a PS4 would do well to pick the console’s version up. Certainly, the newest port will improve in and over time, and when it does, it will deserve its standing as one of the better role-playing games released on the platform in recent memory.