by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Lacrimosa of DANA
As you can probably tell from the Roman numeral in the title, Ys is a series of games which has been around for many years. The first one came out all the way back in 1987, and for the past few decades, the Japanese roleplaying games have developed a strong following around the world. Ys VIII is already out in Japan on PS Vita and PlayStation 4, but it is coming west with a full PC release on September 12.
The game is an action RPG, and will have English and Japanese voice acting, as well as English and French text, and it’s being touted as “the biggest and most beautiful Ys game” ever made. There are more cutscenes, and the characters are more fleshed out than normal in an attempt to get players emotionally invested in the story. The series is known for its music, and the latest game in the franchise is no exception. Even in a noisy Gamescom booth, the energetic soundtrack shone through in action sequences.
In Ys VIII, you have crash landed on an island, and you will be building a village of those passengers who have been scattered all over the island. People you meet on your adventures, but decide not to join your questing party can go there, and the village will increase in population and in scope over time. The more people you find, the more you will be able to do at this village. For example one survivor might make you better armour, another might sell you items or potions. Some may even have side quests you can go on at your leisure.
As for the gameplay, you will be engaging in fast paced combat with your party of heroes against all kinds of monsters. You’ll be able to swap between them on the fly, and rather than switching the camera to their location, the actual character will warp to where you are, to avoid jarring camera switches. The special moves and attacks are very showy, and there’s some extra complexity to be found beyond just mashing on the buttons. Timing a dodge to perfection will allow you to quickly get more counter-attacks in than you would otherwise. Similarly, you can time a block to perfection, which will increase your speed for a short length of time. However, if you mistime the block, you’re going to take damage, while a mistimed dodge will still be a dodge.
There are three types of attack, and characters will generally be good at one specific type. In the Gamescom demo we saw examples of slashing, piercing, and crushing attacks, and icons will appear above enemies’ heads if they are vulnerable to a certain type. Another thing to watch out for, especially on larger enemies and bosses, is a meter which fills up and indicated how close you are to stunning them. Incapacitating them for a short amount of time allows you to pick your spot and deal some serious damage.
In the new PC version of the game, extra missions have been added that weren’t seen in the Japanese console version of the game. One of the main characters Dana has new quests, and there will also be extra items and other bits and pieces available. A special edition of the game will come with a 32 page artbook and the soundtrack included. Plus, in the Steam version you will be able to unlock some special armour from the very first Ys game if you purchase Ys VIII within the first seven days of availability. It has been a long time since the last numbered Ys game, and the developers will be hoping Ys VIII is the time fans will return to the series, and new players will join the fray.