Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana

I have not played any other Ys games but Lacrimosa of Dana certainly turned out to be a not-so-ordinary JRPG. Not that it’s a new word in this genre but the authors made a memorable, intriguing game, even though it would look more appropriate if it came out on PS3 =)

Okay, a bunch of survivors of a shipwreck ended up on a mysterious and almost deserted island. What would you expect next? Personally, I thought that we’d leave the island in the first 5-6 hours of the game and begin traveling over the world. I was wrong =) The castaways won’t leave the island until the very last moment of the game. So you have to explore it, find other survivors, defend the “village” you built from aggressive beasts. You have to figure out why the hell there are dinosaurs on this island. You have to gather various material to improve the condition of your village, create new weapons, armor and so on (a very elegant solution for a situation when you obviously can’t use money). It feels fresh despite the fact that all the explorations, essentially, are linear (sometimes I want to feel like I’m about to find something unexpected if I just go off the beaten track a little).

Some parts of the island look pretty awesome

When the thing with Dana helping you out from the past was explained — I thought it was brilliant. My hope was that Adol would be traversing the island in present, while Dana would be his soulmate from the past and the only way they’d be interacting would be the crystals. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to move the Maiden of the Tree to our present days and, respectively, her future. Yeah, it was explained and makes sense in terms of the plot but it would’ve been such a bold move to just keep fragile dreamlike relationships between those two, at the same time slowly unraveling two parallel parts of the story (the one where Adol is leaving the island, the second one — about Eternia’s history and what destroyed that prosperous kingdom). However, all in all Lacrimosa of Dana offers a good story, consisting of a few layers and elements. Some of those elements are a bit weird, like the murderer on the island or when all of a sudden the party has to fight ghosts.

Also you’ll be helping all around, whether it’s a request to find a good spot for a prayer…
…or finding the notes for an old melody

What I did and didn’t. I did finish almost all the side quests. There are not so many of them and they are not extremely tedious. I missed, for sure, the one given by Sir Carlan — the bastard disappeared before I was able to provide him with the dish he wanted. I did find all the castaways — well, this one probably wasn’t that tough. I kind of give up on raids and hunts, doing only those which were necessary to move on. For maybe 80% of the time my main character was Laxia and the rest of the party was ignored, because, frankly, on normal difficulty they can stand up for themselves and, comparing to Tokyo Xanadu, the abilities of the characters are not that different and that doesn’t make you want to experiment.

As the next logical step I’m going to play Ys IX when it’s released in North America. Even though it looks a bit duller that VIII, Falcom’s action role-playing games definitely have their charm =)

Tokyo Xanadu

Have you heard of a story where a bunch of high school students having special powers at their disposal are saving the world from a grave danger and who, at the same time, are trying to build their relationships, study and have as much fun as possible? Persona? Well, almost =)

Tokyo Xanadu in many aspects is similar to the famous Atlus’ game series and it’s really tempting to say that it’s a low budget clone. For a clone, though, it has some differences.

First and foremost, the combat system in Tokyo Xanadu is real time. In general, I prefer turn based games but there are so few of them that if I was picky I would get to play only one or two JRPGs on every console generation. Once you get used to the number of available moves, which might be a bit overwhelming at the beginning (I memorized the meaning of the countless gauges and indicators only after a few chapters) battles become quite pleasant and enjoyable. The game is really challenging during the first four or five labyrinths but it gets much easier later on, at least, on the normal difficulty.

The bonds you’re building with your friends don’t affect the gameplay as much as it could be. The same goes to parameters like “Wisdom”. The protagonist gets rewards as your stats grow but I don’t think that any quests or relationships depend on these stats.

Speaking of relationships — I like how female characters in this game are written. Whether it’s composed and strong Asuka (I started playing Tokyo Xanadu because of her) or a more classic tsundere Rion, or the mysterious president of the student council Mitsuki — they weren’t just a bunch of girls surrounding the main hero and patiently waiting when he’ll choose one of them. I mean, the romantic elements can definitely be found here but, after all, this game is more about friendship and support than about going out with one of your comrades.

I must admit, though, that I got a bit tired after 50 hours, partially because Tokyo Xanadu didn’t want to end. “Oh, you’ve finished the story?! Congratulations, now you can watch the epilogue, then if you watch it for the second time you’ll get have a chance to win your way to the good ending! Hahaha, but after that good ending you can also get the true ending if you invest 10 more hours” and so on.

Tokyo Xanadu turned out to be a pleasant surprise and a game that I’d easily recommend to anyone interested in JRPG. An okay story, well written characters and an opportunity to decorate your room with a cactus, I couldn’t even have asked for more =)

There’s an Animate store in Tokyo Xanadu! Seeing that I kind of want to forget about everything, book a flight to Japan and spend more time on Akihabara. And yeah, buy something at this store =) Damn JRPGs and their realistic environments.

Steve showed yesterday something we’ve been working on recently — a new rendering engine =)

This full clip is here (unfortunately, I have no idea how to embed a twitch video here) and the shorter and compressed version is on Steve’s twitter:

So far it’s truly a hybrid of a renderer — clustered deferred + screen-space tiles classification a-la Uncharted 4 (and Frostbite I think and, I bet, others). Shadows are traditional stable cascaded shadowmaps with fallback to our existing aperture lightmaps.

In other news — saw a video of the latest installment of my favorite turn-based strategy game, Age of Wonders — and this is soo cool! Look forward to playing it!

https://www.aow-planetfall.com

I rarely feel something like “I wish I’d been a programmer on this project” playing a game, but now, when I returned back to the world of God of War after a year long break — I’m seriously envious. I’m even trying to find some flaws in the game’s visual, to silence my jealousy a bit — but can’t! I’m sooo looking forward to the GDC talks on GoW graphics this year!