Monday, August 27, 2018

Ys Origin Preliminary Review

After having so much fun tackling Ys I & II as part of my “gaming shames” project, I decided to jump into another entry of the series, Ys Origin, the prequel to the first two games. Unlike the other games in the Ys franchise, Ys Origin ditches the main protagonist, Adol, and instead lets the player choose among two playable characters (with the option to unlock a third), each with their own unique plotlines. I’m writing this as a preliminary review because I’ve had the chance to finish the game with the two starting characters, Yunica and Hugo, but haven’t had a chance to try the third character yet. Here’s what I think of the game from what I’ve played so far:

  • The action is fast and fluid compared to most ARPGs; much of the moment-to-moment gameplay is closer to a hack-and-slash game.
  • Battles with giant bosses are the highlight. Having explosions and projectiles going everywhere creates enjoyable bullet-hell chaos. Sometimes battles can drag on a little too long but it’s generally quick to grind up a few levels to mitigate that.
  • Yunica and Hugo have distinct playstyles. Yunica is a close-up melee fighter like Adol (or Link) while Hugo is entirely based on ranged attacks. Yunica has more powerful attacks and combos but risks taking damage herself. Hugo is more about being methodical. Switching characters really does change how you play.
  • Dungeon design is much more interesting and varied than Ys I & II. Some areas of the dungeon are 3D reimaginings of parts of the tower from Ys I, which is cool to see as a fan of the series.
  • The story is pretty simple but has some emotional highlights (more so with Hugo than Yunica). Supposedly the third character's plot adds substantially to the Ys franchise lore, but I haven't gotten to that yet.
  • I really like look of the detailed 2D sprites on the simple 3D backgrounds.
  • The music is excellent, as one would expect from an Ys game. Many of the pieces are new arrangements of music from Ys I and II.
  • The whole game takes place inside one giant dungeon, Darm Tower, with cutscenes spread sprinkled in to break up the action. There are no overworld areas or towns. This makes the world feel more restricted than in other Ys games.
  • A few sections of the tower just consist of plowing through wave after wave of enemies which can feel a like a slog.
  • While the game’s character paths feature different plot perspectives, the gameplay covers the same dungeon and bosses with only minor variations. This means having to repeat most of the game three times in order to see the whole story.
  • Unlike Ys I and II, the game can only be saved at fixed save points. Sometimes these save points are spaced too far apart for my liking.
  • The inventory and equipment screen can’t be accessed during boss battles and hitting “retry” after losing a boss battle drops you right back into the start of the battle. Thus, if you walk into a battle with the wrong gear equipped, you must exit back to the title screen and reload your save.
My first two play-throughs of Ys Origin were a lot of fun and the game has been a welcome break from the slower turn-based RPGs I’ve been playing this year. That being said, with each run through the tower, the issues with repetitiveness and quality of life did begin to wear on me. For now, I’m going to set the game aside and play through the third character’s path after taking a break to avoid getting burnt out. If the final path, which supposedly shows the “true ending”, changes my views on the game, I’ll be sure to update this review or a write a follow-up post. However, based on the substantial time I’ve put into Ys Origin so far, I can comfortably recommend it to fans of hack-and-slash style action RPGs.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 20 hours (11 hours for Yunica and 9 for Hugo)

Update (Dec-16 2018): I went back and finished the game with the third character. This character's plot is definitely more emotional than the other paths and does more to tie Ys Origin into the rest of the Ys series. The gameplay is still mostly the same as the other two paths, except the new character is much faster and more agile than the others. I found it worthwhile to devote another 8 hours to revisiting this game since I enjoyed it so much the previous times, but the experience didn't really change my overall feelings on the game, so my preliminary review score still stands.



1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to look at screenshots of this coming right off of Octopath - both use pixel art in 3D environments, but Ys Origin seems to blend it quite well compared to Octopath's more diorama-like aesthetic.

    Hopefully the story can successfully tie together its parallel plots - that structure can be hit-and-miss, but it's really cool when it works.