Ys Origin Review (PC)
You would think with my affinity for RPGs I would have played something in the Ys franchise at this point. You’d be wrong however. For some reason the Ys franchise has flown completely under my rader, but with the release of Ys Origin on Steam, it seemed like a good time to jump in and see what this franchise was all about.
What You Need to Know
Ys Origin is the seventh game to be released in the popular RPG franchise from Nihon Falcom, but is the first game in terms of chronology taking place 700 years before the events of Ancient Ys Vanished. It was originally published for the PC in Japan back in 2006, but thanks to XSEED Games it’s seeing a release in America on Steam. It tells the backstory for many elements from the previous games such as the history of Ys, the Darm Tower, the twin goddesses and who the six priests are. You can play as one of three characters; a young female knight named Yunica Tovah, a brilliant wizard called Hugo Fact or the mysterious character known as Toal (eventually).
If you’re a fan of old-school RPGs then you know how much inventory management comes with a game like this. Normally, you have to constantly refer back to your inventory and keep up with everything you’ve acquired over the course of the game. Using healing items or temporary buffs requires going into your inventory, finding the item and then using it. Ys Origin streamlines some of that process by automatically using the items you find. Health items are automatically used, boosting your health back up. Items that give you temporary stat increases are also used as soon as you pick them up. They have a meter that appears just on the HUD showing you how long the item will last. Multiple items will stack with different colors to denote the different items currently in use; giving you a clear idea of just what buffs you currently have active. It feels very much like an MMO in that sense.
When you do need to access your inventory, it’s generally to equip new items like armor or swap out different special abilities depending on the situation you’re in. It means you’re spending more time in the game than you are juggling items in your inventory.
Multiple Character Playthroughs
You get to play as three different characters in Ys Origins. Two of them, Yunica Tovah and Hugo Fact are available from the beginning. The third character becomes available later in the game, and there is actually a fourth character that can be used for Time Attack and Arena modes.
Each of the characters plays very differently from the others. Yunica, is a young, inexperienced knight following in her father’s footsteps. She excels in close quarters fighting and has weapons that can deal massive damage or control large areas of space at a time. Hugo is a very experienced wizard who uses long-range, attack spells and a pair of orbiting lasers that help dish out the hurt to enemies in the tower. The third character, Toal, is a very experienced fighter and plays similarly to Yunica but has a significant speed advantage over her, making the game move much faster.
While all the characters play very differently, they will play through the campaign in a similar manner. Even then it will feel very different playing them back to back. The characters will experience the same areas at much the same time as the others, but the way NPCs are introduced, cut scenes are viewed and the story progresses, is actually very different. The other characters inhabiting the game treat them very differently, with everyone tending to handle Yunicah with kid gloves while they let Hugo go off and do his own thing because of his experience. It’s quite nice to see a campaign handled this way. You might get everything you want to see with one play through, but the differences between the characters are enough that you’re going to want to play through it with everyone. Each character’s story will take you between eight and ten hours with the subsequent plays maybe being a little quicker because you’ll know how to handle many of the situations. The way to get the game’s “true” ending is to play through with every character.
There are also five different difficulty levels to taylor the game to your level of skill. If you really want a challenge, crank it all the way up. If you’ve played through one character and you just want to experience the story of the other characters, crank it down to very easy. There’s even a ‘no fail’ mode for those that really just want to experience the story.
In today’s video game landscape it’s getting more and more unusual to see games that don’t have significant portions of their story, if not the whole, done through spoken word. Very rarely do games come out that rely solely on text based dialogue being the main method to deliver your story. Ys Origin is one of those latter games as the entire story is told through static character pictures and lots of text. The only exception is the opening sequence which is told through spoken dialogue, in what I believe is French, with English text on the screen. It does, however, open with a very awesome animated sequence which looks fantastic. It would have been nice to listen to some quality, voice acting to go along with the really nice environments and maybe some slightly animated characters telling the story. Does it hurt the enjoyment of the game? Not really, it just feels a bit dated at this point.
You can play the game using PC controls as the game was originally designed as a PC game. However, I found it much more enjoyable to use the Xbox 360 gamepad. Using a mouse and keyboard just didn’t allow me to have the precision I wanted to with the platforming sections and it just felt a little more out of control. Sure, if you’re somone who’s used to playing the game that way they’re probably going to work. I just though the action-heavy combat and the platforming found throughout the game worked much better with a gamepad.
Having played through Ys Origin, I’m actually very disappointed I haven’t gotten into the franchise now. The action RPG style is a great compliment to games like Xenoblade Chronicles or Final Fantasy; which are much more menu driven and still feature lots of item and inventory management. The 3D rendered environments are beautiful and compliment the more sprite based character models very well. The music is absolutely great. I found the main dungeon theme going through my head throughout the day. The score just seems to add a bit of life to the game and really drives home the importance of some of the scenes. The light puzzle solving and huge screen filling bosses remind me of things like The Legend of Zelda. RPG fans are going to enjoy this game for the more streamlined aspects of the genre. Fans who are more into action oriented games will appreciate the fast-paced, real-time combat and the lessened reliance on menu based inventory management. I’m certainly a fan of the franchise now and I’ll be seeking out the other games to continue the story. Now the only question is, when can I play this on my 3DS? Those environments would look really good in 3D. If you’re a fan of good games you’re going to want to play this one.
Review copy of the game provided by XSEED Games
Played through all three main character’s campaigns.
Total Play Time: 31 hours