Title: Ys Origin
Platform: PC, PS4, PSVita and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Nihon Falcom, Xseed Games (PS4/PS Vita), DotEmu (Xbox One)
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: Diablo-lite. For kids.
PC: £13/$20
PS4/PS Vita/Xbox One: £16/$20
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Ys Origin is an action RPG which first saw release way back in 2006 for Windows XP (the good old days!) and acts as a prequel to Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished. In 2012, Xseed Games handled the localization and released it on Steam. Five years later, the game made its way to PS4 and PS Vita in February and May 2017 respectively. And here we are in 2018 and the Ys series finally makes its debut on a Microsoft console with Ys Origin.

Way back when, Ys was ruled by the twin Goddesses, Reah and Feena, and their six priestly retainers. They made it a paradise of its residents as they could create miracles through magic; a power granted by a holy artifact known as the Black Pearl. Unfortunately, one day, demons invaded the land killing everything in their path. They outnumbered Ys’ knights and sorcerers so the residents had to sought shelter at the temples located at the top of the tallest mountain. In order to protect its people, the twin Goddesses used the Black Pearl’s power to raise the tower into the heavens. In order to save Ys, the twin Goddesses’ six priests scoured the land to find the most heroic warriors that could take down the demons.

Ys Origin is an isometric dungeon crawler where players roam from room to room killing enemies, gaining experience points, finding treasures, and sometimes getting lost. When the game first starts up, players have the choice from two different characters: Yunica Tovah, who uses melee weapons for more of an up-close affair. Then there’s Hugo Fact, a magician, who uses the Eyes of Fact as weapons and will basically turn this game into a dungeon crawling shmup (shoot’em up).

Downed enemies will drop short term buffs in order to help cleaning out rooms of the evil. Characters also have access to magic to help; for example, Hugo can benefit from a brief damage buff or a protective shield. One of the game’s nuisances is the lack of maps causing players to get lost and frustrated thanks to the back tracking through the dungeon. It’s a typical old school gaming formula where you find a door, and of course, you don’t have the key, so back tracking is required; either you missed a door or reaching the locked door will “unlock,” a new path.

One of the game’s main problems is the randomness of boss battles, in the sense that they’ll be either overly aggressive or not enough. One of the first mini-bosses was a pain in the ass; first time round, I got killed because I wasn’t careful, but subsequent deaths were caused by the mini-boss abusing combos which I couldn’t avoid or get out of. Dungeons are pretty simple and easy as standard enemies won’t be cause for much concern, but once you step into a room with a sub-boss or dungeon-ending boss, prepare your butts so it gets kicked often and frustratingly.

For a port of twelve year old PC game, it does look pretty good. Obviously, it won’t be a contender for game of the year in the visual category, but the character detail is actually impressive. While characters are moving, you can see the clothing react to the movement, which is a nice attention for details for an older game. Audio wise, there’s nothing to write home about. It’s a classic majestic score which captures the classic gaming RPG adage. It’s mostly forgettable with a few more upbeat track here and there. And obviously, considering the source material, the game does not have voiceovers, so prepare to read. A lot.

While the overall presentation and gameplay has aged well, it’s kinda hard to recommend a shallow game like Ys Origin when better isometric RPGs such as Diablo 3 offer so much more. The game becomes repetitive very quickly and unbalanced difficulty can cause frustration for newcomers and RPG aficionados. The main strength the game has going for it is its nostalgia act, but if you’re looking for something more robust and deep, you should avoid this one.

The Good

  • Captures that old school feel to a tee
  • Using Hugo is actually pretty fun

The Bad

  • Gets repetitive real fast
  • Let’s hope you like reading

Family Focus

Ys Origin is rated T for Teen and PEGI 12 due to the presence of blood, language and violence.

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.