Narrative beats slowly unravel as you progress. At first, your goal is merely to figure out a way off the island, but then the focus turns to discovering why all the beasts are roaming around it. The answer is more interesting than I expected, but the plot tends to drag with awkward dialogue and boring, long-winded sequences. The latter especially hits when you play as Dana, a mysteri-ous girl Adol is connected to through his dreams. These perspective shifts often have you backtracking, and feature some of the most lackluster dialogue in the game, as conversations feel more like filler than interesting revelations about Dana’s world. Part of the story also revolves around building bonds with the strangers you meet. You can get to know your fellow castaways better by completing quests and giving them gifts, which often nets you new items and improves their sup-port skills in battle. Ys games aren’t traditionally built on strong characters or story, and while Ys VIII is an improve-ment, these areas remain weak. That being said, I appreciated the little bond-ing moments and having characters with more personality, like a sassy noble to a lighthearted fisherman who add some levity to the journey. Outside of exploration, Ys VIII’s bread and butter is its stellar action combat, which is fast and smooth. Specific weapons are stronger against certain creature types; selecting the right one is essential for bringing down foes. For instance, pierce weapons are strong against flying enemies, while slash ones reviews are superior against soft-bodied crea-tures. At any point, you can swap to a character in your three-member party to take advantage of this. All combat-ants have different fighting styles, from slower powerhouse tanks to quick-jab fencers, which adds variety to fights. You also have skills and special moves to unleash, but the focus on the dodge and block mechanics is the shin-ing star of combat. If you dodge at the right time, you can unlock a flash move, which makes you invincible for a short time and slows everything down. This is key for creating openings to get the edge on enemies. Similarly, if you guard right as an enemy strikes, you unleash a flash guard, where all attacks briefly become critical hits and all damage is nullified.