Octopath Traveler: Return to the Golden Age of JRPGs

Octopath Traveler is a highly anticipated Japanese RPG from the RPG masters themselves, Square Enix. First announced at the official Nintendo Switch unveiling in January 2017 with a teaser trailer, we are finally nearing the game’s release date of July 13th. During Nintendo’s E3 2018 Direct, the prologue demo was announced to be released on June 14th exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, with progress from the demo carrying over to the full game upon its release. I spent a lot of time playing this demo over the past week and I am excited to share my thoughts on the early chapters of the game.

There are eight playable characters in Octopath Traveler and the game gives the player the option of choosing the starting protagonist, each with unique abilities, and allows them to explore the world and take on quests while recruiting the other characters—or not, if they wish. Each character comes with a unique set of skills, path actions, and talents. While each character can learn skills from other job classes, the path actions and talents are unique to each character. In the full release, hero’s will be able to take on sub-classes to learn active and passive skills from the other heroes’ skill list but will not be able to learn the unique path actions or talents.

octogroupKeyart used from the initial Nintendo Switch reveal event. Looks like our heroes are planning a grand adventure.

Path actions are non-combat abilities that allow the playable characters to interact with non-playable characters. Such actions include the ability to steal or purchase items from citizens, challenge them to a duel, or temporarily recruit them to summon in battle against enemies. These are then broken into a Noble action and Rogue action. Noble actions can be used without consequence but the hero must meet level restrictions in order in interact with certain citizens while the Rogue actions can be used on nearly anyone but carries with it a chance for failure which would then lower your reputation in that town. If reputation falls, no path actions whether they be Noble or Rogue can be completed unless paying the local barkeep to spread word of your renown to regain the trust of the townsfolk. Once reputation is restored, you may resume using the path actions unless reputation falls again.

The aesthetic and combat in Octopath Traveler are very much inspired by classic RPGs, most notably from the Super Nintendo generation but are given a more modern approach. This game uses an “HD 2D” art style using pixel-based graphics in high definition. It sounds a little bit like an oxymoron but it looks fantastic. They also make great use of depth, focus, and lighting to accentuate the beauty of the environments. I’m a sucker for water effects in games and the water in this game is buttery smooth with a little bit more realistic look, creating a wonderful juxtaposition against the pixelized settings.

octowateroctocathedral

Combat is turn based, much like RPGs of yesteryear. For those that typically didn’t like turn based combat (I’m not one of those people), Octopath introduces a more tactical, hands-on approach thanks to the “boost” system and hero abilities that “summon” captured beasts or recruited citizens to aid in the fight. Each character gets one Boost Point (BP) per turn, to a max of 5, that can be used to increase the power of the next attack or increase the duration of buff and debuff moves. Each hero has limits on what weapons they can equip based on their class and sub-class, this creates an added layer of strategy. Party composition will be important as you will want to have a wide variety weapon types and magic elements ready to exploit enemy weaknesses. Enemies begin the fight with a shield level, meaning they are more resistant to all damage until the shield is broken—which can only be done by attacking them with one of their weaknesses. When multiple enemies are on the field of battle with varying shield levels and weaknesses, it’s easy to see that this won’t be your basic “mash standard attacks until you win” JRPG.

octobattle

The hardest part is deciding which character to start with. It’s already been stated that you can recruit and play through all story lines in a single save file of the main game but in the demo you are unable to swap out your starting character. As of now, it’s unclear if that will change in the main game so it’s a good idea to start with someone you will be happy with. You might be saying to yourself, “Octopath Traveler is kind of a weird name” and I agree with you but the developers did find a way to make it sort of relevant outside of just the number eight:

Ophilia the Cleric – Path Action: Guide. A Noble action that can be used to lead characters to complete side quests or summon following citizens to aid in battle. Her skills make her a magic user focused on healing and Light magic.

Cyrus the Scholar- Path Action: Scrutinize. A Rogue action that can be used to glean information from citizens used to complete side quests or find locations scattered loot. Another caster, focused on high elemental damage.

Tressa the Merchant- Path Action: Purchase. A Noble action that can be used to purchase items from citizens, often at lower prices than shops or on items that otherwise would not be purchasable. She can also sometimes find money randomly while walking and can spend money in battle to summon mercenaries to land high amounts of damage.

Olberic the Warrior- Path Action: Challenge. A Noble action to commence a duel with citizens, this seems most useful to remove people blocking doorways, completing side quests and winning experience and items from the duels. He is the heavy hitter and tank of the group.

Primrose the Dance- Path Action: Allure. The Rogue counterpart to the Guide action. Complete side quests and summon followers in battle. She is a support character, using dances to buff teammate stats in battle and can cast Dark magic.

Alfyn the Apothecary- Path Action: Inquire. The Noble counterpart to the Scrutinize action. His “Concoct” skill in battle allows him to combine items to create powerful healing or to debuff enemies.

Therion the Theif- Path Action: Steal. The Rogue counterpart to the Purchase action. He can steal items that citizens carry but odds of success can vary greatly based on the item or person being stolen from. A self-sufficient character able to heal himself and debuff enemies. Able to steal items from enemies in battle.

H‘aanit the Hunter- Path Action: Provoke. The Rogue counterpart to the Challenge action. She can also Capture beasts in battle and summon them later, captured enemies have many effects that can heal or help cover missing weapon and element types from the party composition.

Notice the pattern here? The first letter of each hero spells out Octopath! ANYway, this game is beautiful, interactive, strategic, and overall a perfect love letter to/evolution of the golden age of JRPGs. This will be an absolute must have if you are a Switch owner and it may make one of the best cases to buy a Switch we’ve seen yet. The full game is out in a little less than a month and should give players 50-60 hours of play through just the story and an estimated 100-hours if you play through all side stories. I’ll be sure to share a full review after the game launches next month. Until then…

Keep grinding.