Octopath Traveler: The Good, The Bad, and the Very Pretty

image credit:polygon.com

I am very comfortable riding on the Nintendo Switch train.  I watched its reveal in January 2017, and I went to the midnight launch to get my console, but what I’ve been awaiting since January 2017 is finally here: Octopath Traveler.

I am a Pavlovian dog for SquareEnix RPGs–I start to salivate immediately and prepare to buy.  Octopath Traveler was started by the men behind the Bravely Default series, which only makes me more eager.  I have only played the first Bravely game, but it is definitely a gem among modern RPGs both in gameplay and storyline.

So how does Octopath Traveler compare to its 3DS spiritual predecessor?

While we need to wait just a little longer to fully answer that question, the developers have been very generous with previews.  There was one demo released 9.13.17, in which you could play as the warrior Olberic and/or the dancer Primrose (obviously, I tried both routes).  The developers took feedback from the players with that demo.  At E3 this year, they released another demo where you could choose any path and keep your file at launch.

As a former professor, I chose Cyrus, the scholar.  It was very easy to get into character.  Within the three hour limit, I was also able to reach Tressa, the merchant, and see her story.

Here’s some tips and advice I’ve gained from these lines:

The Good:

So Much Potential!

  1. Eight Paths
    • I’m optimistic that this means multiple ways to solve problems, multiple endings (please!), and replayability.  Is that too much to ask for?  The developers have guessed 60+ hours of gameplay for the main story with no DLC coming, and I love them for that.  From the demo, I guess that you will be able to get every character’s origin in one playthrough, but hopefully there will be some variety depending on where you begin.
  2. Battle System
    • Games these days constantly try to improve battle interface.  As a fan of turn-based battles, I enjoy that there is a marker at the top of the screen for battle order.  It helps to strategize and figure out how to best break and do damage to the bad guys.  The battles have the feel of a very enjoyable puzzle to solve, especially once you get multiple characters.

The Bad:

Boss Fight

  1. Bosses are Not Jokes
    • As a player, I usually expect the first boss–the ‘tutorial’ boss–to be a cakewalk.  That would be a mistake: expect to work hard and use your items.  Of course, the second boss becomes easier because you have two characters, but I think this game is going to test your ability to watch what enemies are weak to and the mechanics of the fights.
  2. Older Teen and Up
    • The game has a ‘T’ rating in the US, but I was still surprised by how dark Primrose’s story began.  She’s an enslaved “dancer” whose owner does what he wants.  That is really not appropriate for young ‘uns, so don’t let the pretty graphics fool you.  Even Cyrus’ story had a rumor about an inappropriate teacher and student relationship, which also makes me uncomfortable.  Thankfully, that rumor was false and resolved quickly, but I hazard a guess that there will be other dark parts to the story.  This game is going to make us face some uncomfortable realities, which is important, but you should be prepared.

The Very Pretty:

Town

  1. HD-2D
    • Graphics are a very big deal in games today, with games going either hyper-realistic or stylized.  Echoing Bravely Default and Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius, Octopath Traveler has small sprites (but NOT 3D models) set against a gorgeous background.  The developers dubbed this ‘HD-2D,’ and it is dazzling.  Although I wish the game would feel playable on TV and not the handheld Switch, given the Switch’s short battery life, I cannot disagree that the graphics are very pretty.  At one point I was distracted by the sunlight bouncing off of a roof.  Maybe that says more about me than the game…
  2. Voice Acting & Music
    • The graphics aren’t the only pretty thing.  Voice acting is not necessary for me to love a game, but I love being able to choose between English and Japanese audio.  Although I will happily take English, especially in games made in America like Horizon Zero Dawn or Dragon Age, I’ve found that I prefer my Japanese games in Japanese.  Perhaps it’s a hold over from my anime days, or perhaps it’s my linguistic interest, or maybe I really do just think Japanese is a very nice language to listen to (true).  Whatever the case, I listened to Bravely Default in Japanese, and I switch the demo of Octopath Traveler.  It is not a necesity, but it is a very nice option for nerds like me all the same.  The music is gorgeous, too.

Let me know if you’re going to pick this up at release!  I’ve pre-ordered my Wayfarer edition.  Countdown to Friday!

NB: this article was written before the release of Octopath Traveler 7.13.18.  But you can get your copy or download it from the Switch store today!

-Ann Moser, @interceptorismy on Twitter

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