It’s been awhile since I actually did one of these, huh? No place better to jump back in than with Octopath Traveler, my current compulsion.
I’m far past fifteen hours on my playthrough of Octopath Traveler now (I think I’m around the 45 hour mark), but my thoughts on it haven’t really changed since then. It’s an old-school RPG with a battle system heavily based off Bravely Default and eight characters who would probably be more interesting if they could play off of each other more. If that’s enough for you, you can stop reading here and buy it or not buy it, but if you’d like a few more thoughts….
Well, some of them are illustrated by comics. So it’s pretty cool
1. I’m a Thiefy Boy
So, I chose Therion as my protagonist for no particular reason. I like quick characters and specifically rogue or thief characters, so it seemed like the right choice. It seems a little silly to even have a “protagonist” in this game, although I suppose it’s so they have a go-to sprite to use for side-quest cutscenes. All it really means is that Therion is severely overleveled for everything because he can’t leave the party ever.
But, I’m happy with my thief boy. Steal is objectively the most addictive Path Action (we’ll get back to that) since I can literally steal candy off babies and, you know, good weaponry from adult-like people. With Tressa the merchant backing me up with her Purchase skill, I really have yet to buy much from the actual stores in this game. They seem kind of unnecessary as far as weaponry goes.
However, and we’ll get back to this in depth too, Therion also objectively makes the least sense as the protagonist of anyone in this party. See the comic above.
2. It’s Really Quite Beautiful (Sometimes)
So, while Octopath is very clearly inspired by old school RPGs with the sprite work and battle system, it makes use of modern lighting effects against a 3D environment to make the world really come alive. The environments allow for many hidden paths, encouraging exploration everywhere. You’ll be running along the wall a lot. And certain areas can be breathtaking, particularly the Sunlands and the Snowlands. However, it’s not always great.
While the sprites are detailed and expressive….they don’t have quite enough range of emotion for me. There’s the normal stance, the battle stance, the injured stance, the holding something out stance, and the victory pose. I was particularly disappointed that my subclass Dancer Therion (we’ll get back to that) doesn’t have a twirly animation when he does his status buff dances. The sprite just kind of awkwardly spins. They also can sometimes get lost in the glare of certain lighting, and the environments get a little repetitive- even though the cities are always fully realized. I mean, how many rocky dungeons do I need to see before I’ve seen them all?
Finally, and this is a me thing, I noticed in Clearbrook (and a few other places but especially Clearbrook) that there’s sometimes like a hexagonal glint in houses or in the sky and it really freaking bothered me? Like, it was just glinting during a cutscene and it was super distracting? What is it? Why is it there? Can it not be there?
3. Can You Give Me More to Go On, Side-Quest?
The unique thing that I do appreciate about side-quests in this game is that they generally require you to take advantage of one of your Path Actions (see one down for more thoughts on those). It makes them a little better than just the standard fetch quest, even if that’s what they mostly boil down to.
Some of the Actions are obvious. Somebody’s getting harassed, Challenge the harasser. Somebody needs something, so Steal from everyone in town until you find it. Basic stuff. But sometimes the side-quests give you literally nothing to go on. Like, not even a location for where you have to go or any sort of indication that you have what you need. I escorted a singer to a tavern without even realizing that I was undertaking a side-quest. Most of the stories involved aren’t interesting either, and the rewards vary from okay to terrible, so there’s not much push to do them.
4. I’m a Thiefy Boy pt 2
So, as I mentioned previously, every character has their own “unique” Path Action. Each one has a counterpart within the party, but one is the “legit” way of going about things while the other is the “shady” way of doing it. So, for example, Therion can Steal because he’s a thief and Tressa can Purchase because she’s a merchant. Therion has a percent chance of Stealing something from a person for free, while Tressa buys it with money with a possibility that she’ll haggle out a bargain.
It’s the same for everyone else. Alfyn has Inquire, which means he talks to someone about themselves and sometimes obtains hidden information. Cyrus has Scrutinize, which I assume means he stares at them and sometimes makes them too uncomfortable. Alfyn has to be a certain level to Inquire while Cyrus always has a percent chance to Scrutinize. That way, both Path Actions remain somewhat limited and encourages you to try both.
Ophelia can Guide someone, meaning they follow her around and can assist in battles. Primrose can Allure someone into doing the same. Olberic can Challenge someone to a fair fight while H’aanit can Provoke someone by sending her tiger at them with no warning. Both of these knock the defeated party down, meaning you can get through doors they were blocking.
If you fail too many times with a “shady” action, your reputation in town goes down, locking you out of all Path Actions. You can only restore your reputation by paying money to the tavern owner. So there’s a nice risk-reward to everything.
Provided you don’t save scum.
5. Everybody’s Got Their Own Accent!
H’aanit’s weird old English aside, I am really appreciating how each character seems to have their own accent or, at least, style of talking. Alfyn’s kind of Southern while Olberic is very formal. The different styles of talking also crop up among the NPCs in that area, really giving the world its own character. Even if these very distinct areas feel suspiciously close to one another geographically. Eh. It’s a fantasy world.
6. Whoever Wrote This Flavor Text, I’m Sorry
Look, I’m sure everybody’s life story is very interesting. But if my Inquire isn’t netting me an item or a discount at the inn, I kind of find it hard to care.
The stuff I have read is good. All these NPCs have very fleshed-out backstories. If only the writing team had spent this much time ACTUALLY COMING UP WITH A CENTRAL STORY FOR THIS GAME, but hey, I guess you take what you can get.
In all seriousness, however, there is a ton of flavor text in this game. And almost none of it is generic or boring. Every single NPC seems to have their own histories and stories. Some are funny, some are tragic, some are somewhere in between. And the simple stories that the writers come up with give me confidence that they could have crafted something more compelling for the main story of this game.
That makes me a sad Emma. I wish they had. I would have liked this game so much more.
7. I’m a Thiefy Boy pt 3
Listen, the only way any of this makes sense is if Therion is the only person on this planet who uses sarcasm. He’s always hopeful somebody will finally understand it, but nobody does. And then all these random people latch on to him like baby ducklings, and everything’s ruined.
In this game, each of the eight character has their own storyline. The other seven characters do not influence it at all, outside of some “Travel Banter.” Past the fifteen hour mark, there have been a ton of events that do not make sense considering party members. You can hear me complaining about that in detail in our past few side-quests. Essentially, it means you get eight very shallow stories with shallow characters. Put some of these disparate parts together, and it might have come up with something great. As it is….well, I’ll complain more in this blog later on.
8. Jamming Out
The soundtrack is amazing and I love it. I mean, just listen to this battle track. Listen to those strings. Even when battles themselves are tedious, I just fight to listen to more of this soundtrack
9. “Wah-hahaha!” -Therion, An Iconic Quote
The battle system of this game is the definition of “simple but satisfying.” By the time I finished the prologues (which is where this impressions post leaves off), I had gotten used to the ebbs and flows of combat and had begun almost fighting on auto-pilot- but in a good way. It felt natural, like riding a bike. Riding a bike only gets more fun the more you master it. That’s the case for Octopath too.
From there, more elements began to come into play, particularly for bosses. However, none of these elements have taken away from the core strategies I use- they’ve only evolved as more characters can fill different roles. See the next point for thoughts on the awesome secondary jobs.
Octopath is definitely nothing revolutionary. The Boost system is pretty blatantly ripped from Bravely Default (I think some of the same team worked on this) even though it’s simplified. Essentially, you get a Boost point every turn except for the turn after you Boost. You can either stack these Boosts to unleash devastating blows or eke them out more gradually to give small upgardes to your attacks, status effects/buffs/debuffs, and healing. The only other notable mechanic is the ability to Break foes by hitting their weak points. Think how weaknesses in Persona knock an enemy down, except it takes longer in Octopath. Breaking a foe lowers their defenses and causes them to give up a turn.
I wish the bosses made use of the same mechanics. As it is, it mixes up with the bosses hiding their weaknesses behind minions or acting more than once per turn. If the bosses worked off the same system, it might make the fights feel more like a battle of wits. However, as it is, it’s comfortable. Even if Therion could probably just murder everybody if I let him.
Therion is pretty OP right now.
10. I’m a Thiefy Boy pt 4
Okay, this is cheating since this is from beyond the fifteen hour mark. But the secondary jobs are just so fun. Essentially, you gain the ability to equip secondary jobs from shrines around the world. That means that a character can have access to both the skills of their primary job and the skills of their secondary job, rounding out their effectiveness in a fight. This adds a lot more elements to think about and strategize around in a fight.
Therion as a Dancer makes him a lean, mean, stat adjusting machine while Primrose as a Cleric makes use of her SP regen so she never has to stop healing. Tressa as a Mage means that she has AOE attacks for the four main elements and can find weaknesses quickly. Alfyn as a Thief is just adorable. I didn’t really think much more than that there.
Man, I really wish this could be my real party. They would play off each other so well, and they make reasonable sense as traveling partners and WHY DOESN’T THIS GAME HAVE A CENTRAL STORY AAAAAAHHHHHH.
Sorry, I get frustrated. But sometimes I just think about how Therion and Primrose match each other’s tone really well while Tressa and Alfyn provide some levity. And since Tressa and Alfyn don’t have immediate goals, the only conflict there would come from Therion and Primrose, and that could provide a good launch point for internal conflict within the party. And then I think about how a more interesting story could arise from the place that the super basic concepts of each current story leaves off and how the other party members could be obtained through side-quests or something and then I GET REALLY MAD. It’s not like my idea is totally fleshed out, but there are definitely ways to work with these characters to make something better. This isn’t even about secondary jobs anymore, I’m sorry. Rant rant rant.
11. But I Want My Friends!
Look, it’s Therion, Primrose, Alfyn, and Tressa. I love them the most for no rational reason. A lot of that is because, like I said above, I feel like they’d be a party with an interesting dynamic. I like the Tales games a lot (mostly for the local co-op) because, despite having relatively simple characters, the interactions in them feel fun and lively. The party above reminds me a bit of my core Xillia party: the lovable rogue with a few secrets (Therion or Alvin), the ditzy but driven small town girl (Tressa or Leia), the do-gooder medical student (Alfyn or Jude), and the take-no-crap kickass lady (Primrose or Milla, although I admit this is the biggest stretch).
I mean, not that it really matters, since they don’t interact. But I like to imagine them interacting while I play, and it bothers me a lot that I regularly have to switch around my party to avoid everyone getting underleveled. If the game was going to abandon a central storyline, it should have gone all the way and let you choose which characters you wanted to follow where. That would mean letting characters in reserve still gain experience.
As it is, Therion is about nine levels ahead of everyone currently. I think at the actual fifteen hour mark, he was about four or five levels ahead. Either way, the party system makes it so he’s pretty much an untouchable god, since he continuously levels up as I grind characters I’ve left in the tavern for too long.
Other games with multiple party members give EXP to back up members from the get-go or, in the case of something like Persona 5, at least provide a way to get this skill through a Social Link. My biggest pet peeve in any turn-based game is there being no option for reserve party members to gain EXP from fights. Because I want to keep my friends in, but not be screwed if I have to switch out a member for story reasons.
12. I’m Still Hopelessly Addicted
I’m in too deep, and there’s no escape. The battle system is too satisfying, and the music is too catchy. I am a bit worried that the boss battles are going to get too easy with Therion in the party, but maybe I just need to give him crappier equipment to nerf him a little. It’d be great if the game would balance itself appropriately but hey.
If anything, at least I’ve kept myself entertained with my headcanons. And all the art featuring the protagonists are adorable. I wish these moments featured within the story. See to the left.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the money I spent. I mean, really, what else am I going to use my Switch for? I mean, until The World Ends With You Final Remix comes out, I gotta have something to do.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve been playing Octopath Traveler, let me know what you’ve been thinking of it in the comments. I’ve seen a decent amount of people calling it GOTY material, but I just don’t see it. Try to change my mind if you can, I don’t know.
Look forward to when I continue to rant about Octopath in more detail on the YouTube channel in a Play This! case study for the game as a whole. Coming soon.