Although I have not had a lot of time to play Octopath Traveler since it launched about a month ago, it has been a lot of fun over the few moments spent with it. If you haven’t had a chance to play the game yet, do not worry. This article will be spoiler-free.
Being the rogue-for-life that I am, I decided to begin the journey with Therion, the thief character. The very start of his story was a little cliché. Therion by now is a very skilled and smart thief with a dark and hurtful past. When he hears talk about a treasure within a mansion that many have tried to steal and none have succeeded, Therion cannot resist attempting it himself. The outcome of his ventures takes an interesting turn and I am now very curious as to where his path is going to lead. Therion’s Path action is Steal and, like the name suggests, it allows him to take items from NPC’s. Most of what I found were potions and other recovery items with a few weapons and gear sprinkled in between. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game keeps track of which items have been stolen from people using the this ability and what is left to steal. Furthermore, once everything is stolen from an NPC’s list of possessions, a blue checkmark will cover the Steal option in the Path menu. It is a serious quality of life feature and I am stoked that the development team thought about it!
On that same note, the game has a comprehensive Journal section that breaks down pending tasks by both character and town. Features like these are going to make the experience of juggling eight different characters and storylines a lot more manageable.
After Therion’s introductory chapter, I decided to head towards his Chapter II location which so happened to take me through two other characters that I was interested in: H’annit the Hunter and Ophilia the Cleric. Having a Ranger with pets and a healer that can summon NPC’s to battle sounded like a winning team to me!
Another technical aside:
The way the game handles multiple storylines is surprisingly old-fashioned and stress-free. Most games in recent years with multiple character arcs shoot to bring all the stories together towards the end. This can be really cool and interesting, but also has the drawback of sometimes forcing moments and decisions to be done in a certain order; sometimes even changing the outcome of the game if certain things are not completed. For a completist wannabe like me, this approach can be highly frustrating as I find myself attempting to “find the most ideal path” and stress all the way through hoping not to miss anything. Octopath seems to throw away story convergence in exchange for freedom of choice and a relatively laid back approach. Each character’s story does not seem to affect any of the others. They each still serve to flavor the world but players are allowed to play the game in whatever order they want and jump between characters as often as they want. This takes all the stress away and has allowed me to just sit back through every play session and have fun; exploring the world and its characters without fear of “missing out”.
Once at H’annit’s hunting village, S’warkii, I was immediately struck by something initially funny, but ultimately super annoying: everyone in the village, including the huntress, spoke with a weird accent. It was very much Shakespeare Gone Bad. Following the trend, H’annit’s story started in a very unremarkable way but then got quickly interesting. Her master had left on a hunt over a year ago and was yet to return. This worried her. But, after a few interaction with local NPC’s, it became obvious that she not actually worried about his safety. Instead, she worries about what sorts of “other troubles” he might have gotten himself into. Again, it was a refreshing modern twist on a relatively classic story.
From a gameplay point of view, H’annit’s Capture and Summon battle abilities seem to be pretty strong. Anytime during battle, the huntress can attempt to capture any enemy creature (with a few exceptions, like bosses). How much damage has been dealt to the monster and whether or not it is stunned affect the percentage chance shown on the screen. If the capture is successful, the creature is defeated (providing Experience Points!) and H’annit gains several “charges” of the creature for later summoning. What is really strong about the mechanic is that different creatures have different weapon and elemental types. So, keen players will probably learn to keep types that H’annit does not have always in stock, giving her the ability to help break more types of enemies. Her trusty mountain cat, Linde, alone has unlimited charges and can do both Dagger and Sword type attacks which already gives the huntress five attack types where the average character only seems to have three. It is definitely a character I will keep a close eye on as I feel she will be a strong “Breaker” in my party.
Once done with H’annit’s initial chapter, I decided to continue east towards Therion’s Chapter Two location. Next on my path was Flamesgrace, home of Ophilia, the cleric. Every party needs a healer sooner or later after all. Her city was probably the grandest I had seen so far, all covered in glistening snow, with a massive cathedral as its centerpiece. There was even a somewhat obscured path leading to a hilltop that overlooked the massive building. Even in the game’s HD-2D graphical style, the sight was breathtaking. Inside the cathedral, a massive space awaited, filled with pews and an impressive altar guarding the sacred flame.
Ophilia’s story felt the freshest right from the start; an orphan rescued by the archbishop and raised as his second daughter. At the point the party encountered her, she is facing a choice between following the church doctrines and rules she was brought up on, or break them altogether to do what she feels is best for her caring adoptive family. It was really touching. Especially since there seems to be no resentment or rivalry between Ophilia and her step-sister, Lianna; a direction most often taken by stories whenever there is an adoptive child with a biological child also present.
As a Path action, Ophilia has the ability to “Guide” NPC’s. Basically, the NPC will follow the party around and be summonable in battle a set amount of times. NPC’s summoned this way will stay out and execute attacks and abilities for a couple of turns until they randomly retreat. At least it feels random. More likely, they stay out for a set amount of turns. Either way, if Ophilia needs them longer in a particular encounter, she can just summon them again, granted the NPC has not run out of charges and returned home. While useful in battle, this ability is far more valuable to complete certain quests where NPC’s need to be physically taken to another NPC. This proved immediately useful when I returned to S’warkii, the hunting village, to look for side-quests and found a woman needing to be escorted up to Bolderfall (Therion’s town) to give her husband a gift.
In battle, aside from being able to summon her guided NPC, Ophilia serves as healer and possesses Light elemental spells. The one detail that immediately surprised me was that her basic healing spell affects the whole party right from the get-go! It really allowed her to focus on being offensive while still being able to toss the occasional area of effect heal when the party was starting to approach mid-health. This was especially supported by how strong her Light offensive magic becomes with a couple of BP charges. [revisit tense in this paragraph]
Visual direction and multiple stories aside, another detail that is setting this game apart is its battle system. Designed around finding enemies’ weaknesses and “breaking” them, it makes every character useful and party composition less about “having all the strongest out” and much more about “having the largest combination of potential weapon and elemental types”. It forces each character to carry some of the party’s weight since most enemy encounters seem to be setup to need more than one or two characters’ worth of types, especially as the party grows in size.
Next up on my way to Therion’s Chapter Two will be meeting Cyrus, the Scholar. And, if the trend continues, Octopath Traveler is going to have very interesting storylines filled with just enough quirk and darkness to never overbear in either direction. I am really looking forward to all that is to come. Stay tuned!
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