From it’s first unveiling at E3, we didn’t know much about Square Enix’s Project Octopath Traveler. Now with the latest Nintendo Direct, we finally get to know more about what this game. We also have a chance to play it for ourselves in a demo that was released shortly after. The main game will have eight characters to play with, but for the demo, you play as Olberic or Primarose. I chose do go with the good old swordsman Olberic. As far as I’m concern, it is essentially Bravely for the Switch.
Since it was made from the same team who did the Bravely series, there is a some mechanics that is directly link to it, like the Boots Points and Break system. As you battle, you will gain BP and this allows you to charge up you attacks, either to attack repeatedly or strengthen abilities and skills. This can be really broken if used properly, in which you can stun/break enemies and not get a scratch in battle. Also noted in the battle system is that a charter can use a variety of weapons and it does matter what you use. If an enemy is weak to sword, its recommended that you use that weapon to break and stun enemies to go for the kill or buy yourself time. This was essential true for the Boss battle and post demo. Worry not as you do have plenty of healing items to fall back, but I had my first game over since I didn’t properly defend and exploited his weakness to spears. But by far far, it is very satisfying to go fully boosted and attack an enemy for heavy damage.One complaint I ha is that after the game over, I had to manual press to get through the scripted dialogue to get back to the boss fight. It would be much better if there was a skip option or a really fast text speed to get back to the fight. This is one suggestion I would make to improve upon.
Next is the visuals, which is simply gorgeous. The Direct states that this is an “HD 2D” game that is exclusive to the Switch. They mixed pixel art, HD graphics and environments to blend the theme of old school nostalgia with the modern perks of today’s games. I was reminded of ATLUS’s 3D Dot Game Heroes in which they blended the simple art design with stunning visuals like water and fog. I was even surprised by the detail that when I enter the cave, my character casts a shadow on the rocks to emphasize the lantern he carried and dimensional effects. Simply, it a treat for the eyes for both nostalgia fans and newcomers.
Lastly, the story and characters. Olberic himself is a knight who was betrayed by his best friend, lost his country and lord. He now currently serves a knight for hire for a village, and has to fend off bandits. He then learns a clue of his friend and now makes his journey to find his former comrade in this opening chapter. All character performed in the typical old English accent to state the medieval theme and as far as it goes, matches the mood well. Patrick Seitz is great as Olberic and brings the knight role well. And with each character, they have a special trait. For Olberic, is to challenge any body to a duel. Whether to spar or to fulfill a quest, this is his answer to everything. As one would say, “Violence is usually the answer to everything.” I randomly challenged an NPC and I unknowingly fulfilled a quest in the process. I could only image what the other characters able to do in the full game and in their stories.
Overall, this demo has put the game on my radar and I cannot wait what comes next. If you have a Switch and enjoy old-school JRPG’s, make sure you download this demo and suggest improvements to SquareEnix as the days goes on.