When I first heard about Octopath Traveler, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an RPG player, both old-school and new-school, so it wasn’t that I wasn’t intrigued. Rather, between the visual style and the “eight protagonists”, I wasn’t sure what Square Enix was going for. I was thrilled through that it would be a Switch exclusive though. Now, two demos in, I seriously can’t wait for this game to release, because it has everything that I love in a game and more.
The first demo came out last year, and it focused on two characters alone, Olberic and Primrose. While Olberic’s story was “typical RPG”, it did have its fair share of great moments in its first chapter. But then, when we got to Primrose, me and my fellow Nintendo Entertainment Podcast brothers were blown away. For this story was deep, against the norm, and really floored us by what was in it, and that was just the first chapter! We couldn’t wait for the next demo if we got one. And we did.
Available now on the eShop (and with the ability to transfer data to the main game upon release), this demo gives you three hours to do whatever you want in the game. But once the 3-hour mark is hit, your demo is over. To be fair, you can “trick” the game by creating a new save file, and doing something else, but can’t bring two save files into one. Personally, once my 3 hours were up, I stopped playing. Why? Because I wanted to savor the rest of the experience for when the game releases.
I started my demo by playing H’aanit the Hunter. I’ll admit, I’m not sure why I chose her, I guess I just wanted to start somewhere else and not retread with Olberic and Primrose. What I soon found out though was that I fell in love with a hunter. It sounds odd, yeah, but there’s something about H’aanit that I found infinitely appealing. Her backstory isn’t as tragic as Primrose’s, nor did it need to be, but she has a kindness and loyalty to her that makes her shine.
She is one of the last of a clan of hunters, ones who are able to capture and command beasts, such as her loyal cat Linde (who is a boss in battle). But her duty is to her village, and she loyally serves them. I won’t spoil what happens in her chapter, but she has to handle a threat in the nearby forest, and after doing so, she gives a passionate speech about what life means, and it’s really sweet. H’aanit understands the balance of life and nature, and any affront to it must be taken out.
Plus, her and her master speak in Shakespearean tongue. Don’t worry, not everyone does so, but it does stand out in a good way.
From there, I went south and found Therion the Thief. Who is now another favorite character of mine. He carries a swagger and skill that is well-earned, and when you see his skills in action, they’re a wonder to behold, especially considering the mix of graphic styles here. I definitely won’t spoil his story, but I will say it holds a pretty good twist in his first chapter.
Finally, I decided to go meet Alfyn the Apothecary. He has the most straightforward story of the three, but it’s no less heartwarming. He wants to help a friend, and he does so, and then he goes off to help others, it’s simple, but it’s nice.
If you can’t tell yet, every single protagonist is truly different, I’ve now played 5 of them (including Olberic and Primrose from the first demo), and no two act alike. That’s one of the reasons I stopped the demo after my time was up, because I want to save meeting the other three characters (Cyrus, Ophelia, and Tressa) for the full game. I’m EXCITED to meet them, and to learn their stories, and then to learn what happens to them in their stories. I love being excited like this. And to remind you, I only got to play the first chapters of their stories! You have to travel the world in Octopath Traveler to get to the next ones, as well as to meet the other characters. I can’t wait to get to the next chapters and see how things progress!
Now, one of the things I was unsure about was the graphical style of Octopath Traveler, but after playing two demos, I really like it, and not for the reasons you might think. Sure, it’s “simplistic” in its style and rendering, but the world itself is rather beautiful. And despite its simplistic nature, you see the emotions and body language of the characters rather well. I could tell when Therion was smiling, or rolling his eyes. Or when H’aanit was having a good laugh at her masters expense, it was very well shown.
And as mentioned, the world itself is detailed, and they use great depth to bring it to life. They called it 2.5HD, and I can say why they say that. To be fair, I do wish some enemies had more detail put into them, as some come off as a bit blurry even by this Octopath Traveler’s standards, but it’s a small gripe.
Furthermore, because of the differnet style of visuals, the game really relies on its voice acting to carry the story, and that’s good, because the voice-acting is top notch. All the main characters and side characters are voiced beautiful (of the ones I’ve heard of course). Each one has personality, style, grace, emotion, it’s very well done. And it helps make the characters not just more personalable, but more visual if that makes sense.
The combat is very fun, and you’ll be grateful once you get more people in your party. Yet, even when you do, it won’t be easy. Octopath Traveler somehow perfectly balances how tough enemies are based on how many people are in your party. It’s not like Pokemon where certain foes are always going to be a certain level when you return to their area. If you backtrack in Octopath Traveler, always be ready for a fight.
There’s a lot of strategy too, as you’ll have to try and figure out what weaknesses an enemy has, how to exploit it, how to “Break” the enemy to stun them, and so on. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s challenging, especially when you get to the boss fights, which are TOUGH…but not impossible. That’s impossible.
Finally, there’s a lot of depth and details that I could barely touch on because of the 3-hour time limit. There are sidequests all over the place, and then there are the Path Actions that the characters have that can be very useful to you. Therion’s Steal was a highlight early on as I could steal weapons, armor, herbs, and more without a fuss. And Alfyn’s “Inquire” will be useful as I try and complete more sidequests for sure.
The world of Octopath Travel is vast, and fun, and I loved my time with both of the demos. The first demo let gamers give advice on how to better the game, and the second demo showed off many of those suggestions. This is by and large one of my most anticipated games of the year, and July 13th can’t get here fast enough.