Octopath Traveler is a turned-based JRPG published by Square Enix for the Nintendo Switch. It will release on July 13th this year. The first demo of the game was released on September 13th last year. Whilst the second demo came out on the 14th of June.
This is a collaboration post by myself and Pikodoodle. She will cover the first demo and I the second.
Project Octopath Traveler Demo
Fans of Square classics may yet relive the glory days of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Square Enix’s upcoming Switch-exclusive Octopath Traveler reprises the SNES’ 16-bit charm and old-school JRPG systems. No doubt Square has seized JRPG fans’ attention. But what new features will Octopath implement to please a contemporary audience?
The answer wasn’t clear from the first demo. But the second demo – which contains surprisingly major changes in response to player feedback – is nothing short of promising. Paige will tell you more on that below.
The first demo allows you to play the prologues of Primrose and Olberic, two of the game’s eight protagonists. Each prologue took me 1 hour of leisurely gameplay, and here’s what I thought:
- Music/Sound: The best thing about this demo. Lovely scores and sound effects.
- Quick loading for random encounters.
- Visuals: backgrounds, sprites, effects, etc.
- Voice-acting, for the most part, especially for NPCs.
- Plot: Primrose’s prologue was engaging because the personal stakes were high. I liked the “twist” at the end of her story.
- Dialogue/Localization: Went back and forth between wonderfully written and dully uninspired lines. But I have hopes for the writing to be “good” overall in the full game.
- Combat: Boring for Olberic. I appreciate the Break and Boost Point system. But as is typical in early-game stages, I couldn’t play around with interesting tactics when I had only one party member and limited abilities. Primrose was more interesting to play because her Path Action allows you to recruit an NPC to assist in battle.
- Path Actions: Primrose’s ability to recruit NPCs was invaluable for combat (I chose Helgenish’s Lackey). You have to decide the best time to deploy your helper (through the battle command “Support”) as they’ll only stick around for a limited number of turns per battle. Olberic’s ability is dull but useful. You can challenge NPCs to fight, which means easily earning XP and items within the safe confines of town.
- Plot: Olberic’s prologue was boring and predictable.
- Level-grinding: Disappointing to discover I had to level-grind Olberic to be ready for the boss battle. Didn’t think I’d have to do that in a prologue! Level 4 was insufficient, so I went back to town to buy Healing Grapes and better equipment. When I returned with a Level 7 Olberic, the boss was manageable but it was still a lengthy battle. With Primrose, though, I had little problem defeating the boss at Level 6, which I found ironic since Olberic is a warrior-class character and Primrose isn’t.
- Long cutscenes with no fast-forward button: Thankfully, Square promised to fix this. Otherwise, you have to button-mash through lengthy conversations prior to Olberic and Primrose’s respective boss showdowns. (50+ speech bubbles for Olberic’s cutscene; 60+ speech bubbles for Primrose’s cutscene.)
Would I pay $60 for the game? Based on the first demo, certainly not. Based on the second demo, possibly. But the writing – of plot and dialogue – would have to be very, very good to make up for an old-school combat system.
Those who played the demo within a certain time were invited to respond via a survey. There were around 45,500 survey responses. Personally I can’t remember what I chose to say. I’m glad of the speed change, and being able to skip event scenes.
Octopath Traveler Prologue Demo
I played the first demo when it initially released, and have just played the new one. This demo allows you to choose any of the eight characters to start as. It let’s you play for three hours and you can bring that save data over to the full game. It removes some side quests, and certain areas are blocked off.
While I wanted to play more of Primrose’s story, I decided to play as Therion for something different. Therion is a thief whose his path action is steal, which allowed me to get a whole host of items for free. During his first chapter he is tricked into robbing a mansion. This was so he could be forced to steal something back for the owner. However as I headed out into the world I saw that his second chapter’s recommended level was twenty two. I certainly wasn’t going to get that far before time ran out. As such I decided to head to Cyrus as Therion’s story mentioned looking for a scholar.
This was actually a different scholar but when I went to see Cyrus I could actually watch his event scenes. Thus I learned his story and why he was about to confront a thief. Thus I played Cyrus’s first chapter with Therion in tow. He doesn’t appear in any of Cyrus’s latter cut scenes. I still had time to play so I tried to see if I could make it to Primrose. I was able to watch her scenes, but when I reached her dungeon and saved, time was up. The interaction between the characters does seem fairly limited (at least so far). However I was starting to see how some of their stories intertwined. As when I left town with Cyrus a hooded figure watched us, and when I re watched Primrose’s story I realised it was one of the men she is looking for.
I’ve only recently gotten into turn based games (outside of Pokemon). Some of the staff on this game worked on Bravely Default which shows. The game is a traditional JRPG with a couple of different combat mechanics. The break system allows you to stall an enemies turn and weaken them. This is done by attacking them strongly enough with their weakness. Breaking them is very useful as some enemies get to attack more often than you do. After a turn having used an attack you earn battle points. These points can stack up to five, and are used to multiply your attack. Each combat move has a maximum amount of battle points that can by used. This is very useful to use when an enemy has been put in the break state.
The combat certainly feels faster which is good. They also mentioned making game play balance changes. In the first demo I had to grind to level ten to beat Primrose’s boss, whilst in this I only had to be level five. While roaming around the world I felt that it was a bit too easy. After I started Cyrus’s chapter I did finally lose. However, equipping Cyrus and spamming healing items made his boss much easier as well.
The world itself isn’t very big, at least so far. I do think that’s actually a good thing. It seems that the game levels up with you. After beating Therion’s chapter the indication over other characters to meet up with, suggested being level five. Then having finished Cyrus’s chapter the danger levels of the outside world got higher. If I wanted to get a third character it recommended I be level seven. Although most were blocked off, before entering an area it tells you the danger level so you don’t go somewhere too hard.
I’ve wanted the game since the first demo. That said, the changes they’ve made certainly improved the quality of the game. I’m not super into modern games using pixel art, but this HD-2D style is lovely. I also like the leveling system, as it makes sense so that you can start with whoever you please. I’m not sure if I’m going to use my prologue save yet but I can’t wait for the game to come out. Especially since I’m getting the special edition. My game play of the prologue demo is available to watch.