Adept vs Amateur: Octopath Traveler Impressions


Bravely going where Bravely hasn’t gone before

Bravely Default was one of my favorite games on the 3DS. This spiritual successor to the lesser known Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light delivered in spades with its mix of classic and new. A tale of crystals and unspeakable evil, with a job system similar to Final Fantasy III and V’s, then combined with the creative Brave and Default mechanics, allowing you to turn the tide of battle in a way Final Fantasy had never allowed you before.

While the former lets you do multiple actions in a single turn by spending Brave Points, the latter skipped your turn but reduced the damage taken, giving you a Brave Point on the following turn. This clever battle system made every encounter feel dynamic and fun, and clever, modern ideas like allowing you to tune the frequency of random battles also helped the player balance their own experience.

Bravely Second, however, didn’t attempt to shake things up like the first game did. A lot of reused content; characters, classes and locations hurt my enjoyment of the game as a returning fan. With Octopath Traveler on the Nintendo Switch, Square Enix goes even further back with the return of sprite graphics, and further forward by creating a brand new game world to explore on a more powerful system.

What follows are reactions from an experienced Bravely player (me!) and a fool (Kevin Mersereau) to the recently released Octopath Traveler demo. There will be spoilers, obviously.

Bass: Alright, you know the drill. Describe Octopath in a single word, pal.

Kevin: Brutal.

Bass: Nice! I’m so glad I went with you and not Mike this time around. That guy couldn’t follow instructions to save his life! You mean the writing, right?

Kevin:Yeah, dude. The knight’s story is pretty tame, but Primrose has to deal with some pretty fucked up stuff. It’s really jarring seeing that brought to life in this art style.

Bass: I was surprised too! They hit you out of the gate with pretty vicious themes and language… Not quite what I had in mind when I first saw the trailers for this game. Mostly Primrose’s story! What a delightfully fucked up character her Master ended up being. I was impressed at how much personality they managed to give the characters in a story this short… Quite impressive, wouldn’t you say?

Kevin:Absolutely. I just wish they hadn’t stuck to such a generic storyline with Olberic. I really hope they bring a bit more to his character in the final game. It was great watching Prim go from being so submissive to a total badass in the final scenes.

Bass: I wouldn’t underestimate his side just yet! True, a tale of the corrupted world of exotic dancing is a lot more unique in the medium than following a fallen knight’s redemption… But I’m just as excited to see their respective conclusions. Maybe it’s because I started with Olberic’s side, but there were a lot of interesting parallels that will be interesting to look out for with the rest of the cast.

Kevin:I hope so. Even in combat, I found myself more drawn to the Primrose playthrough. Their attacks are essentially identical this early in the game, but I had a lot more fun using the more magic-based attacks that my girl was throwing down! A giant cloud of destruction hovering over your foes before it rains down hell on them just looks cool, you know?

Bass: [Laughs]Yeah. I always go for mage classes in my role-playing games, most of the time. Even in games like Persona where there are often multiple physical types, hitting with magic just feels so satisfying! The final game’s party will have multiple characters, you can already have a party of two in the demo, so I’m interested to see how strategies will develop based on each character’s skills. I will miss Bravely’s class system though! You probably won’t be able to beat up every foe with a naked Olberic, unfortunately. How did you feel about the difficulty in the demo?

Kevin: I died during my first attempt at fighting the Master, but it was easy overall once I got the hang of how battle flowed. I’m not sure if it was a glitch or not, but Prim’s HP and SP actually reset between each battle for me. This wasn’t the case with Olberic. Weirdly, I found myself liking that! I ran around the dungeon a bit, grinding before taking my second attempt at the boss battle, and it never felt boring. I didn’t feel that constant pressure to return to a save point that I usually get with these types of games.

Bass:That was definitely a glitch, I didn’t recover after battles on either side unless I got a level up! I wonder if something similar will be added to the final game, though. Being able to turn off random battles when my health was low made Bravely Default a very relaxing experience, not unlike playing Pokémon with a good stock of Repels. There were also the… less consumer-friendly conveniences, like being able to pay real money for extra turns. Hopefully, there won’t be any of that in Octopath. In any case, they’ve shown in the past their respect for the player’s time, so I’m not too worried! What level were you when you ended up beating the bosses? I was level 8 for Olberic’s, and level 3 for Primrose’s myself.

Kevin: I was level 7 for Prim and level 5 for the completely lifeless Olberic. I just wanted to finish his quest as soon as possible, so I could meet back up with her. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot to do once you reach the “Thank you for playing” screen for each character outside of exploring, but I did find one extra conversation that was pretty adorable.

Bass:Oh? What was it?

Kevin: Just a small encounter where some jerkface was trying to force himself on a lady, and the white knight came down to break it up. You get to slap the guy in the face, and then throw down some fisticuffs! JUSTICE!

Bass:Nice! Poor Olberic, it seems like he can’t take your attention away from your one true love… As I expected, though, you don’t appear to need to grind at all in the demo. That’s nice. I hope this is representative of the final game. Nothing can destroy a RPG’s pacing more than grinding being too valuable for the player.

Kevin:There’s tons of potential for combining abilities later in the game. I really loved the boost system. It felt super satisfying when you saved up your points and used three at once. Even better when you managed to pull off a break on your enemy, so they had to sit there and let you slap ‘em around a bit an extra turn.

Bass: Very satisfying! It’s surprisingly more limited than in Bravely, though. In those games, you could choose up to four different actions. In Octopath, however, you can only multiply a single move. That’s possibly a move to make the game faster-paced, and if so they succeeded. The combat felt incredibly satisfying. Something that didn’t quite succeed as much for me though was the visual side… What did you think about the graphics?

Kevin: Overall, they were gorgeous, but there were a few weird instances that looked kind of “smudgy”? I don’t think that’s a real word, but let’s roll with it. I had some occasional instances of the background overlapping the foreground as well, but this is an early build. I’m sure it’ll be fixed in the finished product.

Bass:Yeah, I’ve had those issues as well. It seems like the game looked nicer in trailers than in the demo, as I’ve had plenty of little things nagging me. Beyond the harsh lighting effects blurring the delightful sprite art, I wish they could at the very least fix the camera zoom level so that sprites aren’t warping around while you move. I’m sensitive to those things! Still, it’s hard to blame the game for trying, and I’m glad they moved away from the chibi-3D art style of Square Enix’s smaller RPGs.

Kevin:Honestly, I’m more of a 7up guy. The biggest issue I had with the game was that there were no indicators for battles. I hate random encounters with a passion. I want to know when I’m going to fight some fools!

Bass: 7up over sprites. Clever. Very clever. How I feel about random battles will depend on if we’re able to tune their frequency or not. I guess we’ll see! Do you have any closing statements and/or predictions and/or fan art requests of Primrose in her dancing outfit?

Kevin:Octopath Traveler has probably become my second most anticipated title of 2018. (Just behind Necrobarista…) It’s got a whole lot going for it, and I hope they keep trying to push the envelope for what’s considered acceptable for old-school RPGs like this. As far as art goes, Prim’s been through enough. Unfortunately, Rule 34 has probably already been applied before we finished this conversation. Heathens…

Bass:I haven’t really thought about it yet, but I would agree! Octopath and Dragon Ball FighterZ are my most anticipated games as well… This was a really, really good demo in my opinion, much better than Bravely Default‘s. And man, oh man, I am so ready for the incoming twist related to that “every day I have the same dream…” thing that they both say at the start of their stories. YOU KNOW THERE’S A TWIST COMING KEVIN THERE HAS TO BE WE’RE BOTH SAVVYYOU KNOW THEY CAN’T IGNORE CHEKHOV’S GU-

Kevin starts blasting “Breaking The Law” by Judas Priest on his cassette player, and quickly walks away from Bass.