News of Octopath Traveler Mobile Reminds Me Why I'll Never Get Used to Free-to-Play RPGs

Free-to-play mechanics mesh fine with some genres. RPGs aren't one of them.

Ever read a video game headline that spurs a sharp, excited inhalation of breath followed closely by a slow, exhausted exhale? That's what happened to me earlier today when I read "A new Octopath Traveler game is coming—"

[Inhaaaaaale]

"—to smartphones!"

[exhaaaaale]

Yep, it's true. Octopath Traveler, the eight-way RPG that wound up being a surprise hit on the Switch last summer, is getting a new game later this year. It's a prequel that's specially engineered for mobile, so look for swipe controls on top of [double exhale] free-to-play mechanics.

I'm not disappointed this Octopath Traveler prequel, which is subtitled "Champions of the Continent," is coming to mobile instead of the Switch. In fact, I only intend to feel let down if the game isn't brought westward (so far there's no indication the game is leaving Japan). I'm just a little wary. I've shrugged off free-to-play mechanics in a lot of genres brought to mobile—puzzle games, strategy games, MMOs (I'm currently playing the mobile version of Ragnarok Online, an MMO I've loved on-and-off since 2003)—but single-player menu-based RPGs still feel weird as free-to-play games. I can't get over it. I'll try Octopath mobile if it arrives on our shores, but I doubt I'll stick to it. I feel menu-based RPGs are the epitome of games that let you sit back, relax, and think about anything but timing. A looming stamina bar blows that feeling apart, not to mention potential worries over being restricted from the best party builds unless you gamble for powerful warriors through expensive Gatcha games.

I know I'm in the minority on this one, at least as far as the larger world is concerned. Free-to-play menu-based mobile RPGs are huge business in Asia thanks to Granblue Fantasy and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. Even Nintendo gave us a free-to-play RPG with the recently-released Dragalia Lost, though it didn't make the impression Nintendo and Cygames hoped for. It's possible the enormity of Granblue and Brave Exvius soaked up everyone's time, excitement, and money. If Square Enix insists on going free-to-play with the new Octopath game, it might have an uphill climb. Then again, basing any sort of gashapon game around an established property isn't a bad bet, as the continued success of Fire Emblem Heroes reminds us.

Here's something I'm thankful for, though: When Octopath Traveler director Tomoya Asano tweeted about the mobile prequel news today, he reassured his followers a "proper" sequel is coming. Well, sort of. He said, "Everyone waiting for a new game on console, we're sorry, but production will take a little while longer, so in the meantime, we hope you can enjoy [the smartphone game]!" (Thanks, Gematsu). I choose to take that as an admission Octopath mobile is a low-resource in-between title meant to hold us over until we see what's truly next for Octopath Traveler and / or Bravely Default. It's not as if Square Enix has been shy about hinting something is coming.

Still, I can't stop myself from sending out a useless wish that the Octopath prequel will let us pay a one-time access fee like the olden days of mobile RPGs (remember Final Fantasy Dimensions 2?)—or even let us pay for content chapter-by-chapter (remember the first Final Fantasy Dimensions?). I suppose the latter is possible, and "free-to-play" might mean "free-to-start" in this case. Given how angry the world got at the "free-to-start" business in Super Mario Run, however, I doubt it.

I suppose it is what it is, and I intend to give Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent a fair shake if it comes Westward. I just need to clear some space off my dumb phone before I can even think about downloading it. Hm, how about I get rid of Ragnarok Online mobile…?

Nah, I'm good.

Tagged with Android Devices, Free-to-Play, iPads, iPhones, Opinions, Role Playing Games, Rpgs, Square Enix.

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