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Project Octopath Traveler Is on Track to Be One of 2018's Best RPGs – with a Few Adjustments

The road ahead is sunny. Mind the occasional pothole, though.

Analysis by Nadia Oxford, .

During yesterday's Nintendo Direct presentation, we saw what Nintendo has in store for the Switch and the 3DS through the end of the year.

There's some great-looking stuff on the holiday horizon, but one of the games that really got everyone chattering, Project Octopath Traveler for the Switch, isn't due until sometime in 2018. Boo. Thankfully, you can sample a mouthful of the game with a free demo. I grabbed it, played it, and now I'm way stoked for 2018.

Project Octopath Traveler (official name pending) is a Square-Enix RPG that shares some blood with the Bravely Default series. Octopath Traveler is definitely the more serious sibling, though: The demo is only a few hours, and I already doubt the final product will give us Cat Mancers and adorably naïve heroes who express themselves through corny catch phrases.

No gravy here.

In fact, I doubt Octopath Traveler's much-noted visual similarity to Final Fantasy VI is a coincidence. Final Fantasy VI is one of the most sombre games in the series, and Octopath Traveler's opening hours are filled with murder and betrayal.

The game's character sprites are borderline super-deformed in an obvious tribute to Square-Enix's 16-bit classics, but there's nothing cute or silly about them – or about the world they inhabit. Octopath Traveler takes you through windy mountain paths and burning desert towns that literally pop out at you. Audio touches supply additional atmosphere: The clinking of glasses in a tavern, the gentle baa's of sheep grazing in meadows, the cackling of chickens at a market, and more. Wherever you are, the land is alive.

"Oh, perfect timing. Join my book club?"

If Project Octopath Traveler was simply a traditional turn-based JRPG with unique visual flair – or if God truly loved the world and it was an actual Final Fantasy VI remake with unique visual flair – it'd still be a game very much worth getting excited over. But Octopath Traveler's battle system is an even more noteworthy trait than its handsome graphics. It's also where the game demonstrates its kinship with Bravely Default.

Like Bravely Default, Octopath Traveler requires you to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em – your attacks, that is. Every enemy has a weakness to a certain type of weapon (swords, daggers, spears, etc), and when they're hit with the weapon-type they detest, their shield gauge depletes. When a shield counter reaches zero, the enemy "breaks." Their defense drops, and they're dizzied for a turn. That's when you ideally jump in with a heavy attack, one you might choose to launch with the aid of your Battle Points.

The demo's title screen offers a glimpse of the other titular travelers.

You earn one Battle Point per turn, and every Point you spend scores an extra hit on a foe. You can stow up to five Points and "cash in" three at once. If you find yourself up against a hulking bandit with three shield points on their counter, those three Battle Points are exactly what you need to whittle down their defense and stun them. Of course, that means you've no Battle Points left to spend on a devastating blow to their hit points.

It's already apparent balancing how you use Battle Points is going to play a major role in players' strategies. There's plenty of room for mistakes, particularly in struggles against bosses. I died while taking on one of the demo's bosses, which brought one of the game's flaws into focus: I had to repeat the lengthy story scenario that precedes the fight.

Chatty or not, Project Octopath Traveler is one fine-looking RPG.

I also wonder if Octopath Traveler will take more gameplay cues from Bravely Default. For example, will we be able to control the random encounter rate? Will we be able to chain battles to earn more experience? Octopath Traveler's battle system is fun to play with, and breaking through an enemy's defenses is a weighty, satisfying feeling made even richer by the game's barrage of light effects. But low-level encounters quickly grow tiresome (not to mention they're useless for level-grinding), so I'd welcome the chance to axe them at my discretion.

Make no mistake, though. I'm very looking forward to Octopath Traveler. Square-Enix assures us it's coming in 2018. I hope we don't have to wait too long. I hope we're talking about January 1, 2018, at 12:01 AM. Something tells me this'll be a good winter for cuddling under a blanket while weaving a tale between eight star-crossed adventurers.

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Comments 15

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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #1 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    No Catomancy or lighthearted characters with fun catch phrases? Mrgrgrgrgrgr!

    But seriously, looks great. I am a little worried about the annoying low level encounters, but hopefully they will implement the system Bravely Second did that allowed you to scale the encounter rate from zero to really high?
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #2 Godots17thCup A year ago
    Did anybody manage to get through that optional hard cave after the "end" of the demo? I had a firm grasp of the battle system's mechanics, the best equipment available in the demo for both characters and Olberic was at level 14, but I got turned into pixel-y paste by the first pair of enemies I came across in there.

    EDIT: Haha, okay, I guess it's not quite so tough with Primrose at a serviceable level, and when the first encounter isn't a pair of Wild Boars. Also, I didn't have as full an understanding of the battle system as I initially thought; I just figured out that you can boost the characters' abilities along with their regular attacks. Whoops!Edited 2 times. Last edited September 2017 by Godots17thCup
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #3 Captain-Gonru A year ago
    While I won't go so far as to disagree with any of the points raised, I'd still be fine if the final product were more of the same.
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  • Avatar for LK4O4 #4 LK4O4 A year ago
    (I kinda wish you had had Caty on the podcast to be the voice of dissent/reason. I also wasn't really into Bravely Default and it would've been nice to hear some critical more questions about the demo.)
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  • Avatar for Outrider #5 Outrider A year ago
    I haven't seen anybody talking about the best part of the game: the way Olberic can challenge almost anybody in the world to a battle, even if they don't want to. Fighting all the villagers who seem confused but still willing and then leaving everybody knocked out in the streets is hilarious.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #6 chaoticBeat A year ago
  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #7 Godots17thCup A year ago
    @Outrider I loved how the tavern owner in Olberic's starting town was inexplicably the most powerful person you could duel in the demo.

    It was probably just a gag, but it also made me wonder if there was an actual in-universe reason for it; whether she's just had to deal with so many unruly drunks over the years that she just became a badass, or if Olberic's not the only character in that town hiding from their past as a great warrior.Edited September 2017 by Godots17thCup
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #8 Toelkki A year ago
    Deleted September 2017 by Toelkki
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #9 MetManMas A year ago
    For obvious reasons (i.e. No Switch) I can't play the demo yet, but I will say that from what little I've seen Project Octopath Traveler looks to be much more like the kinda jRPG I'd wished the Bravely games had been.
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  • Avatar for SpoonyBardOL #10 SpoonyBardOL A year ago
    Am I the only one hoping that we'll see a remake of FFVI or, dare I hope, Chrono Trigger using this pop-out visual style? I'm still all for a new game, but goddamn would that be swell.

    I could do with a little less bloom and a little more color saturation though. Haven't played the demo yet, but some of the stills look kinda... drab. Like they're taking queues from early PS3 games.Edited September 2017 by SpoonyBardOL
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #11 SIGGYZtar A year ago
    @SpoonyBardOL They have the technology now.
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #12 Wellman2nd A year ago
    @SpoonyBardOL Trust you are not alone, although I want to see what they do with this. Hopefully there is more to the visual flair then lush bloomed out backgrounds and ok sprites.

    But visually especially with the battle sprites and tone this would be the perfect engine for a remake for one of the classic sprite based RPGs of one of the 8 to 32/64 bit eras.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #13 Flipsider99 A year ago
    I hope they do NOT allow you to freely adjust the encounter rate since in Bravely Default it trivializes all difficulty except boss encounters. That's too much power to give to the player.
    What would be better is to go back to a more old school solution: an item or spell that reduces encounters, or lets you avoid all low level encounters (but not enemies close to your level.) Either that, or they could borrow Earthbound's mechanics where low level enemies are just automatically killed.

    Either of those methods would be vastly preferable to Bravely Default's allowing you to freely turn off ALL random encounters whenever you feel like, including monsters at or higher than your level, which is simply much too powerful without any restrictions.
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  • Avatar for Vaporeon #14 Vaporeon A year ago
    @Flipsider99 absolutely agreed. I gave up on the Bravely Second demo when I realized how much that tweaking broke the experience for me. Even the Moogle Charm in FFVI kinda broke my experience because I got too clever about using it to loot each "path" of Kefka's Tower way before the game intended me to. Earthbound auto-wins seem like such an obvious solution.
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  • Avatar for choog #15 choog A year ago
    There is much more content in the demo than first appears. (Probably not too surprising given how the Bravely Default and Second demos were.)

    The post-demo content was nice. I liked continuing on with the character after the credits.
    It was nice how they give you a chance to taste the PC interactions by being able to walk between the two starting towns.
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  • Avatar for SkywardShadow #16 SkywardShadow A year ago
    The visual style reminds me of Tactics Ogre and other games by that same group.
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