Preview- Octopath Traveler

The long wait for Switch exclusive RPG Octopath Traveller is nearly over, launching in just under a week on July 13th. A sprawling throwback to the golden era of 16-bit gaming, Octopath boasts a familiar yet arrestingly distinct style coined by the developers as “HD 2D”. Pixelated leaves rustle and shimmer, 3D houses stand tall as single plane sprites somehow blend into a less abstract, realised world. Complemented by a genre-typical soundtrack that sweeps and soars, what exactly makes Octopath Traveler mechanically different to the myriad games it seeks to pay homage to? Well other than the octet of stories and playable characters we’re treated to combat is fresh and engaging, yet familiar to any fan of the Bravely Default series.

Produced by the very same team that brought us that series, this should be no surprise. The central quirk to Bravely’s battle system was the risk and reward of saving and splurging turns, able to gather BP that would , for example, let you act four turns in a row at the cost of waiting four afterwards. BP in this title works similarly, but is more about upgrading the power of attacks to staggering heights, aptly renamed Boost Points. This is coupled with a brand new mechanic, Shield Points. Through trial and error, players can figure out the weaknesses of foes and chip away at their Shield Points causing a shield break, leaving a foe incapacitated and highly vulnerable. Figuring when and how to break your opponent is down to the player, do you do it slowly and unleash a brutal counter-attack? Or do you rush your foe, using all your BP to get them to that critical state? It’s a mechanic that can make or break a battle.

Many changes have been added to the latest Prologue Demo, allowing you a 3 hour peek into the pixelated realm of Octopath, allowing you to continue your journey from the demo to the full game itself. Whereas moving was sluggish in the initial 2017 demo, overall speed has been amped up with a run button thrown in for good measure. A toggling radar that seeks out side-quests and story progression points has also been added alongside a streamlined interface and a busier overall world, NPCs crowned with speech bubbles if they can be talked to.

The stories the first demo told covered the wholesome yet ultimately trite tale of Olberic the knight and a much darker, more faceted yarn about dancer Primrose, a scorned femme fatale seeking revenge as she finally slips away from the seedy, sandy desert town she’d been confined in. Now we’re privy to the whole cast, players can pick one of the eight roles they want to start with and slowly gather the entire cast across the continent. The stories, character and locales are vastly different, from thief Virion’s cockney cohorts to the strangely archaic tongue of forest dwelling Huntress H’aanit all the way to grotesquely British Scholar Cyrus, the cast and their tales are set up to deliver a veritable banquet of role playing scenarios to chew on accenting a devilishly moreish battle system.

Octopath Traveler is essential for any RPG fan with a Switch, so if you haven’t already, pick up the Prologue demo now, pick a hero and begin your journey.

Octopath Traveler is available on July 13th, exclusively on the Switch.

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