Hands-on with Octopath Traveler

Octopath Traveler is going to be a Time Vampire. That’s what the Nintendo rep told me as I sat down to preview it and I couldn’t agree more.

Octopath Traveler is very much an old-school JRPG. If that wasn’t already obvious from everything we’ve seen so far, I want to make it painfully clear. When you play Octopath Traveler, you need to know what you’re getting yourself in for.

You’ll be managing a party of four heroes, from a total of eight (hence Octo) all of whom have different jobs, abilities and skills. You can use these skills in and outside of battle with often surprising results. In the preview I played, I was in control of Cyrus with Olberic, Primrose and H’aanit in tow.

Octopath Traveler Preview

Cyrus is a scholar, Olberic a warrior, H’aanit a hunter and Primrose a Dancer. With their abilities, I could speak with NPCs and challenge them to a battle, allure them to follow and join my party and interrogate them to gain information.

When you allure or hire NPCs, you are given one additional party member, to bring the total to five. However, you don’t directly control these NPCs. Instead, they take action on the turn whichever hero they are aligned to.

For example, if they’re allured, they’ll attack following Primrose. Working out who to recruit, who to recruit with and which order to attack in, is just a fraction of the strategy required when playing Octopath Traveler.

No tentacles to be found

My hands-on took place about six hours into the game and I was in control of Cyrus. Following his story, I’d found my way to a small village in search of an old friend. On my arrival, I discovered that many villagers had vanished over the past few weeks.

Asking around town, it became clear that people were disappearing in the vicinity of the town’s inn. Just behind the inn was an entrance to the sewers, which seems like just the place a kidnapper might hide. Once I had all the information I needed, I headed into the sewers and found myself in a random encounter filled section of the map.

As I explored the tunnels, I could sprint, but this increased my chances of coming across enemies. Like old-school JRPGs, you can’t see the enemies on the screen and so can’t avoid battles. I’m not sure if you’re able to run from fights as I didn’t attempt it. Being a JRPG though, I’m sure the option is available.

It’s also an option you might need to take from time to time because Octopath Traveler is HARD. Really hard. I’m not a JRPG fanatic, but I’ve spent my fair share of time playing them back in the day. I know how they work and Octopath Traveler is punishing.

You Gotta Fight

In my hands-on time, I spent a few minutes exploring the gorgeous pixellated HD world, but the majority of my time was spent in battle. 

Down in the sewers I was first confronted by two skeletons and two blobs of electricity. Thinking I was going to mop the floor with them, I got down to business. The electric enemies already had one of their weaknesses revealed, while the skeletons had none.

In Octopath Traveler, enemies all have a variety of weaknesses which are unknown until you attack them in the right way. When I used a fire attack, I learned that the skeletons were weak to fire. I also learned that when they hit back, they hit back hard. 

It’s important, during battle, to try and stun your enemies as quickly as possible. You stun them by exploiting their weaknesses. Each time you hit an enemy with an attack they’re weak too, you knock one counter from their shield.

When the shield counter hits zero and breaks, they’re stunned for a turn. During the stun phase, you need to do as much damage as possible and heal your party so you can withstand the fierce counterattacks that will come your way.

You Got Boost Power!

During battle, your character has a number of boost points. These are earned each turn and can be used to ‘boost’ your turn, giving even better results. When you use a boost you don’t earn a boost point in that turn. Making good use of boosted attacks is key to victory, especially when your standard attacks seem to do so much less damage than the enemies do to you.

Making use of each of your party members’ skills and classes is equally important during battle. Without the right combination of skills, attacks and healing you’re.unlikely to be successful. Thankfully, Octopath Traveler is completely turn-based with no active time. 

This lets you plan your turns and make the most of your team without the pressure of the enemies coming at you when you’re not ready. Eventually, I managed to kill the skeletons and electric blobs and was able to move on.

I confronted the kidnapper who was performing dark and illegal blood magic and was holding my ground for a few turns before he wiped me and my party out. I wasn’t prepared for the battle and it was quite a few levels above were I was.

That’s one handy thing about Octopath Traveler. Before you head into any of the game’s dungeons, you’ll be given an idea of its difficulty by way of a level number. If it’s way above your current level, you’d best come back later or be ready for a very hard fight.

When Will I See You Again?

I wasn’t able to do much else in my hands-on with Octopath Traveler but it certainly struck me as the kind of game I wouldn’t easily be able to put down. With eight intersecting stories, a massive world to explore and tonnes of sidequests, Octopath Traveler is going to keep players going for a long time.

Thanks to the old-school JRPG gameplay and the HD pixel visuals, Octopath Traveler also manages to tap right into a nostalgic part of your brain that’s been itching to be scratched for years. Anyone who lost hours of their childhood playing Final Fantasy or Secret of Mana should feel a bit of giddy excitement when they boot up Octopath Traveler.

Finally, while I didn’t hear too much of it, the voice acting in Octopath Traveler is top-notch. I’m certain I heard some familiar voices (Critical Role for sure) while playing. Not every line of dialogue is fully voiced, but enough is for you to get a sense of the characters and to help flesh them out.

The background music is just perfect for a game of this nature and rises and fades with the action on screen to perfectly set the mood and tone.

It’s not that long until Octopath Traveler is released on July 13, but having had this hands-on, it’s far too long to wait.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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