Project Octopath Traveler: Demo Impressions

Nintendo held a direct this Wednesday. It featured a butt load of games both on the 3DS and the Switch. Although there is a lot to talk about and be excited for, what really caught my attention was the demo’s being later after the direct was coming to a close. One of those demos that I really wanted to get my hands on is Project Octopath Traveler.

Project Octopath Traveler is being brought to us by the team who created Bravely Default. It keeps with the trend of oddly named JRPG titles. I’ve only had brief experience with the Bravely Default demo’s, but Octopath Traveler shares some common elements. The battle mechanics, although not direct copies, share a similar back and forth flow with it’s boost mechanic. The visuals, although styled different, share a similar colour palette as far as I can tell. It’s got most of the signatures as far as I can tell.

Outside of it’s unique style, I came in relatively blind to this demo. Of the get go, one of the things that caught my eye, and helps explain the odd name, is the hero selection screen upon starting a new game. There are eight heroes to choose from, and each appear to specialize in different skill sets. For the purposes of the demo, two are available to select, Olberic and Primrose.

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Olberic is your typical sword wielding knight who specializes in physical attacks. Primrose on the other hand is a dancer, who specializes in dark magic. They also appear to have different origins and lead vastly different stories, so it will be very interesting to see how each heroes journey differs from one another. What I’m more interested in seeing is whether or not the story arcs will intertwine with one another.

So far, playing as Olberic, I reached the point where Primrose was available to recruit. However this was not accompanied with any kind of dialogue or cutscene introducing the characters or explaining why they would cross paths. I simply recruited her and the game explains in the full version, I’ll be able to recruit whoever I want. I really hope this gets fleshed out in the final release, as it would really deepen the experience to see all the heroes interact and help each other out before moving on in their journey.

After playing with each of the two available characters, their journeys do differ quite a bit. They start out in different areas of the map, which seems to be reflective of their character sprite overlayed on the map in the selection screen. Both start out with some sort of tragedy from their past and fast forward to the current time and how those events catch up to them.

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The more hard pressing scenes are voice acted. The voice acting is okay, in some cases, comes off as forced or corny, especially Olberic, but it doesn’t make the experience bad. Primrose I found to be much more enjoyable of the two when it came to her presentation. Outside of these scenes, character dialogue is accompanied by a noise or a few words, much like in Fire Emblem Awakening. Thankfully, Japanese voices are included for those who want it.

Before I get into the visuals, I want to talk about the music. It’s fuckin’ epic! The battle themes are great. The songs while exploring town are all superb. They are grand, mysterious, sad, uneasy, it covers every feeling. The brief stint I had with Bravely Default, I felt the same way and loved the songs in the demo, especially it’s excellent battle theme. Project Octopath Traveler really delivers here. We all know, the two most important things in any JRPG are the battle theme, and the boss battle theme. Both are posted for your listening pleasure below.

The first thing that really sticks out about Octopath Traveler, even during the previews, was the whole 2D-HD styled visuals. The characters are all 2D sprites, overlayed onto 3D environments stylized after 2D retro looking environments. What you get, is something like you’d see out of a Paper Mario game almost, but with a more retro feel. The visuals are great and it’s amazing how they combined all the modern cutting edge effects with a very retro styled aesthetic. The lighting is beautiful, especially in dark caves while your character holds a torch and their shadow is cast onto the wall behind them.

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Lighting effects are simply stunning, especially in dark caves and dungeons

While exploring, there are some character unique abilities that you can use in the open world. As Olberic, you can challenge just about anyone to a duel. This ranges from the town guards, to unwary mothers of the village. Yup, you as the highly skilled and trained knight can take on Philips Mother…

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She never saw it coming…

As Primrose, you have another ability, which allows you to allure people. You can allure just about anyone. What does this mean? Well, being an exotic dancer, I don’t want to get into too much detail of what this implies, but essentially, by alluring your said target, they then follow you where ever you go. I haven’t quite figured out if you can take them to any particular place for you know what. You can then part ways with them, which so far leads to them being pleased by being in your company.

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Primrose is the star of the show, and her masters favourite

The battle system also holds up very nicely. It feels fast and fluid and attacks hit hard and are sprinkled with all sorts of dazzling effects to spice up the presentation. The battle layout resembles that of a classic Final Fantasy game, where 2D sprites are once again overlayed onto the 3D environment. Your party is presented with their usual sprites, but enemies sprites are bigger and more detailed. Bosses look particular great on the battle field, as their size is greatly exaggerated to make them look more menacing.

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The huge detailed sprites of the bosses are quite impressive

The battle system has the feel of the brave/default mechanic from Bravely Default. Your character has their standard set of commands, such as attack, abilities, defend etc. The system is quite deep and lends itself to all sorts of possible combos and strategies which feel really good to pull off. The way enemies weaknesses and damage work also lend to this, and it all really comes together once you learn all the tropes.

Enemies are presented with a blue shield icon with a number, and a question mark box indicating their weakness. The idea is to take down their shield with regular attacks. Each attack takes one point away from their shield until it breaks. Once broken, the enemy is left exposed to more damage for that turn and they miss their respective turn as well. After this turn, their shield recharges and you need to take it down again. Keep in mind the enemy does take reduced damage while their shield is up.

Not any attack can weaken an enemies shield however. Using the dpad, you can cycle through your characters equipped weapons. Using the appropriate weapon will expose that enemies weakness and reduce their shields. Some enemies are weak to swords, but not pole arms, and vice versa. There are other enemies that are weak to daggers and dark magic as other characters.

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A sword ability that attacks all enemies, accompanied by dazzling effects

Where things get really fun is the boost meter tied to your party members. Every turn, you you fill up your boost meter by one, and caps out at a maximum value of five. For each point in your meter, you can use the boost to charge your attacks or abilities. By pressing R, your attack is doubled and your character will attack twice. If pressed again, they’ll attack three times, and of course, one more press allows 4 consecutive attacks. The same principal applies loosely to your abilities, however instead you perform the ability once but for massive damage. You can only use up to three boosts per turn.

The visual graphics associated with the boost is awesome. It gives your character this Super Saiyan type of glow with coloured flames coming out of the ground below them. you start as a regular Joe Schmoe, who doesn’t glow…

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To level one boost

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But wait, there’s more!

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Super Saiyan God!

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And then unleash a world of pain on your unsuspecting foe… poor old man

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This mechanic really makes the battle flow nicely. Seeing the flurry of attacks is very pleasing, as is the massive damage dealt by the charged up abilities. What’s cool is the combo attacks take multiple points of an enemies shield. So if they shield has one point remaining, but you have a fully charged boost meter, go ahead and fully charge your boost to break their shield and deal massive damage. On your next turn, you recharge a boost point and can again unleash a fully boosted flurry of attacks. It’s very satisfying to pull this off, and I had loads of fun roaming around and grinding for gold and exp.

Overall, I really enjoyed the demo, and can’t wait to get my hands on the full version. All I really hope is the story arcs are made to interact in a nice genuine way. I’d like each character to somehow cross paths with each other for convincing reasons, instead of just being able to recruit them for the sake of it. If it nails this, not only will it have a combat system, visuals and music to boast, but it’s story may be one to remember if executed right. If you haven’t tried the demo, give it a whirl, it’s pretty lengthy and I spent well over an hour doing all there is to do.

Did you try the Project Octopath Traveler demo yet? What did you think of it? What’s your favourite part of the demo? Let’s boost our attacks together and deal some massive damage comment action!

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