“...embraces the old by shaping it with a modern aesthetic.”
June 22, 2018 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Octopath Traveler’ Brings it Back to JRPG Basics [Goomba Stomp] “The original Final Fantasy set the JRPG standard: heroes of good unite to combat the forces of evil. The NES’ limitations necessitated a simplistic approach, but there’s no denying it was an effective one. As time passed, more games added to the laundry list of JRPG tropes. Players took on the roles of brighteyed youths yearning for adventure or stoic warriors heeding the call of duty. There’s a certain charm and familiarity that comes with revisiting these stories in different forms. Octopath Traveler, the upcoming Square Enix game on the Switch, capitalizes hard on that. However, rather than relying on nostalgia to prop itself up, Octopath factors it into its own unique design.” [YouTube][Game Trailer]

• Octopath Traveler Devs Talk Modernizing Classic RPG Tropes On Nintendo Switch [Gamespot]
”"We're creating a medieval world, and we wanted to think of the realities within that medieval world," Takahashi said, via a translator. "What would be a kind of inevitability that would happen as a result of this world existing? What kind of dramas would play out? I think, out of the eight people, that Primrose has the story that deals with the heaviest themes, but that's not to say that the other themes are light in any way. There are also characters that deal with other heavy elements of this world, as well, like Cyrus, the scholar. His story deals with the darkness that exists within this world." By the same token, Square Enix felt it was important to create a style that was reminiscent of classic RPGs, with a modern twist. The result is a game that looks like a game from the 1990s at a glance, but that comes alive with depth and movement thanks to its 2.5D animation.”
• Octopath Traveler's First 3 Hours Are a Beautiful RPG Dream [IGN]
“I grew up on turn-based RPGs, so I absolutely loved Octopath Traveler's battle system. Once I got a feel for the system, battles felt awesome. Timing the attacks to break an enemy's defenses, and then following up with a devastating blow gives Octopath Traveler's battles a sense of rhythm not found in the JRPGs it pays homage to. Aesthetically, Octopath Traveler delivers so much more than it needs to. It had my attention with its throwback style, but the way the pixel art is layered to look like living, breathing dioramas has me completely enamored. The battle system is a satisfying twist on the turn-based JRPG formula of the games that inspired it, and I'm looking forward to finding and following all eight characters. The three hours I spent with the demo didn't seem anywhere near long enough, and I can definitely see plenty of late nights playing this in bed to find just one more dungeon or story to explore.”
• Help, I Can’t Decide Which Octopath Traveler Character To Start With [Kotaku]
“At the start of the game, you pick one of the eight. You begin with that character’s solo prologue. You could be Ophilia the cleric, or Therion the thief. Or you could start as Primrose the dancer, or Tressa the merchant. It’s a little like Dragon Age Origins, with one big difference: No matter who you choose, you’ll get to add all the other main characters to your party over the course of the game, but you’ll spend the first hour or so just with that first character. With each new character you add, you’re given the option to play through their solo prologues (viewed as flashbacks) and can swap them into and out of your party for the rest of the game. The first person you chose is still your “main” character, and you can never remove them from your party. [...] Most of my indecision has revolved around narrative stuff—which character do I find most interesting or relatable? Which has the best voice actor, and the best backstory? There are gameplay aspects of the question to consider, as well.”
• In Octopath Traveler, Every Battle Takes a Lifetime [US|Gamer]
“In battles though, the amount of options leads to long runtimes—I'm talking seemingly 10 or so minutes long—even of the small, random encounter variety while just traversing a dungeon. Whether you've figured out enemies' weaknesses already in previous encounters or not, even the battles that feel like they'd be a breeze for grinding or exploring in other games is a brutal challenge in Octopath Traveler. With no enemies on the map to dodge and unseen battles just springing upon you unexpectedly like a JRPG from the 1990s, you're basically locked in for whatever awaits you in the shadows. [...] Octopath Traveler feels like an old school JRPG. Specifically, the sort of now-niche brand of JRPG about managing systems and plotting every single move. I only came away semi-unscathed after a few battles during my time with it, otherwise succumbing quite a bit to team wipes. In the most perilous situations, rougher battles were hard to come back from unless I had enough revival items at my disposal.”
posted by Fizz (18 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Goddamn it, I'm going to buy myself a new game system, aren't I?

This looks awesome.
posted by duffell at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

These are the same people that did the Bravely Default series on the 3DS which are phenomenal JRPGs. It's a genre I'm a sucker for and this art-style looks so gorgeous. The demo has been lots of fun. If you have a Switch, give the demo a download and try your hand at the "Dancer" class. I had the most fun with her story.
posted by Fizz at 6:42 PM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear but really looking forward to this one (which is a much more high-budget/high-profile offering than the Tokyo RPG factory Square games).
posted by thefoxgod at 7:06 PM on June 22, 2018

I enjoyed I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear

I held off on those because they felt kind of old-fashioned in the actual game play but maybe you could speak more to that having played both.

What's interesting about a lot of the JRPGs that have been rolling out for the Switch is that the art-style seems more dynamic than the actual attack/game-play mechanic.
posted by Fizz at 7:10 PM on June 22, 2018

a reminder that early on this was known as Project Octopath Traveler, or POT for short.
posted by juv3nal at 7:28 PM on June 22, 2018

Oh the name is terrible as fuck. I hate the name of this game. I understand the 8 paths characters can take, blah blah blah JRPG stuff....but it's dumb.
posted by Fizz at 7:30 PM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Aw c’mon it’s great. When you consider the ludicrousness of something like “Final Fantasy 15” it fits right in.
posted by juv3nal at 7:34 PM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Truth. JRPGs have a long history of odd/ridiculous names.

And Final Fantasy 15 isn't even one of the worst offenders, looking at you - - - > Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy
posted by Fizz at 7:38 PM on June 22, 2018

I actually pre-ordered this and I don't pre-order anything nowadays (Amazon prime members get $12 off so yay). I'm looking forward to playing it (maybe I'll actually beat it lol)!
posted by littlesq at 7:40 PM on June 22, 2018

Oh the name is terrible as fuck. I hate the name of this game. I understand the 8 paths characters can take, blah blah blah JRPG stuff....but it's dumb.

Oh no, it's worse than that. It's a pun that only makes sense in Japanese-pronounced English, to wit: octopus -> okutopasu -> octopath.

My favorite example from this genre is the name for the Wii U game The Wonderful 100, which you are supposed to pronounce "wonderful one-double-oh" because then in Japanese it sounds like "wandafuru wandaburu oo".
posted by J.K. Seazer at 7:45 PM on June 22, 2018 [8 favorites]

Ooh that looks so cool, how dare they just release it for the switch! Now I have to wait until like 2036 for the janky PC port.
posted by drinkyclown at 12:52 AM on June 23, 2018

I'm not sure I still have the patience to play a JRPG, at some point I lost my ability to grind in videogames. I still really want to play the new demo just in case but if I like it I don't want to wait half a month for the release.
posted by Memo at 11:09 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

The idea of taking low-resolution sprite art and using it as a texture map in a 3D environment with a set camera perspective is really clever. It looks surprisingly good, like a papercraft diorama or something. Modernizes the presentation without affecting the style or drawing attention to itself. I like it a lot.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

The one thing I found pretty nifty about the demo (swordsman at least) was that battles were sort of a puzzle, and I hope the full game is like that. Enemies you encounter have a cadence, and winning battles revolves around disrupting those cadences with one of your own. An enemy might choose to defend, banking turns for a powerful attack that'll kill you in two hits, but if you strong attack them with a weapon they're weak to, they'll lose their bank sit open for a few turns. I imagine that this is sort of consequence of the low levels and constrained armor supply in the demo, but I really hope you can't just grind through them.

Partially, this is just an extension of the Brave/Default system from 3DS. There, the game revolves more around grinding for OP buildouts. Any character can take on any class, and you grind to gain new skills for your team, and the action point (AP) debt system lets you wipe out opponents on first strike. Bravely Second even lets you push your luck when that happens, taking on another wave of opponents for an EXP multiplier. Eventually you get enough skills to replenish AP points that wiping out opponents is net neutral, and grinding is a breeze enough that they added fast forward buttons.

I figure Bravely is more of a Timmy game and Octopath more of a Spike game.
posted by pwnguin at 1:14 PM on June 23, 2018

I'm still holding out for a good Vorthos game.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:15 PM on June 23, 2018

I'm not sure I still have the patience to play a JRPG, at some point I lost my ability to grind in videogames

It's funny, because I've found that as I get older the only thing I have patience for at all is grindy games, especially free-to-play mobile gatcha games. I finally got a copy of Valkyria Chronicles, a game I've wanted to play for an entire decade, but I find I don't have the time or the mental energy to sit down and play a serious plot-heavy tactical game like that. Much better to boot up Pokemon Quest to poke at a bit and maybe make a tiny increment of progress.

I'm not sure where this leaves me for Octopath Traveler. The art style is fantastic and historically I've loved 16-bit era JRPGs so it seems tailor made for me, but will I actually enjoy it or just bounce off? Guess I'll do what I always do anyway, wait for it to be on sale and play it then. Maybe in a decade I'll be in a different place, who knows?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:48 PM on June 23, 2018

I downloaded this demo and played it for just about the 3 allotted hours.
In that time, I was able to:
-start to get a handle on combat
-meet 3 of the main characters
-marvel at the backgrounds
-become completely unable to read any of the insipid dialogue.

The combat, though cool, felt immediately to me like any jrpg. More discerning people are saying things about how unique it is, but I think that the feeling is the same for me. The menus were more clear [with little explanations that you can turn on!], but the tried and true method of "I have a powerful X attack, which I will use until I need to heal or else if X isn't working I will switch to a less-powerful Y". I defeated 2 things that were like early-level bosses without feeling like more was required of me than just not dying long enough to eventually win.

The combat is better than most jrpg combat systems, but not [to a very infrequent player] so different that I would have commented on it otherwise.

The real thing this game has going for it is the beauty of the animations. The main thing keeping me from trying it further was the dialogue. It is some reale olde faketh oldentymen writingen. They just throw those -en and -eth endings wherever. I had to push the buttons to make the words go away as fast as I could, but in battle they say things out loud that you can't stop. If the demo wasn't so long, I would still just be staring at the scenery and hoping for more.

Which is fine because it reminded me that I still haven't ever finished chrono trigger.
posted by Acari at 7:52 AM on June 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, there were a few bits in Tressa's story that made me do a Sensible Chuckle, but for the most part the writing is just taking forrrrreeeeeeeevvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr to tell really cliched stories. Presumably, there's a bigger story that kicks in after you've collected all the characters' origins, which is fine if those origins are interesting, but so far they are not.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:36 PM on June 24, 2018

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