Finally a bit of time freed up on my gaming schedule to allow me to dip into Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler — a title I’ve been hearing about for a while now from friends who gush about it. I’m approaching it with the same relish that I would opening up a big novel that I know for certain I’m going to enjoy.
At the start of the game, you get your pick of one of eight pre-established characters to explore. After reading through all of their descriptions, Primrose’s story leaped out at me — the tale of a dancer who grew up an orphan after her father was slaughtered by a trio of mysterious men.
Very early impressions? The quality and polish of this game hit me smack in the face — so far, it’s really fantastic. The first thing that really grabbed me was the presentation, which is a wonderfully modern take on old school JRPG visuals. The characters are all sprites (huzzah) but the landscape is side-view 3D done in pixel art to give it some depth. With the borders of the screen fuzzing out somewhat, there’s just a very distinct look to this game that feels like you’re playing an elaborate diorama. That’s the best way I can describe it.
So Primrose is working to follow up a tenuous lead on one of the three people who killed her father, and at the tavern where she dances, she finally spots him and follows him into the nearby catacombs. There I finally got some combat, which is *also* old school — turn based, menu-driven combat with incentive to break an enemy’s shields with certain attacks. I love how Primrose can “allure” townspeople into becoming her temporary companions for a set number of summons. I hauled in an elderly woman with me into the dungeon and kept laughing as I brought her out to join the fight. She didn’t sign up for this, no doubt.
I like that this game isn’t super-easy on you right out of the gate. I actually died — twice — in the first dungeon before I started to get a handle on the vulnerability system and how to boost attacks. Not having a second character or any healing skills (other than, er, grapes) doesn’t allow for as much room to fail.
Obviously there was going to be a big showdown with Primrose’s “master” — the game telegraphed that so strongly that I would have to be blind, deaf, and a JRPG newbie not to see it coming — but it was still satisfying to knock off the fat pig.
From there, the game gave Primrose her overarching quest, to find the three Crows. But I have the freedom to make my own path, and it’s heavily suggested that I recruit all of the other seven travelers. So that’s my goal for the time being — that, and unlocking city fast travel points to free up the map. One hour in, and I’m really digging this!