Written by Bad Demoman 17th September 2017

From the moment it was announced, Project Octopath Traveler had every JRPG fans eye intently focussed on it. With its distinctive graphics, and being from the developers behind Bravely Default, it’s definitely enticing. With the most recent Nintendo Direct, we got a few more details. More interestingly though, we got a rather sizable demo, clocking in close to the 2 Hour mark! I’ve played through both stories included in the demo, and I’m here to present my (spoiler free!) first impressions on Project Octopath Traveler.

Given that presentation is what drew most people to Octopath, it’s definitely the aspect most worthy of comment. With its intricate mix of highly detailed sprite work reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, combined with some gorgeously detailed 3D backgrounds, it’s an interesting combo. However, the most noticeable aspect of the graphics for me was the lighting - Octopath is being made using Unreal 4, and as a result the game is staggeringly beautiful. From dark coves with light dappling in from above, giving just the slightest of light, to the way your torch casts long shadows on the rocks and crags. It’s as if the toggleable walk speed is there to allow you to really soak in all the fantastic detail. The presentation doesn’t stop there - while some of the voice acting is a tad cheesy, most of it is fantastic and incredibly believable. It’s pretty much a given that the music will be great in a Square Enix JRPG, but I loved the way the styles completely changed between the two different characters to reflect their personalities and surroundings perfectly. Olberic, the former Knight, has a dramatic, orchestral score to accompany his righteous quest of revenge, while Primroses seedy desert setting has a jazzy feel to complement her role as a Dancer.

Fans of Bravely Default may find some familiarity in the combat system, with something akin to the Brave and Default system returning. Each turn, you’ll accumulate Boost Points that can be used to either empower your special attacks, or increase the number of strikes your normal attack will do. This is an important distinction due to the Break system. Each enemy will have a weakness, and each character has a few different kinds of attack they can use - Olberic with his proficiency with a Spear and a Sword, and Primrose through her Dagger and Dark Magic. Enemies have a certain number of Break points, and once you bring these down by hitting their weakness, they are stunned and receive more damage for a turn. The decision then becomes one of attrition, wearing down the foes Break points and then delivering a massive attack once they’ve been broken, or using all your points to break them instantly. It’s a needed intricacy for a relatively simple combat system, consisting so far of a single character in battle with a handful of skills available to them. Given however that this is a demo, there's a good chance things will become more complicated and interesting in the full game!

Each of the eight characters in Octopath will have a special action they can perform to set them apart from everyone else, with the two characters available giving us an example of what to expect. Olberic can use his Knightly standing to challenge people to duels, allowing you to fight most townspeople! This does lead to some odd situations - beating down an old man so you can enter his house and take his food, for example. It’s never portrayed as villainous, but I found it hilarious to consider - Imagine coming back to the starting village at a late point in the game, laden with battle experience and legendary weaponry, and choosing random townspeople to beat down.

Primrose is a tad daintier than our Knight in Shining Armour, and therefore she can utilize certain other abilities to help her in battle. She can dance for various people in town, alluring them and convincing them to come to her aid. Again, our hero has a somewhat questionable means, potentially leading helpless townspeople out into the wilderness. This leads to an almost Pokemon-esque construction of your party. You can only bring one NPC with you, so it becomes a matter of whether you want someone who can support you, or bring some more damage to the table, for example.

I highly recommend you check out the demo for Project Octopath Traveler (Which I fully expect to be renamed at some point into a full on Bravely Default title, given the exact same font is used for the title screen!). At approximately 2 hours long, it’s a decent length to get your teeth into for a free experience, and it’ll definitely leave you anticipating the full release. Unfortunately, the full game won’t be available until 2018, so I’ll be waiting with bated breath until then.

Written by,

Bad Demoman


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