Octopath Traveler is a throwback to classic Japanese RPG. For those from what is heralded as the golden age of JRPG where Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI ruled the screen, then you’ll definitely enjoy Octopatch Traveler. It has all the wonderful nostalgic tropes of the genre, including turn-based combat, side quests, character classes and items done with modern day tech. Out now on the Nintendo Switch.
Square Enix has had a crack at these throwback RPGs a couple of times recently with the likes of I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear but Octopath feels a little different to those games. It’s far grander and has a far stronger unifying vision behind it. If you’ve ever played SaGa Frontier you’ll recognise this diverging storyline setup and if you haven’t played SaGa Frontier you’re missing out on some great classic gaming.
So before you drop 40 hours into Octopath Traveler let’s get you started with everything you need to know and everything I wish I knew before playing.
Eenie Meenie Minie Mo – Your First Character Pick Is Locked
While you can add any of the 8 to your party later on in the game, the first one you choose to begin your journey with is locked into your party. While the rest after the first few hours will become accessible on the map.
The simplest way to break down the two archetypes of all eight heroes is to categorize them as mages and warriors. Alfyn, Cyrus, Ophilia and Primrose are mages. H’aanit, Olberic, Therion and Tressa are warriors. There are a few exceptions (Alfyn and Tressa straddle the line between both), but that’s generally the type of play they slot into.
Mages are glass cannons and warriors are a little more hardy with higher HP counts, more defence and access to better armour or weapons.
The Shopping List – Buy A Few Cheap Upgrades Immediately
Characters start with a barebones loadout that you can upgrade immediately with a bit of thrifty spending. After that first errand, head to the equipment shop, denoted by a shield and sword logo. Buy the cheapest weapon and armour upgrade you can find for a small bonus, and you’ll still have plenty of money left for items. Your item list should also include some ‘healing grape’ for restoring HP as well as some ‘herb of healing’ for use against poison and ‘herb of awakening’ for use against sleep. With whatever you have left you can pick up some accessories.
Stick Them With The Pointy End – Combat Basics
Octopath Traveler is governed by two main combat principles breaks and boosts.
In each turn in which a character acts, they’ll earn a boost. Think of it like a temporary power-up that’s cached as a bright dot near your character information list. You can spend three boosts in any given turn, and party members can stock five boosts at the start each. After that, it becomes a use it or lose it situation. If you decide to boost, no boost meter will appear on the subsequent turn. For easy battles, it’s efficient to just burn all three boosts at once so you can whittle down weaker opponents and move on to the next fight. For boss battles, choosing when to boost is extremely important and can swing the tide of the encounter.
To use boosting to its fullest, you need to understand how the break system works.
Conveniently located below each enemy is their weakness bar, as well as a shield icon with a numerical value inside of it. Enemies might be weak to axes, fire magic or any number of offensive attack categories. If you attack an enemy with their weakness and deplete the numerical shield value, you’ll break them for that turn, stunning them.
To maximize your damage, you can actually time boosts with breaks. If an enemy boss is charging up an attack that takes multiple turns to use, breaking them with their weakness will shut that move down. Alternatively, you can whittle down an enemy’s weakness without boosting, then unleash a huge boosted attack to break them, allowing yourself an additional turn to recover with an item or healing spell while they’re stunned.
One more thing that pertains to weaknesses: Notice those arrows next to the basic attack prompt in combat? You can swap weapons with a press of the left and right D-pad. Since each enemy is weak to a different weapon type, it’s very important that you choose the right tool for the job.
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Heal & Save Often
As the old Nintendo Quit Screen warns you any death in Octopath Traveler will lead to a very real game over screen. There’s no autosave here and if you enter a battle with half health or accidentally wander into a strong dungeon you could lose hours of gameplay. Save every time you see a save journal (denoted by a quill pen) even if you’re grinding in an area you think is safe. Save yourself the heartache and grind near a save point periodically head over to retain your file.
I Think I Skipped That – The Main Menu Has A Tutorial Section
I’m completely guilty of just skimming through tutorials. Turn-based combat? I’m sure I’ll pick it up eventually. But there are times where I might need to check a couple of things, in the main menu under the miscellaneous heading is a tutorial refresher. It’ll educate you on the basics of breaks and boosts, as well as character-specific talents and skills.
The Map Is Key – If You’re Lost Just Open The Map
Octopath Traveler keeps track of every main questline both in the journal menu and on the world map. If you’re lost, just head to the world map and look for an icon of your character’s head. It’ll not only give you a clue as to the region that will trigger the next part of that character’s quest, but it’ll dish out a recommended level range.
Alternatively, the journal will spell out each hero’s story on top of the next zone you’ll need to visit. With map icons and a fast travel system, you’ll never lose your way, even if you return to the game after an extended break.