Earlier this year, before the release of the Switch, Nintendo and Square Enix teased everyone with a snippet of information about a new Switch exclusive RPG from the venerable game developer. The only thing I could take away at the time was the game had an interesting 16bit era aesthetic and one weird name. Project Octopath Traveler. What kind of name is that?
Turns out it might not be much of a name at all. After the recent Nintendo direct on Wednesday (9.13.17 for those of you reading this far, far into the future) a demo of Project Octopath Traveler was released on the eShop. We also found out that POT is just a working title. But that doesn’t mean it can’t stick around. It really just alludes to what happens in the game.
You can start your adventure as one of 8 different characters. In the demo you can only choose from 2, Olberic the knight, and Primrose the dancer. Eventually each of these characters will meet up and tell a larger tale but in the demo you only experience the introductory chapters of these characters. So now at least we understand the “Octo”.
Each of the characters also have their own path ability. Olberic can challenge people to a duel. If he is victorious he is rewarded with experience and items. Primrose can charm people and move them around the screen. She can also call them in for an assist during combat. Both of these abilities are handy if a NPC is blocking your character from going through a door or hallway. That clears up the whole “path” thing.
The last one is easy. They travel. So Project Octopath Traveler has gone from one of the most convoluted names to being right on the nose. They are also going to distribute a survey and solicit feedback from players. This really is a game still in development and because of that we won’t see it until later in 2018. I for one can wait because this was a really solid demo.
The pixel art is top notch and combat abilities are enhanced with modern particle effects for a truly dynamic look. The developers also use a field of focus technique which places your character and the center of the screen sharply in focus while leaving the outlying areas of the screen fuzzy, much like a high end portrait effect. This leaves the game with a mash up of old school and new school art for a look that is truly its own.
Combat is turn based with a focus on tactics. After each turn you’ll earn a point that you can use to buff your following attack. Attacks and abilities can also be buffed more than just once. If you have 4 points you can use 4 points to make your attack stronger. You can accumulate up to 5 of these points. The question is do you use one each turn or do you stack them? Each enemy also has a certain level of guard before they are weakened. You’ll have to find the type of attack that lowers their guard. Some enemies are weak to spears, others to swords, while others are strong against both but weak to magic. Typically it works best if you break your opponent's guard and then then unleash powerful abilities that you spend points on to buff to the max, but sometimes you can’t wait long enough to build up max points before you have to break your enemies guard. It sounds suboptimal but sometimes the other alternative is your character's death.
The only thing I didn’t like about POT was by the time I reached the first boss I was underleveled and had to grind. I’m hopeful by the time the game is released you don’t have to level grind just to fight the first boss. Other than that minor annoyance if you love RPGs and have a Nintendo Switch you should download this demo as soon as possible.