Revisiting the world of Octopath Traveler
Back in 2018, I jumped into my first play-through of Octopath Traveler, shortly after its initial release, after getting swept up in the massive hype-train for the release. I remember enjoying the game greatly, but was also overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content offered, the extensive grinding and long drawn-out boss battles. Since this was long before COVID-19, I didn’t have the time or patience to fully commit to such an experience.
Fast forward to several weeks ago. Just like everyone else, I was becoming stir-crazy and desperate for stress relief and a momentary break from the current crisis. Eventually I decided, on a whim, to revisit Octopath Traveler. I entered into my second playthrough knowing that, at my first go-around, I had merely scratched the surface of its content.
When first starting Octopath Traveler, you pick between one of eight starting characters. These are: Olberic the warrior, Cyrus the scholar, Ophelia the cleric, Primrose the dancer, Tressa the merchant, Alfyn the apothecary, Therion, the thief, and H’aanit the hunter. Add to this that each individual character has a four-chapter side story, and you get a huge amount of story-based content for one game.
Octopath Traveler has high replay value because of what it does best. It’s worth a second, or even multiple tries, because of how it balances linear storylines and looser exploration of a massive open world. Once you play the first chapter of your character’s story, you’re free to roam the in-game world, recruit characters and follow their own stories as you please.
An open in-game world during a real-world quarantine
While Octopath takes time to build up the backstories of its eight main characters, and provides many plot-driven branching narratives, what pulled me into the game this time around was wandering aimlessly across the massive in-game world of Orsterra.
The continent of Orsterra is divided into eight regions (go figure), each with its own unique climate. These include deep, dark forests, snowy mountains, and, my personal favorite, golden, beautiful coastlines. These regions, in turn, have their own towns and cities, winding paths, caves, shrines, and (my personal obsession) treasure chests everywhere.
Of course, any exploration is packed with random-encounter battles, but this time around, I found the grinding to be calming, even meditative, rather than a roadblock.
After first playing as Primrose, the dancer, I began this time with Therion, the thief, and entered with a completionist mindset to leave no stone unturned while exploring the many different areas on the game map.
While Therion isn’t the strongest fighter, he was a perfect character for goofing around Orsterra. He can open any in-game chest. The chests have different levels of difficulty and rewards, and not being able to open many of them infuriated me my first playthrough. Additionally, his “path action,” a special skill when interacting with NPCs, is “steal,” giving the chance to swipe armor, weapons and other items with varying levels of success. And while I felt a pang of remorse literally stealing candy from child NPCs, I quickly began checking the “steal” option first before interacting with any of these characters.
The one element that dictates a player’s wandering around the Orsterra map comes from the “danger levels” of each new area, essentially a base level recommendation for each new section. These are important to follow, as the predictable random encounters quickly becomes unforgiving in difficulty. If you’re underleveled, or even matched exactly with the danger level, things can go south for your party fast. Fortunately, there are always multiple areas similar in difficulty at a time, so grinding can include fast traveling between different regions, or even a run-through of your favorite corner of Orsterra.
Exploring another world
If you’re a fan of RPGs and open-world exploration, Octopath Traveler has hours upon hours of available content, engrossing and valuable for anyone looking for a reprieve from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its stressors. You have the option to mindlessly explore and grind, or follow linear storylines and tough boss fights. I personally have taken great comfort in the title, which is equal parts calming and engaging. Hopefully Octopath Traveler can help you with your own stress-relief, as it has for me.