Octopath Traveler’s Stars Help Us Appreciate Different Mindsets And Stories

By Jenni . July 17, 2018 . 12:00pm

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Octopath Traveler is a varied game. Hour after hour, you can be presented with different perspectives. One moment, you could be following someone who is truly altruistic. The next, you could be watching someone with more questionable morals head out on a quest for revenge. By seeing these different people, watching how they handle their situations and using at their sometimes unique talents, we can have a better appreciation for each one.

 

First, there is no right character to start with in Octopath Traveler. This is one of its strengths. Each person has their own merits. It is possible to succeed while pursuing every storyline. I began with Ophilia, the healer, and did not have any trouble getting through this support character’s first chapter alone, thanks to her ability to guide an NPC as an ally and use light magic. Every character can be an asset, either when they are forced to be alone or in a four person party. H’aanit is primarily a damage dealer, but she has a lightning magic spell, can buff enemies by increasing their critical hit rate and accuracy temporarily and could use an attack that decreases a foe’s speed temporarily. While someone like Cyrus is almost entirely about dealing magical damage, his spells all hit every foe on the screen. This makes it easy to choose any and every path, since there is no penalty for experimenting. We can dive in and enjoy, never worrying if we are doing things in the “right” order. A player’s first choice is “locked” in as a party member until that person’s story is complete, so it might be best to pick someone you think you might want around for a long time.

 

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The stories are executed in a way that they feel familiar, but can still do things that surprise you. I found this helped me become more engaged in Octopath Traveler’s storylines. Tressa’s path acts as a coming of age tale. She is a young merchant who is finally getting the chance to see the world and prove herself. Ophilia’s is similar, in that she is also trying to prove herself by completing a pilgrimage, but it is more about proving something to herself. Her self esteem issues prevent her from seeing that her family already loves and is proud of her. Therion is someone who has gotten himself into a mess. He is a thief who was already imprisoned once for his crimes, and his desire for riches leads to a fool’s band on his wrist and task to complete for a noble family. Cyrus wants to find a library’s stolen book, H’aanit is looking for her missing mentor, Olberic has an opportunity to find someone who betrayed him, Primrose wants to avenger her fallen father and Alfyn wants to heal people. Each one has possibilities, with some people being more heroic than others.

 

Octopath Traveler is not always epic. Sure, it is eventually all leading somewhere and has some grander ambitions. But one of the joys is that some things can seem rather simple. H’aanit, Olberic, Therion and Primose have the stories you would expect to eventually lead to heroic ends where justice is served and wrongs are righted. Other people’s stories, like Alfyn or Tressa, are at their best when we consider these are more or less skilled, ordinary people in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, that leads to greater things. By having these differing viewpoints happening one after another, we gain the opportunity to appreciate how different or similar they can be. Primrose and Ophilia are both orphans who have the ability to influence NPCs. However, Ophilia was raised with people who loved her. Primrose was forced to do whatever she could to survive. Both Alfyn and Cyrus have a way of connecting with people and learning about them, but we see the former is gentler and able to get people to open up naturally, while the latter has to make deductions and pry. The contrast helps us appreciate elements of the stories.

 

Likewise, the somewhat interchangeable path actions in Octopath Traveler, which can be seen as “lawful” or “chaotic,” give us a chance to see different mindsets and motivations. For example, Ophilia and Primrose can have one NPC as a follower at a time. Ophilia, as a cleric, guides them, while Primrose, as a dancer, uses allure to convince them to come along. This can be used to complete quests by making someone tag along to a different location. Both characters also fulfill a support role in battle. This happens with all eight characters. Both Alfyn and Cyrus can learn about NPCs, but Alfyn inquires and Cyrus scrutinizes. H’aanit and Olberic both can fight NPCs, but H’aanit provokes and Olberic challenges. Tressa and Therion both can get items from people’s pockets, with one buying and the other stealing.

 

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It can make it seem sometimes like each character’s talent can be what really helps you determine who to have around in Octopath Traveler. Even though both Tressa and Therion can help me raid NPCs’ pockets, I prefer to have Tressa in my party full time. Her Eye for Money, which lets her occasionally spot cash to add to my coffers, is too handy. Therion only appears in towns when I need to unlock a purple chest. Alfyn’s ability to concoct items is handy for healing, buffing, debuffing and inflicting status effects in battle, but I prefer to have Cyrus around to study foes and immediately reveal one weakness when a fight begins.

 

Octopath Traveler’s intertwining stories and multiple characters offer players an opportunity. We get to see all of these different people in situations, noticing how they react. We have a chance to see how environments and NPCs shape their lives. Each one of these eight characters is useful, with skills that allow us to have parties that are balanced and see different takes on path actions. And, since some stories are more serious than others, we have moments when the game can be more lighthearted or even have a slice-of-life feel than ones where drama is being resolved. The game is highlighting different elements, giving them each their time in the spotlight.

 

Octopath Traveler is available for the Nintendo Switch.


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