Octopath Traveler’s large cast is an opportunity. It is a chance to showcase a large group of individuals with different sorts of personalities and stories. Each one can get equal time and attention. This is especially important for two individuals: Alfyn and Tressa. These are two characters who might have been overshadowed in more traditional games, due to their personalities, roles and storylines. Because of the nature of this game, they get moments to shine. We have opportunities to see these refreshing stories that are generally lighter in tone than the other heroes. We also get to see how these more positive forces can impact their world.
Editor’s note: there will be spoilers for Alfyn and Tressa’s routes.
Both of these characters are these positive forces that are genuinely well-intentioned. Tressa is the youngest character in the party, but she can be the most knowledgeable. After all, her opening chapter has her ascertaining the value of a famous painting she has never seen before. She is smart enough to put a sleeping agent in the wine being given to pirates plaguing her town. While she is idealistic and perky, she is not naive. When a landowner is cheating miners, she tries to convince a fellow merchant, Ali, to express more caution when dealing with Morlock and his hired muscle. And even though she doesn’t agree with his methods, she does agree with his intentions and commits herself to the fight. She decides to prove herself by heading to the Merchants’ Fair.
It is when Tressa reaches the Merchants’ Fair that we see her true value and worth. Throughout Octopath Traveler, she is growing. We see her develop her values, hone her craft and determine what she is willing to fight for. The diary she obtained from Captain Leon becomes her treasure. It is that which she presents as a possible perfect present for Noa Wyndham, daughter of the wealthy and illustrious Lord Wyndham. For a girl who did not know what she wanted in life, this notebook helped her make the decision to leave her hometown. She saw the world, recorded her own journey and took chances. For a girl who can’t currently see the world, the inspiration to get out and see the world on her own is the greatest gift. Tressa offers it to her, and in so doing makes the greatest impression and decision. There is a purity and innocence in Tressa’s actions and reactions. We are seeing a slice of her life, and Octopath Traveler’s rambling nature suits her. She finds her path, and helps someone else do the same.
Just as it suits Alfyn. Here, we have someone who seems sure of his life and goals. He wants to be a healer and carry on the good work of the man who once saved him. Like Tressa, he is from a small town. This affable young man gets along with everyone, with his path action allowing him to chat up anyone. He may be naive, but he knows how to handle poisonous snakes and hazardous people. His story is about refining that passion to do good and overcoming a crisis of faith. He meets a man who has walked the path he has, a fellow apothecary named Ogen.
This opportunity introduces conflict and allows us to see Alfyn strengthen his resolve, without Octopath Traveler forcing him to change who he is. Ogen became an apothecary after the man who treated and saved Alfyn healed him. He tried to have as much faith in people as Alfyn, healing whether people were “good” or “evil.” It got his wife killed and turned him into the sort of person who would kill her murderer in revenge. Alfyn encounters a very similar situation, where he heals a man named Miguel. Miguel goes on to kidnap a child, forcing Alfyn to hunt him down and save the day. When Alfyn encounters his friend Zeph again and discovers Ogen has the same disease he does, he braves a fight against the Ogre Eagle to make the cure he needs. His journey strengthens his sense of purpose and resolve. We see his commitment to be a good, kind person affirmed, and another person find their way back on what might be the right path for them too.
I feel like we get so used to the happier, peaceful and perkier characters being present as supplemental cast members in games. They can end up overshadowed by the people who are more dramatic or traditionally powerful. With Octopath Traveler, two people who might have been lost in a crowd in a more traditional RPG get the time and attention they deserve. Their journeys amble along, on a more casual path that suits one woman growing up and one man determining if he is on the right path in life. In each case, we see these people help themselves and others. We guide them, then get the satisfaction of seeing them pay it forward and guide someone else.
Octopath Traveler is available for the Nintendo Switch.