Octopath Traveler is a tapestry with a lot of threads running through it. Yet, even though there are these eight characters, things do not get tangled together. Each story is distinct, with travel banter only happening if the right people are in the right place at the right time from chapter two on. While this does put some barriers in place, it allows you to focus on a specific character during their storyline and enjoy input from other allies when you feel like it.
Octopath Traveler’s travel banter only kicks in from the second chapters onward. After event scenes or when going through the chapter, you might notice a notification in the upper right corner of the screen that reads, “Press + for travel banter.” This temporarily takes you to a separate space where you only see the two characters involved enjoying a conversation. These are not voiced, though there may be one voiced remark here or there. From what I have seen, each character will have one travel banter opportunity with each of the other seven party members at some point during their chapter, typically following important event scenes. This does mean that conversations can be missed, if you do not have the right folks around.
Much of the travel banter is rather topical, while still revealing information about the people participating in the conversation. As you have Tressa and Primrose spend time together, you will see something of a sibling relationship develop. Primrose seems to enjoy teasing Tressa, sometimes referring to her as a “minnow” or mentioning that her naiveté makes a transparent piece of jewelry suit her. Cyrus is fascinated by what Ophilia’s The Kindling journey entails. When Therion and Olberic speak, we realize what Olberic might have had to do in the name of the soldier. Particularly, he is quite insightful when it comes to possible ideas for breaking and entering.
But sometimes, even if someone is not with you, Octopath Traveler reminds you that they are around. When I was going through H’aanit’s final chapter, I was relying on a team that included Ophilia, Cyrus and Alfyn to get by. When I stopped in to a tavern to temporarily swap Therion in to steal some stuff, Primrose was there as an NPC. She told me that she would be available to help, if I needed it, which was a nice reminder that these other characters might be off doing their own thing when they are not in the active party.
But, I feel like there are times when the isolated nature of each route in Octopath Traveler works to its advantage. Alfyn’s story is one example. On his journey to do go, he is presented with a situation to heal someone of questionable morals. He does it. I would not say it was a mistake, but the person then goes on to do things Alfyn does not agree with. While it is a comfort to have the other heroes as allies for the fight, I feel like the idea of him on this journey of self discovery suits him, considering what happened. Tressa is another example. She encounters other merchants, like Ali, on her travels. Having only her appear in these solo segments makes the role of NPCs influencing and aiding her feel more important. In the case of Ophilia, I felt like the solitude made the moments she shared with Lianna in her route, especially in the fourth chapter, more poignant. It let us see what could have been and better understand the differences between two sisters.
The stories in Octopath Traveler can get very personal, as people search for revenge, purpose or someone or something that is lost. Not seeing the other people around during the events can seem unrealistic. We very obviously know they are there, due to the battles going on and opportunities to use path actions. But I almost wondered if it was a sort of selective storytelling. It would help “explain” the chapter divisions. The “fin” images provided for each character almost make seem like this is a collection of short stories. Especially if you also factor in Tressa’s tale and the journal. I liked to think that each route in the game was perhaps being narrated by some unseen individual as I played, and I was only seeing the people who mattered during the most important moments (save for the Travel Banter).
Perhaps it would have been nice if there was a little more influence or input from other characters when going through a particular hero’s storyline. But one thing that is certain is the execution of Octopath Traveler ensures you focus on the active avatar’s adventure when you are going through a chapter of their story. Having someone pop in for optional travel banter or be hanging around a tavern is a nice way of alluding to others’ presence while keeping the attention on the person you are currently supposed to pay attention to. And, if you do choose to see these momentary vignettes, it allows an opportunity to enjoy a little socializing between fellow warriors.
Octopath Traveler is available for the Nintendo Switch.