I started up Octopath Traveler last night. Lovely game. I have to imagine that others are playing right now as well? I know Fast is at least. Anyway, I picked Ophelia to start for no real reason other than I didn't want to spend much time making a decision on who to start with. Made my way over to that cave, decided to grind a few levels before going in. Got her up to level 5 which apparently unlocked some skill opportunities. Then I used her ability to lead to bring one of the dudes outside the cave in with me for backup. The boss inside the cave beat me on my first attempt - or rather that little purple thing did because I didn't understand what the countdown timer was about at first. On the second attempt I had my strategy down.
I'm only 1-2 hours in so far, but super impressed. Art style is great, writing is solid, music is nice, battle system is excellent. I remember really wanting to like Bravely Default, but bouncing off of its systems kind of harshly. In fairness, I don't think I gave it a lot of time to change my mind. But then again, Octopath feels really inviting immediately. I also kind of like that the game is basically little chunks by design. I can knock out one clear "piece" of the story in a sitting and feel like I've made some obvious progress.
Anyway, I'm not gonna read anything about the game so I'll just kind of make my way to whichever traveler I happen upon next.
Four hours into Octopad Traveler and just wow, this game is fantastic. Ophilia met up with (I'm bad at remember names of characters) the hunter (edit: H'aanit) who can command animals. The overuse of fake ye olde Enlisheth was kind of annoying, but otherwise that whole chapter was really cool - the going off into the woods to hunt that big creature. Y'know, there have been games over the years that I've enjoyed and considered a sort of 'love letter' to like 90's JRPG's (I Am Setsuna comes to mind), but Octopath just nails it. It's not like it's trying to be an homage to those games as much as it's just a really good ONE OF THOSE games that just happens to have been released in 2018.
The battle system is just great. I'm having a blast just messing around with the various combinations now that I have a second party member. For instance the hunter can capture enemy creatures a la Pokemon. And I've upgraded some of Ophilia's spells so now she hits pretty hard. Honestly, the battle system is fun enough that grinding isn't annoying at all. I spent a while outside the first town just to get enough money to get Ophilia new armor, helmet, shield, and a better staff. Then did the same in the second town with the hunter, who is now at lvl 8 and Ophilia is 10 if I recall. We're on our way to the next town.
My third traveler was Cyrus. It's cool just how varied in tone the game gets from one story to the next. H'aanit's story was all filled with that weird faux middle English or whatever, and then you jump over to Cyrus' story and it's like a mini-episode of Sherlock Holmes or something. I'm not sure how useful his interrogation skill will be concerning NPC's, but we'll see. His skills in battle on the other hand are certainly helpful with his various spells. As such, the battles in this game remain a total joy. I'm having a blast experimenting with discovering weaknesses, and how to best stack attacks and skills to get some crazy combos going. I also really appreciate the bite-sized nature of the chapters. Octopath is great in the sense that I know I can pick it up for an hour or two and knock out the next little chunk of story. I know I'm still early into the game, but I feel like this is easily one the best 'modern retro' JRPG's I've ever played.
And now I've got a full four-heroes (OF LIGHT!) party. Tressa joined us, and I quite enjoyed her story. That little fishing town also had a ton of opportunities for really pretty screenshots. You've got those little 2D sprite characters and then this sort of 3D Dot Game/Minecraft 3D world, and then this gorgeous water reflecting the sun... just such a great looking game. I've been working on opening skills for everyone. I find Cyrus' ability to reveal enemy weaknesses super helpful. I decided NOT to use his passive skill that reduces the rate of random encounters because that seems counter intuitive to natural leveling. But yeah, all these little systems - both the battle system and all the skills just really work to the game's benefit.
I finished up all the Chapter 1's in Octopath and then there was a huge difficulty spike. I had to spend the last few hours grinding, and I'm still stuck on a boss fight for um... the thief dude's Chapter 2. It's the first time the game didn't feel fun to me, as the momentum just slowed way the heck down.
when I finished all the Chapter 1's, my active party were all ~18 or so. As such, I made my way towards the only Chapter 2 that was close to that - level 21. And I got destroyed, so then I spent 2 or so hours grinding everyone to level 21-22. And I'm still getting my ass handed to me. Part of it might be that my party members aren't really maximized for this boss fight, but swapping in Primrose or Tressa who are more suited would mean then having to grind THEM up from level 9 to 21-ish. Ugh.
The other thing is that I have been playing totally FAQless, so I didn't even know about secondary job classes or whatever. And given that I'm currently in this Ch2 story quest - and I only keep one save file (shrug) - I can't leave this town to go look into job classes or anything. Adding insult to injury, I don't find the thief dude (Thierron or whatever?) all that helpful in this boss battle either, but you're forced to have him in the party since it's his story. I'd probably be less annoyed if I had chosen to work on a Ch2 quest of a character whose story I found more interesting.
So yeah. My annoyance mostly comes from the fact that I spent a solid 15 or so hours without the need for grinding. Each Ch1 story seemed to be manageable just from the 'natural grinding' that comes with walking from town A to town B. But then there was that gap between where I was at the end of all the Ch1's, and where I needed to be to proceed with Ch2. It just really slowed down the progress that I had been making in a breezy fashion.
Octopath Traveler is my front-runner for favorite game of the year again. While it's true that you can't leave a town while in a story quest by just walking out, it turns out that you CAN leave by fast-travel. I'm glad I thought to try it. So while I had been annoyed that I was stuck in a less interesting quest, I was able to get out of there and swap out the thief for Primrose and start making my way to Ophilia's Chapter 2 story instead.
Now, Primrose was only level 9 at this point while the rest of my party was ~21. That's okay because as it turns out grinding with Primrose is plenty of fun. First of all, I stumbled upon one of those shrines totally by accident so now she's a Dancer/Warrior. And also her skill that just casts random effects is super fun to play with - so rather than feeling like a mindless grind, most battles have been silly games of chance. It's pretty amusing.
My preferred party is now Ophilia, H'aanit, Cyrus and Primrose. I've now got Primrose around level 19 or so and Ophilia's Ch2 is a recommended level 21. The rest of the party is ~25, so we'll be starting that quest soon. I seriously love this game.
Friends, I tell you this: You have not lived until you've rolled an "Exp x 100" from Primrose's crazy Random Dance Generator. I cannot tell you the wide-eyed glee I got out of seeing her go from level 19 to 30 after one battle. I think I actually exclaimed quite loudly, and I know I just sort of sat there in disbelief before continuing on.
Which brings up a good point - I genuinely cannot recall the last time a JRPG got its teeth so deeply into me. Grandia II, maybe? I'm not sure. But I mean as much as I've truly ENJOYED others in the years since, it's often a case of follow the main story; go to the next beat. In other words, it's beyond rare for me to actually spend so much time just tinkering with the game itself. In most JRPG's I find no shame in consulting a map or walkthrough, but in Octopath Traveler I'm having a blast not really knowing anything and just kind of seeing what happens if I try THIS.
Anyway, I just wrapped up Ophilia's Ch2 and I don't know. I feel like I want to maybe continue her story. But the Ch3 is a few levels above where I'm at right now. Unless I can get Primrose to farm us a bunch more Exp quickly, haha.
Haven't had a chance to play much over the weekend, but I did do some grinding last night. I've got the majority of my party around lvl 37 with Primrose at 34. I think I'm going to just try do Ophilia's Chapter 3 next, which is recommended lvl 38. I know that probably most players are darting around the map still going for different pieces of different stories, but part of me is wondering what happens if you choose to just focus on following the one thread. I've met all the characters and have pretty much settled in on my preferred four.
I guess I'm curious if the game is open ended in the sense that when do you actually see credits roll - (A) when you finish all chapters of all eight characters? (B) When you finish all chapters of your main character? Or (C) when you finish all chapters of any character?
I'm about 28 hrs into Octopath now, and my party have all just hit level 40 except Primrose who is 37. I decided to take some detours and go exploring a bit before starting Ophilia's chapter 3. So we stumbled upon a few shrines and explored some caves to mine for loot and XP. I made H'aanit's second job a dancer which means that I've gotten some crazy combo's going where I'll cast Ophilia's spell that lets spells trigger twice onto Primrose and have her cast Bewildering Grace with 3 BP's, so she casts the spell twice... then another time... then I have H'aanit cast it with 3 BP's... I mean it's effectively just gambling but I've seen some pretty cool/exciting stuff happen this way. But this is the sort of stuff that shows just how much I'm enjoying this game. At nearly thirty hours I'm still having fun just playing with the systems; still having fun wandering around without using fast-travel so that I might level up naturally.
I decided to check off the Chapter 2's of my other three characters before going into Ophelia's Chapter 3. I'm leveled up enough now that doing those three quests was almost trivial. As a breakdown, I have Ophelia using scholar as her second job which makes her a great spell caster for the heals, but also for secondary damage; H'aanit has dancer as a second job, though I've really only used that for experimenting with Bewildering Grace - mostly she's a physical attacker and Pokemo- I mean "monster" catcher; then Cyrus' second job is merchant which is mostly only useful for the wind spells. Cyrus is basically just an offense spellcaster at this point, and he's got a perk on him that gives him 150HP at the end of each turn so he tends to not need as much heals. Finally, Primrose has warrior as her second job and she's got some pretty nice weaponry which balances her out nicely for both spell damage and physical attacks. I recognize that this party isn't actually the most balanced, but 32 hours in I really feel like they work with my play style.
I've spent like three hours attempting the boss battle of Ophelia's chapter 3. The level recommendation for that chapter is 38, and my party is ~44 and it's still kicking my ass. It's two dudes and at first they're only weak to physical attacks. The other three non-Ophelia members of my party all have physical weapons to break them. But I can just never get even one of them whittled down. One of them can heal both of them, so I try to focus on him first. But they both also have very strong spells that hit the whole party. It's starting to get frustrating and makes me think I probably need to grind to just get some better weapons or something. I don't know. Anyway, I'm thinking I'll take a break from the game for a bit now. I don't want to grow annoyed with a game that I've enjoyed for 35 hours so I think maybe just a breather for now.