Hands-On with the Octopath Traveler Demo

If you’re a fan of turn-based RPG’s and happen to be the owner of a Nintendo Switch, you can download the demo for Octopath Traveler and get a three hour glimpse of what’s to come when it releases on July 13th. The demo allows you to choose one of the eight playable characters and will allow you to transfer your save information when the game fully releases. Demos are usually focused gameplay chunks that end after about 15 to 20 minutes, just enough to pique the interest of the player. This demo however, doesn’t try to restrict the player and actually implores you to explore the world.

Octopath Traveler is a throwback to the RPG’s of the 90’s, with its pixelated artstyle and turn-based combat. It implements a 2D-HD visual aesthetic, in which while sprites are 2D, the special effects are HD. The game world has a unique haze to it, giving it a dreamlike aesthetic, which is a really cool effect. In terms of combat, players will utilize their controlled characters abilities to determine the weakness of their enemies. If you happen to exploit a weakness, then the enemy will “break” which will result in them losing a turn. The player will also gain a boost point which will amplify all of their abilities. Because I started with Olberic, essentially a warrior class character, his attacks are amplified and if you boost at the right time, you can fell enemies fairly quickly. There is depth in terms of the combat system and it’s a surprising wrinkle to the turn-based combat.

During my playthrough, I was able to unlock another character, Primrose, but I feel that if I button mashed through the exposition, I could’ve possibly gotten one more. I played this game as if it were the full release and in my short time with the game, I feel like Square Enix has another gem on their hands. Every time you meet a new character you will experience their backstory to learn their motivations. They are practically tutorials for each character so that you can become acquainted with their abilities. It’s a rather unique system and one that I’m interested in seeing how it all plays out. Eight different characters with their own motivations and arcs, hopefully, when the narrative comes together it isn’t a generic save the world plot or something completely incoherent. I expect twists and turns, as is the norm in JRPG’s but hopefully it’s not too predictable.

With strong visuals, a unique take on the combat, and the potential for a strong narrative. This may just be the surprise hit of the summer. It feels like a game made for people my age, who fondly remember the days of Final Fantasy, Crono Trigger, and Earthbound. A throwback with enough new wrinkles to attract old and new players to a genre that has taken a backseat to the action-heavy RPG’s of today. After the demo ended, it was clear that I needed to see more of what Octopath Traveler has to offer.

And I will when it releases July 13th.

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