Project Octopath Traveler, easily one of my most anticipated games, made its subtle debut back during Nintendo’s reveal of the Switch. Being teased with nothing more than a 45 second trailer, the game quickly grabbed the attention of old-school RPG fans and anyone nostalgic for the era of pixel art. During the recent Nintendo Direct a longer trailer (viewable below) was unveiled, giving us a better idea of what the game is about. Since I am a big fan of JRPGs from Nintendo’s early console years (and someone who is eager to add more games to my Switch’s library), every second that passes before Project Octopath Traveler‘s release is one second to much.

Thankfully, Square Enix and Nintendo have provided me what I need to hold myself over until the game’s release – in the form of a playable demo. It presents the opening hour of two of Project Octopath Traveler‘s characters: Olberic and Primrose. I plan to talk lightly about the story, and as such there might be information of a spoiler-y nature from here on out. Olberic is a former knight driven to contemplate his purpose after the assassination of his king. Primrose, on the other hand, masks herself as a dancer in order to track down the organization responsible for killing her father. There are a total of eight characters to learn about in the game (hence the “Octopath” in the working title). As of right now, it’s unclear how their paths will merge.

Project Octopath Traveler

Olberic exiled himself to a small mountain town and works as the head of the town guard responsible for the safety and defense of its citizens. When brigands raid the town and kidnaps one of their children Olberic tasks himself with seeing to the safe return of the boy. Upon infiltrating the brigand hide-out, he discovers that the leader of the bandits was once close with Olberic’s sworn rival – the man who killed his king. The leader refuses to talk until Olberic proves his grit which, in true RPG fashion, leads to a enjoyable boss battle. Olberic swiftly brings the brigands to justice, returns the boy to his mother, and informs the town of his decision to pursue this lead on his rival. It’s definitely not the most original tale for a swordsman in role-playing games, but it has the potential to be very unique compared to others of similar suite. I am especially excited to see what sort of ramification there is after the assassination of the king, and what role Olberic ends up playing in its resolution.

Project Octopath Traveler

Primrose was a young girl when she witnessed the murder of her father. He had been poking his nose in the wrong people’s business, and when he was discovered he was put to a swift death. The only information Primrose has to go off of is that the members of the organization responsible all bare a crow tattoo. Having heard that one of the culprits frequently visits dancers in the shadier district of Sunshade, she utilizes her passion for dance to investigate his whereabouts. Working with some of the most foul members of society force her to engage in many *ahem* unsavory activities, and as such she has become a person who will do whatever it takes to get what she needs. I enjoyed the stories of both Olberic and Primrose quite a bit, but I found myself more engaged by my time with Primrose. Her story seems less generic compared to other JRPGs and her character seems very resilient. I can see there being a lot of development in Primrose’s character over time.

The battle system in Project Octopath Traveler has me very excited. It takes the format of the classic turn-based system and incorporates a strategy of breaking an opponent’s guard to deal extra damage. Every enemy I faced in the demo had an indicator showing how many types of attacks they were weak against and how many times I had to exploit that weakness to get them to drop their guard. When an opponent’s guard is broken, it opens them up to taking additional damage. It also prevents them from taking their next turn (and current turn if you break their guard before they’ve had a chance to attack). Your characters each have the potential of doing more than one attack in a turn using Project Octopath Traveler‘s boost system. Above each character’s status there are five orbs indicating what their boost level is. Each additional orb grants either another melee attack or raises the power of an ability. This is stackable up to level four, which might possibly change over the course of the game with new equipment, characters leveling up, or other advancements. Ideally, you will break your enemy’s defense and then use your boost to inflict massive amounts of damage while they are weakened. An aspect of boosts that I found handy is if you attack an enemy who has higher break variable than one, using your character’s matching level boost you can quickly break an enemy’s defense. Which is entirely dependent on if you have enough boost in your meter. This is particularly helpful when facing multiple enemies or minions of a boss. Boosts force you to think further ahead in the battle instead of just taking it turn-by-turn. It seems apparent to me that mastery of boosts and breaks are going to be very essential in Project Octopath Traveler.

Project Octopath Traveler
Things to pay attention to while battling: The blue shields under enemies tell you how many times you need to attack their weakness before they drop their defense. The indicators on the right of the shield show how many weaknesses they have and will fill in if you discover one. Right below your character’s name it shows what their boost level is. You recover one orb per turn that passes.

Another worthy mention is that the music is top-notch. I never found myself getting tired of the battle music in the nearly three hours I spent with the game. The boss battle music especially set the tone for the conflicts it accompanies, and depending on what character’s story you are focusing on the intro to the boss theme will change. The theme linked above has Olberic’s alteration played before transitioning into the regular boss theme after about 45 seconds. You can listen to Primrose’s theme and Olberic’s theme to get a feel of the music that will complement the game. Give the Main Theme a listen while you’re at it (I have been for about 30 minutes now)!

After my time with Project Octopath Traveler I can hardly wait to get my hands on the full game when it’s released next year. It plays like it is shaping up to be a very large, and extraordinarily ambitious story. The battle system is robust and particularly engaging. I’m excited to see how that system evolves with the addition of new party members over the course of the game. Project Octopath Traveler is planned for release sometime in 2018, so all we can do now is wait…

If you would like to give the game a try (which I highly recommend if you’re a fan of the genre) the demo is available for download in the Nintendo Switch eShop.