"Project Octopath Traveler is already looking like one of 2018's best RPGs."
When the Switch had its big presentation back in January, one of the games that stood out from the rest was Project Octopath Traveler (working title) from Square Enix. It was presented in a gorgeous 2D style that mixes pixel art and rendered backgrounds (the developers call it HD-2D). We didn't know much about the game until the Nintendo Direct on September 13, where Nintendo spent a good portion talking about the upcoming game. The big surprise about Project Octopath Traveler was that it got a demo right after the Nintendo Direct finished, with Square Enix wanting fan feedback on what they had so far. Naturally, I jumped on board.
In Project Octopath Traveler, the game's structure is in the name itself. There are eight characters that will be playable; each one of them has their own separate backstory and are not connected to each other in any way. How these eight characters will come together in the final game is still unknown. In this demo, Square Enix has provided two characters to start off with: the warrior Olberic and the dancer Primrose. Each character has their own exclusive contextual actions that they can use outside of combat. Olberic can challenge almost anyone to a duel, where you can earn items and experience. Primrose is able to seduce villagers or soldiers to follow her and she can use them in combat to help her. Olberic is a former knight who is haunted by his failure to protect his liege and kill the person responsible, and Primrose is a noble turned street dancer in order to track down her father's murderers. Their opening stories, especially Primrose's, were very intriguing and I can't wait to find out more about them.
Speaking of combat, there's a fair amount of depth to it. Each enemy has a weakness to a particular weapon or element. If you hit the enemy's weakness, the enemy's Break gauge (denoted by a shield with a number on it), will go down. If you take it down to zero, the enemy will be stunned and lose their turn. You then have an opportunity to follow up with more damage than usual. To help out, the game also gives you the "Boost" system, which is similar to the "Brave" and "Default" system from the Bravely Default series. Every turn, you are given a Boost Point. You can spend Boost Points to either do more damage with a skill or do multiple standard attacks in one turn. Skills cost SP, which is only recovered by using items, resting at a town inn, or leveling up. It takes a few fights to get the hang of it, but when you do, it makes for some extremely fun fights.
The sound aspect of this game is looking really good. One thing I was shocked by is that they already have English voice acting for the game. From what I've heard so far, it is a really good dub. I usually don't get into English dubs very often at all, but I could get into this one. If Japanese dubs are your preference, the demo is dual audio. The game has full audio for story-related dialogue, but otherwise relies on text. The music for the game right now is incredible — the opening theme had me staying on the title screen for a long time. During some of the most dramatic parts of the demo, the music just drew me into the story. Hopefully, the rest of the musical score is this good.
This may seem early, but Project Octopath Traveler is already looking like one of 2018's best RPGs. The brief story I did play for both Olberic and Primrose was compelling, and they're only two of eight characters. The combat is fairly deep, the game looks fantastic, and the music is amazing. It can only get better after this as well, since Square Enix is taking feedback from this build. If this brief taste is comparable to the rest of the game, we may have an incredible experience on the way for 2018. This is a game I will now be hotly anticipating. 2018 can't come soon enough!