With the recent announcement of Octopath Traveler II, there is a clamour for everything Octopath at the moment. The nostalgia is surging, and I clearly remember this exact feeling back in 2018 when the original Octopath Traveler was announced. Luckily for fans of the series, we also have Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent to sate our hunger. A mobile entry it may be, yet it certainly holds its own, both as a mobile adaptation of a console series and an Octopath entry.
I’ve been anticipating the global launch of Champions of the Continent for quite some time; we covered the Closed Beta phase back in April, and more recently, I interviewed the game’s Global Producer, Hirohito Suzuki. Other than polishing up a few bits of text, there were few noticeable changes when comparing the beta to the full release. I think this would usually be a point for concern in other games, but it really just speaks to the solid state the game was already in back then.
There was the tiniest issue I had in the wording of eight specific character backgrounds — octuplets, no less — with descriptions such as “the youngest twin” etc. “Twin” obviously refers to two siblings born at the same time, and I was happy to see them simply referred to as “siblings” in the full release. It’s the small things; don’t judge me. I’ve played some janky games in my time, most of which go into full release in a poor state and never get fixed, so I’m pleased to see Champions of the Continent maintaining a high standard.
Champions of the Continent begins with a mysteriously shrouded figure bestowing a mysterious ring upon the mysteriously summoned player. Mysteriously enough (okay, I’ll stop), this ring allows the protagonist to engage in gacha mechanics! Of course: it’s a mobile game. I suppose it’s quaint that there is some lore behind how the player collects a harem of random people to follow them to the ends of the earth after simply making eye contact, but that’s all it is.
In this introductory section, we start using the game’s intuitive controls, which pleasantly surprised me during the beta. Actually controlling your party of characters as they explore the world is a rarity in modern mobile RPGs, specifically gachas. Endless menus to select different story stages and dungeons to auto-repeat are more common, but Champions of the Continent stays true to its forebear with full environments. The map design is just as good as it was in Octopath Traveler, not only visually with its hugely popular HD-2D style but also with its penchant for hidden paths, loot, and mini-bosses. With both games set in the world of Orsterra, I’m happy to see that the original’s beautiful locales weren’t diluted for their mobile incarnations.
However, despite the game’s initial impression of polish, there are a few aggravating caveats. Firstly, unless you’re using a device with a 16:9 screen ratio, you will most likely have black borders on either side of your screen. They were there in the beta when I was using a Galaxy S21 Ultra and they are there in full release where I am now using an iPhone 13 Pro Max. It’s negligible, but considering those same borders weren’t there on my 16:9 ratio tablet, I definitely noticed them. The game is also locked at 30fps, which is more than a tad archaic considering the power of modern devices. It’s strange that the devs would make such a beautiful game, but not optimise its architecture to match current tech standards — something made all the more noticeable by the general lack of configurable graphics settings.
The movement mechanics are simple, streamlined, and player-friendly, with no virtual joypad to be seen. Instead, the player swipes in the direction they want to move, and their party moves in that direction until they either hit a dead end or the player swipes in another direction. It wouldn’t work in all games, but in an old-school-styled JRPG it feels just right.
Combat is similar to Octopath Traveler, but with enough changes to set it apart. While you can still choose a party of up to eight characters, you only use four at a time. Characters in standby restore HP, SP, and BP each turn and can swap in and out freely. It’s a welcome addition, not only because it broadens your options for party builds but because it’s just plain fun to access more of your roster. With a current lineup of over 60 characters, I enjoyed having so many of them on my team at any one time. I liked having one party member of each weapon type (sword, dagger, axe, spear, fan, bow, book, and staff) as this allowed me to cover all enemy weapon weaknesses, but there are many different build options for you to consider.
While the party swapping mechanics are new to Champions of the Continent, exposing and exploiting enemy weaknesses returns from Octopath Traveler. Every time you hit an enemy’s weakness, they lose a point from their guard. When their guard is depleted, they enter the Break state. Break status multiplies damage and leaves the enemy unable to move, so it’s your opportunity to exploit their weaknesses to deal big damage.
Working in tandem with the Break system, both player and enemy teams accrue Boost points, or BP, to amplify the effect of attacks and abilities. The user interface in battle keeps things snappy, enabling you either to swap and boost individual members or to boost everyone simultaneously. The efficiency and streamlining exists both in combat and exploration, and everything is as smooth as our Scott’s beautiful head.
So, the game looks (mostly) beautiful and is enjoyable to play, but there is the usual elephant in the room: the possibly immoral monetisation tactics. I feel it’s my duty to cover this thoroughly, as I myself have fallen victim to overspending in mobile games previously. It’s something that can creep up on you if you don’t budget properly. Some games will bombard you with various packages in the hopes of obfuscating your logic and senses, but Champions of the Continent is not one of them. Actually, it has one of the most transparent and straightforward monetisation schemes I’ve seen.
Maybe this has changed since the time of writing, but Rubies, the game’s premium currency, are all you can buy. I’ve seen games try to sell something as simple as a run speed boost for real money and many such other explicitly moronic “services.” I do not mind spending some money on mobile games; the developers deserve to earn money from their work. What I absolutely abhor, however, is when the devs artificially inflate the value of digital goods and include addictive RNG systems.
There is, of course, an element of this in any gacha game, with their roots in gambling. Champions of the Continent is no different but puts much less emphasis on fiercely competitive systems that make you feel left behind if you do not spend. The single-player nature of the game limits the temptation to overspend on the gacha, as you’ll perhaps only spend on a character you really want, rather than for every banner. The game even opens with a message that says something like “Champions of the Continent is a single-player game, enjoy it on your own time,” which I think is wonderful.
There are two more main components I want to cover: the writing and the sound. I pair these two because I find they are often intrinsically linked. When I reflect on favourite RPG moments, I often remember the music specifically. Conversely, my favourite pieces of music always evoke the memory of the game story moments. Anyone who played the original Octopath Traveler will remember its amazing soundtrack, and it’s more of the same here in Champions of the Continent. I mean that quite literally: most of the game’s tracks are reused from its older sibling.
Perhaps I’m misremembering, but I did notice that at least the boss themes for the end of each chapter are new pieces. But I wouldn’t even say this is a negative. I know I am not alone when I say I play mobile games with the volume off anyway. I didn’t while playing Champions of the Continent, of course, but my average mobile gaming sessions are either while watching something on TV or on my commute. Plus, while much of the OST is reused, the quality of music in Octopath Traveler is such that I can’t blame them. It worked, but if you are looking for an all-new soundtrack, you won’t be getting one. What is new, however, is fantastic.
Despite the praise I give Champions of the Continent for its music, there is an unfortunate lack of English voicework. Players who enjoy Japanese voice acting won’t have a problem here; all of the main story cutscenes are voiced by talented actors, but as a person who reads faster than the voiced lines, I actually just decided to turn the voices off. Despite the wonderful localisation, the absence of English voicing left me with the impression that the global version wasn’t high on Square Enix’s list of priorities. I have played several of their other mobile titles, such as War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius and NieR Re[in]carnation, and both of those games had a full English voice option.
Next is the substantial amount of writing in this game. The main story splits into three separate Paths: Fame, Power, and Wealth, each with its own main antagonist and narrative. The stories they tell are not compromised by the fact the game is a mobile title: no “the player will skip these scenes anyway, so we’ll just do the bare minimum.” I enjoyed the themes, characters, and execution of the Fame Path the most, with its story centering around a murderous playwright whose bloody ambitions take him down a very dark… path. Each Path has twists and turns, and the writers weren’t afraid to kill people off, so overall the tone is somewhat darker than Octopath Traveler.
Aside from the main story Paths, many gacha-obtainable characters have their own side stories. The characters themselves have no direct involvement in the main story, so you must play through the character quests to learn anything about them. I appreciate that the writers respect our time with these quests; they don’t take much time to complete, but they’re full of character-building dialogue that really contributes to Orsterra’s sense of scale. One major side quest involves restoring an abandoned town by acquiring materials and recruiting citizens. It’s a daily grind for rewards, but it is a refreshing guise that further aids the game’s world-building.
A final point: your game account for Champions of the Continent needs to be linked to a Square Enix Members account if you wish to transfer your save data between devices. I didn’t think much of this until I couldn’t find the physical authenticator to log in after I reset my tablet. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind; despite having used the authenticator to log in to the game initially, I wasn’t required to use it for subsequent logins. This mishap also revealed another archaic system limitation. You can actually only be logged in to one device at a time. This limitation meant that even though I had previously logged in on my phone, I’d still have to find my authenticator to log back in on that device to transfer my save data: there is no device-native save sync such as iCloud or Google Play. It isn’t a huge deal, but it is something I felt was necessary to bring to light.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Champions of the Continent, and its high quality outweighed its flaws. So long as you don’t mind not having “the best” party composition, completing the main story Paths without spending a penny is feasible. Regardless, I wish it had been a ground-up premium experience: an Octopath Traveler 1.5. The original Bravely Default had a “half sequel” in the form of Bravely Second before the numerical mainline sequel Bravely Default II. That kind of approach would have worked wonderfully here. For what it offers, I’m not sure Champions of the Continent would be appealing to people who aren’t already fans of Octopath Traveler. However, as far as mobile titles go it’s an easy recommendation and delivers an enjoyable experience that will keep fans busy until Octopath Traveler II.