Second Time Round – Octopath Traveller

Second Time Round - Octopath Traveller

Some people like to play the newest games as they are released.  Others like to catch up on their backlog of games so can look forward to new releases as they arrive.  But what about the people that decide to go back and play a game they have already finished?  Especially when the game that they decide to replay is a long JRPG?  This is exactly what I have done – I decided after almost 3 years of 100% completing this game to journey back and replay Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler on Nintendo Switch.

So why replay Octopath Traveler?  Why re-tackle a game that takes over 60+ hours to complete everyone’s storylines?  Earlier this year, I played the Closed Beta for Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent for mobile.  And while I played the beta for a short time and then dropped off, it was enough to get the hooks dug back in.  Exploring the continent of Orsterra once again and seeing new storylines just made me want more. When the Beta finished, I was disappointed, I wanted more. I wanted to delve deeper into this new game and continue this new journey through a land I had already visited once before.   So, to play more, I picked out my cartridge for Octopath Traveler for Nintendo Switch and started the journey all over again.

I first picked up the game when it was first released in July 2018 and I was instantly hooked.  The HD-2D art style looked gorgeous and the music was divine.  But what hooked me on to this game initially was the characters, story, and battle system.  Each character has their own story but it’s only when you delve deeper into the game that all eight of these characters are intertwined in certain ways, culminating in an optional final battle once certain side quests have been completed.  This time though, I started reading wikis and watching videos on people’s different strategies, learning how some of the skills that characters learn can work together. This is something that I did not really pick up on in my first playthrough as I was learning this game without assistance (apart from some of the trickier side quests).

Just like the first time I played this game, I picked Cyrus as my main character.  Cyrus is one of my favourite characters to use because he is able to reveal an enemy’s weakness at the start of a battle and all of his elemental attacks hit all enemies at the same time. When I initially played this game, I travelled the world in an anti-clockwise direction, meaning that I met up with Ophilia first.  This time, I decided to travel in a clockwise direction so that the first character that I partnered up with is Tressa.  In this playthrough, I learnt just how good Tressa’s abilities are in battle. Compared to when I first played, where she was the last character I added to my team and therefore was somewhat underutilised in my already established team. One of Tressa’s special attacks in battle is “Hired Help” where you pay a certain amount depending on the different attacks that each option provides.  This then hits all enemies and, when boosted with Boost Points, can hit multiple times, providing an abundance of opportunities to break the opponent and score additional damage.  When having Ophilia as my first team member previously, both she and Cyrus only use Staves as their physical attack so you’re heavily reliant on elemental attacks to progress.  Tressa’s variety of attacks with Hired Help along with her elemental wind attacks and access to both Bows and Polearms certainly made the first portion of the game a bit easier.

It was easy to see a marked improvement in my strategies the second time through.

While my game progression was travelling in the opposite direction to my first playthrough, it didn’t feel that much different.  The first chapters each progressed normally as you explore the continent of Orsterra.  Once these are completed, then there is a bit of a need to grind to reach the recommended levels that make it safe to proceed to the next lot of chapters. These levels are only a guideline, but it is expected that the enemies in the next chapter will be stronger and deadlier so it makes sense.  I decided to visit all the shrines to gather up all the secondary jobs, which then opens the options for your characters to use different weapons and skills while at the same time allowing me to visit some of the side dungeons and gather more items and experience, allowing me to move onto the next lot of Chapters.  As per the first playthrough, Cyrus gradually gets more and more powerful compared to the remaining characters as the character you pick in the beginning is locked in your party until their final chapter is completed.

The story completed, it was time for the post-game content. For this, I had a couple of goals.  The first one was simple – get all my characters to roughly level 70 as per my prior playthrough.  This was the starting point from which I could begin the final boss gauntlet after completing all the side quests.  The second was in the way I was earning the experience to reach everyone to level, there were specific conditions that I wanted to accomplish.

With the Dancer job comes a skill called Bewildering Grace, which grants a random effect to either the player or enemy, granting powerful buffs, debuffs, healing, severely diminishing your health, etc.  One of these effects is to increase the amount of experience you can get by either x2, x5, or x100.  There are also enemies in the game called Caits which grant increased rewards including additional experience.  The bigger the Cait (there are 3 different versions), the more experience you receive when you defeat them.  The problem with Caits is that they have the highest evasion in the game and are almost always going to flee from battle.  So, my aim was to find a Cait and aim for the x100 Experience Boost.  Getting this boost was going to be near on impossible with a 0.1% chance of gaining it. Trying to earn it  during a battle with a Cait just seemed impossible but that did not stop me from trying.

The ultimate experience gain challenge - finding these Caits and getting that 100x Experience Boost

In the end, I did not get that magical 100% Experience Boost at all, but I did get close.  I found a battle with 2 Caits (one normal and the other a Chubby Cait – the biggest of the three) and I managed to trigger the 5x Experience Boost by defeating the Chubby Cait after the normal one had fled from the battle.  This sense of accomplishment felt amazing.  With all my character’s levels now reaching into the seventies, I felt satisfied knowing that I pushed for this goal with all my effort, even though I never achieved what I was ultimately trying to grab.

I set up my characters with the strongest combinations that I could find in the game and headed into the final area of the game – The Gate of Finis.  When I played through for the first time, the final boss gauntlet along with the final boss of the game took me three attempts. Mostly this was just working out the game for myself.  I found immense satisfaction in working out my own strategies as to how I would defeat these great enemies.  With this prior learning, I was feeling confident that I could complete this on my first attempt.

My confidence wasn’t misplaced and, while the whole gauntlet took almost 2 in-game hours, I only got close to having to start from the beginning during the final battle.  In the final battle, one of the bosses’ skills is to make everyone’s HP drop to 1 and BP (Boost Points) drop to 0.  I wanted to use this to my advantage as my Warmaster Olberic had the Support Skill Fortitude, which increases damage depending on how low your HP is.  At 1, you can cause maximum damage to your opponent.  With Olberic having the most powerful physical weapons in the game, I was able to overpower the final boss and finish my second playthrough of this game.

I felt overjoyed at making it through this wonderful game once again.  When I saw all the big numbers from the massive amounts of damage that I was dealing in the final match, I was overcome with a sense of power.  It was this drive to learn all the things that I didn’t grasp in my previous playthrough, things like the different strategies that others have used and the different weapons to maximise the full potential of your characters, that pushed me to re-live all the various plot points and characters from the very beginning all over again.

With Octopath Traveler II coming along in just over a week from now, bringing what looks to be a further refinement of the HD-2D engine, I am ready now to step forward in this series on to what may be an even greater adventure.


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