Welcome back to our series of impressions of the Octopath Traveler demo! Last time, we covered the start of the stories of Tressa and Therion, and began delving into the basics of the battle mechanics. This time, we’ll be taking a look at the beefier members of the cast, as we cover the fur-clad, animal-wielding H’aanit and the grizzled middle-aged knight-errant Olberic. And let me say — with each story going forward, I begin to become more and more invested in the world that’s been crafted.

A hapless huntress

Both of the tales today begin with flashbacks. H’aanit’s recalls when her mentor left to chase a vicious, cryptic monster known as “Redeye” in the wild, as she remained in their village to protect it. A year later, with only one letter of progress delivered, H’aanit impatiently awaits for his return, but after a hunt she finds her master’s most loyal pet having returned to the village, howling for help. Unsure whether her teacher is in danger or simply got drowned in debt at a gambling hall, H’aanit sets out to discover his whereabouts. Again, we’re given another premise with strong characterization, clear motivations, and a great call to adventure — though I can already feel the structure of the various prologues beginning to repeat themselves a little.

Compared to the first two characters I played, which were fairly similar in the early game, H’aanit’s beastmaster fighting style made her stand out in combat. Essentially, H’aanit can capture any mob she comes across and then use them in battle for various effects, whether they be assorted kinds of attacks or even heals. While this kind of class is, in my experience, rather difficult to execute properly, H’aanit appears to be quite formidable — she always has her trusty big cat Linde by her side to use, and she comes with a few other monsters already captured. Coupled with more normal battle skills, and she’s definitely the most fun character to use in combat so far.

H’aanit’s path action is known as Provoke — she can challenge any compatible NPC to a fight, and will gain reward upon victory — or lose reputation should she fail. What makes these battles rather interesting is that you can only use the beasts you’ve captured to fight, meaning that you’ll need a great repertoire on hand if you want to take on the tougher challenges.

H’aanit’s prologue also did a fantastic job of showing off what might be the game’s strongest attribute thus far: its graphics. The utilization of classic 2D pixel art in a 3D setting, combined with intense lighting and shadows, makes the game incredibly distinct and a pleasure to look at. The woodlands H’aanit called home were particularly impressive, as the density of the foliage and the vividness of the colors really makes the environment pop. The bloom effect is perhaps a tad too strong at times, but this is one of the most unique looking RPGs in a long time, and it tickles the nostalgia bone just right.

A wounded warrior

Olberic’s story was one I was familiar with, given that I’d played the game’s first demo many moons ago, but I still found it quite compelling. After having failed to protect his liege from his traitorous ally Erhardt, Olberic has adopted the mantle of a random hedge knight in the mountains. One day, when dealing with a few ruffians (and being a good dad-figure to the populace), he stumbles upon a lead to Erhardt’s whereabouts — and decides to seek him out, in order to find his purpose in this world. The mixture of the desire for answers and genuine navel-gazing made Olberic more interesting than a stock revenge-seeker, aided by his incredible voice actor (Patrick Seitz is a god, y’all).

In battle, true to his character, Olberic is a one man army, able to buff himself and strike multiple enemies at once. Unlike every other character demonstrated thus far, Olberic has no magical skills, so he’s a raw force of physical attack. He seems the most straightforward in terms of playstyle to this point — not as focused on team play, but able to adapt and take down legion on his lonesome.

His path action, Challenge, is reciprocal to H’aanit’s. He, too, can fight any townsperson he wishes, but there’s a level restriction in play for him: if the fight is too tough, then he can’t take it on. In turn, he has no restrictions during the battle itself, and doesn’t need to fear for loss of reputation if he loses. Unlike Tressa and Therion’s item-acquiring abilities, the utility of H’aanit and Olberic’s actions is a little less evident, besides typical experience. I imagine it’ll come into play more later when there are side quests that will utilize the mechanic. At the moment, it just appears to be a handy way to grind.

Having played through half of the game’s prologues, I have to say I’m pretty pleased with how each one has begun. However, I do have the concern that these stories to appear to be particularly connected in any way. Now, I don’t expect each protagonist’s tale to be a small facet in some grand world-shaking scheme or anything — in fact, I’d probably dislike that. But it would also be a bit mystifying if each story was completely unrelated to each other, if there was no narrative purpose in the eight characters coming together. Of course, it’s far too early to tell, but I hope that when the later parts of the game come into play that there are some ties between the characters.

Stay tuned…

We’ve reached the halfway point of our coverage leading up to Octopath Traveler’s release, and we’ve still got four protagonists to get to know before release. Keep on the lookout for our next round of impressions this week, and be sure to download the demo for yourself in the eShop.

 

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Written by Amelia Fruzzetti

A writer and Nintendo fan based in Seattle, Washington. When not working for NinWire, she can be found eating pasta, writing stories, and wondering about when Mother 3 is finally going to get an official localization.

Amelia Fruzzetti