Demos can be a scary thing for developers to release. They can make or break many people’s opinions on the game. Square has done some interesting things with demos regarding some of their recent RPGs like the Bravely Default demo which felt like a completely separate adventure set in that world with those characters. It gave you a taste of the game, but left you wanting more. After yesterday’s Nintendo Direct the company released a demo for their upcoming Switch project currently titled Project Octopath Traveler. Never before has a demo sold me on a game more than this one did.
First of all I have to talk about the look of the game. I don’t really remember seeing much footage of the game before yesterday’s presentation and I was immediately taken in by the visual style of the game. Visually this is one of the most stunning RPGs I’ve ever played. It hearkens back to the days of the SNES and the Genesis, but it does so using modern hardware. The visuals look like mini dioramas built in a 3D space and then filled with 2D sprites walking around, but even those sprites appear to have some depth to them. For this demo they’ve chosen an area where the sun is setting and it’s casting a warm glow on everything. Shadows are long and appear to be done in real-time as they move realistically with the character. Even in battle they take lighting to full effect. For example when you break an enemy’s guard a flash of bright light emanates off of them and you can see real time shadows and glows of color on everything in the environment.
Combat is handled in turn based battles where each character involved in the fights gets a turn. You choose attacks or special abilities and then choose which enemy you will make that attack against. There are some that will affect multiple enemies at once. Octopath also has a system similar to Bravely Default where you can make multiple attacks at once. However, unlike that game in this one you build up these attacks every turn so you don’t have to hold attacks to save them for later. You can string together up to four of the same action at once by pressing the R button. Enemies have weapons or abilities that they’re weak against. If you find these weaknesses you have the ability to break their guard. This will let subsequent attacks do multiple times the normal amount of damage. This also keeps them from attacking for that turn. If you learn these weaknesses and how to break them you can string together these attacks to do hundreds of points of damage in a single turn. Breaking an enemies guard one turn followed by a string of four successful high damage attacks is incredibly satisfying. It’s also necessary in this demo. The enemies all seem to be slightly higher level than the character so they force you to learn these abilities and weaknesses of enemies if you want to successfully complete it. I would imagine in the full game this will be toned down some, but I hope not as I enjoyed learning these things for the few enemy types you encounter in the demo.
The name of the game, which is as previously mentioned still a working title, makes more sense now as well. There are eight different characters that will be available to play as. Two of them are available in the demo. I played through Sir Olberic’s story. He is a former knight who prior to the events of the game was betrayed by a close friend. He has sense gone into hiding and is using his abilities to help out people as a sword for hire. In this early chapter a child from the village he is living is is captured and he sets out to rescue him.
Each character will have special abilities that only they can use when they interact with people and the environment. For instance, Olberic has one called Challenge. In this he’ll challenge NPCs to duels. This allows him to gain experience and equipment. Primrose, the dancer, has an ability called Allure that she can use to lure enemies away from certain areas and even get NPCs to fight alongside her in battle. I’m very interested in seeing just how these play out in the full game and what each of the different characters will be allowed to do as I can see them being used in very interesting ways.
Okay. It can’t be 100% glowing, right? I do have one small gripe about the game. I think the sound balance is off slightly. The voices can be hard to hear over the music at times. There, I said something bad about it. That can be adjusted, though. I had to say something negative about it, right?
Overall, the demo took a couple hours to play through and gives a very good sense of just what to expect in the full game. It’s not due out until next year, but it’s firmly on my radar and I can’t wait to see more from the game. As it stands it will be one of the most beautiful games you’ll play next year.