New Octopath Traveler RPG is better than Switch Original

New Octopath Traveler RPG is better than Switch Original

Three evil tyrants watch over the continent of Orsterra.

Picture: Square Enix

Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, recently available on mobile, is a worthy sequel to the original Switch RPG from 2018. I was expecting a watered-down battle system and menu hell like many other mobile gacha games. Square Enix proved me wrong. Masters retains the visuals and music as created Octopath a unique title in a field of beautiful RPGs, and its Streamlined combat is a huge improvement over the original game. Octopath is even better on mobile than it ever was on Nintendo Switch.

In 2018, Square Enix released the original Octopath Traveler on Nintendo Switch. Located on the same continent Orsterra, Masters is a prequel, taking place an unspecified time period before Octopath. While the main characters in Octopath appears in some side quests, the narrative centers around a group of merry adventurers who are united by the sacred ring worn by the first “chosen”, your first player character (who is randomized through the gacha). It’s an interesting take on the first game’s narrative system, where eight characters happened to come together for reasons even more weighty. While there are side quests centered around each of the characters, the main campaign focuses on three themes: wealth, fame, and power. Each main quest line revolves around toppling a tyrant who exemplifies one of these traits. The party of adventurers can also accumulate points in each of these attributes, which affect NPC recruitment and resource gathering.

Sofia hangs out with an architect and her cat.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

Critics generally praised the first Octopath the game’s art style, combat and music, but some found the progression to be grating and the story to be uninteresting. So I was a little nervous when I found out Masters was a mobile game. Many gamers who are used to premium console titles often find mobile too frustrating to bear. After years of playing games on mobile, I have an enormous amount of patience, but even I remember feeling that Octopath Traveler was an inflated time sink. I was prepared for Masters to exacerbate the original problem.

I was also worried about how well Octopath art style would adapt to a mobile game. The character designs are whimsical and effectively tap into the nostalgia many players feel for the 16-bit JRPGs of the 90s, but they aren’t exactly hot or flashy. With the exception of dancers, the characters wear pragmatic clothes in earth tones. I couldn’t see myself obsessing over fanart of Octopath characters as I did with Caenis i Fate/Grand Order or the dragon girl Ch’en in Arknights. Before I started MastersI hardly remembered what Octopath Traveler characters looked like.

These were the concerns I had before actually playing the game. Eight hours later, those worries largely forgotten, I realized Masters is my absolute favorite way to play Octopath Traveler. The auto-travel feature, where you drag the screen to drive automatically across the landscape, feels intuitive. There are buttons to stack each character’s moves at the same time, making normal battles go much faster. If I only faced a couple of weak enemies, I could end the match with two taps.

Masters also introduces the concept of reserve party members in the back who can be swapped in and out at will. If someone got hit by a status effect, I simply stuck them in the backline and used the spare party members. Benched characters also restore both health and SP (mana). Since up to eight characters are present in each match, it is easier to spread experience points around to multiple characters.

In both games, combat mostly revolves around targeting enemy weaknesses to breach their shields. Doing so was difficult in the original game. Multiple enemies in the same fight often had different weaknesses (such as Polearms, Daggers, or Fire), and boss fights became unbearable when bosses would change their weaknesses. IN Masters, but with my party split into two rows, I could arrange my frontline to break the enemy’s shield with multi-hit basic attacks on the first turn, and then use my backline of powerful characters to hit the enemy’s health on the next turn. I wondered how Masters managed to make Octopath feels less grumpy by making very small adjustments. It didn’t need to be an overhaul, and the combat still works the same as it does in the Switch original.

The party members in Orsterran fight a snow fox.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

But wait, there’s more! The effect of status effects is now greatly reduced, a savvy decision that allows Champions to do away with inventory management entirely. I could acquire equippable weapons and armor, but I no longer had to juggle recovery or status ailments. I didn’t have to think about the difference between Herb of Clarity and Herb of Awakening, which was a truly hellish experience when I was done Octopath last year. The NPC summoning system has also been greatly simplified. Summoning is no longer tied to specific characters – you can now temporarily recruit people by fighting or paying them, regardless of who is in your party. These may be sad changes for RPG fans who like to manage their inventory or endure the consequences of status conditions, but they gave me a more enjoyable RPG experience.

Masters is also faithful to the wonderful visuals, soundtracks and stories that were created Octopath Traveler so memorable in the first place. I felt so peaceful and comfortable as I crossed through HD 2D landscape to the sound of Octopath Travelerits energetic soundtrack. And I didn’t have to worry about character appeal – I loved every single person I recruited through the gacha system. The return of Octopath‘s character-focused quest system allowed me to bond with the characters at my own pace. While some RPG fans might feel that way Octopath Characters are not morally gray or complex enough, I love how humble, relatable and genuinely likable the characters are. I’m used to recruiting highborn nobles, legendary warriors, and even gods in other gacha games. And even though the cast consists of up to 80 playable characters, the writing makes each of them distinctive and likable in a down-to-earth way. Instead of everything being incredibly high-stakes and intense, I spent a lot of time helping people feed their kids or figure out their research project. Characters in both games are motivated by altruism or an inherent appreciation for worldly wonders, rather than revenge or spite. It was relaxing to see characters fret over small misunderstandings or easily resolved human struggles. I love JRPG melodrama about secret bloodlines or whatever, but sometimes I just want to chill with people who have normal human foibles. Masters fulfills that niche perfectly.

The more streamlined Masters experience allowed me to return to my game whenever I felt like it, and I didn’t have to relearn a complicated system to progress. It strikes the perfect balance of accessible enough for those who have never played Octopath Traveler and faithful enough for those who want Masters to be a direct follow-up.

While mobile gacha games often have a bad reputation for being a cash grab, it’s clear that the developers of Masters think carefully about designing a turn-based RPG that feels good to play. And many of the new redesigns of the combat and mission systems are meant to improve the single-player experience rather than make money. The new features, the way the themes intersect with game systems, and the relatable characters Masters a vastly improved single player experience compared to its predecessor.

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