Thursday, August 09, 2018

Ten things I'd change about Octopath Traveler if given the chance

My last two posts hopefully make it pretty clear I'm enjoying the hell out of Octopath Traveler at the moment.

As much as I love it, though, I don't think it's perfect. In fact, I'd make the following changes to the game if someone gave me the green light to do so.

1. I'd add a Bravely Default-like slider to the "settings" menu that lets you adjust the frequency of random battles. Being able to turn off random battles--or even increase how often they're triggered--was a real lifesaver, not to mention sanity-saver, while playing Bravely Default. Why Octopath Traveler's developers decided against including something similar here, I'll never understand.

2. I'd allow players to alter the game's difficulty on the fly, too. Again, like Bravely Default--or even the recently released Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux. Both of those 3DS titles let you switch between easy, normal, and hard (or casual, standard, and expert, in the case of Strange Journey Redux) modes as you wish. Not only isn't that possible while playing Octopath Traveler, but it's not even possible to choose a difficulty level at the game's start. As such, if you run up against an area or boss that's too hard for you, you've got no choice but to grind your party into better shape or improve your battle strategy.

Illustration by carrotchipper
3. I'd make weapons visibly distinct during battle. I've loved being able to see my party member's weapons in battle since I first played through the original Final Fantasy shortly after it was released in my neck of the woods. In fact, I stuck with that game's "coral sword" long past its sell-by date because I thought it was cool to wield a pink blade. So imagine my disappointment when I realized I'd never get to see Octopath Traveler's "bear cleaver" or "war hammer."

4. I'd include a few more unique secondary jobs. In a way, I appreciate that the folks who called the shots during Octopath Traveler's development decided to cap the game's secondary jobs at 12. It's easy for RPGs to go overboard in this area and become bloated, confusing messes. Still, I wouldn't have minded even a couple of additional career options for my hard-working crew--especially since I consider a few of the included ones to be borderline pointless.

5. I'd shorten its battles. How much shorter would I make them? I'm not sure. Slightly shorter, at the very least. And I'd focus on Octopath Traveler's boss battles in particular. Yes, I feel accomplished and relieved and all sorts of other emotions after finally toppling one of this game's end-of-chapter baddies, but I'd sacrifice a bit of that elation for tussles that occasionally last less than 30 minutes.

6. I'd let people save anywhere. This is one of Octopath Traveler's more confounding omissions, if you ask me. I know the game's supposed to be a throwback, but this is going a bit too far considering nearly all modern RPGs allow players to save where they want and when they want. Plus, you encounter the little pedestals that serve as Octopath Traveler's "save spots" every few steps, so why not just remove that visual clutter from the landscape and replace it with something that's a lot more user-friendly?

7. I'd toss in a few vehicles. I know what some of you are thinking: vehicles aren't needed in this game because it lets you "fast travel." It only lets you do so between cities, though, which often means you still have to hoof it a bit if you want to explore a cave or hunt for a shrine. Even if Octopath Traveler allowed you to plop your party anywhere on the map with a nudge of the analog stick and the press of a button, I'd still want access to a handful of "vehicles"--like maybe a boat or carriage or horse--so I could buzz around the landscape when the mood strikes.

Illustration by punkratkid
8. I'd give players more money for winning battles. Or I'd make weapons and armor cheaper. As things stand, it's easy to feel "poor" while playing Octopath Traveler--especially as you toil through its first half or so. In fact, I mostly resorted to stealing armor and weapons and items from unsuspecting townsfolk during my first 30 or 40 hours with the game because of this. Maybe that's the point? Or maybe this is Octopath Traveler's way of telling me to spend more time grinding? Either way, I'd prefer it if the gear sold by this title's many shopkeepers were a little more "wallet friendly."

9. I'd make it so the lantern used in caves and grottoes is upgradable. Hell, I'd even force players to find or buy this accessory before they could comfortably probe Octopath Traveler's many dark and dank caverns. This starter lamp would be pretty dim, too, and the only way to make it brighter and more useful would be to replace it or upgrade it in some form or fashion.

10. I'd increase the game's wackiness quotient. Although Octopath Traveler occasionally shows it's got a nutty side (Olberic's ability to challenge nearly any NPC to a one-on-one duel is a prime example), it's usually a pretty staid experience. How would I make it a little zanier? By tossing in a couple of kooky, out-of-left-field bosses, for starters. I'd also add in some silly weapon classes--like the bells and harps that pop up in a number of Final Fantasy titles.

Would you alter Octopath Traveler in any particular ways if given the chance? If so, what changes would you make?

See also: 'ten things I adore about Octopath Traveler' and 'five more (kind of silly) things I adore about Octopath Traveler'

Sunday, August 05, 2018

BONUS ROUND: five more (kind of silly) things I adore about Octopath Traveler

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you should be well aware of the fact that the bulk of my gaming time over the last month or so has been spent working my way through Octopath Traveler.

In fact, I've now devoted 55 or so hours to this much-ballyhooed Switch RPG, and I have a feeling I'll need to put at least 25 more into it before I wrap up all of its storylines.

It probably could go without saying that I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience, but I'm going to say it anyway. Actually, I already suggested it in my last post--about the "10 things I adore about Octopath Traveler."

So why am I belaboring the point today? To be honest, I thought I was done extolling Octopath Traveler's virtues when I published the write-up linked to above. A few additional virtues popped into my head this past week, though, and although my initial plan was to just stick them at the end of my earlier post, I figured they'd be overlooked.

Plus, I like that the components highlighted below are sort of silly.

The lantern you carry while in caves and grottoes--No joke, this was one of the details that most stood out for me when I watched Octopath Traveler’s first trailer more than a year and a half ago. It's the type of thing that would've thrilled me as a youngster (yes, I've always been a little weird), and it still brings a smile to my face today--even if it doesn't impact the gameplay as much as I'd like.

The mansions that double as dungeons--Is Octopath Traveler the first turn-based RPG to stick dungeons within manors and other such dwellings? Even if it isn’t, I love how it’s handled here. I especially enjoy ducking into rooms to see what may be hiding inside. I wish they featured a few secret nooks and crannies here and there (like the caves and grottoes do), but maybe producers Masashi Takahashi and Tomoya Asano are saving such treasures for the inevitable sequel?

The return of the “Final Fantasy V laugh”--Something I've always loved about the fifth Final Fantasy game is how adorable its characters look when they laugh. Well, Octopath Traveler’s protagonists and NPCs use a shockingly similar animation while guffawing or chortling. I don't know if this is an intentional reference to one of my all-time favorite games or if it's just a coincidence, but I'm going to assume it's the former until proven otherwise.

The shimmer--No, I'm not talking about the "Shimmer" that serves as a major plot point in the Annihilation film. I'm talking about the way some of Octopath Traveler's elements shimmer and sparkle in the most captivating way as you walk on or by them. You'll mostly observe this while traipsing around the game's sandy and snowy environments, or while exploring some of the aforementioned caverns, but you'll also notice it (in and on homes and shops) while strolling through its villages and towns.

The sound of your party’s footsteps--They sound like horses clopping, especially when your crew's walking across dirt or stone, and for whatever reason I find it comforting.

Now that I've had my say (again), what are your favorite aspects of Octopath Traveler?