Walking The Land
As the name implies, Square Enix and Acquire’s Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent shares a universe with 2018’s Octopath Traveler. A prequel to the first game, Champions of the Continent features an original story on the same continent as Osterra. It also boasts Octopath’s retro JRPG inspired gameplay and beautiful 2.5D environments and backgrounds.
Instead of choosing between eight characters, players randomly draw one of eight five-star characters. This starting character is the Chosen One, who is the game’s protagonist and the party’s leader. Players can collect the other seven through CotC’s gacha mechanics. However, the game doesn’t treat them as different from the other 64 Travelers players can collect and add to their party.
Swords and Spells
CotC also split its Travelers into Octopath’s classes of Merchant, Warrior, Hunter, Thief, Dancer, Cleric, and Scholar. Of course, not all of CotC’s classes line up with their counterparts in the original game. For example, Octopath Traveler’s Merchant Tressa was an all-rounder with a bias toward spellcasting. CotC’s merchants are comparatively tankier, having abilities that draw agro from their teammates. CotC also lacks the console game’s mixed classes, and each class can only equip one type of weapon.
Two factors somewhat offset this reduced flexibility. The first is that all classes in Octopath Traveler: CotC either start with or can unlock one category of elemental damage. The second is that players can have eight Travelers in a party instead of four. The four in the front row are the Active party, with the other four being Inactive. Inactive Travelers regenerate some health and skill points every turn and can Switch with the Traveler in front of them anytime. Switching between Travelers is helpful for recovery and taking advantage of the enemy’s weaknesses to specific spells or weapons.
Combat in Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is very similar to the original, both being turn-based retro-inspired JRPGs. Enemies have weaknesses to different Weapons and Elements, which players first need to discover through trial and error. Travelers will also build up multiple levels of Boosts, which multiply the damage and effects of Attacks and Skills. The result is a system that requires enough skill to be satisfying while remaining accessible to new players.
The story of Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is where the game really deviates from its predecessor. The original Octopath Traveler lacks a “Main Story” in the usual sense, following a party of eight characters on unrelated quests. Instead, Champions of the Continent has three “Main Stories” with a single protagonist.
A mysterious figure bestows the Chosen One with a magic ring and tasks them with recovering the others from three tyrants. He asks the Chosen One whether they are on a quest for Wealth, Power, or Fame. This determines which of the three regions the player starts in and which villain they go after first. However, players can swap freely between the three stories after completing the first chapter in their starting zone.
The writing is pretty good, though it can be melodramatic, and a few scenes stand out as particularly ham-fisted. The phrase “anime camp” popped into my head basically whenever an antagonist was on screen, and the emotional beats were hit or miss. My main problem is that the Chosen One never feels like the protagonist. Each storyline has its own protagonist and supporting cast, and their actions drive the plot. The Chosen One takes over in combat, but the plot happens around them instead of to or because of them. I enjoyed the story overall but would have preferred if the Chosen One had a more active role in it.
The 64 Travelers also have their own sequences of quests for players to explore. Players unlock each Traveler’s first quest after completing the first Main Story Chapter in the Traveler’s home region. After that, however, players need to recruit them into their party before continuing the story. Obviously, 64 characters will be harder to flesh out than eight. However, they still have more personality than the unlockable heroes in most gacha games.
It also means that Octopath Traveler: CotC locks a decent chunk of its content behind the random gacha pulls. I’m personally not a fan of withholding story content in this way. I also suspect that developers included “free” quests to keep players coming back for more random draws. Still, as far as sneaky gacha game tactics go, it’s probably the least sinister. Overall, Champions of the Continent doesn’t feel nearly as predatory as some gacha games.
Overall, I was very satisfied with Octopath Traveler: CotC. While I had my criticisms of the story, everything else was top-notch. Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is a must-play for fans of the series or anyone looking for a great retro-inspired turn-based RPG.
Is It Hardcore?
While I didn’t agree with every creative decision its developers made, Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is a fantastic retro-inspired JRPG.