The new Octopath Traveler RPG is better than the Switch original

Three evil tyrants watch over the continent of Orsterra.

Image: Square-Enix

Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, newly available on mobile, is a worthy sequel to the original Switch role-playing game from 2018. I expected a watered down combat system and hellish menu like many other gacha games on mobile devices. Square Enix proved me wrong. Champions retains the visuals and music that made Octopath a unique title in a field of pretty RPGs, and its the streamlined combat is a huge improvement over the toughness of the original game. Octopath is even better on mobile than it’s ever been on the Nintendo Switch.

In 2018, Square Enix released the original octopath traveler on the Nintendo Switch. Located on the same continent of Orsterra, Champions is a prequel, taking place an indefinite period of time before Octopath. While the protagonists of Octopath appear in certain side quests, the narrative centers around a band of merry adventurers who are united by the sacred ring worn by the first “chosen”, your first player character (who is randomized through gacha). It’s an interesting take on the first game’s narrative system, where eight characters ended up for even more tenuous reasons. Although there are side quests centering on each of the characters, the main campaign focuses on three themes: wealth, fame, and power. Each main questline revolves around overthrowing a tyrant who exemplifies one of these qualities. The adventuring party can also accrue points in each of these qualities, which affect NPC recruitment and resource gathering.

Sofia hangs out with an architect and his 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 gritty and the story uninteresting. So I was a bit nervous when I found out that Champions was a mobile game. Many gamers accustomed to premium console titles often find the mobile grind too frustrating to bear. After years of playing mobile games, I have tremendous patience, but even I remember feeling like this. octopath traveler was an inflated well of time. I was prepared for Champions to make the original problem worse.

I was also worried about the quality of the Octopath the art style would fit a mobile game. The character designs are whimsical and effectively tap into the nostalgia many players feel for 16-bit JRPGs from the 90s, but they’re not exactly exciting or eye-catching. With the exception of the dancers, the figures wear earthy-colored, businesslike clothing. I didn’t see myself obsessed with the fanart of Octopath characters as I did with Caenis in Fate/Grand Order or the Ch’en in dragon girl knights. When I started ChampionsI barely remember what octopath traveler the characters looked alike.

These were the concerns I had before playing the game. Eight hours later, those concerns largely forgotten, I realized that Champions is my favorite way to play octopath traveler. The auto-move feature, where you flick the screen to automatically traverse the landscape, is intuitive. There are buttons for stacking each character’s moves at once, making ordinary battles much faster. If I only encountered a few weak enemies, I could finish the battle in two shots.

Champions also introduces the concept of reserve squad members in the rear that can be swapped out at will. If someone got hit by a status effect, I just stuck them in the back line and used the reserve group members. Benched characters also recover both health and SP (mana). Since up to eight characters are present in each battle, it’s easier to spread experience points around multiple characters.

In both games, combat is mostly about targeting enemy weaknesses in order to break their shields. This was tricky in the original game. Multiple enemies in the same battle often had different weaknesses (such as polearms, daggers, or fire), and boss fights became excruciating when bosses changed their weaknesses. In Champions, however, with my party split into two rows, I could organize my frontline to break enemy shields with multi-hit basic attacks on turn one, then use my backline of strong characters to hit enemy health. enemy on the next turn. I marveled at how Champions managed to do Octopath feel less grumpy by making very small adjustments. It didn’t have to be an overhaul, and the combat still works the same as it did in the Switch original.

Members of the Orsterran group battle a snow fox.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

But wait, there’s more! The impact of status effects is now greatly reduced, a smart move that allows champions to do without inventory management entirely. I could get equipable weapons and armor, but no longer had to juggle recovery items 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 finished Octopath Last year. The NPC summoning system has also been greatly simplified. Summons are no longer tied to specific characters – you can now temporarily recruit people by fighting them or paying them, regardless of your party member. These changes might be sad for RPG fans who like to manage their inventories or endure the consequences of status conditions, but they gave me a more enjoyable RPG experience.

Champions is also faithful to the stunning visuals, soundtracks and stories that made octopath traveler so memorable in the first place. I felt so peaceful and at ease as I walked through the HD-2D Landscape to the sound of octopath travelerthe energetic soundtrack of. And I didn’t have to worry about character appeal – I loved every person I recruited through the gacha system. The return of OctopathThe character-driven quest system allowed me to get attached to characters at my own pace. While some RPG fans might think that Octopath the characters aren’t morally gray or complex enough, I love how humble, relatable and genuinely likable the characters are. I usually recruit highborn nobles, legendary warriors and even gods in other gacha games. And even though the cast includes up to 80 playable characters, the writing makes each of them distinctive and likable in a down-to-earth way. Rather than everything being incredibly intense and intense, I spent a lot of time just helping people feed their children or figure out their research project. Characters in both games are driven by altruism or an inherent appreciation for the wonders of the world, rather than revenge or grudges. It was relaxing to see characters worrying about small misunderstandings or easy-to-resolve human struggles. I love JRPG melodrama about secret bloodlines or whatever, but sometimes I just want to chill with people who have normal human weaknesses. Champions fills this niche perfectly.

The most streamlined Champions the experience allowed me to come back 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 between fairly accessible for those who have never played octopath traveler and faithful enough for those who want Champions be a direct follow-up.

While mobile gacha games often get a bad rap of being a money grab, it’s clear that the developers of Champions think very carefully about designing an enjoyable turn-based RPG to play. And many of the new combat and quest system overhauls are aimed at improving the single-player experience rather than the monetization aspect. New features, the way themes intersect with related game systems and characters make Champions a vastly improved single-player experience over its predecessor.

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