In 2018, octopath traveler introduced the world to Square Enix’s “HD-2D” art style, a way to combine high-quality pixel art with modern lighting effects to create a bridge between new and old. But more than that, the RPG was just a riff novel on A brave omission combat mechanics and Sagamulti-player storytelling. A full suite on console octopath traveler is still a long way off, but in the meantime we have a mobile prequel Continental champions. I had the opportunity to preview Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent in a closed beta test on Android, and I was frankly surprised at how well it adapted to the mobile format without alienating players from the original game.
The game you remember, but simplified
At first glance, Continental champions Looks a lot like its predecessor, but it’s actually streamlined several aspects for a more palatable mobile experience. For one thing, all areas now consist of defined paths of travel. This means you only move left, right, up, or down along the paths provided, and your character can automatically move in a chosen direction if you prefer. Your map in the corner of the screen makes it easy to determine where you’ve been before, although there are also semi-hidden paths that have additional treasure. Additionally, you can “fast travel” to all the notable places you have already reached. All in all, this makes exploration quite easy and accessible.
A bigger change is that instead of using four characters for combat, you bring in a group of eight characters in battle at a time. Four characters in the front row are paired with four other characters in the back row. The character in the front attacks and takes damage, but it can be swapped with the paired character in the back at any time. Back row characters will heal, including their SP, so keeping a healthy party is as easy as swapping your rows. Traditional healing options like items and magic are also easy to acquire.
However, I found in my preview of Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent that it’s an easier game on all levels. Enemies are weak to specific weapon types and magic items like in the original game, but since you can bring a group of eight in every fight, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a party equipped to easily exploit every weakness. And on top of that, I found the average Random Battle only had two or three enemies, so most battles came and went pretty quickly. Bosses can still pack a bite, unless you’re upgraded.
On the one hand, one could say that all these changes make Continental champions a dumber gaming experience than its predecessor, and that might be true to some extent. But on the other hand, I personally found it refreshing to be able to roam the land in an easy way, not waste more time than necessary in random battles, and continue the story. It’s a mobile game that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something worthwhile in the 15-20 minute bursts you could spend with it. It’s awesome.
Along these lines, each time a party member levels up – which happens at a decent rate – you get a point that you can spend to improve their stats or learn a new ability. The options available to you are unique to each character and their star rating, but it seems like each character brings something relatively distinct to your party. Although, unlike the original Octopath Traveler, not all of your characters have unique exploration abilities. Instead, these characters (and completed quests) all contribute to the levels of three separate skills you have access to at all times. These skills basically allow you to barter goods, enlist more NPCs into your party, or challenge NPCs to battles for rewards. I found this to be another way in the preview than Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is judiciously rationalized.
He also has the best character in the franchise so far.
Continental champions chooses to make your main character a mute. It’s a little weird in that your character regularly pantomime conversations with the NPCs you meet in the story, implying that your character is quite verbal but doesn’t care to involve you in them. Indeed, everyone speaks except you, including even the other members of your group.
There are two ways to acquire more party members. One is to complete short side quests that present these characters with a simple problem that needs to be solved. The other way is to spend resources to acquire randomly received characters in the traditional gacha style. It is possible to amass dozens of different characters for your party of eight characters in these ways. But it also means that, unlike the original Octopath Traveler, none of your characters have any direct significance in the story. Even the character you start the game with is simply “the person who is strong enough to beat the bad guys to solve other people’s problems”.
Again, this may seem like a problem, but it actually kind of work in favor of the game. By completely ignoring the heroes, Continental champions can instead explicitly focus on developing its villains and the handful of NPCs that are most affected by it. There are three main storylines, each involving a major villain, and you can move back and forth between them at will. One of these villains is the franchise’s best character yet. Another seems intriguing to say the least, while the last is downright ridiculous.
The flagship villain is undoubtedly Auguste, a renowned playwright who is also a serial killer who constantly murders people in order to find inspiration to add authenticity to his pieces. He barely tries to hide his psychopathic tendencies, since every woman he meets falls madly in love with him. Honestly, it gets a bit absurd seeing all the women are willing to do for Augustus, but that aside, the writing treats the character with appreciated nuance. He’s not just a two-dimensional nut; you can feel his obsession with creating great art, no matter how extremely monstrous. He’s the kind of character that Slan of Berserk would love to.
In my preview of Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, I only had access to the first two chapters of each of the three stories, but overall I liked what I saw. Then again, the story was a low point of the original game in the first place, so maybe I’m just glad the series finally got a great character with Augustus.
Finally, the visuals definitely look a little muddier in Continental champions on mobile than in the original on Nintendo Switch. When I turned the graphics to their highest setting on my Samsung Galaxy S21, it didn’t make much of a difference. The music was awesome though. I found myself humming here and there, which is the best you could ask for.
Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is making a big transition to mobile
Recently I saw Mana Echoes, a mobile game that I think would satisfy its very specific audience and probably no one else. By comparing, Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is seriously a game that might appeal to RPG enthusiasts who don’t typically play mobile games. Exploration is straightforward, Random Battles are completed before they get boring, bosses kick ass, character customization is solid, and the story shows signs of being potentially superior to that of the original. So here is, Continental champions feels like a winner, and I’m really happy to say that.
Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent will launch on Android and iOS in the summer of 2022.