Fear My Overpowered Glory!
The Octopath Traveler Chronicles: Week 3
It's been a little while since we last visited the lads of Octopath Traveler. The holidays are mostly to blame for that, throwing off the Asteroid G schedule, and then we had to play catch up from there to get back on schedule. We're here now, though, with a sizable update to continue out adventure.
Not that we actually accomplished as much as you might expect. Due to where we're at in the game, half of the time spent playing it now is grinding. There are ways to cut the grind time some (which we'll cover below), but suffice it to say we're long past the point where we can just charge into any dungeon, ransack it, and then move on as if we're the biggest bad-asses in the world. At some point, once we reach the ends of all the second character chapters, we might be there again. For now, though, it's grind city...
Further Adjustments to Class
So the first stops on our world tour were to collect all the various classes, get my characters up to their full mix-and-match ability. Since all the shrines are near cities, I also made sure to visit each of those cities as well. Because the world map also works as a fast-travel system for any city you've visited, this seemed like an efficient way to handle class gathering -- visit a city now and when I have a chapter in it later, I can easily get there, no fuss and no muss.
As a bonus this also allowed me to dip my toes in the water and see what places would be good for grinding down the road. My initial thought was that maybe the desert area, which has a danger level of 30, would be a great spot once my characters were closer to that level. I stuck a pin in that idea for later exploration, but I had other fish to fry to begin.
After the trouble I'd had with Tressa's second chapter, I decided to smarted course of action would be to find the next-easiest chapter to handle and do my power-grinding with whatever class seemed the most ideal in that situation. Since each of the classes give the assigned character weapons to use as well as new skills to earn, I didn't have to try and keep certain characters in my part. I knew H'aanit (as team leader) and Ophilia (as the healer) would be in the party no matter what, but I had a bit of flexibility with everyone else and I was going to use it.
So, of course, I immediately went back to my party of H'aanit (double-classing as a Cleric), Ophilia (as a Scholar), Tressa (as a Warrior, a terrible class for her at this point in her development), and Olberic (as a hunter, just so I could get him extra attacks per turn). Yes, that's the same party I ended the game with last time, but I really like this group. However, as I'd slowly discover, there were better classes, and characters, I should be using for many of my adventures.
A Raven Hides in Moonlight
The first chapter that seemed easiest to do was Primrose. She had a snowy village to venture into, a Raven to kill. After getting into the town, I followed her plot line. Honestly, hers feels like a mature, Game of Thrones tale of a wrong woman sold into white slavery out for revenge and cutting a swath across the countryside. Here she finds the first of the Ravens, the men responsible for the death of her father so many years ago. One of them runs a secret brothel on the outskirts of the city, so Tressa has to find a way to sneak into the brothel so she can exact her revenge.
Bear in mind the game is not at all coy about who Primrose is or the act she (and other women in this storyline) are expected to perform. She's a "dancer", but you can totally keep that in quotes because it's pretty clear she's a stripper. We never see anything -- it's a T-rated, sprite-based game -- but the game uses very thinly veiled euphemisms to describe what all these women in this storyline do (and sometimes not even veiled as one woman comes out and calls herself a "whore").
It's something that strikes me as I bounce around the world, following all these adventures in a mix-and-match fashion: the game has some serious tonal issues. Primrose's story doesn't mesh at all with Tressa's, one being a dark tale about white slavery and revenge and the other a cute, bouncy lark about a girl becoming a merchant. The darkest Tressa's story has gotten is still a bright and shiny moment in Primrose's blood-drenched saga. There are times where the seams of these stitched-together eight smaller games really show.
Regardless, though, my first task was to power-level so I could handle the enemies in the brothel a bit easier. So in the path between the town and the establishment I took to fighting monster. One thing I tried out was Primrose's special dancing skill, Bewildering Grace. To put it mildly, this skill is broken. Essentially what Bewildering Grace does is it casts a random effect when used. These effects can range from a healing, buffs or debuffs, damage, and the like, and this can effect either the heroes or the enemies. It's a grab bag on the best of days. The reason it's so broken is that it can also, sometimes, give the party a boost to its experience or job points for the battle. And, if you boost the dance up enough in a battle, that random EXP/JP boost can be times 100 (if you're lucky).
Suffice it to say I was that lucky. It only happened once for me but once was all I needed, really. Suddenly my party of H'aanit, Ophilia, Olberic, and Primrose (who I swapped in for Tressa since she had her story to follow) went from levels in the low 30s to the mid 40s. I could suddenly walk through the dungeons and not be phased at all. My characters were dishing out crazy amounts of damage and didn't even break a sweat. It was glorious.
So, of course, I made sure that any time I was power-leveling I had at least one Dancer in the party (and, usually, two by including Primrose as well). This is the best way to power-level in Octopath, hands down, because even if you aren't lucky and don't get the 100x boost you're still pretty likely to get a 2x or 5x boost, which still rules. Dancers own.
So with my uber-party set to roll, I steamed right on through the Raven's manor and owned his ass. The Primrose got her revenge, not that it made her feel any better. She still has two more targets to kill (and a whole lot of dancing to perform for my team).
To Steal a Ruby
Next up was Therion, a character I didn't much care for the first time I used him. Therion, frankly, just isn't a strong enough character to strike my particular play style. I will be the first to note that I love brute-force damage in RPG -- if a character can dish out damage with a melee weapon, I'm more likely to use them than my magic users simple because weapons don't run out of MP. Therion can't really dish it out that well, though, and his magical attacks also aren't that great. He's a thief so he's there to steal from monster. Now, I'm sure there's probably some theft treasure table I could look up, some rare items I might want at some point, but that doesn't encourage me to rely on Therion outside of a few simple situations. He's just not that useful to me.
So what I did was drop the Warrior class on him to at least give him some decent, power melee skills to learn and use. Then I went through his story (which also meant stealing as many items as I could off as many townsfolk as I could see -- this is fun at least). Therion's tale brought him to a town where a Scholar was studying a rare red stone. Clearly this was the first of the three dragonstones the thief had to collect, so I went about figuring out where this Scholar was (locked in his guarded mansion) and how to get in there (his old partner knew a way). Soon enough I'd made contact with the aggrieved other Scholar, a man bitter about how he split with his partner (because the guy with the dragonstone become obsessed with the gem's potential power).
After running a few missions for the dude, which basically meant us running back and forth across town (in a tedious fetch-quest), the aggrieved third-party gave us the password to get into the mansion and a key to gain access to the lab. This seemed like it was going to be a piece of cake... so naturally I ignored the mission for an hour and attempted some level grinding.
Because most of my party were now ungodly beasts, I figured the desert area (of the level 30 monsters) was the best place for me. I was wrong, but not because they could destroy me. No, battling them was like death by a thousand cuts all because all the monsters in the desert region had poison. Poison in this game is potent, easily knocking down an eighth of your health each turn. Since all the monsters could hit me with it, I soon decide that I didn't like constantly having to heal (even if I could easily handle it) and I wander off for other areas to power-grind. That sent me back to the snowy city (site of Primrose, Chapter 2) for grinding against those enemies (which were decidedly easier and gave comparable EXP to the desert monsters despite being a good eight levels lower, go figure).
With my party all ground up (meaning Therion was over level 30 by the time I was done), I strolled back to the Scholar's mansion and beat the snot out of the nerd. I took his lunch money (and his gem) and took it back to the people who forced me on this whole quest. The noble lady who set me on the quest actually seems like a nice lass, and there's clearly supposed to be some kind of chemistry between her and Therion, although that plot line. is a little silly -- she's a nice noble and he's a dirty thief. I'm very confused as to how that's playing out, but if it's all building to give Therion a way out of the life (and a happy ending) then I won't begrudge it (I guess).
To Help a Child in Need
Two down, one to go for this week. Ophilia was next up (by order of difficulty). Since she was already in my party I decided to mix out some of the other players. Therion was swapped for Tressa (who eventually would need more levels anyway for her third chapter) and Primrose was brought back in for a time (because I love my dancers). By this point H'aanit had mastered enough of the Dancer skills she could counter attack physicals sent at her which, coupled with the bonus rounds of combat and the extra physical attacks she's already earned (from being a Hunter) meant my leader was doing a crazy amount of physical damage on the regular. For my grind I turned Ophilia into my second Dancer, Tressa took on the Apothecary skill (for some back-up healing), Primrose became a Scholar, and H'annit took over as Warrior (because if she was going to be a tank, I might as well make her as tanky as I could).
I should also note that with a flood of JP coming in over time, most of my magic users has all spent at least a little time as a Merchant so they could earn SP Saver, the half-SP (this game's term for MP) Passive Skill. Seriously, make sure to have all your SP-using characters spend time as a Merchant -- this Passive is essential. Having someone wit the ability to cast Wind spells in the party is nice, but what you really want is the SP reduction.
With my party nicely jobbed and ready to roll, I took care of Opillia's quest... and it was tedious. As you will recall, Ophilia is going from place to place, bringing the light of the Sacred Flame to the region (to renew the power of the gods and, thus, the faith as well). In town all she has to do is visit the Cathedral, share her flame, and the job is done. It's really that simple. So, since there's nothing for her plot line of consequence, the game sends her on a side-story about three little kids and a big wolf in the woods. I hated the kids, I found the excuse to get me in the woods to be stupid, and this whole story was dumb.
Still, I got to fight a giant wolf, which I would have willing done anyway if the game wanted me to. That wasn't a total loss, I just wish the game hadn't given me such a contrived story to force me into it. It could have simply said, "oh no, there's a giant wolf in the woods. Won't someone kill it." Boom, I'm there, and I'll exit wearing the wolf's head for a hat. I like Ophilia, but her story here sucked.
Where The Journey Takes Us Next
Now three weeks in to Octopath Traveler, what's becoming clear to me is that this game really isn't the next Chrono Trigger (no matter what the PR from Square Enix might say). The game plays great, and has fantastic music, but the story, that key ingredient that made Chrono Trigger so good, is missing. I'm still enjoying the game, but I have to admit I'm enjoying it despite the plot. Oh well.