Octopath Traveler and buying a game in 2018
Octopath Traveler costs $88 Canadian Dollars after tax. This is the price of “big” games on the Switch, and it’s the first one I’ve bought with money. I picked up Splatoon 2 when I got the Switch back in March, but the trade-in value for other games I had took care of that one. With Octopath, I gave Nintendo my credit card and they took $88 Canadian Dollars.
I’ve spent more than $88 on the Switch. I bought Sonic Mania, Celeste, Thumper, Blossom Tales, and other games. These ranged from $10-30, and I considered all of them money well spent. I’ve been very happy with the Switch so far. It’s full of games that feel like updated and well-designed versions of games I liked (and wanted to buy) as a kid. Octopath Traveler is the next game to establish this pattern. If Sonic Mania is an updated version of the Sonic games from the early 90s, then Octopath is an updated version of the turn-based adventure games from that period. So why is Sonic $25 and Octopath $88? Probably for the same reason that Sonic 1 on the iPhone is free with ads, and Final Fantasy IX on the iPhone is $30. Sega and Square Enix do business a little differently.
The main thing I’ve found interesting so far with Octopath is how long it took me to decide whether or not I was actually going to buy it. $88 is a lot of money, but I usually know if I want a video game or not.
Octopath Traveler had a demo available that let you play the first part of two characters’ story. I played the Primrose intro, and found myself not really enjoying it all that much. I didn’t give it a chance.
Back in the 90s, I used to love demos. In leau of renting a game, they were the best way to decide whether or not to play a game. Demos don’t work with every game, but they’re fantastic for RPGs, because they’re generally really long. The demo for Final Fantasy VIII was so desired that Square made you buy another full game just to play it.
The first demo didn’t do much for me, but the second demo, which let you basically begin the real game and play for three full hours, did a lot to change my mind. I was able to finish two of the characters’ initial missions in that time, and it gave me an idea of how the combat worked. It also contained a stroke of marketing genius: your three hours would count towards the real game, so you wouldn’t have to play it again.
I’ve watched a handful of Octopath videos. Almost every game youtube channel I follow has made more than one, and the ideas portrayed in the videos are varied and interesting. This is novel for Youtube, where most video game videos involve idiots screaming. Tim Rogers of Kotaku made a whole video about just one random encounter:
Videos like this are great because they show that the simplest parts of the game can be deep and engaging. They’re better at advertising the game than almost anything Square Enix has done.
Then there’s Mike Mahardy of GameSpot, who made a video about some of the weaknesses of the game, and how the transparent battle system is what makes up for the lacklustre narrative cohesion in the game:
Videos like these let me know that there are rough spots in the game, and then I can decide if those rough spots are enough to detract a purchase.
Finally, there’s Digital Foundry, who uploaded a video about frame rates, art direction, and how the game’s visual style is more difficult than it appears.
I likely wouldn’t have noticed some of these details without having seen this video. These three videos all sold me on various aspects of what I’ll be experiencing, and let me know in advance anything that might be a downer, without actually spoiling any plot points or fine details of the gameplay.
I actually never played any Super Nintendo RPGs, because I could never afford them. I played RPGs on the Playstation largely becaue they were cheaper than SNES games. But I wanted to play the SNES ones, and I still kind of want to now. I’ve began Final Fantasy VI maybe five times, but I always lose interest because I know it’ll always be there. Same with Chrono Trigger. Octopath feeds into that nostalgia, or even just the nostalgia of wanting, by giving the player that retro feel while also being a brand new game with actual graphical punch.
It’s only really a footnote in its history, but Octopath Traveler plays a lot like Bravely Default, a solid RPG on the 3DS. Its character structure and battle system are very similar, and I remember enjoying Bravely Default a great deal. As sad as it is, I tend to buy games I already know I’ll enjoy. I’m less experimental than I used to be (at least at this price range).
The thing that ultimately changed my mind though is that I wanted to play more. I knew there would only be so many quality videos. I knew the demo was only so long. And I wanted more, and wanting more means ponying up.
I hope it’s good.