Octopath Traveler – Prologue Demo Impressions

Octopath HEader
I’ve been trying to keep my list of games that I’m anticipating this year short, but ever since it was announced, Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler has been near the top of my list.  Never mind the slick ‘retro’ visuals, but when you incorporate the Romancing SaGa-esque party gathering and a combat system that calls to mind Bravely DefaultOctopath already has the mechanical trappings to pull me in.

Back in September of 2017, the first demo for the game was released on the Nintendo Switch’s e-shop.  It offered up experience with the introductions of Primrose and Olberic, two of the choices for your main protagonist once the full game is available.  I played through that demo pretty fervently and liked what I saw- Primrose’s introduction was engaging and well-written, though the demo felt a bit short.  After that demo, Square Enix offered up a survey to help improve and strengthen the game before release.

After nearly 50,000 survey responses, another demo was released a few days ago on June 14th.  Dubbed the Octopath Traveler Prologue Demo, it offers a larger sampling of what’s to come in the full game.  Offering up a three-hour dive into the beginning of the game, the demo allows you to choose the protagonist that suits your fancy and work through their opening scenarios as well as some of the preliminary areas of the game’s world of Orsterra.  While I still have an hour or so left to my demo, I wanted to get down some of my impressions regarding how my experience has been with the demo so far.

From the character select screen, I chose to follow the story of Ophilia, a cleric from the Frostlands who ends up starting a pilgrimage due to a twist of fate concerning her monastery.  While the set-up isn’t the most original plotline, it does offer a lot of information regarding Ophilia and the characters she is related to, along with the town and people within it.  The church is clearly a strong and positive facet of the area, and Ophilia appears to be a respected figure among the community.

Given that everyone has a special talent that they use in the overworld, this respect for Ophilia and her station plays in nicely to her ability known to ‘Guide’.  Much like Primrose’s ‘Allure’ skill in the original demo, Ophilia can approach certain NPCs and interact with them with an alternate action that will request the character accompany her- which they will if she is of a high enough level.  While in battle, she can then ‘Summon’ them, which will bring them in as a temporary party member who will attack, heal or perform other actions before disappearing after a few turns.
Not only is this a unique feature, but it really helps the common issue that healer types have when they start a game solo in that battles usually feel like they take too long given their focus on magic rather than physical offense.  My usual issue was addressed pretty early on, though I’m interested to see how relevant it is once you’ve leveled up to the point of having a full and competent party.

After an hour or so, I reached the climax of Ophilia’s scenario which also involved the requisite boss battle.  While the battle was difficult, it was nothing I felt overwhelmed by.  Having a townsperson to summon- who would randomly heal Ophilia and attack- left me more time to strategize how to exploit the boss’ weak points.  Given the turn-based nature of battles, exploiting weaknesses is important.  If you attack an enemy with its weakness, there is a chance of inflicting a ‘break’ which will demolish their next turn card and lower their defense until they recover.

The other tactic in battle is akin to Bravely Default but does it much more effectively, at least in my opinion.  Each turn, you gain a ‘Burst’ point.  Once you’ve accrued enough of these points, you can charge attacks.  With normal attacks, this means issuing a number of normal attacks equal to the burst points you use (a maximum of four at a time).  When used with a special attack, it multiplies the power of that attack instead.  Pairing these bursts with breaking your enemy is the best way to make battles turn in your favor and that fact that it’s easy to raise your burst level makes strategizing feel a lot more manageable.  To be honest, I didn’t gel as much with the battle system in Bravely Default as I would have liked, but if it has been more like this, it would have felt a little less cumbersome.  I know the battle system in Bravely was highly regarded by a lot of gamers, though, so the streamlining may not be a clincher to everyone else.

Outside of that battle, I’ve gotten Ophilia to the next town and met another of the protagonists, a scholar name Cyrus.  Upon speaking with him, the game informed me that to have him join, I would need to play through his prologue.  This is where I feel like the game took a misstep.  It’s not because I’m not interested.  Going into another 45 minutes or so of each character’s backstory and playing through their prologues feels like it really breaks up the action.  While I’m sure the stories all tie together into the main narrative, as well, if the full game handles this the same way, this sort of tanks the replayability of the game and makes it feel less like I picked a primary character.  It feels more like I picked a starting point.  It’s still interesting but leaves a strange taste in my mouth about the whole choice in the first place.

Despite that qualm I have with the game, I’m honestly still jazzed that the release date is coming up fast.  The game is gorgeous and the music is just as much so.  While I’m not entirely sure on what the overarching plot is going to be yet, the plots I’ve gotten to look at for Ophilia and Cyrus (and Primrose, if things haven’t changed much from the original demo) have gotten me intrigued in how they will tie together ultimately.  I’m glad that it seems like data from this demo will be able to be transferred to the full game and while a little bit of the content feels like padding, I’m still satisfied with how much I’ve experienced over the course of two hours.

If anything changes in my third hour, I’ll definitely update.  Right now, though, I’d have to say that I think Octopath Traveler is living up the hype it’s been gaining.  Have any of you played it?  Do you have any thoughts?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or over on Twitter!

Octopath Church

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Do We Reap What We Sow? – PC – Harvester – 1996


TitleHarvester
PC
DigiFX Interactive / Merit Studios
Genre: Horror Adventure
1996

There are plenty of gaming discussions and topics that grab my attention and engage me, but few really stoke my fires like video game controversy and censorship.  I’ve definitely hinted as to how much I love exploring the how and why of a lot of these actions (see my article on Night Trap for a sample taste of that) come to be.  Even better, I love hearing the voices of the creators on these matters.

Once again, I dip my toe into a game that fought censorship and bred controversy in its day with Harvester.  When Harvester released back in 1996, it shocked plenty of people with its claims of being ‘the most violent adventure game of all time’.  Given its place in electronic history, I could maybe see where its claim could be valid. There was a lot of competition to push boundaries while balancing interesting gameplay not only to ‘stick it to the man’ but to also promote commentary on what was acceptable in video games and film at the time.  According to Wikipedia, Gilbert P. Austin who wrote and directed the game said that he wanted to use Harvester to explore whether violence in the media created violence in real life.  Sounds oddly familiar, yeah?

This brings a few questions to the table then: did Harvester achieve what Austin was looking for?  Were the shock and awe worth it? Above all else- is Harvester even a good game?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Continue reading

The Devil’s in the Details – PC – Dead State: Reanimated – 2015

Title ScreenDead State: Reanimated
PC
Doublebear Productions / Iron Tower Studios
Genre: Horror Strategy Role-Playing
2015

Zombies are everywhere.

You honestly can’t turn a corner without running into something related to The Walking Dead or Resident Evil or World War Z or some other pop culture phenomena waving the undead flag proudly.  That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing necessarily.  There are two reasons why zombie media can thrive- intense action and unapologetic drama.  Games like Left 4 Dead and Call of Duty have cornered the market on the ‘action’ facets of digital zombie slaying.

Some games have attempted to play at the emotional aspects of a zombie apocalypse, though.  Subjects like dealing with lost loved ones, trying to trust people that you run into, and balancing resources amidst demands of survivors are just the tip of the mountain that these games tend to run on.  Dead State: Reanimated is not any different on its surface.  It approaches some of these topics in different ways, but after how many times this scenario has played out, how much more can really be expanded on?
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The Big 150 and A State of the Blog Update

3pmegamanstyle

First of all, to those of you who have just started to follow along here- welcome, thank you, and I hope you enjoy what you see!  Feel free to reach out through comments, e-mail (3pstartgaming@gmail) or on Twitter (@the3rdplayer) if you want to chat sometime.  If you’ve been around and/or already chat me up, thanks for that.  I’ve seriously enjoyed interacting with everyone I’ve gotten the chance to!

Recently, I was hanging out with my buddy, Alex (a.k.a ShoggothOnTheRoof) and our spouses when I took a glance at our review archive.  I enjoy looking at the list and seeing if anything sparks something to write about or play.  Then I thought ‘hey, I wonder how many games we’ve written about’.

Well, my math might be off but if I read it right, my last review brought us to 150 games that we’ve discussed- either in series overviews or in-depth reviews.  Since I started this blog a few years ago and brought it over to WordPress, I’ve been learning plenty and seeing what a fantastic community the video game blogging world can be.

Honestly, the last span of time working on this blog and witnessing what others are doing has been a trip!  I want to take a quick look back and forward, though, while I’m thinking of it.

Reviews in Retrospect

After looking through the list of games we’ve talked about, I picked a few that I’m either particularly proud of or that I think should be a fun read whether you’re new to 3PStart or just looking for a fun few pieces to pass the time:

Sweet Home – My first review I ever did for the blog and a criminally unrecognized forebearer of survival horror.  Despite being a Japan-only release, the translation brought it over to us and it became one of my favorite games- enough to prompt me into starting a gaming blog!

Zombies Ate My Neighbors – Constantly vying for my favorite game of all time with Final Fantasy VI, this review is probably the best example right now that I have of my writing when I’m head over heels for a work.

Phantasy Star IV – While I wrote about the first three fairly recently, ShoggothOnTheRoof wrote a fantastic piece on the fourth entry of the series before I dug into those.  Honestly, while he has some amazing pieces on here, I know about his passion for this game and it’s reflected in his piece.

Fire Emblem – An Overview – This series on Fire Emblem is more educational than subjective, but that’s another goal of mine: to educate on games, their histories, and their development.  If you’re at all wondering if you want to try Fire Emblem, this can hopefully help.

Where is 3PStart Heading?

First, I’m sure there’ll be more overviews and reviews.  Specifically, I’ve been working on continuing the overviews for Fire Emblem with some snippets here and there and writing about the next trilogy in the Atelier series.  There are at least three or four other games in the pipeline to write about so- I’m at no shortage of material.  It’s just a matter of writing it!

Ideally, I’ll be working to collaborate a bit more and either seek out some more contributors or maybe even contribute to some other projects, if I can.  I’ve really been digging some of the interactions I’ve been seeing and the community has been a creative lot.  I enjoy working with people and incorporating other folks’ opinions and ideas has been something I’ve been interested in from the get-go.

On a technical standpoint, I’d like to improve the site and add more ways to check out other blogs and projects going on.  I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, but once I streamline the blog a bit and create a few more directories and pages, that might be something that can easily be fixed (and I can share more of the work going on outside of 3PStart, too!)

Last, I want to help promote and celebrate positivity in the gaming community.  There are a lot of people working against the negative stereotypes that have grown regarding gamers and their attitudes.  People who enjoy gaming, analyzing the business and the games themselves, and generally enjoying their hobbies and passions with others- there are a lot of people who are doing exactly what this section of the pop culture community needs.  They are encouraging healthy discourse, constructive debate, and generally working toward making things less toxic.  I think these efforts are worth mentioning and I want to figure out ways to illuminate them.

So I guess in short- I’m glad I’m still working on this project, and I hope to get more out there so that my little corner of the gaming world can be a safe place for people to discuss games and learn a little something or reminisce.  I’m pretty happy with the direction I’m going in, and I’m glad to have folks along for the ride, as well.

Have a great week everyone!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Ryuji Thumbs Up

Dabble If You Dare – Nintendo Entertainment System – Taboo: The Sixth Sense – 1989

Taboo Title
Taboo: The Sixth Sense
Nintendo Entertainment System
Rare/Tradewest
Genre: Simulation
1989

Do you believe in the spiritual and the supernatural?  What if there is some kind of force that guides your fate?  The nature of the mystical and magical has permeated the history of the world for as long as the written record has existed and then some.  Whether you believe in it or not, it’s difficult to avoid those that feel there is something “more”- and that there are those who can sense those elements through some kind of attunement to them.

Taboo: The Sixth Sense isn’t a game in the classical sense, though it is meant strictly for entertainment purposes.  Much like arcade novelties like love testers and penny presses, the game is more of an experience than anything else, and it takes about five minutes or so to make a run through.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really much else to write about Taboo without taking away from the rest of what I have to write as a result- so on with the show!

Continue reading