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Is the Prequel to "Octopath Traveler" Worth Downloading?

Chapter 2 of the Fame track. Francesca has a difficult choice to make.

Chapter 2 of the Fame track. Francesca has a difficult choice to make.

Before You Play

Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is a role-playing video game developed by Square Enix and Aquire. It was published by Square Enix, the corporation that produces the Final Fantasy titles. The prequel covers events before the narrative of the beloved and popular Octopath Traveler.

The mobile game was released in October 2020 in Japan. It was released in the West in July 2022. The mobile game is free to download, but there are microtransactions–it's a gacha game. I've played the game for a few hours, and I haven't run into a situation where I needed to buy something.

As a gamer, I avoid microtransactions like a hawk because they add up and are usually unnecessary and annoying.

The amount of action and gameplay you get for free is absurd. This might be the best thing I've ever found that's free. It's hard to say something negative about a game when you don't have to fork over any cash.

There are new elements in Champions of the Continent, and there are also elements that have been recycled from the original.

I've listed below what I'll cover in this article. These are things I think you should know before downloading the game:

  • The battle system allows you to play with eight characters at once. The battle system borrows concepts from the old game and reinvents the wheel.
  • The game has a lot of text to read, and it is in English. The voices are in Japanese. The voices in this game are mostly for atmosphere.
  • You'll have to tap your screen a lot and spend a lot of time in inventory and skill management.
  • You're managing multiple characters, not just eight. It's almost like a combo of a JRPG and tactics game.
  • The main storylines are dark and have adult themes. Villains are at the forefront. Hero storylines are side quests.
  • The game explores three types of influence: wealth, power, and fame. This is integral to the mechanics of the game.
  • Recycled and familiar elements are aplenty.

Is It Worth Playing?

Overall, this is a great game at an unbeatable price. It's a mobile game that functions more like a console game. For fans of Octopath, the prequel is a worthy continuation of the franchise.

The game is accessible for newcomers to the series as well. You don't need to play the first Octopath to play the prequel. It's definitely worth downloading and giving it a chance.

Below I've added a video of someone who has played 50+ hours of the game. They can give you more insights about what to expect.

A Fun Spin on the Previous Game's Battle System

In the original Octopath, players recruit eight characters. Octopath is an anagram for their names: Ophilia, Cyrus, Tressa, Olberic, Primrose, Alfyn, Therion, and H'aanit.

The game's world map is designed around the eight heroes. Each character's journey starts in a different location. As you progress through the chapters, you uncover more land, dungeons, and quests.

Comparing the New Battle Dynamics to Its Predecessor

The battles in the original were random encounters. You'd use half your characters to fight. The other four characters would sit back in reserve.

In the prequel, the battles are still random, but now you have eight characters to use during the battles. You have two rows of four. Throughout the battle, you switch between your front and back rows. The front row will take actions: attack, special skills, and magic. The back row will sit out for the turn, but they'll heal their SP and HP.

You don't use items to boost stats or to heal. You only use the skills you have of your eight characters. You have to think strategically about which group should be in front and which group should be in the back.

Break and Boost

The game still uses break and boost from the original game.

  • Break: Every enemy has a weakness. When you first encounter an enemy, they'll have black boxes underneath them. Your job is to figure out their weaknesses. Enemies generally have a combo of physical and elemental weaknesses. Once you have found their weakness, a symbol of that physical or elemental attack will appear in the black box below them. Continue to use that attack to break the enemy, which causes the enemy to be inactive for a round. It's a good idea to figure out all of an enemy's weaknesses.
  • Boost: Each turn your characters' boost meter will go up. There are five total levels, but you can only use a max of three boost levels at a time. If you use three but had five levels, you'll have two boosts in reserve for the next turn. Boosting your characters makes them more powerful. In turns where you use boost, you won't gain a boost level.

In Champions of the Continent, when you use a boost, it only takes away from your front row. Your back row will reserve its boost. Since you can switch rows every turn, you can do your max attack from one group, and then for the next turn, switch to your other group and use their max attack.

Building Parties

It can be wildly fun to use eight different characters all at once. It's a good idea to build parties with a variety of skills and classes. There are eight classes in the game, the same ones from the original: Warrior, Dancer, Apothecary, Cleric, Scholar, Hunter, and Thief.

You earn rubies throughout the game by completing quests and other feats. Rubies are used to buy more characters.

The goal is to build up an army of characters rather than a party of eight. You actually can create 10 different parties. Each party has eight slots for characters. You can use the same characters in multiple different parties. You can also build a party with as few characters as you like. It's a good idea to repeat characters in parties so you can focus on leveling up certain ones.

Selecting which party you'll use for battles and other interactions is as simple as going to your party screen, scrolling to the party you like, and then closing out the screen. The characters you want to use for the next battle will be the ones walking around towns, terrains, and dungeons.

Selecting Skills in Battle

There is a lot that's intuitive with the game. Before you hit the attack button in battles, tap each character's box. From here, you can select what skill you want to use for that turn. It's best to decide whether you want to fight with the front row or back row first. After that, select what skills you want to use. Then hit the boost button if you want to use a boosted all attack.

Important: If you select boost all first and then select your skills, it will deselect boost per each selected skill. You can use an individual boost by selecting the skill and then swiping to the right.

You can also select different enemies to attack. After selecting your character's box, tap on the enemy you want your character to fight. For the most part, it's easiest to just let your party attack the enemy in the front and not have to worry about making enemy selections.

When a character dies in battle, their replacement in the back row will automatically move the body behind them and move forward. You cannot switch rows and have a body in the front.

Types of Attacks

The game has the following weapons: Swords, Polearms, Daggers, Axes, Bows, Staves, Tomes, and Fans.

There are six spell categories: Fire, ice, wind, lightning, dark, and light. Not sure why a franchise that's obsessed with the number eight would only have six spell categories, but that's what the creators decided.

Altogether, this means when you fight an enemy, there are 14 possible weak points. Use different skills from each character to figure out how to break the enemy.

English Text, Japanese Voices

The text for the game was translated into English. If you're eagle-eyed, you might notice random spelling and grammar errors. I've noticed the longer I play, the better the three main storylines get.

I would say the prequel is more gruesome than the original. In the beginning, there are three powerful villains that you're trying to vanquish from the peaceful continent. The villains are seriously corrupted by their ambitions.

Is the Game Appropriate for Kids?

I think for the most part if your reading level is high enough to read the game, you're probably ready for it. I would assume the youngest players for this game would be middle school students. Any younger, and I think the game would be too wordy.

The villains are into some pretty morbid things though, so for some families, it might be too risque of content for a pre-teen or young teen. The only things I've seen that would be questionable have to do with concepts, not anything that would be visually scarring.

For instance, one of the villains has a backstory about being a prostitute. Nothing is shown, but it's mentioned as her backstory. This character, a witch who is corrupted by greed, is also using slaves to work a field. She doesn't care about the people and sees everyone as disposable. She's way more extreme than a Disney villain.

Another villain is forcing people into extreme scenarios, so he can get a thrill from it to write his plays. This villainy thespian poisoned a child and asked his mother to pick between saving the child's life or her lover, which happens to be the villain himself. Scenarios like this might be shocking for children to have to even remotely consider/observe.

The villains progressively get more terrible in each new chapter. The game likely has a lot of unpleasant concepts for little ones. Personally, I would suggest adults play it first and then let their kids play it. If something comes up that is upsetting, use that as a way to talk about it, so your kids can safely learn new things.

The game could be used to teach your children and teens about the dangers of greed, power, and fame.

Japanese Voices

Even though the text is in English, the voices are in Japanese. This won't create confusion because everything you need to play the game is in text.

For some, the Japanese voice acting could add a nice atmosphere to the game. It might add a touch of fantasy to your game playing.

You can go into the settings and turn the voices off if they bother you. I know some people are going to get frustrated by hearing voices in another language that they don't understand.


Get Used to Tapping the Screen

The game relies heavily on different menu screens. There are boxes and icons to touch everywhere. A big part of the game is managing all the different parts. You have to be smart about how you manage your battles, you also have to be smart about how you tidy up your party.

In the party menu, there is a section to learn skills. Every time you earn a JP point, you can learn a new skill. Since you will have multiple characters, you'll have to go through this skill screen and tap a lot of icons to give your characters their new stats. You want to do this in part because not only does it boost your character's stats, you can also pick new battle skills.

It also takes time to equip and buy weapons. Blacksmiths will have new weapons and armor available as you collect and find items from battles and chests. You can't buy weapons and armor in bulk. You select one character at a time and buy them their new equipment.

You can go through the party screen and equip items. I recommend using the optimize equipment button frequently.

You'll also be tapping the screen a lot to move forward with all the text. This can get tiring after a while. In some ways, this game would have been better on the Switch because it is nicer to use the control pads and buttons.

The mobile game does a great job of working around not having buttons, but it still would be easier to control and navigate on the Switch. The nice thing about the mobile version is how convenient it is. You can pull out your phone at any time and play. The game automatically saves your progress.


Recruiting and Leveling up Multiple Characters All At Once

In a style more akin to tactics games, like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle, Champions of the Continent is all about recruiting as many characters as possible and developing their skills. By completing quests, feats, and other things you earn rubies. The rubies are used to buy characters and awakening shards. You earn awakening shards when you get a duplicate of a character you already have.

When you've finally gotten to a point where you can awaken a character, you'll earn another battle slot or more stats.

There are several layers of grinding in this game. The game is a little mischievous in that you tap the screen and manage things so often that it breaks you down psychologically: it could cause you to mindlessly spend real money on the game. So far, I have not felt that impulse. I am perfectly happy grinding and sorting characters without even having to consider buying something.

You can use your money to buy rubies, but by no means do you have to do that. You're constantly earning rubies by playing the game, so I would encourage you not to fall for the trap of paying for rubies. You need to work on your strategy if buying rubies is tempting to you. Do not let your children or teens mindlessly buy rubies!

The Storyline

There are three main storylines that focus on three villains. Unlike Octopath Traveler, the stories that have to do with your party of travelers are side quests. You randomly run into quests that give you more insight about your cast of heroes.

Tactics Elements

Even though the game is a JRPG, it does remind me of tactics games. In the tactics genre, you have multitudes of characters that you level up and put into battle. Those characters normally don't have a lot of backstory, except for a handful of special characters.

The player acts as a general who strategically decides what units to put in place. This style of gaming is fun for some players. For others, it might overwhelm them because there is too much to manage, and the constant managing of characters and the likes do get in the way of actually playing the game.

Constantly going to menu screens and reading texts can get tiresome. It's perfectly reasonable to want to tap through text and not read it.


Influence Ranks: Wealth, Power, and Fame

The game introduces a new element to the franchise: ranks. The villains are based on the vices of wealth, power, and fame. While you play the game, your influence in wealth, power, and fame grows.

You will be earning points to increase your rank in wealth, power, and fame. As you go up in ranks, you earn stat enhancers and rubies. At the beginning of the game, you'll decide which story track you want to start first: wealth, power, or fame. You could finish all three chapters of one track before moving to the other tracks or do a combination of all three. There are a total of nine traveler skills that you gain by leveling up these ranks:

  • Exp. Up
  • Leaves Up
  • Smithy Discount
  • Physical Attack Up
  • Ally Uses Up
  • Move Speed Up
  • Elemental Attack Up
  • Maximum Allies Up
  • Cait Rate Up

There are three chapters for each of the influence stories. Later on, there is a "master of all" track, which has more chapters.

Recycled Elements

There is a lot in the prequel that is similar or straight-up copied from the original. For one, most of the music has been copied over to the prequel. The music is beautiful and does add to the experience of the gameplay. There are some songs original to the game, one noticeable song that comes up when the drama thickens has vocals. I've added a video of the song above this text.

Many of the enemies you run into are identical or have slight alterations from the designs of the main title. Most of the enemies I've run into while completing chapters 1 and 2 have essentially been the same as the first game's enemies.

The world map is different, but it has the same design. The way you travel about the game is similar. You still walk on paths to get to towns, and you can fast travel your walk by clicking on the icons on the map.

It's a good idea to walk as much as possible to build up experience. You don't have access to the entire map from the beginning. You have to progress through the chapters and get enough experience to level up and beat monsters who are in the middle of paths. Once you have visited a place, you can fast travel to it by clicking on the world map.

The same idea works in dungeons and towns. You can click on your dungeon or town map and select where you want your characters to go, but they can only go on paths they've previously traveled.

Character sprites from the previous game are reused. In a way, it's smart to recycle these elements. It's already built, so why not use it? Plus, it makes it look related to the original game.

Secret of Mana games for the Super Nintendo used the same elements. My favorite sequel to a game, Chrono Cross, veered in a different direction entirely from its predecessor. This was partly because the first game, Chrono Trigger, was released on the Super Nintendo and the sequel was on the Playstation.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence