I downloaded the demo for Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler shortly after getting my Switch as a graduation present last May. I loved it, but did not take it seriously until November. I finally finished the three hour demo, and for once believed a game was worth $60. Over the course of the next couple months I played it about one hundred hours.
Every minute of the game was delightfully devoured. Even the grind sessions I found a relaxing time to throw on a podcast, or album. This turn-based RPG released in 2018, yet is retro with modern twists, in graphics and gameplay. It has an enchanting, nearly ninety song soundtrack. There is so much to love about this game, if you want to know more please go into the Archives and read my “Overdue Review.” What I want to talk about right now is how this unsuspecting game shaped my life following the beginning of my playthrough.
Octopath Traveler dominated my attention. An elegant battle system and eight individual, unique story arcs kept me playing towards the next thing. Whether it meant grinding for hours to beat a boss, or finally defeating said boss after nearly an hour in a single engagement with them. Moments where I literally would jump from my seat with joy, celebrating a well earned victory. Memories that make this game of my new favorites ever.
The issue was, it is such a long game. I like to keep my blog updated on what I have been playing, I had only been doing reviews up to then, and it was going to be a while before I was ready to give any verdict on the game. I had marathon ran shorter games before, such as all three BioShock games within a week in September. So, I had to do something different. I always have multiple games in rotation, even with one as addictive as Octopath Traveler. I made a “Checkpoint” post that started with a little bit about what was currently happening in my life, followed by a brief rundown of a few of the games I had been playing.
Since then, I have done more Checkpoint posts, especially needing more content after getting hooked on another long JRPG, Dragon Quest 11. These posts inspired me to branch out further, into a post that was just pure personal philosophy. I have talked in the past about doing mental health breakdowns of games live on Twitch, but being unable to do that right now, I thought, why not try it in a blog? The stage seemed set. I was very happy with the initial result, so much so, within a week I had posted another. Then another one. The reaction was unlike anything I have ever written. Not only was my audience engaged, I was finally doing the type of literary journalism I have put so much effort into developing.
So much in life can have cascading consequences. I discovered a game I thought was neat because of a free demo, it ended up being in my top games of all time and in a way it pushed me to start doing journalism that truly made me deeply proud. Whether I get paid for it or not, this is where my passion lies. Literary style games journalism that speaks on something I feel very strongly about, mental health. Good and bad things can knock down other dominoes in your life. You don’t know what those dominoes will be either. One can lead to the other, and often there is just no way to really know until you get into it.
I found myself identifying with each of the eight playable characters in Octopath Traveler, in different ways. I see myself in Tressa’s eager optimism, Olberic’s unbending resolve, Alfyn’s often stymieing compassion for others, all of them had parts not just of themselves that resonated, but within their stories. Each character has a separate story, and they all had beats with which I think a lot of people could sympathize. Like the trials of Ophilia and Lianna’s friendship. Plot details can remind us of our own struggles.
Identifying why certain things resonate with me is helpful to understanding who I am. Octopath Traveler has characters that are a bit generic, but their stories are well told. Why did I choose Cyrus, the Scholar as my first protagonist? There was the practical application that, hopefully, I would learn a lot about the lore of the fantasy game world. But even this application illustrates another, perhaps more powerful motive: the passion for knowledge.
The passion for knowledge had pushed me almost solely through school up until college, when after I wasn’t satisfied with what I was learning at first, I dropped out. I think I learned a lot in the work force instead, but the next time I went to school it was a combination of intellectual pursuit and practical job-related purposes. I studied science at community college, then discovered my strengths lied in English, not science, when I went to a four-year school.
At community college, a teacher gave me a copy of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. I enjoyed the tale, and writing style. Then at my four-year I decided to pick journalism specifically, out of all English degrees, after it was pitched to me as a storytelling degree. I ate up every lesson on literary journalism. It seemed to be the type of writing I was born to do. It is creative and personal, yet informative and relevant. It can be a revolutionary vehicle for incredible new writers.
This blog may not shatter the mold, but it is a work in progress. Even after one hundred hours in Octopath Traveler, there is still a lot I have not done. I am constantly thinking about how to do better, or what to do next. Media doesn’t have to come right out and tell us how it will impact us, and even if it wanted to it really could not. Everybody is going to perceive it differently, so the search to find what suits you is as never ending as the changes you go through.
Credit: Octopath Traveler. Screenshots by me.