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What’s in Your Box: Testing

/ Oct 7th, 2017 No Comments

Project Octopath Traveler

Each week, we here at Gaming Illustrated are always playing a number of different video games. However, we may not be talking about them in reviews or editorials. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth talking about, but for any number of reasons an avenue to speak on them doesn’t come up. To remedy the issue, we’re going to ask our staff (and you, honestly) what’s in your box?

What’s in Kalvin’s Box

Once again I’m here to talk about what has been in my box this past week. This week’s box has been a sampler platter of sorts. A taster’s menu if you will. I played the Monster Hunter Stories and Project Octopath Traveler demos.

Bildungsroman Except with Monsters

Monster Hunter is a series I’ve never gotten into, my only foray was a small bit of playtime with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U. It never quite hit me though.

Even with two well-received 3DS games I never quite got into it. To a degree the series feels impenetrable even though its easy-to-follow hack-n-slash mechanics are not daunting.

A lot of the issue may be a lack of story to latch onto. Monster Hunter Stories seemed like a way to remedy my aversion to the series due to its RPG interpretation of the series’ concepts and mechanics.

Luckily, Nintendo released a hefty demo for the game giving you a good hour+ of game to try out. Demos can be tricky too much and you can sour before even buying it, and too little doesn’t give you the full breadth of what you’ll be getting into.

Monster Hunter Stories is the sweet spot, you get to play the introduction of the game learning about the world you’re in, the characters, and the gameplay.

Monster Hunter Stories

Finding new eggs and making new monsties is the name of the game. Well, sort of.

When young people come to age in Hakum Village, they can become riders performing the Rite of Kinship to bond with monsters. As a person undergoes the Rite, Chief Omna gives the potential rider the ability to gain a monstie, which is a monster bestie.

It is now your time to gain your monstie and undergo the Rite. Although, it seems odd since you bonded without a Kinship Stone a year ago with a power monster. If it weren’t for that crazed Nargacuga attack, you’d have been a rider long ago.

In a year everything changed, your best friend Cheval lost his mother in the attack, and he changed. More than just personality changes, the Black Blight has encroach more into the valley. With it, outsiders have appeared to investigate it.

While Monster Hunter Stories feels like a typical coming of age story seen often in RPGs,it gets some interesting wrinkles. The Black Blight threat is typical end-of-the-world doom and gloom, but it leads to an interesting angle.

The outsiders are the intriguing part. The game takes place within the larger Monster Hunter universe with Hakum Village being the one part of the world where they form bonds of friendship with monsters instead of hunting them.

Monster Hunter Stories

Despite shaking up the traditional Monster Hunter style, Monster Hunter Stories is not a passive engagement.

This results in an isolationist perspective with rider forbidden to leave the Village and valley. With the outsiders finding them through their Black Blight investigation it results in their “weird” way of life being exposed.

Outside of a much more engaging story, it has a similar set-up to other Monster Hunter games with tons of side quests to take on. Even in the demo, you can accept plenty of them. It gives a good mix between the new RPG set-up and what people want from the series.

The gameplay is not the hack-n-slash-y combat the series is known for, but it utilizes turn-based gameplay to create a more strategic form of combat. Like many RPGs it uses a rock-paper-scissors format in battle.

This results in having to read enemy attacks and patterns to gain the upper hand. It is pretty satisfying combat, given even more depth as a result of your monstie partner both in terms of it being a second party member and the ability to ride it during battle for more damage.

If you’ve been on the fence about Monster Hunter Stories, I recommend giving the demo a spin as it’ll give you a great idea of what the game is about.

Braving the Default

Project Octopath Traveler stood out heavily in the initial Nintendo Switch presentation prior to release. However, not much was known outside of a striking 2D sprite with 2.5D backgrounds look and preying on turn-based RPG nostalgia. Still, it was easy to be excited about it.

Fast forward nearly seven months later, and we finally know a whole lot more about the still untitled game. It features 8 protagonists with their own storylines and their own unique Path skills they can use to influence NPCs.

It’s striking look is what Square-Enix is calling HD-2D. We also learned more about the battle system, but more on that a little later.

We also got an in-progress demo to give you a small taste of two of the characters: Primrose and Olberic.

Project Octopath Traveler

Primrose is a truly bewitching beauty.

Regardless of which path you choose first, you’re given a lengthy introduction to both characters to give you how each plays and the snapshot of their stories. Honestly, there is quite a bit of game to dig into with the demo, which is a treat.

The striking thing about Project Octopath Traveler is how mature the subject matter is in the stories, especially for Primrose. Its sprite art style betrays what kind of heavy stuff you’re getting into, but it works extremely well because of that.

Both stories we get a chance to try out are driven by revenge. For Primrose she wants to track down the men who murdered her father when she was a child. To achieve her goal she becomes a dancer for a two-bit pimp in order to track down clues.

Olberic on his end is a disgraced knight who was betrayed by a close ally and friend. When his ally decides to assassinate the King they both swore to protect, Olberic loses his honor and his will. Following the events, he assumes a new name and lives a quiet life protecting a small village.

Each story doesn’t take long to move along. Primrose rather quickly getting a lead as her pimp has ties to the men who murdered her father and has been working for them. Olberic ends up having to track down some thieves who threatened the village and are holding a little boy hostage, in doing so he learns his old friend is still very much alive and active.

Project Octopath Traveler

Project Octopath Traveler is fascinating, its mature subject matter draws you in immediately and its gameplay keeps you hooked.

While you only get the sketch of where these stories are going, it is hard not to want more. When I finished each demo path, I wanted to see what happens next and to see what the other six paths offer.

The combat will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Bravely Default as it has a similar BP system. Except you don’t brave or default to gain BP, BP accrues naturally as you fight. As long as you don’t use it up, you’ll gain extra BP each turn.

The BP system works wonders, especially during boss fights as you’ll need to break down defenses and take advantage of weaknesses in order to be able to whittle away health. It is a more simplified system than Bravely Default, but no less complex.

While there are no jobs to switch around, the strategic depth comes from using path actions. Primrose can allure townsfolk and get them to follow her around and into battle. This has story and combat consequences, and finding the right person to allure paid off well during her boss fight.

Olberic’s path action allows him to challenge anyone he sees. This results in a 1-on-1 battle that ranges in difficulty depending on the NPC. There is something highly satisfying about knocking out the entire village including old men, women and children.

Project Octopath Traveler is still a ways away from being complete as it doesn’t have a proper title yet. However, if what the demo is any solid indication of the quality the final release will be then Switch owners may have another great game to add to their collection.

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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