While the wait for the sequel to Octopath Traveler on consoles goes on, a mobile and tablet prequel to the game has just made its way to mobile devices. Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is a prequel to the successful Square Enix retro-inspired turn-based JRPG set in the same world and utilizing the same HD-2D art style as its console brethren, with the game being released on Japanese iOS and Android devices earlier this month. The difference this time is that despite the game being a single-player only adventure, the title is a free-to-play mobile game.
Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent on iOS and Android splits its main story into three branching paths based on each of the three Champions that reside over the land. These champions are Helminia, Argust and Titus, each representing Wealth, Fame and Power. The main story of the game is focused on each of these villains as opposed to the main party, since unlike the first title you can change these party members at will from a wide array of characters. There are 64 travelers in this initial release, each of which can battle alongside you and have their traveler stories, with additional side stories also on offer.
Gameplay is mostly unchanged. The interface has been redesigned for touch, with swiped movement to move around the map and gestures and touch being used to navigate menus in battle. As opposed to having a maximum of 4 party members in battle, you can have up to 8 in battle in two rows, switching out the front force while the other is protected. It gives you more options in battle and is the only real change to battles that otherwise retain their same turn-based break system.
I chose Wealth as my initial path which sent me to Herminia’s mansion where we had our first introduction with the female villain herself. We see her showcase her wealth for a lavish party of guests, but we also see her exploiting the slaves, even killing them for the most minor of inconveniences. It sets up a story of fighting back against her oppression of the poorer classes, with storytelling on par with the original game.
Unfortunately, following this strong introduction, this is where gacha mechanics become a frustrating hurdle.
Obtaining these travelers is only possible through the gacha, and characters are split between 3, 4 and 5 stars, each having a different max in-game level that could make weaker travelers unusable against stronger enemies. While there’s only 1 currency that can be earned in-game to use on gacha, there are certain gacha with better odds that can only be played using paid-for premium currency. With each traveler offering a multi-hour traveler story, you’ll need to pay up to see it all.
This in-game currency is expensive. As of now, an introductory premium gacha guaranteeing a 5 star traveler is 290 gems for a roll. The lowest buy-in for this is a special 294 gem tier that has limited purchases per month with bonus free currency costing 2940yen. Otherwise, you’re buying too few (270 gems at 2700yen) or way too many (490 gems at 4900yen).
You can play without paying, but accessing characters this way is designed to be slow and difficult with less guarantee of success. Plus, at 4900yen, you could buy the original game if you don’t already own it.
That’s the crux of the issue here. I had a lot of fun in the few hours I put into Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent in both main and traveler story content, and the game is otherwise completely free of paywalls. There’s no rationing of in-game items as far as I can tell, and no play limits. Only travelers are paywalled.
But for a game defined by its story like this, it’s a frustrating hurdle. With the game leaving you with almost no choice but to pay, it’s hard to enjoy the fun knowing how much of the fun you’re missing out on without stumping up the cash. It turns an enjoyable mobile RPG into an expensive proposition, and one I’m not sure I can recommend.
Considering Square Enix are one of the few companies to embrace premium mobile gaming and have supported services like Apple Arcade in the past with Various Daylife, I can’t help but wish this was a premium title. Even with a console-level price tag, I could argue it being worthwhile for a game with all the production values of its console compatriots.
As it stands, you either stump up the cash or have a frustrating, gatelocked experience. And I can’t recommend either option.
Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent is now available on Japanese iOS and Android devices.