rambling

Pastimes Take Time, Folks

Sometimes, even sitting down to play a video game or read a book feels like too much effort. This is especially true when the specific genre of entertainment is a meaty one – think role-playing games or fantasy novels, here. Of course, I’m generalizing; there are some role-playing games that won’t suck months of one’s life away, and there are genre novels that read faster than a fucking tweet.

I’m prefacing this rambling entry with generalizations about lengthy distractions (whoa, that might be a fun Saturday night) because I’ve managed to load up my video game backlog with a bunch of rpgs. Jrpgs, to be exact. Off the top of my head, I’ve got Octopath Traveler, Final Fantasy VII, Etrian Odyssey V, AND Etrian Odyssey Nexus waiting in the wings.

Today, I’ll focus on Octopath, because it’s the only aforementioned game that I’ve actually sunk a decent amount of time into.

Ah, Octopath Traveler. From the get-go, it sounds like a lot. Eight paths? That one must travel? Er, that eight must travel? With me controlling them? Let’s not get into a discussion of characters’ free will, and instead talk about this rad-yet-complicated premise for a game. Historically, Jrpgs are notorious for dragging on. Debates about what constitutes a worthy video game purchase aside, many people want to get the most game for their buck. A ten hour flash in the console just ain’t gonna cut it. So when a new Jrpg comes along, offering anywhere between forty and a bazillion hours of gameplay, nerds such as myself get all excited.

So when I finally bought a Nintendo Switch, I bought Octopath along with it.

That was at the end of November. Actually, I’m loathe to admit that I caved into crappy consumer culture and I SHOPPED ON THANKSGIVING. You read that right, folks: I, a hardworking drone of the capitalist system, spent my hard-earned dollars in a way that caused GameStop employees to miss turkey time with their families and loved ones. Is it possible those GameStop employees were okay with that? Yes, of course, but the principle still stands: Thanksgiving should be a break for, like, everyone in the U.S., and damn it, it wasn’t for those workers. And I stood in line with a shitload of other hooligans, clamoring for those SWEET GOD DAMN DEALS.

But back to Octopath. I’ve had the game since, fuck, November. December, January, February … that’s at least three months. I’ve done all kinds of other stuff in that time. It’s not like I devote every free moment I have to playing games. Maybe if I did, I’d be done with the game by now.

That ain’t how I operate, though. Not anymore. I used to pull wacky marathons with certain game series, usually intensive Bethesda-related affairs like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. I’ve been taking my sweet time with Octopath. I mean, c’mon – eight paths! In the Jrpgs of yore, you’d usually have some sort of “main protagonist,” but they’d be accompanied by a full-fledged party of other fucking protagonists. So like, there’s a “main character,” with other important characters to aid them on their journey. Poor bastards, all fighting over second fiddle.

There ain’t no second fiddle in Octopath. Just kidding, I’m a liar already. See, here’s the weird thing about Octopath: it simultaneously breaks and cleaves to the mold. There are eight characters, all of whom have a fully fleshed out story to propel forward. That means every character is a main character. That’s eight main characters. That’s a lot. But it’s a pretty cool concept, giving each character the attention and intentions they deserve. There’s just one small hiccup in all this dope character equality: you pick a “primary character” at the very beginning of the game.

“But wait, Chris! We thought you said there ain’t no second fiddles in Octopath!” You’re right, concerned reader. That’s more or less exactly what I said. Wrote. Whatever. But as I also said, I’m a liar already. Even though all eight characters in Octopath Traveler have a fully fleshed out story and plenty of screen time to shine, the player must pick one to be the “main” main character.

So what does this mean, exactly? Well, it mostly just means you never make that character chill out at the tavern while you go adventuring. Your main main character stays in your party, a hundred percent of the time, every time. You’ve got eight characters, right? But your party can only accommodate four characters. So there are always four characters just chillin’ at the nearest tavern, presumably, while your merry band goes adventuring. Does this create some experience and power discrepancies? Sure, but they’re not game-killers. I suppose, in retrospect, picking a primary character does affect the route you take in the beginning. See, each character begins in a different city, and that starting point affects your travel options from there. We can’t forget the second part of the title, see? Octopath Traveler. You’ve gotta move in this game, and depending on where you start, you’ll probably move in mysterious ways.

Okay, shitty U2 reference aside, it doesn’t take too long to get the entire roster together. Says the guy who’s been playing the game, off and on, for more than three months. Each character goes through four chapters to get to the end of their respective stories, and I’m at the point where chapter three is my focus. I’m about three-fourths done with the game. After three months. Gimme another month, and I might be done.

That is, if I can find the time to play. I’ve also been Super Smashing my way into fun times, and I finally gave the Resident Evil Remake a shot. Or two hundred – I used way too many bullets in my first play-through! Anyway, this has probably been enough rambling. I know I said that I would update y’all about my past, like, two years of gaming – consider this my first of many Tarantino-esque flashbacks.

We’ll go back in time. Then we’ll come back to now. And finally, we’ll face … the future?!

Let’s keep moving and loving, folks.

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