I’m aware I’m a bit late on this one, as Octopath Traveler has been out for two weeks at this point, but I genuinely believe people will be playing this game for a long time to come, so better late than never. The first part of the title, Octopath comes from the main draw of the game: instead of following one character on a world-sprawling quest, you have eight characters who travel together. Each of them has their own multi-chapter quest, which you complete one chapter at a time in any order you want, so you have to start somewhere. You’ve got eight characters to start with as soon as you boot up the game, so who should you pick?
A few disclaimers before we start: I don’t think there’s a single “best” character to start with, they all have pros and cons and it all comes down to personal preference. Keep in mind that you’re only allowed to have four characters in your party at a time, and while you can switch out three of them at any tavern, the one you started with is permanent. I’ll be looking at their classes and abilities, as well as their storylines, so there may be minor spoilers for the first few hours of gameplay. Don’t worry, I won’t be looking at anything beyond the first chapter for each character, so you’ll still have plenty of game to explore.
Support main, usually plays clerics and healers in tabletop games, easily bullied into doing what other players want… yep, I think I’ll be starting with the cleric. Ophilia was my choice to start out with, and almost 4o hours later I’ve got no regrets. Ophilia’s a cleric, so she uses the fairly weak rod as her weapon, but it’s supplemented by more than passable light magic. On top of that, she also has party-wide healing and resurrection, and the ability to give elemental defense buffs to other party members. All of this is built on top of above-average HP, SP, and Elemental stats, the former two can eventually be buffed even further when you get later in the game.
Of course, story’s important too, and if you’re like me, you’re going to want to play with a character whose quest you’re most attached to. Ophilia is a cleric in the church of flamesgrace, and her quest is a sort of religious pilgrimage. Her first chapter features her journey to the First Flame, which was lit by one of the Gods of the realm, and take an ember from said flame. After that, she must bring the ember to other churches across the realm. While this sort of quest line does lack the urgency of some others, if you want a main healer with a polite disposition leading your party, Ophilia’s your go-to.
Cyrus is a scholar, which fills the traditional “black mage” role. He has access to most elemental magic, with fire, lightning, and ice magic that will attack every enemy on screen. He also has the analyze skill, which will reveal a chosen monster’s HP and one weakness. His talent will also reveal a single enemy weakness as soon as the battle starts, so he’s certainly useful to have around. Being a mage, he has similar stats to Ophilia, an eventually unlocks a boost to his elemental attack. He has two support abilities; reducing rate of random encounters (optionally) and lowering the rate of enemy first attacks, and gets HP regen on top of that.
When we find Cyrus, he’s been put on sabbatical at the university he teaches at after rumors that he’s romantically involved with the kingdom’s princess. He takes this opportunity to search the land for a tome that was stolen from the university library years before. It’s not exactly The Iliad, but it takes him to some interesting places. If you want a versatile magician leading your party, go with Cyrus.
Tressa is a merchant, which is a bit of a mixed class. She’s the first character we’re seeing who has access to two weapons, spears and bows, giving her more versatility in covering enemy weaknesses. She also has exclusive access to wind magic, with a spell that does powerful damage to one enemy and another that does less damage to all enemies, and as a merchant, she also has money-based skills. Collect, which can be used once per enemy, will get you a bit of money, which is useful in the early game when a single trip to the weapons shop will bankrupt you. Hired help, meanwhile, will cost money to summon someone to the battlefield to fight alongside you. She also has some support skills: rest will restore a bit of HP and SP, and donate BP will allow her to bestow a very useful boost point onto an ally. Finally, her talent is also very useful in the early game, as whenever she enters an area she has a chance of finding money.
At the start of her first chapter, she’s working in her parents’ shop in a coastal town. When pirates attack and start looting, however, she refuses to let them escape, so she enlists the help of a friendly captain to take them down. As a reward, the captain lets her take a treasure from his ship, and she chooses the diary of a former sea captain. Entranced by his tales of adventure, she decides to become a traveling merchant and see the world. If you want a plucky girl who’ll get you a bit of extra cash leading your party, pick Tressa.
Olberic fills the role of the standard warrior class, and also wields two weapons: a spear and a sword. He has no magic, and his skills instead give him more versatility with his weapons. He has a strong sword attack and a weaker one that hits all enemies, a spear attack that lets him move earlier next turn, and another spear attack that hits enemies at random five to eight times. That one usually misses, but there’s a time and a place for it. He also gets two buffing skills, one to increase attack and one to increase defense. He has among the highest physical attack, defense, and health, the first of which eventually gets buffed by a later ability, and goes hand in hand with his “cover” skill that has him absorb damage for low-health allies.
Olberic was the greatest knight in the kingdom of Hornburg, which fell eight years ago. After the king was slain, Olberic changed his name and moved to a small hamlet, having lost his reason for being a knight. After he learns the whereabouts of the man who killed his king, however, he draws his sword once again and sets out to find him. He dresses it up like some grand quest to rediscover the reason he wields his sword, but as far as a lot of us are concerned, he’s heading out to avenge his king and country. If you want a hard-hitting knight as your leader, choose Olberic.
Primrose is a dancer, who attacks with her father’s knife and dark magic. Her moonlight waltz and night ode skills deal dark damage to one enemy or the entire screen, respectively. She also has a number of buffing abilities, increasing a single ally’s physical strength, elemental strength, elemental defense, or speed. Her last ability will cause a random effect to happen, but it can be good or bad, so use caution. The first support skill she unlocks has her buffs last another turn, and she also unlocks the ability to counterattack when hit, recovering 5% of her SP every turn (which, later on, essentially lets her use certain spells for free), and even revive herself once per battle.
This quest is probably the darkest in the game, and for that reason, it’s my personal favorite. Her father was killed in front of her when she was fourteen, and she vowed to devote her life to getting revenge, striking down his killers with his own knife. Hearing rumors that one of them featured a tavern in the sunlands, she became a dancer there, working under the disturbingly creepy Helgenish alongside other dancers who resent her. She eventually finds Helgenish conspiring with one of the killers, discovering that she was to be sold to him. This isn’t a plot we see explored all that often, which is a shame because any game that lets you murder human traffickers gets three thumbs up from me. While Primrose’s kit marks her more as a support character, if you want a leader with both a kind heart and a thirst for revenge, start out with Primrose.
Alfyn is an apothecary. He fulfills the other “support” role for if you don’t have Ophilia around, healing greater HP to singular characters as opposed to Ophilia’s blanket healing. He can also revive a single character, giving them more health than Ophilia’s revive, as well as cure status ailments and give party members resistance to them. He has offensive capabilities as well, including a strong axe attack, a multi-target axe attack, a single-target ice spell, and a poison spell. His later skills are great as well, including SP recovery whenever he deals damage, a resistance to status ailments, improved self-healing, and best of all, a whopping extra FIVE HUNDRED hit points.
When Alfyn was a young lad, he fell very sick, but was healed by a generous traveling apothecary who didn’t charge for his medicine. So moved by the kind stranger, Alfyn wanted to follow in his footsteps, and the first time we see him, Alfyn’s treating a woman in his village and refusing to accept payment. With some encouragement from his best friend and fellow apothecary Zeph, he goes to follow in his hero’s footsteps, traveling far and wide to find people in need. If you think this is a lot like Tressa’s story… well, you’re right. They crammed eight stories in this game, not all of them can be Primrose tier, but Alfyn’s certainly isn’t bad. If you want a friendly healer to lead your party, Alfyn’s your man.
Therion is a thief with access to some powerful skills. He can use a sword, but most of his skills relate to his knife. His two most powerful abilities, HP thief and Steal SP, have him strike an enemy twice with a knife and take a percentage of damage done as either HP or SP. Use it on the right enemies, and Steal SP can essentially function as two free attacks. He has support abilities as well, including steal, which takes an item from an enemy, and offense and defense debuffs to a single enemy. His last ability deals fire damage to a single enemy, but you’ll want to improve his weak elemental attack if you want to rely on it. His support skills are great as well, improving his speed, giving him a chance to attack when debuffing, letting him steal two items when using steal, and making debuffs last longer.
While it’s not quite as great as Primrose, Therion also has quite the story. A master thief, he’s looking for a new quarry to challenge him, when he overhears a tale of immensely valuable gems hidden in a well-guarded manor. Naturally, he manages to break in and finds the stones, but everything is not what they seem. For spoiler reasons, I won’t go any further, but his story gets much deeper than a simple heist tale. If you want a distrusting thief with powerful survivability as your party leader, you could do quite a lot worse than Therion.
Last up is H’aanit, who speakes as if she rehearseth for a Shakespearean playe. She’s a hunter, wielding a bow and an axe, and has abilities playing with the former. She can attack random enemies 5-8 times with a bow, attack ALL enemies 5-8 times with a bow, and deal critical bow damage, as well as deal lightning damage (like Therion’s fire, she needs boosted elem attack to be effective), boost everyone’s critical rate, and use a bow attack that, if it would kill an enemy, leaves them with one HP. If that sounds weird, well, there’s a reason for it. H’aanit’s talent allows her to capture monsters and summon them into battle, which theoretically gives her access to every weapon type or spell in the game. Her support skills also give her an increased first strike chance, gives her a chance to hit twice when performing a standard attack, increases her critical rate, and can even let her go twice in one turn.
A year before the game, H’aanit’s teacher Z’aanta left on a mission to slay a powerful creature called Redeye. After months with no news, H’aanit returns from a hunting trip
that exists entirely to establish her character to find that her teacher’s faithful dog has returned with a letter containing hints of his whereabouts. Fearing for his safety, she leaves on a quest to find him. If you want a caring and capable beastmaster I mean hunter leading your party, go for H’aanit.
That’s all of them. Regardless of who you start with, you’ll collect all of them within a few hours, but your choice will stay with you for the duration of the game and their quest will be your first taste of the game, so it’s worth putting a bit of thought into. Whether you’re choosing based on story or abilities, hopefully this guide gives you a bit of insight and can help make your decision. Now go, start your game, enjoy the next 60+ hours. No matter who you pick, I’m sure you’ll love it.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.