Octopath Traveller and Hollow Knight reactions


Staff member
Hey, I played a couple of video games tonight. I played the demo of Octopath for about 1.5 hours and Hollow Knight for about an hour. Here are my initial thoughts!

"Easy Castlevania without the tunes"

I don't know, on the one hand I don't have much to say. It seems like a very generic, although super well-made Metroidvania. Maybe the most shocking thing about it is how much it is the same as those games. It sure seems way easier than any Castlevania game I've played. I don't know if I love the art/theme, it's a little bit monochromatic and even though it's weird, it feels like maybe a sort of generic kind of weird.

Also in the beginning I'm killing bugs and bees and shit. Which... I don't know, I guess that's normal in a video game but I found myself going "wait, this isn't one of those indie games where it turns out you're not supposed to kill everything on the screen, is it?"

For a long time I've had this joke about "the only thing that game reviewers care about is that the app doesn't crash". Basically the idea behind the joke is that a lot of videogames have not much going for them but their polish. Hollow Knight feels like a really good example of that. It's like... as an app, it's utterly rock solid. I don't love the aesthetic of it but I can see why people think it's beautiful - it's clean, it's clear, it's polished, and it does have a visual language that's pretty identifiable. As a new interactive thing, it's like... why do we need this? I guess if you've already played all of the existing Castlevania and Metroid games and need more? Although honestly who has even done that? Because after you played Symphony of the Night, you maybe could play one or two more of them, but like... do you really need to play more than 10 Metroidvania games? I don't know.

Oh, and the music in this is just like the sound of someone raking leaves? One of the best things about Castlevania, or Megaman, or any of these RUN AROUND CHOPPIN SHIT games is that the music is cool and makes you excited to play. What is with the tone in this game? I'm supposed to be like, sad and lonely or something and that's why I'm... chopping all these animals? What is this theme?

Overall I don't know, I don't get it. Castlevania drops random equipment and items. This doesn't even have a good Skinner box mechanism to hook me. It's just me walking around killing bugs and jumping on platforms.

"A fine JRPG that I don't have time for"

I like Octopath actually a lot more than Hollow Knight. It is a JRPG, sometimes shockingly, brazenly generic in its JRPG-ness, but in my opinion also advances the genre in a lot of ways. There are enough advances here in design to warrant the existence of this thing, which is not a claim I make very often. I'm not sure how I feel about the Saga Frontier style "8 different characters" thing - I just hope it's not 8 small JRPGs in one, although honestly, I don't know why I even hope that. Who cares. From the first chapter or whatever I got through (I beat the first boss, the manor for the thief character), it seems like the story is standard issue JRPG whatever. It seems like the story is like the story you'd get in an anime for little kids, about ninjas or something.

It looks good (although I wish it was less brown) and it's nice to have a new, well-made game with old-school RPG sprites. Music seems okay but kinda uninspired and boring. Actually a lot of the theme stuff feels like "who cares". I feel like, yeah, the world, the art, the music, the characters are all very who-cares generic. I could do without the voice acting.

(WEIRD DETAIL: you know how in those old Playstation 1 games, if they had audio, there would be weird long pauses before every character spoke because it was loading the .wav file off the CD in real time? It feels like this game does that, there's like weird delays between conversations.)

Is the big hook that there are 8 characters and you play through their separate storylines? Because that doesn't seem like a really compelling hook. Suikoden's hook was that you have a castle, Final Fantasy's was that it has amazing music, Torment's was that it had good writing. What's the hook for this one?

I don't know if it's hook-worthy, but the best thing about Octopath is probably the combat system, which works really hard to try and make the classic Wizardry/Dragon Quest turn based battle system interesting. Those systems, everyone solves them instantly. This system, you solve it after about 10 minutes of playing (basically moments after you understand how the BREAK system and the charging up systems work). That's fine though. Actually I think you wouldn't really even want a "deep, difficult" combat system in a JRPG anyway. You want something, I think, that you can basically solve, but that has enough moving parts that you feel like the solution wasn't too trivial. Actually, I wonder if this is maybe the key to console-type videogames generally. Give me something to do with my hands while the numbers go up, but give me "plausible deniability" about the fact that I am just wasting my time in a Skinner box thing. In a dumb fun kinetic sort of way, it's satisfying to use this system.

But actually Octopath, I could see if I have a party of 3-4 characters facing off against several characters, the battles could get kind of complex sometimes. I do miss being into an RPG, but I don't know. They take up so much time, and wouldn't it just be better to play Pillars of Eternity 2 or something? I wish it wasn't 60 dollars but maybe I can sell my Mario on the switch and get it that way so I don't feel like I'm buying all these 60 dollar games I never play (aka: videogames).
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New member
Modern games always keep things simple for the first hour or world. Unless there's a difficulty select, these are often built to ease in people who have never played games ever. To that, I usually don't try to solidify my thoughts on a game until I'm halfway through. But try to have fun anyway!


Staff member
Modern games always keep things simple for the first hour or world. Unless there's a difficulty select, these are often built to ease in people who have never played games ever. To that, I usually don't try to solidify my thoughts on a game until I'm halfway through. But try to have fun anyway!
Ya. I dunno, I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, you're absolutely right - the opening isn't like the rest of the game in almost any game. On the other hand, though... I know that, and I'm kind of factoring that in. Like we've played enough games in general that we can extrapolate out to imagine what the mid/late game must be like with relative accuracy.

Also... it has happened to me many times that I start out, play the first hour, make a bad prediction, and then 30 hours later I'm like "fuck man, my 1 hour prediction was totally dead on". So I dunno. Generally I think yeah, it's good not to be too cynical and to try and like stuff so I will definitely keep playing BOTH of these games. But just wanted to give my initial thoughts.