Spoiler alert: This article contains major spoilers for the post-game dungeon in Octopath Traveler, as well as mechanics for the final boss.
After clearing all eight story arcs in Octopath Traveler at around the 68-hour mark, I was feeling pretty good about myself. There were a couple of tough bosses in chapter 4, specifically the ones that would continually drain your HP every turn and bar the use of magic, but they never felt insurmountable. Even clearing the four advanced job shrines was doable. Tough, but not insurmountable.
Octopath Traveler’s combat system revolves around the boost system and managing your characters’ ability to attack multiple times in a row. At its core, the system is simple. You’ll want to use the boost system to break an enemy’s shield, then unleash a barrage of physical or elemental attacks to deal critical damage. Heal up in between turns, rinse and repeat. For the majority of Octopath Traveler’s content, you can get by with that simple tactic. And if you play that way, you might never find yourself needing to use any of the divine skills. Oh, what are divine skills, you ask? Well, they’re powerful abilities that cost 30 SP each, and they can only be used when your boost level is maxed out, which means you need at least 3 BP to use them.
Every class in the game comes with a unique divine skill. For instance, did you know that the Cleric’s divine skill lets you cast a spell on any character, allowing them to repeat an action? Did you know that the Apothecary’s divine skill lets you use items that affect the whole party? I knew all of this, but never used them in the main story. And if you’re just playing Octopath Traveler like a regular JRPG with a bit of level grinding here and there, chances are, you’ll never use them either.
Well, we discovered the game’s secret post-game dungeon just last week, and as it turns out, the dungeon also houses a final superboss that truly puts your skills to the test. Once you enter the dungeon, there’s no turning back. You either beat it or you die. Before you get to face the final boss, you’re forced to run through a gauntlet of eight bosses, all taken from the characters’ third and fourth chapters. Once you’ve beaten them, the pathway to the final boss unlocks, and the game throws yet another surprise twist at you. If you’ve been focusing on a core party of four characters this whole time, you’re in for a really rude awakening. The game forces you to split your cast into two parties – one for each phase – and then your skills will be put to the test. If you’ve been neglecting to level up your non-active characters, they’re probably going to get decimated.
The first phase is primarily elemental-based. The boss tosses a bunch of elemental spells at you, along with annoying status effects, and it spawns additional, minor enemies as the fight progresses. Your job is to finish off the adds all at the same time or they’ll continue to spawn, and you won’t be able to deal any damage to the main target. The catch? Once you reach the third part of the fight, three more minor enemies spawn, and they all have different elemental weaknesses that change each time they get hit. It then becomes a matter of figuring out which spells you should use, and which weaknesses you should exploit. The second phase focuses more on physical attacks, though the boss will continue to surprise you with the occasional elemental attack as well.
While I’ve yet to clear the second phase, one thing is clear. If you don’t use your divine skills, you’re most probably going to lose. After my second attempt at the boss, I started looking into the Cleric’s divine skill to allow Cyrus to hit the boss’ elemental weakness six times in a row. I started looking into the Apothecary’s divine skill to provide full BP and HP heals to my whole party. Healing up your party needs to be planned one turn ahead, and if you miss a beat, it’s game over.
This level of challenge and brutality is to be expected from a superboss in a turn-based RPG like this one, of course, but it’s fascinating to see how Octopath Traveler is able to challenge players by forcing them to make use of literally every skill at their disposal. With every attempt (I’ve tried it three times so far), I’m learning more about the game’s combat system and how deep it is. I’m learning how to optimize my party better, what passive skills I should have on my mages and physical attackers, and how to spend my BP efficiently. It’s going to take a couple more tries before I can finally take down the boss, but at least after I take this guy out, I’ll know I can replay the game in the future and be confident in my skill to take on any challenge with ease.