Octopath Traveler - Choosing the Best Starting Character: path actions, skills and characters examined
The latest big Nintendo Switch exclusive is Square Enix RPG Octopath Traveler - and one of the most interesting and unique things about the game is its open-ended structure. Rather than just starting with a set character, players get to choose their starting character and class right out of the gate.
There are a total of eight characters available each with their own starting class whose stories you can see (thus the name Octopath Traveler - eight journeys to travel) - but as we note in our Octopath Traveler review the first character you choose is important. While you can recruit everyone else and swap them at will, your starting character will always be in your party and cannot be removed. They thus become the lynchpin of your party, so you have to choose carefully.
On this page, we're going to run down all eight starting characters in Octopath Traveler and explain why we think some are some of Octopath Traveler's Best Starting Characters and Classes and why others might be left for later. This page goes hand-in-hand with our Octopath Traveler character job class guide & skill list, so be sure to check that out too. Without further ado, let's kick off - with the names ordered to spell OCTOPATH. 'Cos why not?!
Octopath Traveler Best Starting Characters: who is best to start with?
Keep in mind that in Octopath Traveler there is no truly 'bad' choice for your party member to start with, though some will definitely make the early hours of the game before you can pick up second jobs or even advanced classes later on a little more difficult.
Don't panic too much, though - pretty quickly you'll be tasked with unlocking subclasses by locating shrines before choosing job combinations and picking up passive skills. To make your life easiest you'll want somebody who's a good mix of everything - but we'll come on to that in the individual descriptions...
Olberic: The Warrior - the best basic starter, and great for early grinding
If you remember the red-haired Warrior sprite from Final Fantasy, Olberic is the Octopath Traveler version of that guy - he is a basic warrior, with all the skills you'd expect. His story is a tragic tale of a king and kingdom lost - and a man trying to find his way in the world again.
Because Olberic doesn't rely on spells, Olberic is simple and easy to understand, able to dish out damage easily and in a straightforward manner. While you will need to buy healing items from shops to keep him safe, he's also the perfect tanky, hardy starting character for newcomers. The fact he can brute force most normal enemies of an appropriate level without exploiting their weakness makes him absolutely the best starting character for beginners.
Olberic's character Path Action, Challenge, allows him to challenge NPCs even in sqafe areas like towns to a one-on-one duel. This is a great way to earn experience, which means when the going gets tough you have a way to safely and easily grind our some experience and levels.
Cyrus: The Mage & Scholar - the best starter for exploiting weaknesses
A big part of combat in Octopath Traveler is exploiting enemy weaknesses in order to put them into a 'break' state and leave them vulnerable, and players wanting to take advantage of that with powerful elemental attacks will absolutely be best off picking Cyrus, the Scholar.
Cyrus is a teacher at the Royal Academy, and an all-around smart guy, but he also has a bit of a taste for detective work - his story line will see you channelling your inner Professor Layton or Phoenix Wright to solve a mystery. His Path Action lets you Inquire to learn more information from friendly NPCs, but his Battle Talent is far more useful.
Said Talent, Study Foe, reveals one enemy weakness to you at the start of battle - and one of Cyrus' skills can reveal more. Couple that with early access to Fire, Ice and Lighting spells plus amazing double-hitting upgraded versions of those spells to unlock later and he's by far the easiest mage to get to grips with in the early stages of the game. Just keep stocked on HP and SP restoring items from the store, since healing is an issue early on.
Tressa: The Merchant - a great all-rounder starting character
Tressa is Octopath Traveler's merchant, which means she shouldn't on paper be the best in combat - but she's not bad, you know! Tressa can haggle and purchase items off NPCs with her Path Action, and her Talent is brilliant - she'll randomly find cash that's been dropped out in the overworld. In later areas I've seen her find as much as 10,000 in raw cash, making her extremely useful to have in your party.
Early on, however, she's just useful thanks to her in-battle abilities. Tressa comes packing the natural ability to use both individual and area-of-effect Wind spells and a copuple of weapons, making her a good all-rounder. What makes Tressa most powerful, however, is one specific ability you can grab in the early game: Rest.
Rest restores your own HP and SP, and cures all Status Ailments. This basically means no matter how screwed a situation Tressa is in, she can reset herself to good stead again just by sacrificing one turn. In the early game this is absolutely vital, making her by far one of the best starting characters.
Ophilia: The Healer / Cleric: perhaps not the best first character, but a definite early recruit
Recruiting Ophilia early on in Octopath should be a target for any player since everybody needs a good healer, but she could also be a decent first pick: you'll never regret your first choice always being in the party with Ophilia because you will, broadly speaking, always need a healing mage.
Ophilia's Summon Talent is shared with another Octopath Traveler character, Primrose, and lets you recruit NPCs to join you in battle. That's a useful boost, as are the Holy Element offensive magic spells she can unlock, but for the most part Ophilia's game is all about attacking with her cane, triggering a boost and then letting rip with either big heal or one of those powerful holy magic spells to exploit an enemy's weakness.
Primrose: The Dancer - a character pick for more suited to genre veterans
Primrose is the dancer class in Octopath Traveler, and that's a class that's probably better suited to those used to the ins-and-outs of classic Japanese RPGs. She has great buffing skills for bolstering the party, which perhaps makes her a better second-string backup character than primary party member, to be honest.
Her Allure and Summon Path Action and Talent allow her to recruit NPCs from out in the world and them recruit them in battle - so if you can find an NPC who fills a weakness gap in your party that can make her invaluable through summoning them.
Primrose also has access to dark elemental attacks, which is a common enemy weakness. In truth her combat is all about building up boosts and then buffing her fellow travelers, though.
Alfyn: The Apothecary - alchemy makes for a more complex strategy
At a first glance you might think Alfyn has a weak Path Action (he can Inquire with NPCs to get more information on plot points) and a weak battle Talent in Concoct, but actually Concot is just a talent you really need to study and learn to use properly, then it can become extremely impressive.
Alfyn also has a low-cost healing spell, First Aid, making him the other starter who can heal after the more heal-focused Ophilia. It's really all about Concoct, though, a skill JRPG regulars might know in other games as 'mix'. Basically, Alfyn can mix together items found in Octopath Traveler's world to make something mid-battle. That might be an item to heal, or to poison enemies, or anything in between.
Recipes are only revealed to you once you've crafted them once in battle, so the path to understanding the concoct ability is to grind and practice making things on regular enemies so you know what you're making before you hit a big boss. Alfyn is a great character, but we wouldn't recommend him as a starter.
Therion: The Thief - challenging early on, but the best starter for gathering loot
Honestly, we wouldn't strictly recommend picking Therion early on as he can be difficult to handle. The typical RPG thief archetype, Therion is fast and but weak, and in battle he only really comes into his own, we think, when you can pair his useful thief abilities with the abilities and stat boosts from a second job.
With that said, if you do pick him there is one big pay-off for picking a character so challenging - his Character Path Ability is Steal, which lets you rob NPCs out in the world. This can net you a huge amount of amazing items, as can his Talent, Pick Lock - which lets you open the unique purple chests out in the world. Even when a second character picks up the Thief Job Class only Therion can use his talent and path action, remember, so that makes him vital - you can stock up on overpowered gear easily through thievery.
H'aanit: The Hunter - the ideal starter for an experienced player
While perhaps not as initially challenging as some of the weaker characters, H'aanit's Hunt, Capture and Summon abilities lend themselves to a lot of fun for experienced JRPG players. She can basically weaken beasts and then capture them in combat, and then unleash them on other enemies again. This allows you to have a great variety of move types at your disposal through monster summoning.
Like Oberic, H'aanit is one of Octopath Traveler's heavy hitters right from the start, but the difference is she requires the micromanagement of constantly capturing new creatures. She also has a lot of skills, since there's a full set of hunter skills with axe and bow attacks as well. She even has a similar Path Action ability to Oberic, but instead of challenging to an honorable duel she provokes NPCs into attacking her for a one-on-one fight.
H'aanit isn't exactly difficult to use - she's quite easy thanks to her ability to brute force through things early on, in fact - but she is difficult to master and requires constant attention. With the right skill set she can become a devastating jack of all trades - and she's actually my favorite starter because of that.