We continue the Octopath Traveler reports with a detailed look at Olberic Eisenberg, the "Unbending Blade of Hornburg". Olberic is Octopath Traveler's version of the Fighter or Warrior job from the classic Final Fantasy games, a physical attacker with powerful melee blows and innate tankiness. He's one of my favorite characters in Octopath Traveler due to the blunt nature of his gameplay, lots of smashing people over the head with swords and spears. My belief going into this venture was that Olberic was one of the stronger picks for a solo game, although time would be the proper test of that assumption. As a quick refresher for our rules in a solo game, the seven other characters will all be recuited (to allow playing through their respective storylines) but won't take any part in combat, with one mandatory exception at the end of Therion's storyline. The lesson that I learned from my initial Tressa solo game is that the Path Actions of the other characters also need to be included or else it locks out too much of the gameplay. So that's the rule for this game: Olberic can use the other characters to Steal/Purchase items, Scrutinize/Inquire for information, and Allure/Guide random townspeople around for quests, but none of those other skills can be used for combat purposes.
Olberic is the oldest of the eight characters in Octopath Traveler and is supposed to be in his mid-30s, which is practically decrepit by JRPG standards. His background story is the "disgraced warrior living in obscurity in a tiny village" trope that anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Japanese culture will have seen many times before. That said, certain plotlines become clichés for a reason, and it's highly satisfying to watch a bunch of grubby bandits practically soil themselves when they realize who it is that they've foolishly chosen to attack. Although you're not going to get anything new from Olberic's story that you haven't seen before, I still enjoyed watching the journey as Olberic searches for meaning and purpose in his life.
In gameplay terms, Olberic's Path Action is "Challenge", which allows him to initiate a duel with (almost) every NPC that the player comes across. You literally get to walk around beating up everyone in town which amuses me far more than it should. I particularly love it when some of the townspeople call you a maniac right before you beat them to a bloody pulp for no reason at all. There is a purpose to this though, as sometimes the townspeople drop useful items when defeated, or block the entry to closed off areas that can't otherwise be accessed. Olberic's unique Talent is Bolster Defense, which allows him to spend boost points on the "Defend" command. This is not particularly useful for a solo game as those boost points are much more needed elsewhere for offensive actions.
Olberic's stats are distributed exactly as one would expect for this physical attacker. He has the highest HP growth in the game and is tied for the lowest SP growth; this is not a character who will be doing a lot of spellcasting. Olberic is effectively tied with H'aanit for the highest physical attack stat in the game, and he stands alone with the highest physical defense value. The tradeoff comes in the form of poor stats elsewhere: Olberic has the lowest elemental attack, the lowest elemental defense, and the worst evasion of anyone in the game. This is a character of sharp contrasts unlike the "roughly average stats at everything" that I experienced with Tressa previously. If there's a point in Olberic's favor, it's that he doesn't even use the elemental attack stat in any way and the places where he has good stats (HP, physical defense) tend to be some of the most important categories in general.
Olberic's two weapon types are swords and spears. Unlike Tressa's elemental damage setup, Olberic will be dealing his damage through physical attacks and therefore having a quality weapon of both types will matter a great deal. Olberic is the only one of the eight characters who has no elemental damage skills at all, making this stat completely pointless for him. He is fortunate that most enemies in the game have a weakness to either swords or spears, as otherwise soulstones are his only method for breaking shields. Swords are the more important of the two damage types for Olberic since his Divine Skill uses a sword to land a devastating blow against a single enemy. Although I will try to get strong weapons in both slots, swords definitely have a priority for Olberic.
The story begins in the sleepy little town of Cobbleston where Olberic's annoying kid sidekick gets captured by a group of local bandits and has to be rescued. There's a plot-mandated sequence where Olberic must use his Path Action to Challenge two of the local townspeople in a "training exercise" that looks like this. Every Challenge battle has a difficulty rating on a scale from 1 to 10, and these initial fights both have the pathetically easy 1 star rating. At the moment, that's about all that Olberic could handle though since he lacked levels and abilities and equipment. Notice as well the brown outfit that Olberic wears during his Chapter 1 story sequence when going by "Berg" and hiding his identity. He's the only character to have a change in his sprite design, and it only lasts until the end of his initial storyline. It always looks weird to see Olberic wearing those drab peasant colors - live a little, dude!
There's a short fight against a group of bandits at the exit of Cobbleston. I knocked them all down to a single shield and broke the group with a use of Level Slash, then used a max boosted Level Slash to finish them all off. This is one of Olberic's two innate abilities, costing 9 SP to hit all opponents with a sword attack. The damage on this skill is relatively low with an attack modifier of only 1.25, no reduction in enemy defense, and a boost modifier of only 0.90 (meaning that damage is less than 4x value for investing maximum boost points). However, Level Slash is the only one of Olberic's abilities guaranteed to hit all opponents on the screen together and that's worth a fair bit. (In terms of the damage comparison, Tressa's Trade Tempest skill had similar numbers but was slightly stronger in terms of attack.) Here's the full list of Warrior skills from the mechanics guide:
For a longer discussion of what all these numbers mean, see Tressa's solo report linked here. I'll discuss these skills one at a time as Olberic learns them to avoid overloading the reader with too much detail all at once. Olberic's other innate skill was Abide which grants the physical attack up property: +50% damage on physical attacks. This was an incredibly useful skill and it's one of the reasons why Olberic can put out completely absurd damage with the proper setup. Abide lasts for 3 turns as a base value and then an additional +2 turns for each boost point invested. The basic Olberic combo for use when Challenging NPCs is to use Abide at 1 BP, break the enemy at 2 BP, and then use a max boosted (3 BP) damaging skill while the opponent is broken on the last turn of Abide before it wears out. Like Olberic, this ability is simple and effective.
The first new skill that I had Olberic learn was another extraordinarily useful ability named Stout Wall. This was the exact converse to Abide: grants the physical defense up property for 3 turns plus 2 additional turns per boost point invested. I noted in my Tressa solo game that many of the Chapter 4 bosses tried to debuff physical defense in some form and countering that debuff was extremely important for surviving their attacks. Most damage in Octopath Traveler is physical in nature and the defensive buff provided by Stout Wall cuts it by a third - that's a very big deal indeed. Olberic used Stout Wall to good effect against Gaston, the boss at the end of his initial storyline, reducing the incoming damage down to single digits. It didn't matter that Olberic had no offensive skills of his own since these opponents couldn't damage him at all. Gaston's big chargeup attack named "Mighty Blow" did all of 40 damage to Olberic, not much of a threat. He ate a single Healing Grape for HP recovery and that proved to be enough, marking an easy win to start the journey.
One of the lessons that I learned from Tressa's game was the importance of emphasizing defensive stats. As Olberic had just seen against Gaston, there's little danger if the enemies aren't strong enough to get through your physical and elemental defenses. My first purchases at the equipment store in Cobbleston had therefore been a Round Shield and a Sturdy Helm, filling empty item slots with useful gear. The next purchase after defeating Gaston was to pick up the Silver Vest, the best item that Olberic would be able to find for the immediate future in the chest armor slot. This brought him over 200 physical defense and effectively made Olberic immune to the critters in the local area, with the beasts only able to pinprick him for single digit damage. With the basic defensive gear in place, I would look to itemize better weapons next to speed up the duration of each fight.
Olberic also picked up enough job points from defeating Gaston to unlock his fourth skill in the Warrior job. I picked the Cross Strike skill this time, the most powerful attack option outside of the Divine Skill that comes with maxing out the class. Cross Strike costs 12 SP to deal a heavy blow against a single target with Olberic's currently equipped sword (again emphasizing how swords are more important than spears for his key skills). It has an excellent attack modifier of 1.90, a full boost modifier of 1.00, and greatly reduces enemy armor with a defensive modifier of 0.67. To illustrate this by means of an example, let's say that Olberic had a physical attack of 50 and his opponent had a physical defense of 30. If Olberic boosted to max and attacked normally, he would deal (50 - 30) * 1.00 * 4 = 20 * 4 = 80 damage. If he made the same attack with a max boosted Cross Strike, however, that attack would deal (50 - (30 * 0.67)) * 1.90 * 4 = 30 * 1.90 * 4 = 228 damage. That's almost three times the resulting damage! The key is that Cross Strike both hits harder than a normal attack and also reduces the armor of the defending unit at the same time. It's a less extreme version of the Divine Skill for this class that still ends up being pretty darn good. Cross Strike immediately became the go-to attack of choice for use against bosses.
Unlocking the fourth Warrior ability also meant opening up the first support skill. Here's the full list from the mechanics guide:
This group of support skills is generally pretty "meh" aside from the last one to unlock. Cover causes Olberic to jump in front of other party members when they get low on health and take the blow for them, great in a normal party setting and completely useless for a solo game. No, scratch that: it was WORSE than useless because Olberic would actually protect the other party members when I was trying to kill them off! I had to run from battle and unequip Cover as a support skill to get rid of them, heh. Summon Strength was simple and helpful: physical attack strength increased by 50 points. Far from the best support skill but definitely useful for Olberic. Endure was more interesting: Olberic gained the physical defense and elemental defense up properties when he was inflicted with a status ailment. It made me think about the possibility of intentionally going into boss fights with some kind of status condition to gain those defensive buffs, but unfortunately all of the negative statuses were too bad to make that worthwhile. In other words, useful when it kicked in without being something that I would deliberately trigger.
Surpassing Power was the last support skill and the most useful option for Olberic. It allowed him to exceed the normal 9999 damage cap and deal more than 10k damage in a single blow. This would be mandatory for Olberic even if I wasn't playing a variant because his Divine Skill can go far beyond 9999 damage once he gets the proper equipment in place. My non-variant game was hitting as much as 30k damage at a time, although that was with the enemy's physical defense debuffed by Therion which wouldn't be possible here. Surpassing Power is therefore great from a gameplay perspective while also fitting perfectly with Olberic from a thematic point of view, showcasing the wandering knight with an incredibly powerful sword arm. Whoever did the design work here did an excellent job.
I decided that the first character I wanted to recruit was Tressa. Her Purchase Path Action would be highly useful in opening up equipment that would otherwise not become available until much later in the game (or not at all), and of course I had plenty of familiarity with Tressa after having completed her own solo run previously. Olberic had accumulated enough money to buy an improved weapon, the Sunlands Spear, from the normal weapons store in Rippletide even before recruiting Tressa, and then it was into the Cave of Maia to run through the story proper. For the moment, Olberic had a better spear than sword and I would default to the former when making normal attacks. The bosses at the end of Tressa's Chapter 1 story were the pirate duo Mikk and Makk, and with significantly more Octopath Traveler experience under my belt, I was better able to judge their particular AI scripting pattern. I tried to kill Mikk first due to his spears weakness, only to find that Makk would use his own version of the Cover skill and take the blow instead when his partner was low on health. This wasn't guaranteed but it did block a series of otherwise lethal blows. Once Mikk was gone, Makk buffed himself up and started using more powerful attacks, albeit ones that still barely scratched Olberic's armor. It would be ideal to finish both of these opponents off at the same time if possible though these clowns are weak enough that I doubt it will matter for anyone.
Then it was time to swing in the opposite direction and pick up Primrose in the town of Sunshade. The most noteworthy thing that happened here was finding a Cait in a random encounter and blasting it with a Medium Soulstone for 1000 XP and 3000 money, gaining several levels in the process. The boss at the end of this storyline was the odious Helgenish:
I used Cross Strike against first one and then the other minions that showed up with the boss, only to see him resummon them later on back to the battlefield. That probably wasn't worth the time investment, better to leave one of them alive and concentrate on the boss afterwards. Helgenish had 7 shields but not a lot of health underlying them once he was broken. With a weakness to spears, it was simple to attack until the shields were down and then use an Abide-enhanced max boosted Cross Strike for heavy damage. Once again Helgenish and his minions were not strong enough to punch through Olberic's armor, mostly dealing damage in the two digit range. This was another easy battle.
Unlike my initial solo game with Tressa, I was allowing myself to use the Path Actions of the other characters from the outset of Olberic's journey, and the general flow of the gameplay felt much smoother as a result. Instead of the vast majority of the side quests piling up in Olberic's journal and going unfinished, I was able to fulfill them as they became available and earn much-needed money in the process. I was similarly able to pick up the various stat-boosting nuts that unlocked at each new town, devouring them one and two at a time instead of chasing them down in a big group at the very end of the game. I actively wanted to recruit more characters and visit new towns to unlock the various rewards associated with each one. All of this was much better from a pacing perspective and validated my decision to allow the Path Actions of the other characters in a solo game. I had simply been missing too much of the gameplay when I excluded them previously.
For my fourth recruited party member, I continued on northwards and headed to Atlasdam to pick up Cyrus. The geography of the inner ring of towns in Octopath Traveler was intentionally designed to put characters with related Path Actions at opposite ends of the circle, like H'aanit's and her Provoke being the furthest character away from Olberic's Challenge. This meant that I could acquire all four of the general Path Actions (Challenge/Provoke, Purchase/Steal, Scrutinze/Inquire, Allure/Guide) by exploring only half of the initial ring of towns. For a solo game, the "dark" version of these Path Actions tends to be better since they always have a chance to succeed and can be forced via repeated dice rolls rather than requiring a set level ahead of time. Thus Cyrus would be better to have than Alfyn and similarly Primrose would be better than Ophilia for the purposes of this game. The fact that Cyrus and Primrose also have low HP and low defense to make them easier to kill off was a bit of a side bonus.
The above picture was taken against some of the skeletons in the Subterranean Study, the first of many opponents to break out the Horrifying Claw move against Olberic. Terror status prevents your characters from gaining boost points or spending boost points and always proves to be a major pain in the rear. On the one hand, Olberic had it better than Tressa because he could simply use melee attacks while terrified and still deal decent damage. On the other hand, he didn't have the Rest ability to cure away terror status and gain additional health at the same time. I was able to power through these random encounters with a bunch of melee swings, while acknowledging that Olberic was going to need the anti-terror Calming Stone at some point down the road.
Russell was the boss waiting at the end of the short Cyrus Chapter 1 dungeon. This was one place where buffing up Olberic's physical defenses with Stout Wall had little effect, since almost all of Russell's damage was elemental in nature. The boss spawns with a series of Water Wisp minions and Olberic dutifully cut them down one at a time, taking advantage of their spears weakness in the process. Once Russell was alone, Olberic had little difficulty breaking the boss and then landed an Abide buffed max-boosted Cross Strike for the pictured 4000 damage. This was nearly enough to one-shot poor Russell who only has a little over 5k health, and with the damage taken while breaking his shields it was more than enough to finish him off. This was Olberic at his best, tanking a whole bunch of damage and then unleashing a massive sword strike to finish off his opponent.
Olberic picked up several additional stat-boosting nuts by completing side quests in Atlasdam, which also helpfully kicked in some more money in the process. Atlasdam was close enough to Noblescourt out in the second ring that I felt comfortable making an early trip to the nearby town and reached it with no trouble at all. Cyrus only faced a single random encounter and he was strong enough to win it with some Cross Strike usage. Once in Noblecourt I went on a Purchasing spree, picking up useful items in the accessory slots for the first time along with significantly better armor in the form of the Imperial Vest and Grand Helm. Unlike Tressa and her Rest-fueled infinite SP spending, Olberic had a very low maximum SP total and had to be careful about using his abilities or else running out. I couldn't exactly afford to spam Inspiring Plums (the item that restores SP) at this stage of the game given their cost. The Stimulating Bracelet was therefore legitimately useful for Olberic to open up more opportunities to use his abilities. Conversely, the Empowering Bracelet was somewhat less needed for Olberic given his absolutely massive HP total. I equipped both of them for the moment due to a lack of other choices for accessories.
I was taking the time to Challenge and defeat every NPC in every town that Olberic visited. This was somewhat tedious but it did provide excellent experience from winning so many duels against hapless townspeople. It also led to amusing pictures like this:
That was the tavern in Sunshade with everyone other than the barkeeper knocked out. There was a practical purpose here beyond a desire to put a beatdown on poor folks just going about their daily lives. I was searching for important or unusual item drops resulting from winning these Challenges, particularly hoping to find Refreshing Jams on some of the stronger opponents. I was compiling a list of where every Refreshing Jam in the game could be found to make a checklist for future solo characters, and Olberic was acting as a guinea pig of sorts to investigate every potential Challenge/Provoke encounter. I hadn't found a single Refreshing Jam thus far but if I could find even one the effort would have been worthwhile.
At this point I could have continued further north towards Flamesgrace or west into the Riverlands. I decided to skip Ophilia and Flamesgrace for the moment given the problems that Tressa had encountered with the boss at the end of her dungeon, instead venturing after Alfyn next. Olberic's armor upgrades essentially made him immune to all non-boss enemies in the first ring, allowing him to shrug off each hit for single digit damage even as his own health had already climbed above the 2000 mark. He was never going to die to these random foes unless something truly bizarre happened. When Olberic faced off against the Blotted Viper boss at the end of Alyn's Chapter 1 dungeon, I remembered that I had to keep one of the Mottled Asp minions alive to prevent the boss from using his attack that inflicted unconscious status. While this did work as planned, I had forgotten about something far more basic: bringing a stock of the item that cures poison! Olberic was poisoned right at the start of the fight and kept taking ticks of poison damage over and over again throughout the whole battle. This was a place where his high HP total was a disadvantage, as poison did 1/6th of max health (414 HP) at the end of every turn. The boss and its minions were totally irrelevant, it was the poison that formed the whole danger in this fight. I did manage to get this done but had to consume a series of medium Healing Grapes in the process. Fortunately Olberic could purchase more of them at the item shop in Noblecourt as needed.
The town of Clearbrook brought the usual group of side quests and nuts to be earned via various Path Actions. If Olberic was powering through a lot of the early chapters, it was due at least in part to the stat boosts he kept picking up with visits to each new town. Clearbrook was particularly noteworthy because it contained a highly useful accessory as a quest reward: the Mighty Belt, which boosted physical attack by 50 points. Given that every single one of Olberic's abilities scaled off of physical damage, this was a must-have for the moment and I replaced the Empowering Bracelet with it. Olberic had enough health right now and didn't need another 500 HP.
I continued in a clockwise direction around the outer ring to Boulderfall and recruited Therion next. The thief was a character that I would keep in the party throughout the rest of the game (as a deceased individual of course) so that Therion could be revived on demand to open purple chests that Olberic found along the way. This would allow him to access these otherwise off-limits items instead of having much of the game's best loot left forever out of reach. As for Therion's dungeon in Ravus Manor, this picture of the boss attacking and dealing 1 damage to Olberic pretty much summed it up. Heathcote didn't have any weaknesses for Olberic to attack, however it didn't matter since he was effectively immune to all incoming damage. If they can't scratch your defenses then it's basically impossible to lose.
Boulderfall was close enough that I had Olberic venture out into the second ring again to make his way to Victor's Hollow. When Tressa made this same journey in her solo game, she was repeatedly killed and only barely managed to reach the town by eventually getting lucky with a Retreat roll. Olberic had no such difficulties and was able to win several random encounters against the local forest critters en route to the town's gates. I think the biggest difference was the much higher priority that I placed on securing defensive gear for Olberic. He had much more health and could tank incoming blows far better than Tressa, and that combined with some generous use of Cross Strike and Level Slash allowed him to win these random encounters instead of running for his life.
Victor's Hollow is a key town to reach due to the excellent equipment available via Purchase or Steal. I started out by Purchasing the Divine Blade for the sword slot at a cost of 28,500 money, an item that increased the physical attack in the sword slot by almost 100 points. This would help out significantly with Olberic's Cross Strike boss-killing ability. Then I Purchased the Fur Cap for 13k money and save-scummed until Therion was able to Steal the Victor's Spear at 3% odds. You might ask why not simply use the Steal ability for everything, but I found that the very low odds for these steals made them counterproductive from a time perspective. It could take as many as 40 or 50 attempts to land the Steal at those odds, long moments of boring loading and reloading of the savegame file to keep making additional chances at picking pockets. It really undercut Therion's reputation as the world's greatest thief when he tried and fails to steal something 37 times in a row! Anyway, the Victor's Spear increased physical attack in the spear slot by almost 150 points and made spears the weapon of choice for the moment. These two new weapons would mean a major upgrade in Olberic's offensive capabilities.
H'aanit's Chapter 1 story was up next as Olberic headed backwards to the inner ring of the Woodlands. His new weapons were strong enough that he was actually one-shotting some of the unlucky forest monsters without even needing to invest any boost points. Needless to say, between that damage output and Olberic's study armor the danger was nonexistent here. The boss at the end of this region was the monster named Ghisarma, another opponent that was limited to single digit damage when it attacked. Olberic had simply out-scaled these bosses already, probably because I'd spent so much time running side quests and beating up townspeople in Challenges. He broke the Ghisarma and defeated it with a pair of max boosted Cross Strikes.
The picture above came from a lucky encounter with a Cait in the Frostlands en route to Flamesgrace. Olberic smashed a medium soulstone and managed to break one of the other enemies in the process, thus landing the perfect battle result in all three categories. The Cait was already worth less than a full level's worth of experience, but 1100 XP certainly didn't hurt and the extra money and job points were very much appreciated. Olberic was working towards his last remaining skills and needed about 5000 more JP to unlock his awesome Divine Skill.
Remember how much trouble Tressa had dealing with the Guardian of the First Flame, the boss at the end of Ophilia's Chapter 1 storyline? I had saved this tale for last out of fear of those summoned Dark Wisps and their potential to self-destruct for huge damage. Olberic was far stronger than Tressa had been back when she faced this challenge, however, and this time I knew what I was walking into. How would things play out this time?
Well, it turned out that things went a bit better than I was expecting: Olberic one-shotted the Guardian before the creature even summoned its Dark Wisps! The boss is weak to swords so it was easy to work the Guardian down to 1 shield remaining, power up with Abide, then break it and land a max-boosted Cross Strike. That massive blow dealt more than 7400 damage and instantly killed the beast, just like that. I had been expecting a major battle and literally laughed out loud when this happened. Olberic doesn't need strategy or tactics, he just hits things really REALLY hard!
This brought the introductory portion of the gameplay to a close, with the whole inner circle of towns visited and all eight characters recruited. The journey had been unexpectedly easy thus far between Olberic's innate tankiness and huge damage output. I think that emphasizing defensive equipment had a lot to do with that as well, since one of the biggest lessons I'd learned from Tressa had been the importance of limiting damage taken. Things were going to get harder as Olberic moved on to the Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 storylines, but how much harder would that prove to be? We were about to find out.