Alfyn: Apothecary Solo Game

We're continuing the Octopath Traveler series of solo games with the character of Alfyn, everyone's favorite alcoholic healer. Alfyn Greengrass (that's his official full name) has the job title of Apothecary, Octopath Traveler's version of the Chemist class from prior Final Fantasy games. In gameplay terms, this means that Alfyn is essentially a physical damage tank with significant healing and status-curing abilities. (He is the counterpart in this regard of Ophilia, the game's other healer who has the top elemental resistance stat.) Alfyn's unique Concoct ability allows him to mix certain reagents together to create some kind of in-battle effect. Since this game was made in 2018 and not 1992, it's a lot less game-breakingly powerful as compared to Final Fantasy 5's version of the Chemist job, but Alfyn still gets to do some fun stuff that this report will explore in detail. My belief before starting this venture was that Alfyn's innate tankiness and the versatility provided by Concoct would make him one of the better choices for a solo game, though as usual I'd have to play things to find out.

As a quick refresher for our rules in an Octopath Traveler 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: Alfyn can use the other characters to Steal/Purchase items, Challenge/Provoke NPCs in town, and Allure/Guide random townspeople around for quests, but none of those other skills can be used for combat purposes.

Alfyn as a character has an easy-going, happy-go-lucky personality that comes across both in the written dialogue and in the voice acting. He's the character with arguably the weakest motivation to go on a lengthy journey, someone who's basically wandering around with no particular goal in mind other than trying to help cure the sick to be like his idol. We repeatedly see Alfyn refusing to take any money to help out other people with his remedies, which simultaneously establishes his good-hearted nature and his continued state of poverty. (There were lots of jokes when I Livestreamed this game contrasting Alfyn's altruistic nature to the predatory reality of modern day healthcare.) I feel as though I should like Alfyn as a character but I just don't, for whatever reason. He's my least favorite of the eight main characters. Perhaps it's because Alfyn seems to float through life with no particular goal in mind while I'm an inveterate planner, with his worldview simply not fitting with mine at all. (The obsessive drinking is kind of a turnoff as well.) Fortunately the details of the plot are largely irrelevant for the purposes of this venture where we'll be focusing almost entirely on the gameplay side of things.

Alfyn's Path Action is "Inquire", which lets him learn information about NPCs in towns and sometimes turn up hidden items or unlock extra purchases in the stores. It is effectively the same ability as the "Scrutinize" brought by Cyrus, only Alfyn's Inquire is a binary enabled/not enabled switch determined by his character level as opposed to the percentage-based dice roll of Scrutinize. This will be an excellent opportunity to explore this Path Action in more detail since solo Alfyn will quickly rise to a high enough level to Inquire about everyone. Alfyn's unique Talent is his Concoct ability mentioned above, which we'll be diving into in much greater detail shortly.

Alfyn's stats reflect the fact that he's geared towards being a physical damage tank. He has the second-best HP growth and physical defense in the game, trailing behind Olberic in both cases. Alfyn's physical attack and elemental attack are both middling compared to the rest of the characters, an indication that his offensive output is somewhat on the lower side. He's not especially great at physical damage or elemental damage as far as stats are concerned, somewhere in between at both. The rest of the stats are fairly average with the exception of speed, where Alfyn ties with Olberic as the slowest two characters in the game. This is nowhere near as bad as it sounds, since the turn-based nature of Octopath Traveler's combat system limits the advantages of faster speed. (Similarly, the accuracy and evasion stats seem to be almost completely pointless; my characters never seem to miss and they never seem to dodge anything.) I'd say that these stats are pretty good for a solo game purely based off the excellent HP growth alone. There's a case to be made that being "good but not great" in both physical and elemental categories leaves Alfyn stuck in the middle, a bad place to be, but his setup is versatile enough that he might be able to do both effectively.

Alfyn only has one weapon type: axes. That's a pretty big limitation and it cuts down significantly on the different types of attack options that he has available. On the plus side here, there are multiple different endgame axes that can all see use depending on the goal of the moment which should be fun to play around with. Alfyn has one elemental damage type in the form of ice, a single-target skill named Icicle that deals moderate damage. That's underselling Alfyn though because his Concoct ability actually gives him access to all six elemental damage types if he has the proper mixing ingredients. I'm expecting him to get a lot of use out of this since axes alone aren't going to cut it against many opponents.

Alfyn's initial chapter sends him into a local cave to find a cure for snakebite venom. If you guessed that this involves fighting a lot of snakes en route to a battle against a boss snake at the end, congratulations, you've passed your genre savviness test. The initial two Apothecary skills are the aforementioned Icicle and First Aid, the latter of which turns out to be one of the best healing skills in the game. First Aid only heals one target at a time (not a problem for a solo game) with an extraordinarily high healing modifier of 4.67. By way of comparison, this is about triple the modifier for Tressa's Rest skill (1.25) that readers may remember from my Solo Merchant report, and more than double Ophilia's Heal Wounds skill (2.12). It's even about 50% stronger than Ophilia's Heal More skill (3.20), although of course First Aid only affects one target instead of the whole party. The bottom line is that First Aid provides an absurd amount of damage restoration and it's a major reason why Alfyn proves to be such a strong tank. He can soak up damage like nobody's business and use First Aid to keep right on going.

It didn't take long to acquire the 30 job points needed to unlock another skill in the Apothecary class. I'll go ahead and post a picture of the full list of skills from the Octopath Traveler mechanics guide:

For a longer explanation of what all these numbers mean, I'll direct readers to this page in the solo Tressa game. I'll go through these skills one at a time as they unlock to avoid overwhelming the reader with too much detail at once. The third Apothecary skill that I chose for Alfyn was Amputation, the skill that does by far the most single-target damage. Amputation has an excellent attack modifier of 1.90 and a defensive modifier of 0.67, which means that it reduces the physical defense of the enemy being targeted by a third. It also gets the full boost modifier of 1.00 instead of losing out on some of its damage when additional boost points are spent. These numbers are all identical to Olberic's Cross Strike skill which I used to good effect in my Solo Warrior game up until Olberic was able to unlock his Divine Skill. I'll use the same numbers example here: assuming 50 physical attack and 30 physical defense, if Alfyn boosted to max and attacked normally, he would deal (50-30) * 1.00 * 4 = 20 * 4 = 80 damage. By making the same attack with a max boosted Amputation, he would instead deal (50 - (30 * 0.67)) * 1.90 * 4 = 30 * 1.90 * 4 = 228 damage. That's almost triple the resulting damage, and a good example why I wanted to pick up this skill quickly for some boss-killing power.

Amputation also has the unusual property of always critically striking the target. Crits deal 25% more damage in Octopath Traveler and skills always have a chance to go critical; the rate at which this happens isn't clear aside from being greater as the crit stat goes up. In practice, I've found that crits seem to be pretty commonplace so this isn't quite as good as it sounds, although having a guaranteed 25% extra damage certainly doesn't hurt. Unfortunately, Amputation also has an accuracy penalty of some kind and I found it missing a fair amount against targets with a higher evasion stat. Typically this meant dangerous enemies in an area with a higher challenge rating, i.e. the very opponents that Alfyn most wanted to hit with Amputation. I wish I knew the exact odds to hit or miss with this skill, but unfortunately even the mechanics guide doesn't have any information on that. Amputation is one of the very few skills that I've ever seen miss in Octopath Traveler which makes this a rather large disadvantage. At least broken opponents seem to have an evade of zero and always were hit by the skill.

The boss at the end of Alfyn's Chapter 1 storyline is the Blotted Viper, and you're never going to believe this, but the creature uses a bunch of poison attacks. This was an opportunity to break out a Concoct mixture for the first time: Soothing Seed plus Noxroot made a Curative Balm, healing back 200 HP along with curing poison. That was more useful than simply curing poison alone with an herb! Since Alfyn was genuinely alone here with no other characters recruited yet, he didn't have to deal with the minions that normally appear with the big snake. The Blotted Viper was of course weak to axes, allowing Alfyn to break through its shields and then hit it with Amputation for about 600 damage when max boosted. With concoctions on hand to cure poison and First Aid available for endless healing on demand, this was a simple battle and Alfyn had no trouble emerging victorious. Not surprising for an introductory boss fight.

Before going any further, let's discuss the Concoct talent that's unique to Alfyn. Concoct is similar to the FF5 Chemist's Mix ability in combining two different ingredients together to produce some kind of in-battle result. Unlike in the earlier Final Fantasy games, all of the items that Alfyn uses for Concoct are unique to this talent and have no other functionality. (They can also be neatly filtered on the inventory screen to see only the Concoct-related items and nothing else.) There are two categories for these items: ingredients and components, and each concoction must have one of each category, never two ingredients or two components. Ingredients can be purchased in stores while components typically come from enemies, either via steals or drops. (Both ingredients and components can also be found in chests and Purchased/Stolen from NPCs in town.) There are two exceptions amongst the components: Noxroot and Essence of Grape can be purchased in a handful of stores. As a result, concoctions that use these two components are much easier on the player since they don't require hunting down item drops from enemies.

There are 8 ingredients and 8 components for 64 total concoctions. In practice though, there are a lot fewer concoctions than that because many of them duplicate the same effects on a single target / multiple targets and so on. Let's look at the healing-related concoctions for an example of this:

These are the concoctions that use the Soothing Seed and Soothing Dust ingredients, with the 16 concoctions that result from adding the 8 different components. In every case aside from the Curious Bloom component, the effect is exactly the same, just slightly weaker for the Soothing Dust since it applies to the whole party as opposed to one character. This same pattern is repeated for all of the other concoctions as well, with the seeds being single-target and the dusts being multi-target. There's also a "mild" and "potent" version of each ingredient; here's the stronger version of the healing concoctions:

The Purifying Seed and Purifying Dust concoctions once again have the same results, only in a stronger form (with the exception again of the Curious Bloom concoctions). As a result, there's really only 8 healing concoctions which each have single/weak, single/strong, multi/weak, and multi/strong versions. I highlighted the 8 healing concoctions above and there's another 8 hazardous concoctions that follow the same pattern. Thus the whole system has more like 16 different concoctions as opposed to 64 of them. Now with that said, there's still some very powerful stuff in there, like getting 9999 HP back or granting the entire party 2 BP (crazy good in a non-variant setting). Alfyn would be limited in his concoctions by two factors: finding the components that only drop from monsters and the very high cost of some of the ingredients. Purifying Seeds cost 2400 money to purchase, each, and that wasn't viable for use in the earlier portions of his journey. Soothing Seeds and Noxroots cost only 5 money to purchase so I'd be using a lot of them instead.

Speaking of which... I had sent Alfyn west to Bolderfall to recruit Therion as his second character. Therion is invaluable to have around since he's the only one who can open the purple treasure chests scattered around the world; for these solo games, his dead body is always getting lugged around and then briefly revived to unlock the chests before being killed off again. Alfyn made his way through Ravus Manor until reaching Heathcote at the end, running into a boss for the first time that didn't have a weakness to axes. The solution was to break out some of the hazardous concoctions, with Injurious Seed + Noxroot creating the Fiery Powder concotion. This hit a single target opponent with two fire element attacks and had a chance to poison as well, likely at the same percentage chance as the Dancers from the Merchant's Hired Help skill. I observed that the poison seemed to kick in fairly often, maybe about a third of the time at a rough guess. Unfortunately each tick of posion only takes away one percent of the max HP from a boss, but better than nothing I guess. With some additional levels on Alfyn his Amputation skill was up to about 800 damage when directed against a broken Heathcote, and more importantly the boss couldn't deal more than 50-100 damage per attack in return. First Aid ensured that Alfyn would never die here and in time I whittled the boss down to size.

With Therion now in tow, I was able to start making use of his Path Action:

There was a Steel Axe held by one of the random Townspeople in Clearbrook with more than double the physical attack value on the Iron Axe that Alfyn had been using. The odds to Steal it were only 3% but I could save-scum to ensure that happened; it turned out that Therion lifted it on the third attempt, much to my shock. (I wish that I could send that kind of good fortune to the folks who do the Therion speedrun, which has a mandatory 3% steal at the very end of the run.) Having Therion present also allowed me to Steal a dish of saucy prawns and complete the "For Want of Fish" sidequest in Clearbrook. This resulted in arguably the best reward out of all the quests in the inner circle of towns, the Mighty Belt accessory that adds 50 points to physical attack. It's a far superior accessory as compared with the stuff on sale in stores at this point in the game, lots of "+10 Evasion" and "+10 Speed" garbage. The total net effect of this item upgrade was to take Alfyn from 126 to 248 physical attack, almost doubling his physical damage. He also saved up enough money to purchase the Elemental Light Armor from the town's weapon store, the best armor available for the moment. Along with Alfyn's healing capabilities, this made him an exceedingly durable tank who was almost unkillable in the initial ring of Chapter 1 towns.

The extra damage from those upgrades was immediately noticeable in the next story sequence. Rather than recruit H'aanit, I turned in the opposite direction and headed for the deserts of Sunshade to pick up Primrose. Her Allure Path Action is far superior to Ophilia's Guide at low character levels and it would allow me to complete more side quests for additional income and quest rewards. The monsters in Primrose's Chapter 1 story were no threat while Helgenish, the boss at its conclusion, was treated to several new concoctions. Injurious Seed + Sleepweed created Chilling Powder, double ice element attacks that had a chance to put the target to sleep. Injurious Seed + Addlewort made Glimmering Powder, double light element and a chance to confuse. I did not see either effect kick in here, and I wasn't sure if that was poor luck or bosses having immunity to these status effects. Since I didn't have many Sleepweed or Addlewort components, I only broke Helgenish once for the 2000 damage pictured above, then simply hit him with more Amputation attacks without bothering to break him. I could have had much less offensive capacity and still won with ease since Alfyn's First Aid restoration was up to almost 700 HP per casting. The enemies simply could not get through his defensive and healing abilities.

One thing that I did find disappointing was the damage output from Alfyn's concoctions. The hazardous ones were fantastic at breaking shields with their various different elements but they didn't do any actual damage. In each case, the various concoctions would deal 10 or less damage, the result in Octopath Traveler's combat engine when an attack deals less damage than the defender's armor/resistance. In other words, Concoct was only useful for breaking and not for killing anything. Perhaps that would change as Alfyn switched over to using stronger ingredients and increased his elemental attack stat, but for now it was all about his axe in terms of damage.

Alfyn had earlier unlocked his fourth Apothecary skill and I chose Rehabilitate: cure one ally of status ailments and render them immune to further status ailments for 2 turns (more turns if boosting the skill). That was both simple and obviously useful for a solo character. This also unlocked the first passive ability for the Apothecary class; here's the full list of all four:

Inspiration was surprisingly useful for an entry-level passive ability. Each standard attack restored 1% of the damage dealt in the form of SP and the math very helpful rounded up all decimal results. In practice, that meant any attack that could hit 101 damage would round up to 2 SP restored:

It looked something like that. This was a passive ability which would scale better and better as the game went on, as the 1 SP and 2 SP that Alfyn was regenerating right now would increase to 10 SP and 20 SP per swing with eventual endgame gear. And the costs for Alfyn's skills would remain static over time, allowing him to be more and more aggressive in using skills without needing to worry about running dry on spirit points. The biggest weakness of this ability was the fact that it only applied to standard auto attacks, not the use of any abilities or concoctions. Alfyn didn't spend much time auto attacking in boss fights, the one place where Inspiration would have come in most handy. Nevertheless, it was profoundly useful for random encounters and allowed me to use his skills without concern, much like Tressa had done with her Rest ability. Alfyn's offensive skills tended to be expensive in terms of SP cost making this a genuine benefit.

I picked up Olberic next to round out the party with one character holding all four Path Action categories. There wasn't much to note from Olberic's Chapter 1, a routine affair in which Alfyn used his concoctions to break Gaston and then rain down Amputations for heavy damage. Alfyn picked up enough job points en route to grab a fifth Apothecary skill in the form of Last Stand, which came along with the Hale and Hearty passive skill: +500 maximum HP. There are far better passive skills in Octopath Traveler but there's a bunch that are weaker than this too. More health is always helpful for a solo game. As for Last Stand:

This was an important skill because it's the only Apothecary ability that hits all enemies on the screen at once. The in-game text somewhat unhelpfully states that the skill "deals damage inversely proportional to your current HP", which is partially but not completely correct. Last Stand actually has a base damage rate like any other skill which is completely unconnected to the user's current health; this damage is lower than Amputation but still quite good overall, better than the multi-targeted elemental skills like Tressa's Trade Tempest or Cyrus' Fire Storm or Blizzard. (Last Stand has a slightly higher attack multiplier, 1.40 as compared to 1.33, and a slightly better defense modifier and boost modifier to boot.) Then Last Stand also gets a bonus damage multiplier based on the user's current HP, with no extra damage at all when above half health scaling up to 2.5x damage at 1% HP remaining. So yes, there's extra damage when the user's health is low, but the damage is not "inversely proportional" to current HP because there's no penalty for being at full health, only bonus damage when below half. Sheesh, this game and its poorly written documentation. There's no way at all to tell how strong the abilities are or what they're really doing without consulting external resources.

Anyway, Last Stand was fantastic for clearing out groups of weaker enemies and I found myself using it a lot while traveling through the inner ring of towns. When boosted to max, Alfyn could wipe the screen of these early game opponents in one stroke rather than tediously eliminating them one at a time. Then he could auto attack a bit in the next battle to get his SP back and repeat the process over again. Given the lack of other options, Amputation and Last Stand would be the core of Alfyn's offensive output for a very long time.

Tressa was the next character to join the group as I continued making my way around the central ring in counterclockwise fashion. I've found that there's a real need to have both Tressa and Therion in any party, as it's simply not practical to try Stealing everything that the player wants from NPCs at 3% odds. Or at least I'm not willing to invest the time for endless savescumming of that nature, not what I could simply Purchase most of those things for relatively inexpensive prices and save the hassle. Plus there are also some items that can't be Stolen at all and need to be Purchased, as I'd seen with Olberic on my last solo run. There's no doubt that Steal/Purchase is the best of the four Path Actions in Octopath Traveler though; most of the game's best items and well over half of the stat-boosting nuts seem to be acquired this way. Taking these Path Actions off the table for a solo game would be crippling (not impossible but also not fun).

The Mikk and Makk duo at the end of Tressa's Caves of Maia dungeon are a weird pair. Once one of them falls into the red zone on health, the other pirate will start "protecting" them and begin tanking every attack. I dropped Mikk low on health, then swapped over to targeting Makk because I had no choice, until both of them were low on health. At this point they were both protecting each other, so an attack directed at Mikk would hit Makk and an attack directed at Makk would hit Mikk. It was... confusing. The screenshot above is highlighting the Blustery Powder concoction (Injurious Seed + Essence of Grape) which hit with two wind element strikes and had a chance to lower physical defense (very nice for Alfyn). As mentioned before, because Noxroot and Essence of Grape are the only two components that can be purchased in stores, those are the concoctions that Alfyn found himself using repeatedly. It might be more accurate to state that although Alfyn could theoretically use concoctions of all six elements, in practice he mostly used fire and wind elements since those were the ones that were readily purchasable.

Alfyn's Inquire Path Action is a duplicate of Cyrus' Scrutinize, only keyed to his level instead of being a percentage-based dice roll. I was given a rude reminder of how much better Scrutinize happens to be for a solo game when Alfyn roamed out to Quarrycrest in the second ring, only to find that his level wasn't high enough to Inquire many of the NPCs. There was a major axe upgrade for sale in Quarrycrest but I needed to Inquire/Scrutinize the "New Weapons for Sale" result out of one of the townspeople to get it to appear in the store. Unfortunately Alfyn turned out to be too low of a level for his Inquire to function properly here. I actually had to go to Atlasdam and recruit Cyrus, defeating Russell along the way, and come back to Quarrycrest to get this to work as planned:

There we go, that was more like it. The Hill Cleaver was a major upgrade over the Steel Axe, increasing physical damage by almost 150 points. (It wasn't as big of a jump as that screenshot indicates because I had to sell the Steel Axe to raise enough money to purchase the Hill Cleaver - that comparison is against an Alfyn with nothing equipped.) Even with that caveat in mind, this was still a major increase in monster-slaying power. Then I traveled to Noblecourt (the easiest town to reach in the second ring) and discovered that the Impresario outside the town had an Oasis Hat that could be Stolen with a success rate of 100%. The Oasis Hat is one of the best helmets in the game and I hadn't realized that it could be picked up this soon; on previous runs I had been picking it up in Grandport out in the third ring. In other words, these were some fine equipment upgrades for Alfyn, definitely more than he needed to finish clearing out the Chapter 1 storylines. It was almost enough to offset the embarassment of being upstaged by Cyrus in an Alfyn solo game. (Seriously, needing to pick up Scrutinize because Inquire was too low of a level was just sad. )

I was now in the process of wrapping up the loose ends for the remaining characters. There was little need for Ophilia with Primrose already in the party, and I had saved her until one of the last characters due to the old scars left over from Tressa's encounter with the Guardian of the First Flame. I figured that Alfyn had enough health to tank his way through the explosions of the Dark Wisp minions if needed, although hopefully he could use Last Stand to cut them down before they popped off. As it turned out, the minions would never make an appearance at all. The Guardian of the First Flame doesn't summon them until falling below half health, and Alfyn broke the boss for an initial 4000 damage use of Amputation. This boss has 8600 HP and therefore it was just barely above the halfway mark. Next I set up for another break using Blustery Powder concoctions to continue dealing wind element damage. This time the concoction kicked in the physical defense down property just as the boss was broken, allowing Alfyn to hit for the pictured 6200 damage. Just like that the boss was down for the count, with no need to worry about the minions. That was pretty awesome even if I couldn't count on the defense down property showing up on demand.

H'aanit was the last character remaining to be recruited. Unfortunately she simply doesn't bring a whole lot to the party in terms of Path Actions, largely because her Provoke ability is such a pain to use as compared with Olberic's Challenge. I don't really want to spend time hunting for Pokemon beasts when Olberic could just stab someone with his sword. Anyway, Alfyn had outscaled the challenges in this part of the game and couldn't be touched by the enemies in the Whisperwood. The random encounters were cleared out with Last Stand whenever possible while Alfyn's First Aid skill and the Inspiration passive kept HP and SP topped off. The boss at the end, the Ghisarma, is one of the hardest Chapter 1 bosses but still had zero chance. His attacks couldn't get through Alfyn's physical defenses, and after breaking the creature once for a 4200 damage Amputation, I stopped wasting components and simply used Amputation against the unbroken boss whenever Alfyn could invest the maximum boost points. Alfyn missed three different Amputation attacks and it still didn't matter at all. There simply wasn't anything this foe could do and things proceeded swiftly to a victory.

Alfyn had therefore handled the initial challenges without breaking much of a sweat. He hadn't died a single time yet and that was far better than Tressa could say for her early game (though I was very much learning what to do back then). I was looking forward to getting to use some more of his concoctions once the "potent" ingredients became more affordable and as the bosses forced me to become more creative. Onward then to the Chapter 2 stories.