I had completed solo games with four different characters in Octopath Traveler to this point in time, featuring the Merchant, Warrior, Apothecary, and Scholar jobs. There are eight of these normal jobs corresponding to each of the eight main characters, and that would mean that I was sitting at the halfway point of the list. However, it turns out that these eight jobs are not the whole story: Octopath Traveler has an additional four secret jobs that only unlock in the extreme lategame. Each of these secret jobs is guarded by a powerful superboss far stronger than any of the Chapter 4 opponents. I hadn't tried to defeat any of these opponents with my solo characters since I was pretty confident that they would be blasted into oblivion. Nevertheless, those four secret jobs still existed and I thought that it would be fun to try them on for size as well, knowing full well that they're an overpowered bunch not intended to be used in the early stages of the gameplay.
There was an immediate first question to solve: how does someone access the secret jobs at the start of the game? This requires using a cheating script of some kind, just as I had previously used an "All Jobs" code to unlock all of the various classes from the start of the game in Final Fantasy 5. I had to spend a fair amount of time searching for the right tool to make this happen (most people who were interested in hacking Octopath Traveler just wanted infinite health or max experience or something boring like that) before finally discovering a solution. It required the use of a third party program named Cheat Engine:
By the way, I should clarify that all of this only applies to the Steam version of Octopath Traveler on the PC. For anyone using the Switch version, I don't have a clue how to help you, sorry. Cheat Engine is a more general open source program that isn't specifically intended for Octopath Traveler, but one particular individual whose name I didn't catch created a version with some scripts pre-installed just for this game. I'll include a download link here for anyone who wants to test it out for themselves; remember to be careful though any time that you're using an open source engine to mess around with a game's coding! If you download this version of Cheat Engine and point it at the Steam version of Octopath Traveler, a series of scripts and pointers will show up that can be turned on. Under the Character Pointers section, I found that I could set a job for each character including the secret ones that they wouldn't normally be able to access. I did a little testing and had some buggy results until I changed both the character's primary job *AND* their secondary job to the secret class, which weirdly ended up resolving everything. Once I made this basic change, I was able to save the game and close Cheat Engine, then have everything run normally when I started up Octopath Traveler the next time. Welcome to the new version of the All Jobs cheat code!
I was most interested in the Runelord class and decided that I wanted to experiment with it before trying anything else. There's no default character associated with the Runelord class, of course, which meant that I had to select one of the eight characters to showcase the job on this playthrough. The Runelord is an elemental damage class which effectively limited the choice to Cyrus, Primrose, Ophilia, and Tressa. Out of this particular group, I definitely did not want to use Cyrus again thanks to his terrible HP growth, and I also wanted to run through Primrose's and Ophilia's normal classes before trying them out for secret jobs. That left Tressa and she was the best thematic fit for the Runelord anyway. For non-variant playthroughs, Tressa is widely seen as the best choice to take the Runelord job due to the way that it synergizes with her natural weapon selection (she has spears/bows innately and picks up swords/axes from Runelord) and some of her Merchant skills. The Runelord can transfer the Merchant's Sidestep skill to the entire party and that's extremely helpful. I wouldn't be using Tressa's Merchant skills or weapon selections, of course, and since I had stripped Tressa of her primary job, she didn't even have them as options any longer! She would still be able to Purchase items from NPCs in town though, just as I could make use of the Path Actions of the other seven characters. Thus it would be Tressa for this game as she continued to fulfill her role as the most famous practitioner of the Runelord job.
Tressa carried over her excellent stat selection to the Runelord class; the average score in each stat is 80 and anything higher than that represents an above average result. I didn't realize just how good Tressa's stats are when I did my initial solo Merchant game with Tressa, but just for comparison's sake, she's above average in HP, physical attack, physical defense, elemental attack, and elemental defense. Pretty good stuff! While Tressa doesn't top any of these categories, it's a sweet deal to be the third-best out of the group in practically everything important. The only places where Tressa's numbers are subpar are in speed and evasion, which are apparently somewhat more important than I first thought but still rather secondary stats. She also received a boost to her core stats as a result of adopting the Runelord job, gaining small increases to physical attack, elemental attack, elemental defense, and a big gain to physical defense. Again, all of those stats were extremely important categories that I'd be leaning on throughout the solo run. The secret jobs not surprisingly contain better stat boosts than the base jobs and are a small sign of their overpowered nature.
I suppose that I should take a minute to give a brief overview of the Runelord class before continuing onwards. The closest comparison that I can make is to the Mystic Knight job from Final Fantasy 5. The Runelord can charge up their weapon with any of the six elemental types of damage and then use them to make devastatingly powerful strikes. These skills operate in a completely different way from anything else in Octopath Traveler and function somewhat like a damage over time (DOT) effect, dealing consistently high damage round after round instead of delivering it in one giant burst via the boost mechanic. Runelords also get a series of brokenly-overpowered passive support skills, and eventually unlock one of the most powerful Divine Skills in the game. More on that when we get there down the road. This class is in the running for best in the game and I didn't expect this to be terribly challenging as far as solo runs went. We're here to have fun after suffering through some tough times with solo Cyrus, not struggle through another painfully gimped class.
With Tressa as my starting character, the story began in the sleepy seaside town of Rippletide. I was amused to notice that Tressa started the game with a basic spear and bow, only to find that she couldn't use either of them because she wasn't a Merchant anymore! She equipped swords and axes now that she was a Runelord alone and her starting town naturally didn't have either of them for sale. I'd have to travel somewhere else to find them and was stuck using the default "Makeshift Sword" with zero stats on it for the moment. Anyway, the screenshot above demonstrates what the elemental rune skills look like for the Runelord. As with the Magic Sword spells on FF5's Mystic Knight class, the player must spend a round at the start of each battle to imbue one of the various elemental runes onto their weapon. This will cause the image of that weapon to change color, as the sword above turned red to indicate that Tressa had cast the Fire Rune spell on it.
Unlike in Final Fantasy 5, the Runelord's elemental runes only last for a set amount of time before running out instead of remaining for the rest of the battle. The default length of time is 3 turns and that can be increased with more boost points invested in the skill, up to a maximum of 9 turns at full boost. The elemental rune also gets applied to every weapon type used by that character, meaning that Tressa could swap between swords and axes without affecting her elemental properties. Finally and most importantly, the Runelord's elemental runes do a lot more damage than FF5's Magic Sword spells:
A *LOT* more damage, and to everything instead of only to foes weak against that element. This is probably due to the fact that the Runelord is a secret class that only unlocks in the endgame of Octopath Traveler as opposed to a normal job that shows up roughly 10% of the way through FF5's story. In any case, when the Runelord has one of their elemental runes in play, they will make a normal attack (or multiple attacks if boosting) followed by the elemental damage hitting afterwards. The elemental damage has the word "pursuit" attached to it, like the Fiery Pursuit pictured above, and that name does seem appropriate. The elemental portion of the attack comes trailing in at the end like a hound hunting down a fleeing hare. It only hits one time and can't be boosted in any way using the boost meter, but that damage is pretty crazy when it arrives. This was 420 damage against an unbroken target in the earliest stages of the game, when monsters have roughly 200-300 HP apiece. At this stage of the game, basically anything that was hit by Fiery Pursuit or Icy Pursuit would die instantly, way too much elemental damage for the ordinary critters to survive.
There was a tradeoff here, however: the steep cost in spirit points. You may have noted that Fire Rune and Ice Rune both cost 15 SP per casting and that Tressa only had 50 SP in total at the start of the game. That meant that she could only use her abilities three times before running out of juice and that wasn't a whole lot. It turned out that Tressa with pretend cardboard weapons in the sword and axe slots was very weak when she couldn't use her elemental runes, as compared to a fiery goddess of death when she had them active. That made the starting Cave of Maia more interesting than it typically would be for a character like this. I was taking advantage of the free HP/SP restoration on each level up and managed to make it through OK, helped out by the fact that so many of the pirate opponents start out each combat in sleep status.
The first boss fight of the game took place against Mikk and Makk as usual. I spotted in my boss notes that Mikk had an axes weakness while Makk had a fire weakness; I decided to attack Mikk normally with Tressa's axe for the first two rounds, then drop all of her boost points into Fire Rune to get the maximum nine turn duration. With her limited amount of SP, I needed to make sure that she didn't run out during this battle by recasting her elemental runes over and over again. So the first two rounds take place with nothing much happening, then Tressa buffed herself up with nine turns of Fiery Pursuit, and then she finally could get around to using her unique Runelord abilities. I attacked Mikk, the axe swing broke through his last remaining shield... and then the Fiery Pursuit landed for 760 damage and the pirate died instantly. Whoa! Slow down there Tressa! I was laughing so much that I would have missed the screenshot if I hadn't been waiting there poised to grab it ahead of time. Makk tried to buff himself up with extra physical attack/defense and it made no difference. Two attacks, two Fiery Pursuits, and he was a goner as well.
Well. That certainly went better than expected! In order to understand why Tressa's elemental runes were doing so much damage, let's look at the formal skills list for the Runelord class:
For starters, note that all six of the elemental runes are functionally identical, differing only in the type of elemental damage associated with them. The Runelord gets access to fire, ice, lightning, wind, light, and dark elements once all of their skills unlock. (Tressa only had access to the first two right now.) As the explanatory text notes, the elemental pursuit only hits one time per attack and can't be increased with boost points or other related passive skills. However, the more important numbers for our purposes right now were the attack modifier (10) and defense modifier (0.55) on that chart. Both of these indicate that the damage from the elemental pursuits are extremely high. The attack modifier of 10 is slightly higher than the attack modifier for Tressa's Divine Skill, with Bifelgan's Bounty having an attack modifier of 9.80. Or compare to Alfyn's main damaging skill Amputation, which had an attack modifier of 1.90 * 4 = 7.60 at maximum boost. Tressa was effectively getting the damage output of a Divine Skill on every one of her elemental pursuit attacks!
But wait, it gets even better than that. Remember that the defense modifier for the elemental runes listed in the table is 0.55. For this particular stat, a lower number is better because it means that more of the defender's resistances are being shredded. Continuing our comparison with Tressa's Divine Skill, Bifelgan's Bounty has a defensive modifier of 0.80 which means that the defender only loses 20% of their resistances when hit with that skill. But the elemental pursuits have a defensive modifier of 0.55 which means that a massive 45% of the defender's resistances get removed! Overall it means that there's basically nothing that an opponent can do about these skills, the elemental pursuit will hit extremely hard no matter what. I found that even unbroken targets took huge damage from these skills regardless of whether or not they had a corresponding elemental weakness to exploit. (OK, one final numbers comparison here: Fire Rune measured against Cyrus' two-hit Fire Storm spell. If Tressa had an elemental attack of 100 and the enemy in question had an elemental defense of 50, Fire Storm would deal = (100 - (50 * 1.00)) * 1.2 * 4 * 2 = 50 * 9.6 = 480 damage at max boost. With the same starting assumptions, Fire Rune would deal (100 - (50 * 0.55)) * 10 = 72.5 * 10 = 725 damage. So yes, an unboosted Fire Rune attack would deal about 50% more damage than one of Cyrus' max boosted two-hit elemental spells. The Runelord class is quite a bit stronger than the Scholar.)
I had another chance to test out the Runelord's abilities against the next boss that Tressa came across, Russell. I had decided that I wanted to pick up Cyrus before swinging down to Olberic in the Highlands and doing my normal counterclockwise circle through the rest of the Chapter 1 stories. Cyrus would be helpful for his Scrutinize Path Action and it was a short walk from Atlasdam out to Noblecourt, the easiest of the towns to reach in the second ring. Anyway, it didn't take long to make it through the Subterranean Study and confront Russell at its conclusion. This boss spawns with a pair of Water Wisp minions who were weak to both axes and fire element, allowing Tressa to buff herself up with the Flame Rune and carve through the two of them. Once Russell himself was the only one remaining, she switched over to the Ice Rune spell for the pictured Icy Pursuit. I was able to take advantage of the ideal situation here for a Runelord, hitting both a physical weakness (Russell's vulnerability to swords) at the same time that I was exploiting an elemental weakness with the Icy Pursuit. I think that it took four total attacks with four icy followups to defeat this opponent.
I made use of the very short distance from Atlasdam to Noblecourt by walking Tressa over there next. She only had to survive a single random encounter to make it into the town and then could teleport back whenever she wanted. Tressa was far too weak to win a random battle out in the second ring but one successful retreat would be enough to get the job done. I think that I died four times in a row trying to make this happen - this was one place where Elusive Maneuvers would have been handy! It didn't take too long to land the successful escape though, and that was plenty to make it through the gates of Noblecourt. Tressa used her Purchase ability to grab an Empowering Bracelet for +500 HP in one of the accessory slots and I planned to return for more goodies once she had additional money on hand. The new accessory came in very helpful against the next boss:
I was still lacking anything beyond the most basic starting armor for Tressa and a successful Mighty Blow from Gaston did about 400 damage. With that context in mind, it should be obvious why having 1100 HP instead of 600 HP made a huge difference for this battle. I also noticed that Gaston and his minions were missing their attacks about a quarter of the time, as evidently the gear that Tressa was using had some extra evasion on it. This wasn't a dedicated evasion build though and the misses were too infrequent to be relied upon. Offensively speaking, Gaston was weak against ice element and therefore this was another case where using the Ice Rune was the way to go. The bosses were gaining in total health as I added additional party members and it took a little bit longer to work through Gaston's lifebar. I still needed to get some kind of better weaponry for Tressa - she was still using a Makeshift Sword and Makeshift Axe!
After finishing up with Olberic's introductory story, I was able to complete some additional side quests for an infusion of more cash. The "Never Forget" side quest is extremely easy to complete, just Purchasing one item in Noblecourt and bringing it to Cobbleston, and it pays out a massive 9000 money at a time when random encounters are worth less than 100 money apiece. I sank those new funds into additional defensive equipment for Tressa, grabbing the Imperial Vest (+120/+132 physical and elemental defense) and the Spiked Shield (+44/+53 defenses) from Noblecourt. This was better equipment than Tressa would be able to get from the towns in the inner ring and it made a big difference indeed in terms of minimizing incoming damage. With her upgraded gear in tow, Tressa proceeded through Primrose's story and absolutely smoked Helgenish. He has low health compared to the other Chapter 1 bosses and each Icy Pursuit attack was dealing about 1000 damage. Not much more to say there, the Runelord class was more than powerful enough for this opponent.
Readers might have noticed that I haven't talked about Tressa's other skills yet aside from the Fire Rune and Ice Rune options. Why wasn't I using anything else in these battles? Well, it turns out that the skills are a bit more expensive to learn for the secret jobs:
Every class starts with two innate skills and then has five additional skills that can be learned in any order, plus a Divine Skill that can only be taken after learning all seven of the other skills. For the eight normal classes, the additional skills unlock at 30 job points, then 100 JP, 500 JP, 1000 JP, 3000 JP, and the Divine Skill at 5000 JP. Characters therefore pick up a few skills very quickly and then get the last skills much more slowly - be sure to think carefully about what to take each time. The secret jobs take far longer to learn their skills, however, starting at 2000 JP for the first skill and costing another 2000 JP for all of the other non-Divine Skills afterwards. I knew that everything would unlock in time (my solo characters always end up with 100k job points by the end of their runs) but it was going to take quite a bit longer to add any additional skills. Tressa was stuck with fire and ice options for the time being.
The subsequent Chapter 1 bosses were fairly routine for my Runelord. I'd spent a good amount of time taking solo characters past them by now, some of them much weaker classes than the Runelord, and I didn't run into anything too difficult here with Tressa. I went after the Blotted Viper with ice element and made sure to bring plenty of Healing Herbs to counter its poison, along with keeping one of the minions alive to stop its Constriction attack from showing up. The most dangerous part of the attached dungeon was fighting the monsters after Tressa ran out of spirit points; she remained a weak character when she couldn't charge her weapons with elemental magics. I had to force three or four battles to trigger another level up before facing the boss (to get the free HP/SP restoration) and it was a long, slow slog against random monsters without using any of the elemental runes.
Then it was on to Ravus Manor in the Cliftlands where the boss at the end (Heathcote) turned out to be weak against both fire and ice elements. I used Fire Rune at first and then applied Ice Rune when it ran out, for no particular reason other than to reveal both weaknesses. Heathcote buffed up his physical defenses but that was completely useless against the elemental damage from Tressa's pursuits. He was taking close to 1000 damage with each hit and the Chapter 1 bosses just don't have enough health to stand up to that kind of punishment. With Therion now part of the team, I was also able to return to Noblecourt and swipe the Oasis Hat from the Impresario outside the town. Tressa was using a shield, armor, and helmet that all came from Noblecourt right now - it's a great place to visit early on in the game for better equipment.
H'aanit and her story were up next as I continued the rotation around the inner circle of the world map. Tressa had finally accumulated enough job points by now to take a third skill in the Runelord class and I decided to grab the Wind Rune for her. That was Tressa's own natural element from the Merchant job and it felt like something she should be able to access. I wanted to test it out against the forest critters but most of them lacked a corresponding weakness; I generally used a lot of Fire Rune instead. Trees don't like fire very much, imagine that. I did manage to confirm something that I'd suspected previously: the elemental pursuit will still hit a target even if the physical portion of the attack misses. I combined together two images above showing how the Windy Pursuit still did 800 damage despite the blinded Tressa whiffing on the original attack. This makes the darkness/blindness status ailment somewhat pointless for the Runelord class, as almost all of their damage comes from the elemental part of each attack. You can miss the target completely and the fire/ice/wind/whatever is still going to blast the unlucky recipient.
The Ghisarma at the end of H'aanit's Chapter 1 stories is one of the toughest of the initial group of bosses. That's a major reason why I tend to leave this enemy alone until I'm nearly finished with the inner ring of towns, that and the fact that H'aanit is one of the least desirable characters from a Path Action standpoint. I had simply stacked too much in the way of defensive equipment on Tressa for the Ghisarma to have much success though, with its big Scratch attack inflicting less than 100 points of damage. This was yet another enemy with an ice weakness and Tressa calmly applied Icy Pursuit turn after turn to the boss, hitting for 1000+ damage again and again. The Runelord is very different from other classes in that regard, with its steady damage applied round after round instead of boosting and hitting in one big strike. It took about half a dozen attacks to cut through the 10k health on the Ghisarma and wrap things up with a victory.
There are a couple of places where all eight characters are useful to the team, and this was a situation where I needed H'aanit as well as Therion. H'aanit's Provoke is generally inferior to Olberic's Challenge since it necessitates capturing monsters in Pokemon fashion, however it does have the advantage of lacking any level requirement to initiate the combat. There's a townsperson blocking this house near the entrance to Clearbrooke who Olberic has to be Level 25 to Challenge, much higher than what's feasible here in the early game. I was able to remove that annoying person with H'aanit's Provoke, just as I had done with Alfyn in his solo game, then use Therion to Steal the Golden Axe on the old man inside. This new weapon increased Tressa's physical attack by a factor of about 2.5x and finally gave her some actual punch outside of the elemental damage from her runes. I had plans to upgrade the weapon in her sword slot as well once Tressa made it a bit further in the game; more on that later.
The only remaining opponent in Chapter 1 was the Guardian of the First Flame at the end of Ophilia's story. This is another one of the toughest Chapter 1 bosses and I always treat this enemy with some caution after my initial Tressa playthrough nearly found itself stuck here. The Guardian turned out to be weak against both ice and wind elements, with Tressa opting to use her native Wind Rune for a chance of pace from all that ice employed earlier. It was also helpful that she could hit the swords weakness along with the wind weakness on the boss; while boosting didn't do anything to affect the damage from the Windy Pursuit, I could have Tressa invest otherwise unneeded boost points into her basic attack to cut through those shields faster. There was some slight concern when the Guardian summoned its three Dark Wisp minions, which I feared could kill Tressa if they all exploded with their Self-Immolation attack. However, I had Tressa continue to attack the Guardian itself and the big stone construct crumbled after two more rounds of getting tagged with Windy Pursuit. The minions instantly disappeared when the boss was defeated and that was that.
Overall it was a fantastic start to the journey of one of the game's strongest classes. Runelord Tressa was never seriously threatened aside from my "way too early" venture out to Noblecourt and the biggest issue was mananging her spirit points to avoid running out of casting juice along the way. I was looking forward to unlocking more of the elemental runes and seeing how Tressa fared against more challenging opposition. We'd see how she did against the Chapter 2 bosses next and continue to evaluate the strength of this secret class.