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Octopath Traveler’s extreme Middle English is stumping players

Chinese Switch owners have even turned the script into a meme

Square Enix

Fans seem to really dig the classic-style JRPG Octopath Traveler thus far, but the Nintendo Switch exclusive is not without its faults. One of the most perplexing is the game’s English localization, which gives one character a manner of speaking so absurd, players worldwide are having trouble making sense of it.

The huntress H’aanit is one of Octopath Traveler’s eight playable characters, any of whom you can choose to check out in the beginning of the game. (You can unlock the other seven later on.) H’aanit seems like a good choice if you’re a fan of bow-and-arrow combat. But if you couldn’t make it through a single Shakespeare play in school, you might find parsing the dialogue in H’aanit’s storyline a big challenge. She speaks in an extreme version of Middle English that reads almost as parody.

A screenshot of H’aanit from Octopath Traveler.
... what?
Square Enix

“Payen”? “Finishedst”? Sure, these may have been used in writing on some occasion ... but they’re strange to see in a modern video game. And in countries where the game wasn’t re-localized, like China, non-native English speakers say they’re totally stumped by these phrases.

China-based Twitter account Chinese Nintendo reported that college kids have started calling Octopath TravelerTEM-8 Traveler,” a joke referencing the college-level Test for English Majors. In order to be qualified as proficient in English, seniors have to pass the TEM-8 exam; they have one try, so not only is it challenging, but there’s a lot riding on it.

Reading Shakespearean English (or earlier) is definitely high-level stuff, and without a Chinese localization yet, H’aanit’s storyline reads even more like nonsense to anyone still learning English. Her dialogue has since become a joke to some people on social networks like Weibo. (Players in English-speaking countries have also called it ridiculous.) But Chinese Nintendo points out that some players are using Octopath Traveler as an opportunity to help each other out with their advanced English skills.

“Some Octopath Traveler players have started sharing tips on interpreting early modern (Shakespearean era) English,” according to the account’s tweet. There’s an example from Weibo in that tweet above.

The whole thing feels like a throwback to college study groups that had one person who got the material and a bunch of other people who spent class playing on their calculators or zoning out. Thanks, Octopath Traveler, for bringing us back to our days of cramming for tests — and reminding us of how much of a pain reading ye olde English is.

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