This year’s E3 had a ton of surprises. The one I was personally most psyched for was the immediate release of Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion. Originally slated for a July release, this octo-centered DLC allows you to not only play as an Octoling during its insanely hard campaign, but if you manage to find your way and escape from the metro, you can use that Octoling in the rest of Splatoon 2—ranked, Turf Wars, Salmon Run, etc. And with tonight’s Splatfest being a battle between the Squidlings and the Octolings, I wanted to feel like I earned my right to represent Splatoon’s newest playable race by actually completing the challenging expansion.
The general consensus since its release is the Octo Expansion is HARD. I can attest to that. You play as newly liberated Agent 8—an Octoling agent who has broken free from the apparent brainwashed aggressiveness that sees its species duking it out with Squidlings since The Great Turf War. Along with the guidance of Cap’n Cuttlefish (the grandfather of Callie and Marie) Agent 8 must find Agent 3 (your squidling from Splatoon 2) and escape from the metro in which they find themselves trapped.
The metro is a sprawling labyrinth of challenge levels. You navigate it by using a device to choose your next stop until you find all you need to escape. To eventually make it out to Inkopolis proper, you’ll need to collect the four “thangs.” At first, you only have one subway line available to you, but as you complete the levels, you’ll discover more. Some paths lead to a thang, others are merely there to get you to the next line. Each of these metro lines consist of multiple challenge levels which you have to beat in order to progress, and they can be incredibly difficult, even for seasoned Splatoon players.
Each level has an entry fee–you have to pay CQ points any challenge to enter. Luckily, CQ points pretty easy to come by, as they’re given to you each time you complete a level or find a new metro line. Often, your reward will double (or more) your entry fee. This is good, because you may have to pay to reenter these challenges a few times—failure is definitely a possibility. Many challenges let you choose between two or three different weapons (or weapon sets) to complete the challenge, with different weapons affecting your payout slightly. This is true for most of the levels, but there are so many variations that you really just don’t know what you’re going to get when you step into one of these challenges.
The levels are incredibly varied. There are timed challenges that task you to destroy balloons before they float away, defeat all enemies, or make it from one check point to another. Sometimes you will be fighting arenas full of Octolings, or navigating giant eight-balls through precarious situations. It isn’t always timed scenarios or combat either, as there are a good amount of puzzles that require careful planning and thought. Some bosses from Splatoon 2 make a comeback, but with variations that change up each fight significantly. There are even a few new boss encounters that Agent 8 must pass to finally escape to Inkopolis.
As difficult as the Octo Expansion is, it’s not without fairness. In fact, they’re downright generous with allowing you to progress after you’re out of lives, or even skip levels if you can’t pass them. If you lose all of your lives, you can often restart from your latest checkpoint with full lives—you just have to repay the CQ point entry fee. If there is a level you find particularly hard, and you can’t pass, if you attempt it enough times Marina will hack the system to allow you to bypass it completely. You don’t get the collectible for completing it, but you can progress and come back later if you wish.
As I hoped, the Octo Expansion is full of the charm the series is known for. While a progression of challenge levels isn’t the best place to include story, the Octo Expansion contains an astonishing amount of lore. Surprisingly, a few of my favorite fan theories I’ve seen discussed on the internet are actually confirmed in the expansion, but I don’t want to spoil anything here.
The first impression I had of the Octo Expansion was that it was just a series of challenge levels that are harder variations of Splatoon 2’s single player campaign, but that isn’t entirely true. Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion is something special, even if it’s difficulty can feel insurmountable. Luckily, Nintendo had that in mind and incorporated that into the game with the ability to skip levels that are giving you too much of a challenge.
Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion is available now! Also, from 11pm tonight until 11pm tomorrow night will be a special Octoling vs. Squidling Splatfest. Choose a side, and battle it out.