Octopath Traveller is a homage to the 16-bit era of Japanese RPG released on modern consoles and PC. It’s a tribute to Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger in look and feel, with a new, original and unique story.
In Octopath Traveller you play through 8 stories a cast of characters. Although these characters do occasionally meet each other their stories are independent of one another. Set in the land of Orsterra we journey with the 8 travellers to uncover stories and solve mysteries. The characters are Ophilia, a cleric of the Sacred Flame whose pilgrimage brings her into conflict with a cult headed by an apostate named Mattias; Cyrus, a scholar and teacher at the Royal Academy seeking a missing tome of dark arts called From the Far Reaches of Hell that was stolen by Headmaster Yvon and his assistant Lucia; Tressa, a merchant who goes on a journey after acquiring a journal detailing a past adventurer’s travels; Olberic, a former knight of the Kingdom of Hornburg seeking purpose after his kingdom was destroyed in an attack by a sellsword named Werner; Primrose, a dancer and former noble seeking revenge against the Obsidians, a criminal organization that murdered her father; Alfyn, a traveling apothecary-inspired to take up his trade after a stranger saved him from a fatal disease as a child; Therion, a thief tasked by a noble family to recover a set of dragon stones belonging to them; and H’aanit, a hunter tracking the monster Redeye after it petrified her mentor.
Each character is interesting, entertaining and has 4 chapters to their story. On playthrough of your second character, you are likely to notice a certain similarity between the one you last played. Therein lies the main issue I found with Octopath traveller. The stories themselves contain different backstories but you feel like your stuck in groundhog day a little playing through the same set pieces.
The stories themselves are entertaining and varied, albeit feel like something we may have encountered before. There’s a familiar feel without being too original. It’s a shame that the stories don’t interact more, or the characters don’t have to team up in some kind of ultimate alliance to face off the grand big bad. There seemed to be a missing piece of the puzzle in the game. Perhaps the door is being left open for future DLC, although it seems to make sense to bring all the disparate stories together.
The gameplay in Octopath Traveller is great fun and brings its own unique take on battling in this genre. In similar games, you have turn-based combat, here too but the game throws in the break system which requires timing and skill as well as a knowledge of your characters abilities. There’s a good amount of variety found in the battles by uncovering and learning enemy weaknesses and deploying your main heroes abilities and skills to ultimately defeat your foes. Tinker and experiment to break your enemies defence will uncover methods of inflicting a huge amount of damage to enemies and bosses. There are elemental attacks and damage bonuses too, so there are lots to learn in the combinations of attacks.
The battle system is fun with some nice variations. However, I did find myself switching off a little when playing through, wanting to get through to the next level as the combat fell into feeling like a grind. I wanted to get to the next step to finding out what was going to happen but the battling started to feel repetitive. The boss battles offer a challenge but the endless surprise attacks from lowly enemies turned into a chore rather than a pleasure. Getting from one section to another can be a chore as sections have recommended levels and if you’re not up to the level then damaging enemies is going to be tough. The only way to get up to level is grind your way to said level. This definitely influenced my feeling of repetition and felt an unnecessary gate to get past in the game. I would have liked more progression building up to these levels and the game bringing me along with it rather than forcing me to go back and repeat content.
As well as the battles there’s a lot of exploration, travelling (no pun intended) and side quests in the game. The landscapes are gorgeous, from the snowy mountains, the different villages filled with rich and poor, caves, forests and wildlife. There’s no shortage of environments and different places to visit. The map is pretty big too, opening up as you collect different travellers along the way. Sidequests can be fairly straight forward – to get these items for someone in the forest or find this long, lost family member. These quests help in filling in the detail of the world with the NPC, but they do feel quite surface level and don’t go in too deep leaving me wanting more. The sidequests aren’t that rewarding with money or items. It feels like a slightly missed opportunity to have a deeper connection with the world and more rewarding experience both in the story and the rewards for your player. To pair with the side quests there’s dungeons and other places to hunt enemies and gather loot.
When you first look at Octopath Traveller it may look like a mid 90’s JPRG. The game is character sprite-based, but the surrounding environments are beautiful, tilt-shifted almost diorama’s wonderfully crafted and full of subtle movement and details. The sprite characters are 2D but they live and travel in a 3D world with painted textures. Altogether it’s one of the best looking games out there on Nintendo Switch. As the environments vary so does the texture and the graphical elements to support such as falling snowflakes, rain, wind and sand in the deserts. The score to the game is also another masterpiece – orchestral, full of emotion during and soaring during battles and triumphs. The lighting in the game is great and adds to the mystery and wonder as light streams through windows and glades in the forest bringing subtle, hazy effects into the game. It’s a gorgeous game.
Octopath Traveller is a great throwback to JPRGs with a modern twist. The game looks amazing and if you like the JPRG formula then you’ll likely enjoy this game. For me, it felt quite repetitive and grindy and the overall story didn’t come together in a way it felt like it should. Gameplay, graphics and music were really good fun but the grundy nature was a bit of a turn-off. Still one of the best JRPG options for Nintendo Switch out there.
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: June 13 2018 (Switch) / June 7 2019 (PC)