I’ve spend a little over 70 hours at this point playing Octopath Traveler, and I’ve enjoyed almost every single moment of it. It’s a game that shows so much personality, blending in the look of classic 16 and 32-bit JRPGS from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation Era while also incorporating a modern style that really creates a wonderful experience.
While it was a game I picked up on release day, it also fell around the time of back-to-back conventions like San Diego Comic-Con. What I really came to enjoy about Octopath Traveler is that it is a game you can enjoy playing at your leisure in either small bursts or long game sessions. It’s something that really takes advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s ability to play on the road or from the comfort of your own home. Eventually after SDCC, I didn’t touch the game for almost a week, but when I jumped right back in, I didn’t feel lost or forget what I had to do next, and that is absolutely a great feeling.
Eight Characters, Eight Adventures…
Octopath Traveler reminds me a lot of SaGa Frontier. If you aren’t familiar with the name, it was a PS One JRPG released by Square Enix in 1998, where you had playable characters each with their own story. You were able to select one character and experience their story while recruiting any other character, which made each gameplay experience vastly different from the other. That title was something very different, and more importantly, very fun to play, and Octopath Traveler shares many of those same features.
At the start of your adventure, you select between one of eight different characters: Olberic (a former knight), Cyrus (scholar), Tressa (merchant), Ophelia (cleric), Primrose (dancer), Alfyn (apothecary), Therion (thief), and H‘aanit (hunter) as your main character (also if you take the first letter of each of their names you get Octopath…very clever). The character you pick will be a member of your party the entire game. It doesn’t affect the story at all, and how you continue is entirely up to you as each characters’ story progresses as you visit certain locations on the map. For my playthrough, I decided to select Therion. His specific ability allows him to easily open locked chests you come across, while also being able to steal items from NPCs you come across in towns.
Break your opponents down!
Octopath’s turn-based battle system has quite a bit going for it that makes it both fun and tedious. Every enemy in the game is weak to specific weapons and spells. By attacking them a certain amount of times, you are able to stun them for two turns while also dealing a lot more damage. It’s a fun mechanic that adds a nice level of challenge, especially with bosses who are able to increase the number of times you need to use their weakness before they are stunned, but with the right spells or with Cyrus’ ability, you are able to better grasp what skills you need to use. Another fun mechanic is the use of Battle Points (BP). Each turn, your team receives 1 BP that can be used to perform an additional attack (up to 4) per turn, enhance the power of spells, or even extend the amount of turns buffs or de-buffs will last.
I love when characters feel fun and unique. It makes me want to take my time and play as each one, but I didn’t really feel it so much as most of the characters specific abilities are in pairs. H‘aanit and Olberic are both able to challenge NPC’s to battle. The biggest difference between the two is that H‘aanit captures beasts that can be summoned a number of times in battle. Primrose and Ophelia are able to get NPCs to follow them and aid them in a fight if summoned, while Cyrus scrutinizes people for information (which can fail). Meanwhile, Alfyn is also able to question them without any of the negative repercussions. Alfyn is able to use concoct, allowing him to mix two different items that deal damage, inflicting status effects on your opponent or heal your team and prevent status affects. That’s something I found very useful later in the game. The only one that didn’t bother be so much was Tressa’s ability to purchase items from NPCs you aren’t able to steal from, which is useful when the percentage to steal a powerful weapon or item is at 5% or less.
Speaking of skills and abilities, Octopath Traveler uses the job system where each character can equip a class on top of their own existing class known as the dual class system. With this, you are able to use skills from another class, while still being able to use your original skills. With that in mind, I equipped Therion with the Hunter class, letting him equip a bow and use some very useful skills. You don’t automatically get skills for equipping the corresponding class either, you have to purchase them using job points you get in battle along with experience. It doesn’t hurt to use those job points on other classes you may not use either, the more skills per each class you get, you also unlock a support skill that can be equipped and used at all times (up to 4), including one that cuts the cost of MP use in half, one that helps you lower encounter rates, and another that increases how much EXP and Job Points you earn from battles.
Why can’t more games look like this?
In a few simple words, Octopath Traveler looks absolutely stunning with its HD-2D art style. While it wasn’t that apparent for me at the start of the game, it was soon clear just how amazing this game is as it incorporates such a wonderful mix with the pixel art animation from the 8/16-bit era with beautiful backgrounds that are stunning to look at. The one moment that just left me in complete awe was the moment Ophelia is at the top of a large hill covered in snow with her sister as it overlooks the church they both grew up in. The image as a whole was just absolutely breathtaking.
You’re a team, right?
The interesting thing about Octopath is its way of storytelling. You eventually gather all eight characters and form a team of four, but they almost never really interact with each other. Each story is entirely focused on that one character, and the only time members actually chat is via small banter segments that are only available by having the correct members in your party before prompting. Honestly, it’s surprising, especially since a few characters overlap in where their chapters take place. It’s all standalone, but luckily, you do get to learn quite a bit about each character regardless.
While I would have loved to see a little more interaction between the playable characters, it’s pretty odd that they fight together but don’t exactly acknowledge each other. However, that doesn’t hurt the game either.
Octopath Traveler, like I Am Setsuna, proves that there is a huge market for nostalgic JRPGs from AAA companies. Even after spending so much time on this game, it leaves me wanting to play more and exploring areas I might have not visited before, leveling up the rest of my characters to take on the hidden bosses and final dungeon. Best of all, I can do this anywhere thanks to the game being available on the Nintendo Switch.