Title: Octopath Traveler
Developer: ACQUIRE Corp., Square Enix
Release Date: June 07, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Square Enix
I’m sure everyone who is into the genre JRPG can’t help but feel nostalgic at first sight with Octopath Traveler, which got developed by the same devs as Bravely Default, like I did, with its wonderful pixel art. To be honest, I grew up with old-school JRPGs, so I was especially looking forward to the sudden announcement of Octopath Traveler, after its Nintendo Switch release on July 13, 2018, and I knew right from the start that I would have to give this game a try.
Octopath Traveler doesn’t focus on only one main character but on eight different ones. You can choose your own main character right in the beginning, although it is possible to play other character’s stories and recruit them afterward to help them on your journey. Each character has their own story and is completely independent of others. If desired, you can only play through your own chapters as well and ignore other characters. I found this feature quite interesting as I could easily skip stories which didn’t interest me and only play the ones I wanted to.
One of my complaints is that since Octopath Traveler focused on too many stories at the same time, none of them had enough depth to be able to truly captivate me. Furthermore, the stories aren’t even connected to each other, so it really didn’t matter what story you decided to complete or skip. Some recruitments even felt out of place as you helped a character through the first chapter and then they suddenly decide to go on their own independent journey. I found it disappointing that there are basically no interactions between the characters at all, besides beating the end boss together, and it really feels like they are going on a separate journey since the characters never truly interact with one another.
All the main chapters are interesting in their own right, however, I didn’t particularly like how streamlined they were. In a nutshell, all you do is to travel to a certain city in order to play a character’s chapter which only includes talking to several NPCs and going to an area full of enemies to beat the end boss’ chapter. Unfortunately, the lack of variety within each chapter made the game a bit repetitive. Thankfully, however, the cast of characters in Octopath Traveler are all unique.
Every character has their own abilities in combat as well as when interacting with friendly NPCs. While some characters even are able to equip multiple weapons, some can only use one, plus each character has their own job that grants them various abilities. For the interactions with NPCs, there are characters who can buy items from them, challenge them into a fight, take NPCs with them as allies, etc.
This feature is important for side quests, for example, when it is required to escort an NPC to a certain city. However, I found the side quests to be quite hard to follow, and I often wasn’t sure what to do since the quests didn’t directly tell the player what to do, so I kind of had to guess what the NPC wanted me to do. Additionally, you have to unlock a certain character in order to be able to complete some of the quests.
Octopath Traveler has a lot of content and to a certain extent, you can roam around the vast overworld map, that has a slew of towns, dungeons, and optional areas to explore, hidden treasure chests to find, and of course, enemies to fight.
Treasure chests are always hidden in an alternative path and might get overlooked easily when not investigated carefully, although they don’t contain important items since you can buy a lot of useful items at the shops as well. I also noticed that every city sells different items, so it’s worth checking them out. A neat feature that makes exploring cities even easier is that you can always warp between each city you visited before through the world map and additionally, shortly before entering another area, the recommended level for it shows up, so I always knew what to expect beforehand.
The recommended level also shows up while looking at the world map to check where to head next to for completing the next chapter. I really found it nice that the levels do actually scale depending on how many chapters you already completed. This, however, does only count for the equal chapters, like when you complete the first chapter of a certain character, other first chapter’s characters recommended level will go up as well. That means you’re free to choose which character’s chapter you’re beginning with first and aren’t tied to a specific order per se.
To be honest, I found the combat quite interesting in Octopath Traveler as each enemy has a different number of defense points, which are called shield points, available right in the beginning. When launching an attack the enemy is weak against, the defense will drop and when it reaches zero the enemy’s defense gets broken, so they can’t launch an attack for the next round. An enemy is weak against multiple sorts of attacks or skills and when hitting it with the right attack, it will get registered and you can see which attack it is weak against when meeting the same type of enemy again. This made it actually fun to try out all sorts of attacks until I found all the enemy’s weaknesses. Additionally, it is possible to study foes right in the beginning and reveal one of their weakness, although it is done automatically by a specific party member.
To sum it up, while Octopath Traveler had a very interesting combat system and I felt very nostalgic while playing it, its lack of focus was hard to ignore. I found it disappointing that it focuses on so many individual stories that aren’t tied in together at all. However, as someone who loves classic JRPGs, the many unique gameplay systems in Octopath Traveler were all a pleasant surprise, and the game;’s retro 2D art style is absolutely wonderful. That said, if you prefer enjoyable gameplay over a deep story when it comes to JRPGs, you’ll very likely be able to enjoy Octopath Traveler.
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