First before I begin, let me apologize for the delay. I obtained Octopath Traveler on release, and for the most part had been playing it every day. I decided to play through to the final ending, and it took me way longer than expected. Luckily, I finished this game on Wednesday August 22, 2018, and I am now ready to review the game.
So when I first heard of this game, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The art style looked sort of like an old style JRPG, with some modern lighting effects. Luckily, not too long after I got a switch, I tried the first demo, and was intrigued by the turn based combat. I was even more intrigued by the prologue demo available just before release. By that time, I was ready for Octopath Traveler and anything it had to show me.
To reiterate, the game looks similar to old style JRPG’s, with it most closely resembling Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. There are 3D models and modern lighting effects for the background and scenery, but the characters are 2D images. The effect is similar to the Paper Mario games, but more detailed. The end result is similar to a cross between a diorama and a pop-up book. The music features a cinematic movie quality soundtrack as well.
Now let us look at what makes Octopath Traveler unique within the genre. First, you choose which of the 8 characters you want to start with. After playing through that character’s opening story, you may recruit the other 7 characters in any order you like. Alternately, you can attempt the first character’s second chapter instead. Though dangerous, you could even wander much of the game world. This is one of the most intriguing features of this game.
Each character also has a path action, which influences how they can interact with the local townsfolk within this game’s world. They include buying items, gathering information, fighting the civilian, or getting them to follow you around. In some cases, these actions can help you with side-quests, but are mostly optional outside of story sequences. Path actions are ultimately role-playing elements that the JRPG genre sometimes forgets to include.
On a related note, there are a lot of side quests. Most require using path actions in some way to solve them. A few even have multiple solutions. The reward usually includes a fair amount of money, and sometimes a rare item. Of note, the true final battle is hidden behind multiple, seemingly unrelated side quests, but is worth the attempt to complete.
The combat is equally brilliant. First, everything you need to know about what is happening is shown. The game shows the turn order for all allies and enemies, as well as any effects in play. There is also a shield gauge for every enemy that can be broken with enough hits to that enemy’s weaknesses. Breaking an enemy’s guard makes it vulnerable to attack, and prevents that enemy from attacking in the next two turns.
There is also a system involving boost points (BP) that allows you to boost any action for added effect. If you boost an ordinary attack, it will score an additional hit per BP used. You can only use up to 3 BP in one turn, and can have up to 5 BP stored up at once. Additionally, each character gets one BP per turn, assuming no BP was used last turn. This system leads to most actions being relevant at some point in a play-through. Even weak staff attacks are useful against some foes, if only to break that foe’s guard.
The game also features a job system, which allows the player to customize each character. While each character is always whatever job they start as (Tressa, for example is always a merchant), they can also have a secondary job to gain new actions and stats similar to other characters. With the gathering of job points (JP) each character can learn new skills in almost any order. Each time you use JP, the next skill for that job will cost more, so choose carefully. In the end, there are plenty of neat, but sometimes irrelevant combinations you can use. However, only one character can have a particular secondary job at a time. This means you can’t have a full party of clerics, which forces some creativity onto the player.
Now you can’t have an awesome RPG without a good story. Each character has 4 chapters in their own story. Much of the writing is fantastic, with most of the stories having a down to earth and heartwarming philosophy behind it. The downside is that only the character in charge of that chapter’s events interacts with that story. The other party members do comment on these events with optional travel banter conversations, but they do not influence that chapter’s story in any way. Additionally, it is unclear for most of the game how these 8 stories are interconnected.
The world exploration is a fascinating one. Each area has a danger level, which gives you an idea of how tough your party needs to be to travel through that area. Incidentally, the more story objectives you complete, the more dangerous any area becomes. There are bonus dungeons you can explore, with decent treasures, and many having a sub-boss guarding a useful item for that point in the game. All dungeons seem to only have treasures to find and random encounters to fight, and lack any sort of puzzle, so don’t expect to do any heavy thinking outside of fighting enemies.
Now, Boss fights are an interesting case in this game. Many are tough, but not unfair. Most bosses in chapter 2 and beyond alter the guard breaking mechanic in some way. This can include changing weaknesses to conditionally preventing their guard from being broken. These fights can last from a half hour to over a full hour!
Additionally, I noticed that you could get away with one under-leveled character if the other 3 characters are over-leveled. Ultimately, leveling your characters to complete an objective isn’t too necessary if you fight everything you encounter. There are a few early and late game exceptions, but thankfully, it isn’t something you have to worry about as much as some other JRPGs.
Now for some play recommendations:
- Play in whatever order you like. This includes starting with the character that grabs your attention the most.
- Compare your game-play approach with friends to see what different experiences you might have.
- However, first time players may want to recruit all 8 characters before moving onto any characters’ chapter 2.
- From there, you can complete objectives in whatever order you like.
- Be sure to use the radar function to find dungeons and shrines. Be sure to enter them, even if you aren’t ready. This will cause that dungeon to show up on the world map, so you can remember its location for later.
- To find the true final battle, you need to complete every characters’ stories, and complete a chain of obscure side-quests.
- This fight will require some preparation and leveling up, and may extend your play time.
- In the odd chance you want to replay this game from start to finish, start with a different character, and try things in a different order.
Now let’s look at the Pro’s and Con’s:
- Great stories.
- Neat characters.
- Charming retro style graphics.
- Impressive cinematic musical score.
- Masterful turn based combat system with few imbalances.
- Some challenging, but rarely unfair fights.
- Amazing freedom of exploration, a fine example of how to do so in a video game.
- A fair amount can be done in an hour’s time.
Con’s: (Note: these are possible Con’s)
- Very long game. I finished one character’s ending at around 60 hours in, and the final battle could take around 100 to 120 hours of total play time by the time you are done.
- Dungeons are very simple mazes with treasures and a boss. Puzzles would have been appreciated for variety.
- Why these characters choose to team up with each other is unclear, one of the few faults of the writing.
So the final verdict?
9/10 An excellent game, that is well worth its price!
(Author’s note: I noticed that some players might not appreciate this game’s length. Even so, I feel that this game’s score for others is most likely to fall in the range of 8/10 to almost a 10/10, it is that well done! Those who don’t like the JRPG style of game may not have their minds changed on the genre or even this game, and may rate this game considerably lower simply due to their own preferences.)
And those are my thoughts on Octopath Traveler. I am making a skill guide that also compares this game to Final Fantasy and other Square Enix games. But what did you think of this game? What did you like most about this game? Who did you start with? How long did it take you to complete? Tell me all this and why in the comments below!