Octopath Traveler excels in nostalgia and pushes the genre further than this team at Square-Enix ever reached with Bravely Default and Bravely Second. It’s a beautifully designed, sprite-based game that utilizes modern effects such as lighting and depth to make the world come to life. It’s an interesting turn for a style of game that several have tried to imitate over the years though it is done to a level that most would only dream of. I’ve seen few games merge multiple styles and generations of technology into one cohesive experience the same way this game does this well. This marrying of styles gives the game a look and feel that is recognizable yet new and inventive at the same time.
As its name implies, the game focuses on the travels of eight individual characters as they push towards their own individual goals. While the eight do travel together, other than some small dialogue scenes between whoever is currently active, there isn’t a lot of crossover between the different characters. This is one of the aspects where the team at Square-Enix took a traditional aspect of RPGs of olde and turned it on its head. Traditional RPGs add characters into a singular storyline while exploring their background and story as you progress through the game. For example, you learn more about Tifa, Barret, Red XIII, etc in Final Fantasy VII as you play through the main story for the game and its protagonist Cloud. Octopath Traveler, on the other hand, does the exact opposite introducing characters and their storyline before finding some larger, over-arching plot. I don’t know if it’s ideal or better in any way but it’s definitely a different and fun change of pace. Some of the character’s storylines are more exciting, some characters are more cliché, some are darker or lighter but almost all of them are enjoyable.
“I only wish the developers were a little more creative with the job & ability systems”
The world is interesting and fun to explore and the game does its best to make thing both accessible but not obvious. Each character starts in a different area and you are recommended early on to explore and find comrades across the realm. These areas are also filled with optional quests and dungeons to give an added opportunity to level and experiment with character combinations. Each character also has their own ability they can use while exploring the overworld such as Therion’s Steal or Olberic’s Challenge which give more depth to allow you to pull characters even further. For example, I luckily lifted a Gold Axe from an NPC in Clearbrook which pushed my characters to hit 500+ damage very early in the game. Of course, this isn’t the norm and I would recommend using caution as too many failures with these will ruin your reputation around town, sooner or later causing you to pay to reestablish your good name.
As I said in the beginning, this game heavily relies on nostalgia built by RPGs in the 90s including Square-Enix’s entries on the Super Nintendo and PlayStation such as Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire & Suikoden. The game does a pretty good job of both keeping the game faithful to its origins and predecessors while mixing in its fair share of modern twists. I found it to be interesting and the battles at times felt difficult without being tied down by odd mechanics or requirements. Most enemies have their fair share of weaknesses and the game does its best to spur creativity when it comes to secondary jobs and choosing abilities and equipment. I only wish the developers were a little more creative with the job & ability systems. Within only a few hours, I had developed a way for my physical and special attacks to be overly potent without much room further to grow. These systems feel shallow compared to the job system from games like Final Fantasy III and games like Final Fantasy Tactics make it seem like a kiddie pool. If you’re a big fan of figuring out interesting Job Systems and Abilities you may find this game a little too simplistic for your likings.
Octopath Traveler is a beautiful game that plays to the heartstrings of anyone who loved RPG games from the genre’s “Golden Age” in the mid to late 90s. While the story is interesting and nuanced the Job and Ability systems leave room for considerable improvement.