Octopath Traveler

What’s better than one story? Eight, apparently.

Octopath Traveler is a new retro-style JRPG from Square-Enix for the Nintendo Switch. Turn-based and SNES-esque graphics hearken back to a golden era for the JRPG and Octopath Traveler hits enough of the right notes to be a solid addition to one of the kings of the genre.

The major flaw for Octopath is that, contrary to most JRPGs, it’s story can be viewed as unfulfilling. Not that it’s bad, just… cliché. Which, considering there are eight different characters with their own

Combat runs in a standard turn-based way, but with more options in weapon use and skills than one would normally expect. This thief has access to his abilities (which include a fire-based ‘spell’) and knives and swords.

stories, is saying something. That’s right, Octopath Traveler has eight playable characters to choose from (hence, ‘octo’) and you can obtain all eight in one game and play through their starting story as well as whoever you choose to start as. The characters are all unique in their own way, but the game uses stock storylines for them, making the game’s story overall a little dull.

Each character has a different action they can perform in and around towns. These will allow you to do various interactions that allows you to find different items, move or distract people and various other things. Since you can only do them once you have the appropriate character, it gives you a reason to go back to already visited towns to dig through the area a second time or more.

Combat in Octopath is fairly straight forward. Turn-based, the game took part of the uniqueness from Bravely Default and adapted it here, allowing for multiple attacks if a replenishing resource is used. This speeds up slow fights, allowing for quicker leveling runs and makes the incidental fights less annoying. During combat, monsters have a smattering of weakness, varying between the variety of weapons and elemental types that are available to be used by the player. Hit them enough and they’ll ‘break’, stunning them and increasing their damage taken.

In town, you can interact with certain NPCs, both in conversation and with individual skills. The character here is a thief and can, appropriately, steal from townspeople. Failing enough will make your reputation diminish within the town.

Visually, Octopath Traveler delivers high quality backgrounds with the SNES style sprites for characters. The look can be a little jarring at times, particularly on the mobile screen of the Switch, but you get used to it. The bigger complaint would come from unclear paths in maps, making for a lot of time spent looking by trial and error.

Square-Enix is well known for high level audio in games, and Octopath Traveler continues this tradition. Ambient music is solid and combat fights have a verve to them that draws you in. There is full voice work in some areas and basic phrases while text scrolls in others, but it is done well and in a way that doesn’t leave you missing sound if you don’t have it, but enjoying it when you do.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time with Octopath Traveler. I will be interested to see if it does a better job than most JRPGs with replayablility, but the initial run was an enjoyable experience. If you enjoyed Bravely Default on the 3DS, you will enjoy this. If you are not a JRPG fan, this won’t be changing your mind, however.

Sometimes sparse, the individual maps between towns are still gorgeously rendered with just enough happening to keep them interesting, if sometimes frustrating to traverse.

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