Review – Octopath Traveler

JRPGs have been around for a very long time and are a dime a dozen these days. There are hundreds, if not thousands of titles to choose from in that genre alone. So, in a sea of titles, how does a game make itself stand out enough to set itself apart from the rest and make a name for itself? Square Enix partnered up with Acquire to see if they could make such a game. Thus, Octopath Traveler was born…

As you may have surmised, Octopath Traveler features eight different storylines. Each character has four chapters in his/her story that you will need to battle through to complete his/her journey. I was thoroughly impressed by nearly all of the storylines and I’m thrilled that each character has a very unique motivation and history. It makes the time you spend accompanying them on their quests so much more interesting. There were a few stories that didn’t captivate me right away, but had some twists and turns along the way that made me enthralled later on. Pretty much everyone except for the merchant, Tressa. I won’t get into any spoilers, but her journey was pretty weak the whole way through. Although to be fair, how do you make a merchant all that compelling?

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I mean, she’s not my favorite, but that’s still harsh.

Octopath Traveler features a unique gameplay mechanic that I absolutely fell in love with. Each character comes equipped with their own specific job and skill set. Alright, that’s not so mind blowing, so what makes this game different? About halfway through the game, you’ll be able to explore areas that house secret shrines. These shrines offer you the ability to assign a class that one character possesses to another as a secondary job. That’s right. Each character has the possibility of holding two jobs. This makes the strategy for future fights a lot more interesting. For example, if you’re having trouble with not having enough healers, you can assign the Apothecary or Cleric to one of your stronger tank characters to make them more well rounded. You can also add the Warrior job to your Huntress and create a full on juggernaut if you wish. This leads to a wide variety of possibilities for you to experiment with to find the dream team that works best for you.

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Hadouken!

Another unique feature is the way you interact with NPCs. Octopath Traveler spans across an immense landscape where you’ll meet a myriad of interesting people along the way. Normally you would just talk to a person to unlock their side quest, but in Octopath Traveler you’ll soon discover that many people will only open up to certain characters. This does a wonderful job of making each character have an equal importance to the narrative, as well as encouraging you to actively switch out your team members on a regular basis.

Since Octopath Traveler is a JRPG, it shouldn’t be surprising that it is a pretty hefty sized game. I logged in well over a hundred hours completing each character’s story, finding all the shrines to unlock the secondary jobs, and tackling the optional bosses, who are often tougher than the normal storyline bosses. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this game didn’t require a lot of grinding unlike most other JRPGs. By the end, I was blowing through the regular bosses and was a little surprised that it had gotten so easy. However, upon completing all the objectives and story arcs, a secret ultimate dungeon and foe are revealed and let me tell you, it’s no joke. Bring everything you’ve got and hope it’s enough!

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Quite the little gold digger, aren’t you?

Aside from the multiple job perk, Octopath Traveler boasts a few other standout qualities. The first being its graphics. Believe me when I say that this entire game is a treat for the eyes. Utilizing the Unreal 4 engine, Octopath Traveler‘s graphics are nothing short of stunning. The main characters are recreated as 16-bit avatars, but the backgrounds, towns, and dungeons have a much more realistic appearance. The areas around you are laid out in layers which give a 3D appearance to the environments. It’s such a delight seeing the contrast between the pixelated heroes journey through somewhat realistic surroundings.

Octopath Traveler offers nearly every landscape you can imagine, and delivers them in breathtaking ways. The shores of Goldshore sparkle like gemstones, the snowflakes in Stillsnow shimmer as they fall, and the sand dunes in the Sunlands glitter in the unrelenting sun. That’s not to say that everything is shiny. These are simply examples of the Unreal 4 engine’s lighting mechanics at work. You’ll also notice shadows from passing clouds cover the ground and winds rustling the leaves of the pixelated trees. As previously stated, I’ve sunk a lot of hours into this game and I’m still blown away by how gorgeous it is.

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That it is, Ophelia. That it is.

This brings me to Octopath Traveler’s next glorious feature: its sound design. The voice acting is fairly on point with most JRPGs, whereas the characters speak mainly through dialogue boxes and the actors only say a couple words to convey the emotion being portrayed. However, they do have full dialogue during cutscenes (which once again, is common for most JRPGs). When you get to those cutscenes where the voice talent can really say their piece, they truly shine through and through. I was pleasantly surprised by most of the voice actors in the game.

The voice talent in Octopath Traveler pales in comparison to the the soundtrack though. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such an epic and memorable score. Each town and area has its own musical theme that fits perfectly with it. The battle music conveys a sense of urgency and hope that makes you feel the pressure of the fight while simultaneously giving you the confidence to press on. It’s the perfect example of a score that can inspire, intimidate, and uplift you at the same time. There are few soundtracks that can achieve such feelings of the world around them so successfully.

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Battle Royale at its finest.

 

I have to say that, as a long time fan of JRPGs, my curiosity was peaked by the premise of Octopath Traveler, but I wasn’t expecting much more than a moderately entertaining new entry into this oversaturated genre. I will humbly admit that I completely underestimated this game. It produced not only extraordinary graphics mixed with the classic charm of old school 16-bit art styles, but it offered one of the best musical scores I’ve head in a long time time. From the bottom of my heart, I must say thank you to Octopath Traveler for the incredible journey.

 

Graphics: 10

A refreshingly unique art style that combines classics 16-bit avatars and landscapes mixed with realistic graphics.

Gameplay: 9.5

Your standard turn based RPG fare with multiple job/class options and master job/class options available much later. Exploration is fun and doesn’t require much grinding.

Sound: 10

Solid voice acting and one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a very long time.

Fun Factor: 9.5

A turn based JRPG that offers a few new gimmicks that really make it stand apart from the rest of the genre. Not every storyline was solid, though.

Final Verdict: 9.5

Octopath Traveler is available now on Switch

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