Octopath Traveler is a turn based JRPG collaboratively developed by Square Enix and Acquire, who are known for their work on the Tenchu, Way of the Samurai and Akiba’s Trip series. It’s a love letter for for the classic JRPG’s of the 90’s that were filled with complex pixel art, engaging characters and stories. After being released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch last year it has finally made it’s way to PC allowing a much larger audience the chance to jump in and explore Orsterra.
Octopath Traveler’s art direction replicates the 16 bit sprite based games of the past. Characters are 2D but rendered in a 3D environment that carries that traditional 16 bit aesthetic. The world is built with a parallaxing depth effect that makes it feel alive, vibrant and almost like you’re moving your characters around inside of a Super Nintendo era toy box enhanced with modern day technologies like particle effects and realistic lighting.
As the name suggests, the game follows the story paths of 8 different characters, with each belonging to their own respective standard jrpg class, such as thief, hunter, warrior etc. At the beginning of the game you’ll pick one of the 8 to start with and you’ll progress through their story chapters, throughout which you’ll be able to find and recruit the other 7 characters, 3 of which can be switched out at any time to build out your 4 player party.
Each of the characters have their own back story and motivations, and while you will learn a bit about each one as you recruit them, I’d highly recommend going back and player the opening chapter as each of the 8 if you have the time to so you’re able to gain this background insight. Upon doing so you’ll be able to witness the way the stories of each interlock and gain a richer view of the game’s story and a deeper understanding of the world’s lore.
The characters each play quite differently and their stories and motives are each unique which allows the experience from becoming stale for those players that want to see all that Octopath Traveler has to offer and want to complete the multiple playthroughs. Having the characters’ stories feel so different kept me interested and engaged in the game throughout my time with it and I appreciated that it wasn’t repeating a slightly modified story with a similar tone, cut and pasted 7 more times. Saying that, if you don’t have the time to sit and complete 8 different playthroughs, you’ll still get a ton of fun and enjoyment out of a single characters’ journey.
I really enjoyed the variety of biomes on offer within Octopath Traveler. Throughout the game you’ll find yourself adventuring through populated towns, stone castles, sandy deserts, lush forests and snowy mountains among many other areas. This variety helped keep me engaged in the game, with it always offering up new and interesting things to look at and helped showcase the scale of the map and the world of Orsterra.
One of the things I loved most about Octopath Traveler was it’s battle system. It’s deep, challenging and requires a great deal of planning and strategy to master. The system is built upon tactics and strategy but but doesn’t require moving around a grid like the Final Fantasy Tactics titles. Here the combat is all about discovering and exploiting the enemies weakness. Attacking an enemy with a type of attack they’re vulnerable to will weaken their shield, and if you manage to bring the destroy the shield you will ‘break’ the enemy. When an enemy is broken they will lose their place in the turn order and miss their next turn. During this time they are also much more susceptible to damage from you attacks. Finding and exploiting each enemies weakness with your party while, making sure your party stays healed, deciding when it’s best to use a standard attack, cast a magical skill or spend your Boost Points and also planning out your next strategy which could be multiple moves ahead provides a lot of fun to the combat.
Just make sure your plan going into each round is solid, as many of the enemies in the game get quite tough. A couple of wrong choices in combat can quickly lead a place you can’t come back from and with many of the higher end bosses in the game carrying a significant amount of health you’ll have to stay on your toes and switched on for long periods of a time.
Octopath’s job and sub-job class system allows you to spend Job Points (JP) to learn new combat skills you’re able to equip and utilise in your next combat. These range from a buff that increases things like your characters’ accuracy for a period of time, granting stronger melee strikes and magical abilities that cause a range of elemental damages. This allows your characters to specialise in two families of abilities so you can have a Thief that is also a Cleric for example. This mix n match customisation for your party allows you to build out your ideal cast of characters but also allows you to build up skills in areas your party could be weak in without having to drop a party member for another one that fits a specific class.
As I mentioned in the opening of the review, Octopath Traveler really is a love letter to the JRPG’s of old. It’s story narrative isn’t as strong as some of the classics, but it’s branching storyline, customisation options and complex, strategy based combat system provide a ton of fun and will keep you engaged for a long time, whether you decide to do one playthrough or many. Personally, these days I like to play this style of RPG on the go, especially if I’m commuting somewhere. I love that Octopath has made it’s way to the PC and is now available to a much wider audience but if you have the means to play it on either the PC or Nintendo Switch my personal choice would be the Switch. But bottom line, the game is great regardless of where you choose to play.
A PC review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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