Octopath Traveler Review

Octopath Traveler

Mystery and intrigue await you in this Nintendo Switch exclusive title developed by the same guys that made Bravely Default. Octopath Traveler is the epic tale of eight people on eight different quests to find themselves and solve the mysteries that surround their lives. Whether it is a mission for revenge, the caper of a stolen book, a heist to retrieve some gems, the search for treasure, a holy mission, the truth behind a betrayal, the mystery behind a mentor’s disappearance, or the quest to heal the poor, you’ll most definitely find a story that resonates with you inside this Nintendo exclusive. But, just what is Octopath Traveler? Is it truly worthy of the praise it has received? And, will it be the Role Playing Game (RPGs) the Switch has desperately needed? Find out inside!

Octopath Traveler is fantastic; there is no doubt in that specific regard. But, it’s not perfect. Certainly it is a jewel in the Nintendo Switch’s library, but the reasons for its success are quite difficult to narrow down to specifics. Perhaps, it’s the lack of contending RPGs on the console that could challenge the scope of Octopath Traveler. Others believe the unique way it handles the storylines of eight characters as protagonist of their own tales is responsible. Yet, some praise the mixture of 2-D graphics with High-Definition backgrounds that reminds them of the old-school Super Nintendo era while providing a breath of fresh air with the highly detailed scenery. But, who can truly say? All we can do is take a hard look at the contents of the game and cast a subjective opinion on the matter.

The Super Nintendo age of old-school Eastern RPGs to this day is considered one of the golden ages for players everywhere. Titles such as: Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Secrets of Evermore, Super Mario RPG were heavy-hitters that are still remembered fondly by gamers now in the 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s. Octopath Traveler borrows graphical elements from these games by creating their character sprites in a similar art style. However, don’t think for a second that it looks like it came out the 90’s and forgot that it’s been almost two decades since those days were over as the environments in the game demonstrate the capability of the Unreal Engine 4 to blend 2-D and HD into what the developers call HD-2D.

But, speaking of HD-2D the environments are gorgeous, everything from ruins, to sewers, and dark forest look beautiful. The areas are different enough with plenty of geographical differences to add variety to the game and vistas so gorgeous, you’ll find yourself looking at the horizon when you discover something new. It’s obvious at a glance that the amount of work which went into developing these zones was absurd. But, it ultimately pays off as you’ll be paying more attention to your surrounding than the sprites themselves. Yet, even the characters offer plenty of enjoyment… at least visually.

While Non-Player Characters (NPCs) that aren’t enemies or important to the story look generic enough to fit into any cookie cutter RPG. The protagonists/antagonists are diverse enough to draw attention from the player, enemies especially look varied enough and are worthy of the praise received by fans and critics alike. But, unlike the player characters, the enemies look different inside and outside of battle.

Once you’ve seen the character art and seen what the characters are meant to look like that’s about it, you’ll spend the vast majority of the game looking at their sprites barely move except during battle. Meanwhile, the enemies are looking ten feet tall and much more detailed within a fight, but still suffer from limited movement and such. It’s a bit of a shame, but while you can at least marvel at how animated sprites are battling HD enemies that tower over them and hit about as hard as they seem they would. But, that brings up another point about the battle graphics.

During combat, the camera switches to a front position with the good guys on the right and the enemies on the left. You control the action by deciding whether you attack with your weapons or your class abilities. While this is the standard far in most RPGs, the battles really aren’t all that much to write home about… at least from a graphical standpoint. Spells look great, but they aren’t particularly unique, your dark magic spell looks pretty similar to the light spell, and the nature elements (fire, ice, thunder, wind) simply just have a slight graphical difference on where the attack came from and how it looks like when it hits a target. Yet, this shortcoming does little to affect the combat in the game overall.

Fighting enemies is definitely one of the strongest points in Octopath Traveler. On paper the concept is easy to explain, you fight the opponents by lower until their Hit Points reach zero or your entire party wipes. During battle your characters accumulate Boost Points that can be used up to three at a time to increase the power of their abilities or use a multi-hit attack. The ability to choose between either two of the aforementioned is the key to strategizing in Octopath Traveler; which is to say you’re aiming to break the enemies guard.

Octopath’s enemies have Shield Points (represented by a small shield with a number inside). The counter will go down as you battle with them. Once the number reaches zero you’ll cause a Break which leaves the enemies dazed and vulnerable. It’s also your moment to utilize all your Boost Points (BP) and unleash your ultimate attacks to cause massive damage. However, you can only break through their defense by targeting the specific weaknesses of the opponents, and while some enemies have fixed points some enemies can switch it up, forcing the player to adapt to an ever increasing amount of Shield Points or variable vulnerabilities depending on their stance.

This sort of battle style is ingenious as it keeps players engaged, and actively shifting their strategy when facing a tough opponent. Which is sadly, par for the course as the common rabble in the game don’t offer such versatility in battle and only serve to help you grind towards the next level. But, still it makes the player look forward to the next boss battle and that is enough to keep the story moving along. If only, there wasn’t so much grinding to do.

Leveling up and Grinding
Octopath Traveler is very true to its Eastern RPG roots, which usually means it’s loaded with grinding. As you move along in the story chapters, you might find yourself staying outside a boss room just fighting numerous amounts of enemies while the head honcho waits patiently as a massacre happens just 15 feet away. This is understandable as the Japanese have an affinity for this type of monotonous behavior. But, in the Western world it’s not as desirable, and can frankly get annoying as you repeatedly mash the button selecting your attacks to finish a battle as quickly as possible. Rinse and then repeat until you’re the correct level to fight the boss.

Yet, boss battles aren’t necessarily the main draw of Octopath Traveler as a magnificent (albeit generic) story unfolds through your journey, and continues pulling you for more as the chapters go along.

Characters and Story
The attraction point to Octopath Traveler was the eight storylines that happen simultaneously as you move them along. Each character is the protagonist of their own story, which means they sort of act independently of one another and you don’t need to gather all eight in order to finish a specific thread. All of the protagonist have four chapters to finish before moving on to the next one, or you could do what most players do and finish all chapter 1’s for the group, then the second, and so forth until everyone is pretty much on the same level at the end.

Their stories are pretty much the ones listed at the beginning of this review, but there is an overarching line that is kept hidden from the player unless you’re paying close attention. While, the chapters themselves are fairly interesting, the characters can sometimes feel flat and a little underwhelming. For a game featuring such a colorful cast, there were a lot of moments when their actions failed to invoke any sort of reaction. Certainly, there will be moments when they can reach a players heart, but it was hard to care about them for the most part. Players will primarily be concerned with reaching the next chapter and seeing what happens to them. However, they aren’t all bad characters… just a bit uninteresting, which is strange.

Each of the characters has their own motivation and characterization with no two characters being exactly the same, and while they’re all generally good people… that doesn’t mean they don’t act “roguish” at times. This is represented by their “path actions” which are classified as rogue or noble, all of the characters have one and they have benefits and downsides. Noble actions require you to be a certain level, but never fail; rogue actions can be done at any level, but if you fail them then your reputation suffers and NPCs will not interact with you (they work on a percentage system that can be exploited with enough resetting).

Octopath Traveler’s story is enough to keep you hooked on the game, and while the characters don’t influence much draw on the title itself, the overarching plot certainly will and that’s a huge deal for RPGs. The fighting can get repetitive at time, but it is an engaging combat system that will keep your attention glued to the screen during boss battles (and there is an exploit you can abuse by using the dancer class). The sprites look gorgeous and the backgrounds look even better. While the combat animation might seem limited, it’s still worth playing the game just to figure out the inner workings and strategies that work better for you. It’s not going to disappoint any fans of RPGs any time soon, but if you’re looking for the next Call of Duty, and have never played an RPG before, this title will not be for you.

Octopath Traveler released in July for the Nintendo Switch and has been a resounding success. If you own the console it’s a definite must buy, and if you’re a fan of Eastern RPGs, and don’t mind the grinding then you’re in luck. Pick it up now on Amazon or any retailer available near you.

Carl has been gaming on the go since the days of Tiger Electronics and the original Game Boy. Portability is a big factor in gaming across all ages.