Octopath Traveler (Nintendo Switch)
By Patrick Klein
From Square Enix, and the creators of Bravely series on the Nintendo 3DS comes Octopath Traveler for the Nintendo Switch; a story of eight unique individuals traveling the world for very different reasons. As they journey across the eight different biospheres of the country of Orsterra, they will learn what is most important in life and grow to become stronger individuals in their respective classes.
Octopath Traveler is unique JRPG that doesn’t have a central story. Instead, the game is the collection of stories from the eight travelers that you can play as. These stories range from the light-hearted, “I’m going to travel the world to become the greatest merchant ever!”, to the darker, “I will do whatever it takes to find the men that killed my father and make them pay.” You choose one of these eight individuals to play as and then recruit the others as you journey to whatever city they currently start in. While the lack of a central story is interesting, I am enjoying learning more about everyone in my team.
Each character has four chapters, each one lasting about 1-1.5 hours and follow a pattern of, “story events in town, dungeon, tough boss fight, story event conclusion.” After that, you are free to move onto the next town/story, to tackle some of the many side quests or explore the landscapes for treasures and optional dungeons. Other than that, there isn’t much else to do, so if you’re the kind that gets bored with repetition, you might find yourself playing this game in spurts.
The one thing does catch your eye in this game is the unique graphic style. Dubbed “2.5D HD” graphics, you’ll find yourself looking at something that came out of the SNES 16Bit era, but popping out at you like a pop-up storybook. So if you’re a fan of pixel art or retro RPGs, this is definitely a game you want to check out. On top of the pixel backgrounds the world has some beautiful lighting and special effects, invoking a feeling that the world is alive. The sand glitters, the water is fluid, and the snow is mesmerizing. The soundtrack is also just as good. The theme song that plays in the beginning of the game is very catchy and you’ll find yourself humming along to it everytime it plays. Other songs fit the location that they are in quite well and it lends itself to enhancing the journey.
One of the challenges of creating an old school style RPG is creating a turn-based combat system that is engaging throughout the entire game. Octopath Traveler exceeded my expectation on this. The combat feels fresh and will make you rotate your team to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. Enemies have a guard counter that you want to break, and in doing so, lowers their defense and makes them miss a turn. You have to decide whether to save up Break Points that you get at the start of every turn and use them for an all out attack when you do break the enemy, or spend them chipping away the enemy’s defense so that they lose their chance to play a devastating move themself. This really shines in boss battles. It’s not uncommon to recon a boss just to see what they are weak to, and then adjust your party to take advantage of those weaknesses.
Your party is set up with individual jobs like a traditional JRPG. You’ll have a warrior, a wizard (scholar), a thief, a hunter, a healer, a merchant, a dancer, and an apothecary (item mixer). They will grow as you apply the JP (job points) that you earn after each battle into skills that their profession uses. Learning skills also gives you access to passive skills that you can equip and customize your characters with. Roughly after beating everyone’s Chapter One, you’ll be leveled enough to explore farther out in the world and run into job shrines that will allow you to add a second job to everyone, increasing the many ways to customize your party.
Overall, Octopath Traveler is an excellent JRPG for the modern days. The graphics style is fresh and the soundtrack is engaging. The game gives you plenty of freedom on how you want to play, and while the battle system has many functions, they aren’t overly complicated and hard to master. While the lack of a central story might turn off some people, each character is very personable and you will want to see how they’ll continue to grow over the course of this 50 hour journey. This is a journey worth taking in my opinion.