Finally getting to sit down and write this review has been a long time coming. A lot of people think huge games like Mario and Zelda are the ones that sell consoles, but as soon as I saw the trailer for Octopath Traveler, I knew I needed to buy a Nintendo Switch. After over a year of waiting, I finally got my hands on the Octopath Traveler special edition and have deep dived into it for the past few days, and now that I’ve come out of my cave, I’m here to talk about this fantastic game.
My journey started with Cyrus, the well mannered Scholar who, unbeknownst to him, is incredibly charming and handsome. His journey for knowledge leads him to quit his comfy job at the academy in search of a rare tome.
It took me about 2 seconds to realize that this game looks, and sounds great. The colors are vibrant, the environments are detailed, and there’s a sweet melody to go along with every situation. The sprite work for every character and NPC is wonderful. The main characters are very detailed and look like they’re respected roles that they play. No matter what town, city or forest you’re in, the NPC’s will look different, either dressing like normal townsfolk, miners, hunters, and scholars. And the environments? God damn does this game look great. Every town is laid out incredibly differently, every mansion has a different feel, the way the sun shines off the water looks better than most triple A games, for God’s sake. The dungeons are also quite beautiful and are surprisingly varied. Some are old mansions, other are underground sewers, and of course some are just classic caves. The dungeon design is quite simple; they’re pretty much just one long hallway with branching paths/rooms that lead to chests. I can see how some would complain that this is boring, but I for one am glad that I’m not spending 5+ hours trying to get through a dungeon, while getting lost or having to look up a guide on multiple occasions like some of the older Final Fantasy games. It’s obvious just from looking at this game that it’s inspired by SNES era JRPGs, but does it feel and play like one?
Octopath Traveler is such an improvment on the old style formula of JRPGs that it transcends the genre. It takes the mechanic of turn based combat and makes it incredibly strategic and fun. Every round of combat you get “Boost Points” that you can save up and use for either your standard attack, which can be multiplied up to 4 times in one turn, or to boost the potency of one of your spells. They can make buffs last longer, elemental attacks do more damage, or healing spells to give you more health. This is made better from every enemy having different weak points, and when you exploit those weak points enough, their shield breaks and they are stunned for a turn and more susceptible to damage. The combat was so fun that I actually enjoy grinding for levels, something that no other RPG has yet to do for me. This is made better by enemies actually being quite difficult, you can’t just mash the A button to attack enemies while you’re trying to get through an area; if you want combat to go by fast and smoothly, you’ll have to strategize and use your characters and Boost Points accordingly. Bosses are another story altogether. They’re very tough and sometimes take quite a while to best. They have massive amounts of HP, usually have retainers that they use as shield, and can even summon more enemies to the battlefield. All in all, I’m itching to get back to this game so I can grind out some more levels.
I’m sure most people are playing this story driven game for the story, and I’m happy to say it doesn’t disappoint. This is one of the few open world RPGs I’ve played where I actually feel like I get to play the way I want to. As I’m sure most of you know, you get to play as 8 characters, and once you start you can recruit the other 7 in any order you want. But hey, if you want to ignore 4 of them and go through the whole story with just 4 characters, it’s completely up to you. If you want to try and complete one character’s story with just that character, you can try. I went the route of getting every character from the beginning, but I don’t recommend doing this as it can get pretty repetitive. Every first chapter is pretty much just getting through the character’s backstory, having something happen to them to set them on the path, and then going to fight a boss in a dungeon. It’s also very hard to level each character up equally at the same time so don’t feel bad if you don’t get all the characters at the start; but once again, you can play any way you want.
Perhaps the greatest part of this game is the music. Each melody feels like it was tailor made for this game. They fit each area so incredibly well that it immerses you completely. I know that in years to come, when I haven’t played this game in a while, that as soon as I hear the music, the memories of staying up late and playing as my favourite band of characters will come flooding back to me. After my first playthrough of the prologue demo, I downloaded as much of the soundtrack as I could to my phone so I could listen to it anytime I’m not playing the game; that’s how good, and how diverse this game’s soundtrack really is.
There are a few misconceptions about Octopath Traveler that I would like to set straight right now. Firstly, there has been a huge uproar about this game because the producer said that it was the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy 6. Well I’ll tell you now that Octopath is not “Final Fantasy 6-2”. The game has a different theme, much different story, different gameplay and just isn’t the same. Are they both massive JRPGs? Absolutely! Are they both fantastic games that you should play? I couldn’t recommend them any more than I do. The game is without a doubt inspired by FF6 and in many ways improved upon its dungeon design and combat. But the games are different in many ways.
The second thing, is that many people are saying that the 8 characters never speak to each other and that the story doesn’t come together in the end. Well, the characters do talk to each other on multiple occasions. Usually after any sort of story event happens, you can press the + button to enter into the “character banter” screen. It’s basically just two of the main characters discussing what just happened with one another. And honestly, I really love it. It often gives insight into how characters feel about one and other, or maybe one of them gives another some advice about their current situation. I know that Therion finds Cyrus’ lectures pretty annoying, and you get to listen to Ophilia give Olberic some friendly advice about why he wields his blade. Are the 8 of them talking every second something happens? No, but you get to know about how they feel about one another and their motivations for sticking with this band of misfits.
I see a lot of people saying that the eight characters don’t really have any reason to be adventuring with one another, but in many points, certain character stories intercept in the same town. And besides, honestly, it’s just a game. Do you really have to think that hard about it? So far from what I’ve seen, there isn’t a lot of urgency in these people’s quests. Plus when you recruit each character, it says they need powerful allies so I’m sure they are glad to have the help. Even in one character banter segment between Therion and Olberic, Therion said he wants to see how Olberic’s journey plays out. So is it that hard to believe that these people are journeying together?
The game also does come together in the end; there is a hidden dungeon once you complete every character’s story and once you finish a few certain sidequests. I don’t exactly know how it plays out, since I haven’t gotten there myself, but I’ve read up on it. Try not to blame me, the game is extremely long.
Octopath Traveler is without a doubt the best RPG on the Switch to date and I’m sure will be one of the best games ever on the system. This 80+ hour adventure is just begging to be replayed many times, in many different ways.It really changes the JRPG turn based combat genre by making it more strategic and engaging. The graphics are beautifully unique and really make this game stand out from so many others. I, like many others, will beg Square Enix to continue to make games in this style or to remake older Final Fantasy games in this style. Getting the special addition is a real treat because you get the soundtrack along with the game and I know that it’s going to get a lot of use out of it. The composing is top notch and many of these melodies are masterpieces. I often question when a player knows that a game is a true work of art, but with this game, I just know. Playing it, listening to it, just looking at it, I know this game is art. I know I will be playing this game for years to come and I know there have been many great games to come out this year, but I think Octopath Traveler is my game of the year so far. Out of the reviews I have written, I haven’t recommended playing a game as much as I do this one. So please, if you’re an RPG or JRPG fan, like the old Final Fantasy games, or like strategic, turn based combat, do yourself a favour and dive head first into Octopath Traveler.