When it comes to role playing games (RPGs), Square Enix is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known video game companies in Japan, with a string of beloved franchises like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts.
Octopath Traveler, developed by Square Enix in collaboration with Acquire, was first released on Nintendo Switch in July 2018, on Steam in June 2019, and was also recently released on Stadia.
The game proved to be a massive hit and has sold over two million copies since it first came out. Having just completed Octopath Traveler on Switch myself, I can see why the game is highly rated. The game does have a few downsides though, which could be a dealbreaker for some, but I still enjoyed Octopath Traveler immensely.
Octopath Traveler has eight protagonists, each with their own story, and each of these stories has four chapters, which totals up to 32 chapters.
Players are free to pick their starting character and recruit the other seven members along the way. What’s interesting is that the game doesn’t force you to recruit the others – it’s optional. If a player wants to do a solo run with just one character, they can do just that. Similarly, you can choose to recruit just the characters you like.
The fact that Octopath Traveler gives you full control of how to play the game is one of the game’s biggest selling points.
This, unfortunately, also leads to one of the game’s biggest flaws – character interaction, or lack thereof, at least in terms of depth.
You start off by picking the character you want to play as. After you complete this character’s first chapter, you’re free to explore the map and recruit the other seven characters, and that’s exactly what I did. After recruiting several party members, I began to notice a jarring pattern. Although the characters fight together as a team, they don’t actually appear in each other’s cutscenes. One glaring example is when one of our eight protagonists gets stabbed by the villain, and the rest of the party never shows up.
It’s jarring but I ignored it anyway just so I could enjoy the game. I like to think that, whenever a cutscene plays during a character’s story, the others just casually step aside or wander off elsewhere.
That said, the characters do interact starting from chapter two but only a little. The conversations are brief and lack depth, offering a glimpse of what could’ve been so much more – a compelling cast with well-established relationships – but we never get to see this.
While I did enjoy some parts of the stories, some scenes felt dry and dragged on way too long. I skipped those scenes and moved on to the next destination. The game makes it clear where you’re supposed to go next, so I never had to worry about being lost.
Octopath Traveler makes up for its lackluster storyline with superb gameplay that allows players to fully customise their party.
Each character can have a main job and a secondary job, allowing you to experiment what party combination works best with mix-and-match skills. There are also Boost Points (BP) that allow you to attack multiple times or deal greater damage to enemies. This is useful for breaking your enemies’ “shields”.
Each time you hit an enemy with something it’s weak against, the shield count goes down by one. Once the count reaches zero, the enemy “breaks” and loses several turns and receives greater damage. Using BP strategically is key to breaking your enemies.
Another of the gameplay highlights is that each character has a unique ability called Path Action. For example, Therion the thief can steal items from the townspeople. This is handy because you can get powerful weapons for free.
Stealing doesn’t always work though, especially with rare items. In that case, you’d want to use merchant Tressa’s Path Action, where you actually have to pay for an item instead of stealing it.
Another thing I love about Octopath Traveler is its epic soundtrack that hypes you up during cutscenes and boss battles. It’s amazing how each character’s theme transitions seamlessly into the boss theme every single time.
The game also has stunning aesthetics that combine retro 16-bit sprites with gorgeous “pop-up book” graphics. This makes its enjoyable to explore the towns as you progress into the game.
Taking everything into consideration, would I recommend playing Octopath Traveler?
It depends. If you’re looking for a classic RPG with a solid combat system, stellar graphics, an epic soundtrack, and you’re willing to overlook its flaws like I did, then I’d wholeheartedly recommend Octopath Traveler.
But if you’re looking for an engaging storyline, then it’s probably best to look for another game to play.