Octopath Traveler takes a while to get going. It is certainly in no rush and it’s best enjoyed at a slow, easy pace.
The gameplay slowly unfolds for you revealing a deep, strategic and excellent battle system. Gradually, you’ll learn the nuances and intricacies of battle as you learn about the characters. Unfortunately, Octopath Traveler drops the narrative ball.
What should have been the most compelling part of the game is simply reduced to eight siloed vignettes. The stories are ok, but it’s a missed opportunity to have all these characters and have them barely intearct.
Thankfully, Octopath Traveler is still hugely playable.
Octopath Traveler Review
In Octopath Traveler, you play as eight different characters. Each is unknown to the others at the outset, but they all come together to help one another complete their quests.
What’s strange though, is that (so far) it doesn’t seem like any of the other characters have a role to play in the other stories, aside from in battle.
In every cutscene, only the character whose story it is is on screen. Everyone else is your party has vanished and only return for exploration or battle. It’s a really odd choice and it seems to go against what was assumed to be the idea of the game.
It’s not a totally bad thing, but it’s certainly not as interesting as it could have been. I’m reserving final judgement on the stories until I see them through though.
The characters in Octopath Traveler are one of the game’s greatest strengths. Each has a distinct personality and attitude that you’ll come to appreciate as you play. The lack of interaction between the characters though is, again, a real missed opportunity.
Thankfully, each of their stories and interactions with NPCs is full of intrigue. Whether it’s H’aanit’s search for her lost master, Primrose’s quest for revenge, Cyrus’ quest for a lost book or Tressa’s journey to become a travelling merchant, they’re all different enough to all be interesting.
Each of the eight characters has different motivations, different ideas about the world and different skills for getting around. Whoever you choose as your main character will flavour the way you experience the game.
Yes, that’s right. You get to choose which of the eight characters you start with. Whichever one you choose becomes your main character which means you’re not able to remove them from your party. So choose wisely.
I chose H’aanit and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. Make sure you do a bit of research before you pick though, because, as I said, you’re stuck with them for the duration.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
In Octopath Traveler, your class is called a Job. H’aanit is a Hunter. There’s also a Cleric, Scholar, Thief, Warrior, Merchant, Apothecary (healer) and Dancer.
Jobs dictate the characters’ abilities and skills. For example, H’aanit can capture and use beasts in battle. She can also Provoke NPCs into a fight with her pet Linde. This is her Path action and path actions are also a big part of each characters’ job.
Therion, the Thief, can steal items from enemies in battle and can also steal from NPCs with his Path action. Other Jobs have their own Actions and Abilities and they all play a role in battles, the main story and side quests.
To complete everything you come across, you’re going to have to use each of the characters abilities and Jobs. When you use your Path Action, you risk failing and damaging your reputation in whatever town you’re in.
For example, if you try to steal from an NPC and you fail, you might not be able to try and Steal again until you repair your reputation. To do so, just head to the Inn and sling the innkeeper some coin.
To get the most out of Octopath Traveler, you’re going to have to make sure you use all the character’s, all the time.
Octopath Traveler’s battle system is superb. A fully turn-based, old-school, 16-bit style combat screen is what you’re getting in this game.
At the top of the screen you can see the current turn order and to the right of that is that turn order for the next round. Actions you perform can change the turn order and help you to defeat your enemies more quickly and prevent them from even having a turn at all.
For example, each enemy has a Shield indicator with a number inside it. These numbers represent their armour, but it can be broken by using attacks that the enemy is weak to. If an enemy is weak to swords, if you hit it with a sword its shield counter will reduce.
If it reaches zero, the shield breaks and the enemy is stunned, removing it from the turn order and leaving it wide open for lots and lots of damage. This is the simple beauty of Octopath Traveler’s combat. Figuring out what each enemy is weak to, using it against them and juggling each of your characters so you can maximise your damage.
In addition to using moves and abilities against enemies, or for healing, or buffs (come on, this is a JRPG remember), you’re able to Boost your damage with BP.
At the beginning of combat, each of your character’s has one BP. If you don’t use it on that turn, you’ll earn another one. And so on. By pressing R, you can Boost your attack, defence, spell etc and it will be far more effective.
If you Boost a physical attack, you will perform more attacks in a row. Say the enemy has a shield with 3 hits and it’s weak to Bows. If you can boost your Bow attack so it’s showing ‘X3,’ your character will attack three times in a row. That means the enemy shield will be broken and the rest of your party can go to town.
Simple, Deep and Effective
On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss Octopath Traveler’s combat is simplistic, but the more you play it, the more you’ll come to realise that’s not the case.
I could easily go on for dozens of more paragraphs about the merits of the combat system, but honestly, you’re better off trying it for yourself. Once you’ve had a few battles, you’ll understand the beauty of its simplicity and marvel at how it can also be incredibly complex at the same time.
Octopath Traveler presents itself as a simplistic title thanks to the 16-bit HD visuals, but it’s anything but. It’s a deep, complex RPG, with multiple intertwining systems and a huge world to explore.
After spending considerably more time with Octopath Traveler, I’ve come away with a lot of love for it, despite its flaws. Octopath Traveler is an exciting, sometimes frustrating game that stumbles when it comes to storytelling, but soars when it comes to gameplay.
If you own a Switch you need to own Octopath Traveler.
Octopath Traveler was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by Nintendo.
Game Title: Octopath Traveler
Great throwback RPG - 8.6/10
Some wonky story issues - 6.3/10
Amazing Battle System - 9.6/10