If you read this blog regularly, you know I never pay full price for a game. Still, $60 seemed like a worthy price after playing the three hour trial version of Octopath Traveler. I played it on the Nintendo Switch, which it originally launched on in 2018. It is also now available on multiple PC platforms and Xbox including with Game Pass. It is a turn-based role-playing game done in the spirit of Super Nintendo classics like the Final Fantasy series. A strong sign I was in for something good was it being developed by Square Enix, the company that created Final Fantasy. After a bit over fifty hours, I have scratched the surface of this game and had an absolute blast throughout the journey.
Octopath Traveler uses an aesthetic known as “HD-2D;” a mixture of pixelated retro and more modern graphics. It is such a unique and charming art style. The adorable old-school sprites, detailed set pieces that aren’t over-repeated, cool enemies, satisfying skill effects such as calling in lightning to strike your foes, and certain environmental effects with modern graphics, like water. I’m always excited to boot this game up, in part because of how pleasing it is to the eye. The visual art style makes even the map something at which to gaze.
The soundtrack should not go unmentioned, either. Modern orchestral arrangements paint the backdrop with extraordinary elegance and inspiration. The music enchants every mood. As you explore the vast game world and it’s many corners, you’ll hear a wide variety of songs well peppered in. The game has many epic boss fights, which when you pull off a valiant triumph, the victory music truly suits the moment. Although while grinding for higher levels, at times I would enjoy putting on some of my own music to spice things up. The limited voice acting is performed with enthusiasm that enhances the experience.
When you first start Octopath Traveler, you choose from one of eight characters based on some loose information about them, who is now your protagonist. It is worth noting that once you choose your first character, they are the only person you cannot remove from the party until you finish their campaign. After you complete their first chapter, the world is yours. The other seven characters are out there for you to recruit by playing through their first chapter. You can complete any of their stories in the order you desire. I have only completed my protagonist’s plot, but I have been advancing several plot lines as they are all interesting. It is also nice to do some lower level story missions between grinding sessions as you advance your protagonist.
The eight characters by class are: Scholar, Cleric, Merchant, Dancer, Warrior, Hunter, Thief and Apothecary. I chose the Scholar as my protagonist and I am very happy with that decision. Cyrus, the Scholar, has powerful magical attacks that can deal massive damage to foes. He can also analyze the enemy to uncover their weaknesses and their health points. Enemies are weak to certain attack types, and delivering a certain number of blows to an enemy’s weaknesses breaks their guard. This opens them up to taking significantly more damage and makes them unable to perform any action for a short time.
The biggest complaint I hear about Octopath Traveler is all the grinding that is necessary. With eight characters and only four allowed in your party at a time, you will be dedicating an unbelievable number of hours getting everybody up to the levels you need them to build your party for respective chapters. Personally, I enjoyed grinding in this game as I never have in an RPG before. I’ve always been a fan of turn-based combat, and here it is done with near flawless execution. You feel stronger as your level increases.
My Scholar was level 59 when I finished his campaign. This was almost fifteen levels over the recommended level for his final chapter, but the bosses are not for the trifling. Even at my level, the final boss took masterful strategy and a little bit of luck. The final fight took forty-five minutes, minutes that moved at a blistering pace, even during a turn-based engagement no less. I was very happy with how his tale wrapped. Each character is so special in their own way, I simply can’t wait to go back and complete more story arcs. They all tell a quality story, so far.
This will be a game that ranks highly with me, I must say. One of the most engaging and fun RPGs I have ever played. No exaggeration here, this is one of the greats. I often times have a hard time getting into RPGs enough to finish them. I found Octopath Traveler more accessible to me. The battle system isn’t overly stymieing. The more you do it and experiment, the better you will become. Another reason I didn’t mind grinding. You get a feel for individual class’ strengths and weaknesses, as you upgrade equipment and abilities into endgame. With lots of ways to build your party.
Numerous fond memories are being formed as I play. The graphical style, the music, the gameplay, everything comes together and you see the result. A perfectly balanced game, if overly focused on grinding for some players. Presented in a manner I will call genius. They created a rich fantasy world that will keep you returning, no matter how much time you have to sink in during a particular session. Maybe you just flip it on and grind some experience points and money for an hour. Or you could put more serious time in.
If you already have Xbox Game Pass for console or PC, and you like RPGs, especially turn-based, be certain to put this in your download queue. If you have a Nintendo Switch, there is a three hour demo available of the full game, from which if you then buy it you can continue from the demo save file. As I said at the beginning, I paid $60 and I regret nothing. I’m sure when I wake up tomorrow, this may very well be the first thing I boot up and continue focusing on other campaigns. Octopath Traveler is unforgettable.
Credit: Octopath Traveler. Screenshots by me.
EDIT: I have now put in almost one hundred hours into this game, and beat all eight stories. Still, I hunger for much more. There are still side missions, epilogues and more to delve into. Each campaign was very much enjoyable. Of the seventeen games I reviewed this year, Octopath Traveler may be my favorite, no small achievement. It is so satisfying in all its aspects. The soundtrack has been in my playlist non-stop. Absolutely check this game out if you like RPGs.