In this second year of the Nintendo Switch, I find myself in an interesting position as my collection has not gotten a lot of new 1st party titles. Instead, I find myself getting a lot of 3rd party titles, like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Then two weeks ago, I found myself very eager to get an exclusive RPG from Square Enix for the Switch. As I hope this Octopath Traveler Review will prove, my eagerness was rewarded in spades.
Game Name: Octopath Traveler
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Square Enix/Acquire
Release Date: 7/13/2018
You’d think that after all the RPG series Square Enix has done over the years that they would be running out of ideas on how to shake things up. But Octopath Traveler shows that’s not true. For instead of one ultra-grand adventure, they go for eight very personal ones, and it very much works.
In the land of Orsterra, you’re going to meet 8 very different and very special characters. Ophelia, Cyrus, Therion, Olberic, Primrose, Alfyn, Tressa, and H’annit. Each of these characters have a different quest all their own, and it’s up to you to complete their journies, but how you do so is literally half the fun.
For as I noted in my Octopath Traveler Beginner’s Guide, half of the point of the game is freedom. You get to choose which character to start with, and you can then choose which of the other party members you join up with in what order. You technically don’t have to get all eight to beat the game. It’s recommended as battles will get tough and you’ll need the help, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Moreso, you don’t have to complete all of their storylines to beat the game. So if you like Therion for example, and want to beat his journey and his journey alone, you can, it’s entirely your call.
In regards to the characters and their stories, I could literally write a review on each of them and give you a different take on each. Square Enix and Acquire did a good job of making the stories stand out from one another. Yes, there are familiar themes. For example, Primrose and Olberic are both out for revenge. But, as their stories evolve, so do they, and thus they branch out. Same with Tressa and Alfyn, who want to see the world and become who they feel they were destined to be. But how they reach that goal is very different.
The problem though is that not all the stories are the same quality. I have not fully finished the game by the time I wrote this review. However, I did beat half of the final chapters for the characters, so I have a good indication of how things flow at the end more or less. For me, the highlights storywise are Olberic, Primrose, H’aanit, and Cyrus. That’s not to say the others aren’t good, but I feel they could’ve been better. A great example of this is Therion, who had a great three chapters of buildup, but the ending fizzled out for me.
You’re going to find your own favorites naturally, me and my friends on the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast each had our own likes and dislikes, but I think that’s ok because everyone likes different kinds of stories, and different characters
Moving onto combat, this could’ve easily weighed the game down, but instead, it helped transcend it to another level. I was fully prepared to come into this Octopath Traveler Review ready to bash the combat, but it’s actually really deep, really fun, and it has a lot of variety. Just in your team, you can have four of the eight main characters join you in battle. Each of the eight has their own special class to start out as, and there’s a lot of fun mixing and matching until you find your “perfect” team. Mine is H’aanit, Therion, Olberic, and Ophelia. Like a good turn-based RPG, there is an order to how the battles go, but, you can alter that flow in any number of ways. Including “Breaking” the defenses of a character of stunning them for 1-2 turns, leaving them defenseless and up for more damage from your party. You can also put opponents to sleep, blind them to weaken accuracy, and more. The battles are very much like a dance, and the key to that dance is knowing what moves to do when.
Which brings me to the skills of your characters. Each character has their own set weapons and skills, and the more you fight, the more JP you get to unlock those skills. By the time you’re fully unlocked, you have a lot of power to through around. Using Olberic’s “Brands Thunder” move was a thrill every single time.
But it goes even deeper than that, you can give each character a second class. You can give them one of the eight base classes, or, search for a rarer class to give them more power. Battles rarely get stale, the bosses are very powerful, and the encounter rate for the game is perfect. You’ll never feel overwhelmed walking through an area. Yet, if you want to fight, you can run through areas (like in Pokemon), and encourage battles to happen. Or, when you’re engaged in a battle, you can run away if you desire.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take some time in this Octopath Traveler Review to talk about the visuals and the sounds of the game. I’ll fully admit, I was hesitant of the looks of Octopath Traveler when I saw the reveal trailer. And when I played the two demos I thought that some things could’ve been done better.
That being said, once I fully got to commit to the game, the graphics really grew on me. The sprites are so well done that you can read the expressions of the characters very well. At times, they even pushed the sprites into directions I didn’t expect, which brought me even more joy. The 3D backgrounds mixed with the 2D looks (which they called 2.5HD) is a very unique look, and the depth and detail that they put into the various regions of Orsterra are very well done.
In regards to sounds, the music of the game is top notch. From the music of the cities and travel areas to boss fights, and more, the score is masterfully made. During final chapters, you can actually hear the intensity of the music shift, as if to tell you that things are going to get more intense. But most importantly to me is the voice acting. With the graphics how they are, it was crucial for the Square Enix and Acquire teams to nail the voice acting, and I truly think they did. It’s not just the main eight characters that are good, it’s supporting characters, other NPCs, and more. Sure, there are some hammy performances, but the majority help flesh out the stories in many great ways.
All that being said, the game is not perfect. There are some things that hold the game back. I’ve already mentioned that the quality of the stories isn’t always well balanced, and that is one issue. Another issue is Side Quests.
Like any RPG, there are optional quests that you can take in order to get more money, more items, etc. But, the game doesn’t explain how to complete many of them. Yes, some of them are spelled out like, “Get me this item”, but it doesn’t tell you where to find this item, and some of them can only be found in other towns that you might not have reached yet. Other times, you’ll be given a story, say a guy trying to find a mysterious location, but he doesn’t know where exactly to look, and it’s up to you to go find it. Which is great, but there’s no locator icon or guide to help you complete the quests. There are hundreds of these out there in the game world, and yet I’ve only completed a small fraction because of not knowing what to do.
Another issue is that I found some of the abilities and skills of the characters a bit too focused or too similar. For example, Olberic and H’aanit can use their Path Actions to challenge people. But of the two, only H’aanit’s has it to where you have to use her captured beasts in the battle. So if you’re not capturing beasts, you’re in trouble. Sticking with H’annit, despite her having an ax in her basic class, she has no ax Skills. So if you’re trying to deal damage to a foe with an ax weakness, get used to doing base attacks with her.
There are also times in the later chapters where if you’re not prepared for status afflictions, you’re going to have to go back and get some herbs to fix that. Which means having to go through the final boss areas and risk crippling battles, which can be a hassle.
Finally, there are inconsistencies in regards to EXP payout for battles, even with bosses. I once fought a boss in Chapter 2, and beat him and four henchmen and only got 150 EXP. And yet, just outside the bosses chambers were enemies that gave me close to 200. Also, there’s an area where LVL 30 monsters gave me around 500 EXP, then I went to an area with LVL 40 monsters and I got the same EXP. It’s very confusing.
All that being said though, Octopath Traveler is a fantastic game. The stories, the characters, the battles , they’re all really good in my opinion. I look forward to not only beating it fully but seeing what other things the world of Osterra has to offer. And trust me, it has a lot to offer.
Think I missed something in my Octopath Traveler Review? Let me know in the comments below!
Review Disclosure Statement: For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Affiliate Link Disclosure: One or more of the links above contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission should you click through and purchase the item.
Octopath Traveler Review
Octopath Traveler is a must-have game on the Nintendo Switch for both RPG fans and fans of great games. It’s not a perfect RPG, but it’s definitely one of the best ones of recent memory.