Full disclaimer. I’m still working through this game but based on the eight hours I put into the demo and the additional ten hours I have in the full game thus far I feel I can comfortably talk about Octopath Traveler. So here we go.
I’ve was looking forward to this game for what seems like a goat’s age. I played the first demo as soon as it came out and was instantly hooked. Not only on the visual style but the combat. I really enjoy the mechanic they use where every turn you get a battle point that you can either save and continue to collect, to a point, or use for extra attacks or to boost a skill. I know this is not a brand new mechanic but it is the first time I’ve played a game with it and I am loving it so far. It adds a nice strategy to the fights that, when executed properly, can make most battles feel trivial. However if you don’t time when to unleash your battle points in the most advantageous way you can make things harder on yourself. So there is a learning curve here but once you master it, it becomes like a rhythm and very, very fun.
Looking back at the visual style, the game is modeled after 16 bit era RPGs. You have 16 bit style sprites set in a 3d world with a pretty extreme depth of field effect that looks beautiful at first, but then looks a bit odd after a few minutes only to look beautiful again. It’s a weird effect. At first I felt the effect was too much, but the more time I spent with the game the more I appreciated not only the effect but also how they used it to highlight different areas of the screen for story telling. I don’t see other games adopting it, but it works well for Octopath Traveler.
The name Octopath would seem to imply that the game is made up of eight paths, and that’s true. The game has you select one of eight heroes and that is your character for the game. However as you progress you meet seven other characters you can add to your party and each one has their own story that you will play through. The game is paced to where it wants you to do exactly that. You are able to “finish” the game without meeting anyone else if you want to however that will be a very grind heavy experience. Each character’s story is separated into chapters with level requirements that are fairly steep when taken by themselves. However if you continue to roll through each characters story, for example play through Chapter 1 for each hero, by the time you are done with that then your main character will be levelled up and ready for his chapter two and so on.
It’s important to note that every character starts at level one. So by the time you meet the last person, and your main is at level 20+, they will be level one. So rolling though the chapters in the order you meet them help make sure that when you get to the eighth characters chapter 2 they are ready for it level wise. This also means rotating the characters in and out of the lineup since you can only have a party of four and characters not in the party do not level up. So while you CAN just set a party you like and play their stories you are missing out on half the game. Luckily the game level scales during the first chapters based on the number of party members so if your main is at a high level and you welcome in a new guy at level one, they will rapidly gain levels as you fight along them. I had one character jump from level 1 to 5 in just one battle with three other 20+ level characters. It became a little slower after that but it gave him a nice jump start.
But enough of the mechanics. The game has so much charm, and a lot of that charm is rooted in nostalgia. It brings back memories of playing early JRPGs which I’m sure is the intention. It is also very easy to pick up and play. Because the game is set into chapters it’s easy to play one chapter in a short sitting, at least that has been experience during the early portions of the game. That lends itself greatly to being on what is essentially a portable system, though I have played it exclusively in docked form.
I look forward to continuing my travels and so far I highly recommend the title. Between the full game and the demo I have about eighteen hours into it and am still in the first chapters, largely due to my save not transferring, but also because I am taking my time and really making the most of this gem of a game.
*Official Screenshots from pre-release game.