Octopath Traveler (PC) Review

By Ofisil 07.07.2019

Review for Octopath Traveler on PC

The standard JRPG recipe usually goes something like this: one hero, usually one whose mum just woke him up, sets off for adventure, and along the way meets up with a bunch of people who, for their own reasons, decide to tag along - but not Octopath Traveler. Square Enix/Acquire's creation doesn't really have a main path to follow, and is more like a bundle of eight, separate stories, of characters that just happen to be part of the same team. A risky concept, which, thankfully, worked like a dream, evident by how successful this became when it was first released on the Switch. Good news for those few who love the genre, but aren't really into console gaming, because this, highly-appealing, 16-bit-meets-the-Unreal-Engine microcosm has finally reached the shores of PCs.

Imagine playing a Final Fantasy game, for instance, Final Fantasy VII, and rather than beginning your quest with Cloud in the city of Midgar, you just start with Yuffie in distant Wutai, or with Cid while he is chilling in Rocket town... or with Vincent as he is sleeping in his comfy coffin. Also try to imagine that, when these characters finally bump into each other, they won't really have any reason to get all friendly and teamwork-y with each other... and that's basically Octopath Traveler.

You begin by choosing one amongst eight... well, travellers, but none of them are the protagonists, or, more accurately, everyone is the star of their own storyline. After the first quest of your first pick, you can now freely explore the fantasy land of Osterra, either to experience the next chapter in line, or find the rest of the cast; all with their own personal journeys to make. How good are these stories? Oh, it's a mixed bag of mostly good tales within it - but nothing spectacular, to be honest.

Nevertheless, many of these stories provide a nice incentive to keep on pushing on, whether you are seeking a missing tome of great importance with Cyrus the scholar, pursuing a dangerous beast as H'aanit the hunter, trying to find the Dragonstones as Therion the thief, or following a bunch of criminals as the dancer Primrose, in order to make them pay for the murder of her father. Good or not, however, the elephant in the room is none other than how this lacks a decent central narrative.

Screenshot for Octopath Traveler on PC

The paths do eventually converge, but make no mistake: there isn't really a main plot to follow in here. Surprisingly, that's handled very well, and never really becomes a big issue. The fact that your team of adventures doesn't really feel like one certainly is, though, as, without any exaggeration, while experiencing a chapter of a character's storyline, the rest become invisible, disappearing altogether whenever a cut-scene is playing.

In many ways, it feels as if this has bitten more than it could chew. Maybe this should start with something like... Tripath Traveler to test the waters first. Sure, while questing, it's possible to enjoy some brief party banter. Unfortunately, while these dialogue sequences help in getting to know all these characters a bit better, for many that won't be enough. The end result is a cast that's insanely promising, but ultimately feels underused.

Generally, this title is more concerned with short story-telling, noticeable from how the hundreds of "insignificant" NPCs actually offer a paragraph or two of (decently written) background. It's a unique method of storytelling, but it's not one that everyone will appreciate. It's of outmost importance to note that Octopath Traveler's narrative style is actually quite good, despite its flaws - it's just that it could be much better if it had a heavier focus in world-building.

Take the, so-called, HD-2D visual style at hand, for example. This takes the 2D sprites of FFVI and places them on a high-definition, 3D world powered by the Unreal engine, adding shadows, lighting effects, depth-of-field blur, reflections, and many more... but all these are gone to waste. Oh, no-no-no-no-no! The final result remains gorgeous. It's a perfect blend of SNES-era, JRPG visuals, and a modern graphics engine. It's just that... it all looks somewhat lifeless.

Screenshot for Octopath Traveler on PC

Osterra is filled with generic grasslands, mountain regions, deserts, coast towns, and forests that definitely look awesome, but lack that extra care that would make them more memorable, like unique points of interest, or details that stand out from their surroundings, instead of, say, a sea of similar trees and rocks, with a name which will disappear from your brain in seconds... but enough about the story and immersion side of things. Time to take a good look at the gameplay section.

This provides a good, meaty 60-to-80-hour adventure; one with a great, pick-up-and-play pace, which explains its massive success on the Switch. The continent of Osterra is also pleasantly non-linear for a JRPG. You are, however, advised to avoid picking a direction and following it. Aside from how fun it is to take your time and explore each town and the surrounding wilds, this generally isn't a walk in the park, as entering a region that you are not supposed to, will lead to a quick massacre.

Don't worry fellow haters of all things grinding. While this does indeed need plenty of grind, most of it will simply be done just by thoroughly exploring each "dungeon," and not by spending an hour in the same area, killing the same weaklings over, and over again. Even better? The combat itself feels great; great audio-visually, as each hit has a neat "oomph," and plenty of colourful sparkles usually fly round, but mostly, this combat is great mechanically.

Screenshot for Octopath Traveler on PC

Luckily, there are none of the typical, drowse-inducing encounters in this JRPG. You can't win by simply pushing the attack button in Octopath Traveler, not even when your party is actually a pretty strong one. Battles heavily revolve around exploiting enemy weaknesses to stun them, before unleashing your most powerful attacks, as well as power-up your abilities - offensive or not - by using boost points that are gained after each turn.

It's a simple enough system, yet it forces you to think more strategically, and focus on skill diversity. Luckily, your heroes and heroines will soon end up feeling like walking Swiss army knives. At first each character just embodies a typical RPG class, like the tank, the thief, the mage, etc, but you'll soon be able to dual-class by unlocking all these as secondary 'Jobs,' which also let you mix and match passive skills from each specific Job.

All these provide the necessary tools to experiment and try all sorts of different combinations, decreasing the inevitable repetitiveness of fighting, and allowing you to survive where you otherwise couldn't with a team that had a different setup. The thing that makes each character stand out even more, are their unique Talents and Path Actions; a varied set of abilities that either help with the many mini-side-missions that simple NPCs provide, or with the battles against monsters.

Talents and Path Actions involve *deep breath* making NPCs follow you, stealing from, or trading with them, capturing monsters as summons, crafting potions, getting into fights, acquiring useful information, and many more. Sure, things never get as deep as in a "pure" RPG like Pillars of Eternity II, but it's certainly a nice touch that gets you even more engrossed to it all, making you try everything with everyone. In conclusion: a must-have JRPG? Yes, yes, and more yes.

Screenshot for Octopath Traveler on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Octopath Traveler has many little and big pros. Its 'HD-02' visual style is beautiful; the music is great; the world is very big, non-linear, and full of things to do; the characters can be customised in many different ways; and, finally, the combat is fast, yet tactical, simple, yet deep. Octopath Traveler is great. However, it also has a couple of cons that for many people will be the deciding factor of whether they should play this or not, and these are, the almost non-existent interaction between its eight characters, its somewhat… artificial vibe, and the lack of a decent main plot.

Developer

Acquire

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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