Nintendo review Switch

Review: Octopath Traveler For Nintendo Switch

Explore the land of Orsterra and discover the tales of eight characters in Octopath Traveler. The Switch exclusive JRPG oozes such exuberance and delightful gameplay that it’s easy to get lost in its beautiful melodies and opulent art style. Technical errors and level grinding aside, it’s the richly woven stories and the barrage of emotions evoked that takes centre stage.

From Square Enix and Acquire comes a delightful Japanese fantasy role-playing game brought to life by the producers of the Bravely series, Masashi Takashi and Tomoya Asano. Inspired by the mechanics of the aforementioned 3DS titles, Octopath Traveler is painted under the guise of nostalgic beauty, completely rendered from 16-bit pixels in high-definition quality, a design technique known as HD-2D. The sheer opulence and detail presented in Octopath’s pixels is not only extraordinary, but comforting too and hearkens back to the days spent playing Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy. Through the eyes of eight characters; Olberic the Warrior, Cyrus the Scholar, Therion the Thief, Ophilia the Cleric, Primrose the Dancer, Alfyn the Apothecary, Tressa the Merchant and H’aanit the Huntress, Octopath Traveler unfolds through four distinct chapters per character with the freedom to forge your own path.

 

 

 

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If you’ve been fortunate enough to carve some time out of your day-to-day life, you’ll know that Octopath Traveler’s recently released Nintendo eShop demo has three hours of glorious content to play through. Everything you acquire in the demo can be transferred into the full game upon purchase, and you can choose your favoured save file and main character, resuming from your last save point. It’s a good idea to remember that once you’ve chosen your starting character from the eight available, they are unable to be removed from your party until you complete their full tale, so it’s wise to choose a character you feel an affinity to; or, at the very least, a battle voice you’ll enjoy hearing on an 80-100 hour journey.

After you’ve completed the main character’s first chapter, you’ll be thrust into the world of Orsterra, where players will encounter fierce enemies across varying terrain. Be prepared to fight anything; worms, dragons, rats with bows, poison ants, spear-wielding amphibians, dark guardians, pirates, brigands, pixel-popping dragons, the elusive Caits, and so on. Fortunately, with so much enemy variety and routes to explore, there’s little room for boredom, even while grinding. And depending on the path you choose, you’ll experience everything a little differently; bosses will feel tougher with more or less party members, party interactions during ‘travel banter’ segments will change between story chapters, hordes of enemies will feel easier to defeat with characters that can deal damage to every foe rather than just one, and the way you transition from stories will alter too.

Perhaps it’s this natural freedom that allows Octopath to shine so brightly. It drives an insatiable curiosity and inquisitiveness from the player, enabling them to boldly go anywhere on the map and open up areas that deliver instant KOs to their characters from the onset. Oftentimes, JRPGs feel stuck in a loop of linearity, whereby choosing the next story quest locks you out of other side quests. But in Octopath, even story chapters you begin will give you the freedom to hear another character tale elsewhere; extremely helpful if you’re stuck on a particularly challenging boss. An unlimited number of side quests can also be picked up too, and you’ll naturally complete them as you journey through Orsterra.

 

 

 

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But there are downsides to such flexibility. Unlike traditional RPGs, Octopath has no major overarching storyline, which can often lead to fractured and disjointed tales, riding on the back of the chapter’s recommended level. Similar to those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ stories, (Goosebumps, anyone?) Octopath becomes a danger unto itself, at risk of losing the raw emotion from those carefully crafted past and present story cutscenes and beautifully written medieval dialogue to hours upon hours of meticulous character grinding between them. That’s not to say that there aren’t places where the stories don’t intertwine or connect with each other. For example, a cloaked figure seen in Primrose’s tale from the first chapter appears to be following Cyrus out of a village during one of his chapters. But they aren’t obvious clues, so players will have to use their initiative and imagination to connect the dots.

For a game that’s so heavily driven by its eight characters, then, subsequent vignettes feel a tad too short with a larger focus on dungeon-crawling and boss fights rather than story-telling. Sadly, this fragmentation prevents chapters from blossoming into their full potential as fantastic theatrical pseudo-dramas. Even the party characters you travel with have no presence in cutscenes, appearing directly after the event, rather than being viewed as a silent witness. Yet there’s a story for every type of fantasy fan that’s told immaculately by skilled voice actors. And who can resist the silky smooth tones of Therion and Cyrus? One dripping in sass and sarcasm, the other distinct and princely. It’s Alan Rickman meets Christopher Lee.

While each player’s journey in Octopath will be different depending on their chosen route, so too are their party battles. Taking inspiration from the Bravely series, players can utilise Boost Points or ‘BP’ to their advantage in turn-based battle and deal up to four consecutive blows to enemies in one fell swoop. Unlike Bravely, Octopath rewards players with one BP after each turn, so there’s no need to defend against an enemy attack to save up those boost points. You won’t be able to use more than one BP at the beginning of the battle though, so you’ll never skip turns in Bravely fashion or leave yourself open to attack. There’s no option to fast-forward through battle scenes, however.

 

 

 

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Up to six enemies can appear in battles at any one time, the same number allowed to players with four party characters, coupled with Opilia and Primrose’s summon abilities. Each enemy will have between two and five unknown vulnerabilities, which can be discovered either via Cyrus’s Analyse ability or by attacking the enemy with its vulnerability, unmasked by logical assumption. Dishing out attacks that the enemy is weak to will allow you to ‘break’ their state of composure, weakening their physical and elemental defences to deal greater damage. This is detrimental to defeating bosses such as Ghisarma, Blotted Viper, and Mikk and Makk seen in the first chapter, as well as other brutal bosses presented in the game’s later chapters. Don’t be afraid of the daunting game over screen either, it happens to the best of us. But knowing when to unleash your storage of BP is the key to battle strategy. If you’re a fan of the Bravely battle format, Octopath doesn’t stray too far from the tried and tested.

In true JRPG fashion, Octopath awards players with both experience and job points (JP). Up to five additional skills can be unlocked from the eight available in your character’s chosen class. Ranging from magical spells to trapping enemies, all special moves require skill points (SP) to use in battle. After you’ve learnt a number of skills, characters will also be able to equip support skills. Useful in and outside of battle, support skills enable characters to gain more SP, to augment their ally’s stats, or stunt the rate of random encounters in the field.

While battling is key to levelling up your characters, exploring the map is often just as rewarding. Scattered across Orsterra are eight different shrines, one for each class available in the game. Stumbling upon these shrines will unlock secondary job classes for all eight characters. While you’ll only be able to equip a specific secondary job to one character at a time, it opens up endless possibilities for battle strategy. For instance, I chose to make Ophilia’s secondary job a scholar, so she can utilise elemental magic when party healing isn’t required. Fortunately, shrines can be unlocked at any point in the game, just through exploration, and there’s also four secret classes that we won’t spoil!

 

 

 

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There are some flaws, however, that should be mentioned. Mainly technical and design faults, Octopath is prone to a flickering effect, particularly within the game’s map screen and menus. On occasion, it looks like the map is physically moving, like tectonic plates grinding together beneath the ground. In other places, the game’s lighting has issues, particularly when the art style doesn’t quite marry with the darkened background or cornered shadows and emits blurry flickering from stars or moonlight. Yet it’s nothing that a simple patch wouldn’t be able to fix. And while each of the towns, cities and surrounding landscape are pristinely built, some dungeons can feel bland and uninspiring, with characters often getting stuck behind inanimate objects or invisible walls. But these are minor faults at best, detracting very little from the game itself.

There is a larger fault at play in Octopath. Depending on which characters you use on your journey, players can easily become severely over-levelled for certain chapters, particularly if you have a run of spectacular luck and slay a few Caits on your way. Working similarly to Metal Slimes in the Dragon Quest series, Cait’s drop enormous amounts of experience if you manage to fell one in battle. While I’ve personally only encountered half a dozen, my ill luck has strangely worked in favour. Bosses remained tricky for the first four party characters, but on switching out to complete Primrose’s second chapter, the fight quickly became a walk in the park. And that’s the underlying issue in Octopath; freedom can frustratingly come at a cost. Perhaps if you want a challenge, drop off a few characters at the Tavern instead.

Octopath takes the road less travelled, daring to break JRPG conventions of linearity and give players the chance to choose their own adventure. It weaves poignant tales you’d likely hear from travelling dramatic troupes, ones often expressing lament, in fantasy books of old and directs them into a new format for the modern gaming age. There’s a certain talent at work in Octopath, and it’s yet to realise its full potential. Perhaps that’s what makes it so intriguing. So, we’ll leave you this question from H’aanit’s lips: which path will you hath choosen and aren you ready?

8/10

A review copy of Octopath Traveler was provided to My Nintendo News from Nintendo UK. 

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56 comments

  1. I really wanted to get this day 1, but the fact that the 8 stories aren’t really connected or woven together bums me out. I still want to play it, but this one seems like a time commitment, so I’m hesitant.

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      1. the artstyle IMO is kinda iffy and this game kinda looks like it would be some indie game for 30$, NOT SAYING THATS A BAD THING, i just think the presentation doesnt warrant 60$ at first glance. who knows, maybe I would love it, but i just cant see myself spending 60 bucks on this.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Re: your post about the artstyle. I really don’t get why people think an artstyle should or shouldn’t justify a price point. There are plenty of games out there that have fantastic, visually stunning graphics…and 10 hours of story gameplay. People generally don’t complain about these things, but if a game has a more simplistic visual style and, for example, 80 hours of story gameplay suddenly it’s not worth the same price as a visually stunning game with 10 hours worth of a story? That makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. Even though this reply is to you, I’m not taking a dig specifically at you. I see a lot of people online with an opinion the same as yours, so I’m just saying about people with this opinion in general.

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      1. idk man im really just burnt about the price tbh, i was hoping it would be 30$ or something, this game isnt a AAA big boy 1st party game, its 3rd party and considering its exclusive I kinda thought it wouldnt be full price. oh well, i hope the price goes down though, it looks really good.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m ready for tomorrow! More hyped than ever after reading this! Hope those technical errors will be fixed.

    I would really like to have both Alan Rickman and Christopher Lee to be voicing in this title (or any other serious themed games). Rest in peace :'(

    Awesome as always, C. I spotted you played this (and another title) so I was looking forward to this^^ Can’t wait for the next game! You are going to review it as well, aren’t you?

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    1. They were fantastic actors and voice actors in their time. Loved them both! Thank you for reading, K. Glad you enjoyed!

      Oh, Crash? I just bought that for me. XD Massive Crash and Coco fan. I wasn’t planning on reviewing it actually. If MNN readers would like a review / are on the fence about buying I can always work some wordsmith magic. ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Skipping it unfortunately. I feel like it’d take too much time for me to get through all 8 campaigns before I get bored or interested in a different game. I don’t really want to spend $60.00 on a game that has only single player content with 8 campaigns to complete. I’d rather buy Rocket League, Overcooked, and other indie games that amount to $60.00 in total to get more bang for my buck.

    If this game was at least $30.00, I’d consider getting it.

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      1. It has too much single player content (for me) to want to buy it for $60.00. It lacks replay value (for me) because of that; once I beat the game over one weekend, I would probably never play it again. I’d rather spend $60.00 on games that I will come back to over and over.

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      2. Doesn’t matter how many hours it takes to complete all 8. I’ll probably be bored of the game by the 3rd character’s story completion. Story mode is great to have, but $60.00 for 8 of them and no replay value? No thanks. I’ll wait for the price to drop.

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      3. To each his own. I would still buy Octopath Traveler regardless of price. I had bought Bayonetta 2 for my Switch for just $59.99… and show absolutely no shame whatsoever. It’s most definitely worth my investment in playing it.

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    1. That’s one of the reasons I started using Gamefly. It saves me from buying things like Kirby for 6 hours of mediocre singleplayer content. Even a game like Xenoblade was something that I got a lot of hours from but beat it in a week and I’ll never need to play it again.

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      1. It’s almost as though this is a review of the whole game, and not the demo.

        Or something like that.

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  4. People are always complaining, oh we want new Ips, too much mario, no 3rd party exclusives, boring old mario and zelda, now too expensive 60$ is too much for a switch game…

    What did you expect? you want nintendo to invest in new Ips pay for 3rd party support and exclusivity, you want quality and all of those games should be free or less than 20 bucks?

    Get real, at the end of the day nintendo and 3rd party are a buisness not a charity association for you ungrateful cheapskates

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s not too expensive in general. It’s too expensive for what they’re offering. They’re basically investing in an audience that’s only interested in single player campaigns and, while there are a lot of people out there that are into them, there aren’t many that are willing to stop playing the current popular games to play a game with little to no replay value for people who more outside of single player experiences.

      I loved the demo. I was 100% on-board. But once I saw it was $60.00, I jumped ship. I would rather save the $60.00 for something else, and that’s a fair decision that many can and have made (myself included).

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      1. Big grammatical error sorry. Here’s the correct sentence:

        there aren’t many that are willing to stop playing the current popular games to play a game with little to no replay value. Those people would want to spend full price on a game that has more outside of the single player experience.*

        Sorry, I’m rushing while typing this stuff.

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      2. You keep saying it has no replay value. Based on what? You are aware that replay value existed all over the place before the normalization of universal multiplayer in video games. I still regularly replay single player only titles from the 90’s. It sounds like, and I don’t mean this as an insult so I hope it doesn’t sound like one, that you’re on the younger side and aren’t very familiar with what long term game value looks like without online lobbies. Could that be the case?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I mean, it’s not like the audience for single player content is small. A lot of us like to unwind by getting absorbed in our own story. Multiplayer games mean stress, frustration, obnoxious people… there’s plenty of fun to be had there but it’s not what I always want to do. And I’m getting too old to worry about what the popular game is. It seems like I blink and everyone’s playing some new flavor of the month battle royale, or was it survival, or wasn’t it just mobas we were all supposed to be playing? Maybe it was zombies, or WoW or Halo or CS 1.6 or oh god when did I get so old.

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      4. @frogopus

        “oh god when did I get so old.”

        The exact moment you casually referred to waiting for something for another year and it didn’t seem like a long time.

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      5. @cronotose I sound young to you and therefore don’t know what long term value looks like? Don’t try to cover it up by saying “I didn’t assume; I was ASKING you if that was the case.” If you didn’t assume that or think that’s plausible, you wouldn’t ask it. You don’t have to label people to agree to disagree. I’m an adult in the middle of pursuing his career.

        Moving on, replay value didn’t “start” when multiplayer/online gaming became a thing (duh). All games have replay value, but it’s based on the person playing it and their interests. The majority of gamers are not buying and investing into single player experiences as much as back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s because we live in a culture of playing with friends/family no matter where you are/live.

        As I said, Octopath has little to no replay value, FOR ME–can’t believe I have to be white and black about what should be a given–because it has 8 campaigns going for it and nothing else. I simply don’t like the idea that I have to reinvest myself 7 more times after completing the first character’s campaign that I choose, especially when their stories don’t tie-in to one another. I love single player games, but this just sounds like a lot of time and investment that I’m not willing to put out, especially not for $60.00.

        Just like how everyone has their own preferences, I have mine. If you can’t respect that, which you haven’t really by asking (assuming) I was young and unappreciative of what you perceive as “long-term value,” then I’m sorry to hear you find it difficult to agree to disagree.

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  5. Nice review! I mean, i’m not really into pixelated rpgs, so i probably won’t buy, but the demo was fun when it lasted.

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  6. The last JRPG I had ever played was Xenoblade Chronicles X when I had the Wii U. To be extremely honest, Collette… I find your review of Nintendo and Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler fair and just. Not only the game looks like Final Fantasy VI on the Super NES, the DOODS at Acquire have done an excellent job in developing this Unreal Engine 4 powered 16-bit inspired masterpiece.

    I may not have the cash to burned, but a $59.99 price tag on this Switch exclusive title is most definitely worth the purchase and investment. From my POV, it’s a 9.4 out of 10. Anyways, excellent work your review. Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. When I played the first demo I was very interested. Since then I think I’ve discovered I’m not as into JRPGs as I used to be. Bought XC2 and tired of it in 5 hours, bought Setsuna and the same thing happened. Too bad. I’ll eventually play the 2nd demo. Hopefully that will change my mind, because this game does look cool.

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    1. well yea JRPGs are a time commitment, same with story where u need to invest into it b4 it gets good. Its always been like tht, but I understand if thts not ur thing.

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  8. For me, historically I am not a JRPG person. So I was really really glad when both the demo and the 3 hour gameplay preview came out. It’s just like Mario X Rabbids, I am pretty sure I could like this…but need a demo to confirm.

    Anyway, have got this preordered. I see a lot of discussion surrounding the price. I really feel that if it wasn’t a pixel art based game that there would be little to no discussion surrounding the price.

    For me the retail price is what it is, to you it’s either worth it or its not. For me it is…80-100 hours gameplay, yeah I’ll take that. That going to take me a couple of months to complete at the rate I play games! Personally I don’t think it should be a 40 buck game. If you drop the discussion on the art style, it’s got 8 characters storylines to explore and enjoy. Coupled with more learnable skills than you can use, which to me insights replay value, keep replaying to try different combinations of characters and skills. Sounds fun to me!

    I am all over it. My copy is being delivered today. Got a flight on Sunday. Bring it on!

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  9. Really nice review. I’m not completely done with the game yet, but I totally agree with the lack of interconnectedness. It was kind of strange justifying the characters teaming up when there’s not one overarching common objective. Really like the game overall, though!

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  10. Wow the comments here are just clueless. Somebody saying this game isn’t worth the price? You might not like the JRPG genre, and that’s fine. But just admit you don’t like the genre. JRPGs aren’t multiplayer games, they’re not designed for you to have four friends over and hit each other with red shells and ruin a friendship. They’re designed as immersive story/puzzle/musical/wonderful things that are just fun, and Octopath Traveller is a phenominal JRPG that easily deserves it’s price tag. Quite frankly it’s a much better game than the other big Switch RPG Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (which I also own, and did beat).

    The art style isn’t a reason to critique the game, it’s a reason to celebrate it, the art in this game is bloody fantastic.

    And as far as not valuing a game because it doesn’t have lots of replay value, that’s like saying nobody should buy Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey because those also feature huge expansive worlds that you can only experience for the first time once.

    You don’t like the game, fine, don’t buy it. But don’t say that it’s not worth the price tag. The last game that I played that I got this much use out of was Breath of the Wild. I’m pretty sure I’ve logged more hours into Octopath than I did into Mario Odyssey. For people who love classic turnbased JRPGs (and there’s a lot of them out there) Octopath is a MUST buy. It has a few flaws (like the fact that your characters don’t have a meaningful impact on each other’s stories, though the stories actually do weave together it seems, toward a final boss, I haven’t gotten there but both Chapter 4s that I’ve completed have things that point to that as the TRUE final ending, so they do come together eventually.) But overall I’d say Octopath does 95% of things fantastically. I honestly really wanted to make a game like this (not the same game, but one that took the best of classic RPGs and wrapped them into a tight balanced classic 2D RPG) and I still think it’d be nice to do, but in many ways I don’t really want to since Octopath really is that game that’s as close as we’re ever gonna get to a perfect 2D (ish) JRPG.

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