It’s time once again to grab a sword, bring that cleric and saddle up that thief as we fight our way through another JRPG that could possibly be the next best thing. From the creators that brought us the masterpiece that is Bravely Default, a series back on the 3DS, we are greeted with Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler.
To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for the game when I first saw the trailer for it many years ago at E3. I found myself unimpressed by the simplicity it was sporting. BOY WAS I WRONG! Not 2 days after its release date did I notice the high praise and crazy reactions from other players. This meant only one thing… I misjudged it far too quickly. After spending an entire day going to 11 different game stores, due to the lack of pre-registration this game only shipped out a handful of copies to each store, I finally got my hands on a copy.
This role-playing game is fashioned to look like a classic 16-bit, Super NES-styled game with pixelated textures and character sprites, but with an HD environment. Surprisingly I find this to be quite charming. It’s brings in the old with the new.
As I dove into another large world of fantasy and adventure I am re-introduced to one of my long lost loves: Turn-based battle systems. As it is, you are able to see who is next on the battle roaster and take your time to strategize out the perfect plan of attack. While fighting enemies each one has their weaknesses that are displayed directly below them. You will have to utilize your weapons and spells to uncover those soft spots in order to break their defense. Once they are staggered you are open to unleash a flurry of attacks stronger than before. Like Bravely Default you are able to stack your Battle Points with each turn you choose to attack normally, use a simple spell or defend. All characters can stack up to 5 BP, but can only unleash up to 4 for maximum power.
The story, which is one of the more unique aspects of this game, is split up between 8 different characters. As you start the game you are forced to choose one of these characters as your main point of interest, but don’t let that discourage you. Once you start and finish the 1st chapter you are free to roam the land and begin any other characters story. Each one has their own path of hardships and classes, the character classes are Thief, Warrior, Merchant, Apothecary, Cleric, Hunter, Dancer and Scholar, but as the arbiter of this game you are free to choose which story to focus on. Started off as the Thief and you came across the Dancers story? No problem. Just take a break from one story to start another. These character are what form your party. You can choose to stick with the same hero for the whole story or take the time to grab all 8. The choice is yours.
As you level up each character, you acquire the traditional Experience Points (XP) and Money, as well as Job Points (JP) that you can use to unlock class specific skills. Later on in the game you can come across an ability that allows you to dual class. Want your Cleric to become a Warrior? Presto! You can have yourself a Warrior Cleric. A Dancer who wishes to steal more tips? Piece of cake! With the dual class you can mix and match between the 8 different classes and customize your hero into the ultimate champion in and out of the battlefield, but remember that you can only have two roles equipped at a time.
These characters also have a hidden talent that can help you progress
either in the main stories or side quest. Depending on who you have on
screen these character can interact with NPCs. For instance a Merchant
can buy any item off an individual, where as the Hunter can provoke
others into a fight and so on.
This world is massive and will likely take you hours to reach point A to point B, but luckily if you open your world map you can automatically travel to cities that you’ve previously visited, cutting travel time in half. But if there is one thing that I’d recommend focusing on in this game it’s that leveling up is NECESSARY! So taking the time to travel through familiar areas is highly favorable.
While traveling through this world each area will display a battle level, showing you the difficulty of these zones. If you’re a daredevil that is willing to take the risk you’ll be rewarded handsomely, but your resources will suffer or you can play it safe and stick to areas that are closer to your current level, but you’ll gain fewer experience points. In the end you choose how you progress through the game, but the difficulty does spike fast, just shortly after I finished chapter 1 for all 8 protagonists, I found myself walking into caves or forest areas 20 levels above my current one. So caution is warned. You will also be given a guide at all times during the game, so if you fancy yourself a bit of side tracking your map will always flash green in spots that are connected to the main storyline.
This game is not for the faint hearted, it is hard if you don’t put the work into leveling up your characters, gaining new armor and weaponry. Depending on the class your character is under it will limit the use of certain weapons and magic. Adding the secondary job class will help in expanding your combat capability, giving you a brooder range of weapons, spells and skills.
Side quests are also available shortly after finishing your first chapter. The NPC will have an orange icon above their heads indicating that they need help. Some times it’s as easy as delivering an item or can be challenging by requesting you to go find a certain individual. But these quests will always be related to your characters hidden talent in some way. So if you find yourself stuck on a quest it may be that you haven’t recruited the right team member yet.
Visually the game is stunning for its 2D style artwork and the music,
though it’s fully orchestrated and not rigged with classic chip-tune
styled beats, will put you in the right mood for every moment. Not to
mention that I find all the characters in this game to have very
appetizing story backgrounds.