Octopath Traveler is the game that pioneered the ‘HD-2D’ art style that Square Enix has been so fond of ever since this release back in 2018. Looking at the beautiful graphics on offer here, it is not difficult to see why fans all over the world have fallen in love with the approach! Since then, Triangle Strategy and Live A Live have both released to strong critical reception, with a sequel to Octopath Traveler recently announced.
The game introduces players to the fictional world of Orsterra, thought by its inhabitants to have been created by thirteen Gods. The map is enormous and sprawling, with a huge variety of locations spanning frightening forests, desolate deserts and dank dungeons. Each one of them is enhanced by incredible visuals and lighting. At one point, we stopped to watch the pixel trees swaying in the breeze, with its falling leaves gently fluttering across the screen. We’re sure you’ll also be taken aback by the environmental design on offer here! Thankfully there is a fast travel system, which came in handy to prevent the slog of walking in between the many locales.
In this world, you take control of eight different protagonists, hence the title. They include an inquisitive merchant, a noble knight, a determined huntress and more. Each one provides a unique perspective, skillset and story that intertwine with each other throughout the lengthy 60 hours or so story. While some of them are very engaging, others are fairly generic and felt like more of a chore to progress through their individual stories.
Eventually, the band of heroes and misfits are united by a shared cause – which we won’t spoil – but it does threaten the very existence of this massive fantasy world. There is also a job system that we uncovered after exploring for some time, where you can switch up the attacks and abilities of the characters. For instance, we granted a physical attacking character with a job that allowed him to cast spells, creating some unique combinations in battle and making our playthrough feel completely personalized.
Outside of the epic main quest, there are numerous side quests scattered throughout Orsterra which range from uninteresting fetch quests, to more thought-out tasks with multiple parts and powerful rewards. Some of them were good enough to be worth playing but often fell flat when compared to any of the main missions.
In terms of gameplay, Octopath Traveler is a relatively standard affair, with lots of dialogue and a turn-based combat system. You can choose which of the eight protagonists to begin the game with and each of them begins in a different city, town or region. Some of them have level recommendations which are higher, so there is a logical order after a certain point in the game.
When moving around the world, there are many NPCs that can be interacted with. Each hero is equipped with something known as a path action which can be used on these characters for various outcomes. For instance, some protagonists can recruit certain NPCs as followers and utilise them in battle while others can steal items from them, resulting in reputational consequences within the area. At one point, we got a little bit too greedy, swindling and stealing from a town’s locals which led to us being unable to use these path commands in the town anymore! This sense of choice, consequence and interaction is exactly what we want to see from role-playing games. The path action system truly creates this unique feel to Octopath Traveler!
As for the combat, there are both physical and elemental attacks to take down the large variety of enemy knights, animals and creatures. Another unique system to the game is the boost points, which you can use up to three of in a single turn to increase the power of your attacks and abilities or bolster your defences. Five of these boost points can be stacked and using them strategically can be the difference between failure or success against more difficult foes.
We absolutely loved exploring the beautiful fantasy world of Orsterra with the exceptional HD-2D art style completely shining throughout the lengthy experience! The eight hero system is certainly unique, however, some protagonists are more likeable and interesting than others, resulting in some time spent where we just wanted to get back to our favorites.
While you can skip the introductory levels for each hero, you lose some context of their personality and journey by doing so. These introductions can feel sluggish and we found they slowed down the pace of the game that we’d built up each time before changing characters. Despite some pacing issues, the story is engaging enough to carry you through to the end of the story.
We hope that Octopath Traveler 2 improves upon the pacing issues we experienced here and puts emphasis on the innovative battle system, glorious visuals and unique path actions.
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