It’s near-impossible to know where to start with Octopath Traveler. The name makes absolutely no sense and doesn’t really invoke any sort of emotion. On top of that, unless you’re into complicated, old-school RPGs, don’t even read anymore of this article. Square Enix’s next Nintendo Switch game is defined by all these traits. With that said, it also has the potential to be great.
Following a more traditional role-playing structure right down to the visuals, the battle system is the reason that Octopath Traveler shines. Occasionally you’ll be engaging in some detective work, but the true lifeblood and depth of the game is revealed when it’s time to fight.
From the outset, it’s clear that this game focuses heavily on turn-based battles. You never know when you’ll be expected to engage, and you won’t become overwhelmed by these battles, but even run-of-the-mill scrapes will prove tough. You cannot take any enemy for granted or you will die. Make one mistake, and you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble.
As a result, Octopath Traveler is addictive, made even more so by the boost point system. Taking the form of dots that can be seen next to your character’s name, you can charge up any attack or spell depending on how many of these circles are filled (they replenish automatically over time). This goes for offensive and defensive moves and items, and it’s crucial to strike a balance between the two as best as you can. You’re unlikely to be victorious without such an approach, which means it has to be the root of your tactics.
It’s also essential that you figure out your enemies’ weaknesses. Represented by icons next to each character, this will often be a case of trial and error – using a certain weapon to see if it inflicts any damage. Following this tact will allow you to ‘break’ an opponent quicker, too, and will stop them in their tracks – which allows you to have more turns. Again, you need a plan to succeed. You can be wiped out at a moment’s notice, and even a basic battle can last up to 30 minutes.
Patience is key when it comes to the mechanics, and you’ll need to spend some time to properly learn Octopath Traveler. Those who put in the time will be rewarded with a wonderfully layered experience, one that’s made even better by the Switch’s portability. If you’ve played Bravely Default (the developer’s last game) then you’ll have a good idea of what to expect – but even then, Octopath Traveler feels very unique. The more you do, the more you’ll come to understand and the better you’ll become.
Looked at in isolation, Octopath Traveler could be described as a SNES-inspired RPG, which is clearly the intent in some ways. However, you can see modern ideas – or influences, at least – in here as well, and they’re most evident in the characters. Each has their own personality and place, and this is true within combat too. The pros and cons become apparent early on in a battle, and trying to leverage those against the threat you’re facing is almost like planning a war. You can’t go in guns ablazing because you’ll hit a brick wall fast; strategy and composure are the way forward here. Lose those, and you’ll lose. Simple.
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Octopath Traveler is intense, then, but then again, it’s aimed at a very specific market that will probably lap it up. There’s a huge world to traverse and dungeons to explore, and the sheer amount of content is likely to surprise many. I was privy to only a tiny snippet of the finished product, but even that appeared vast.
Octopath Traveler is due for release in July. If you’re willing to put in the hours, then this game will certainly reward. Those who aren’t willing to make such an investment may be better to give it a miss. In my opinion, one thing is for certain: this looks like a mighty fine game indeed.