It’s rare for a good JRPG to come along that checks all the requisite boxes for it to be a true great of the genre. Even the venerable Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series have struggled at times as they branched out and evolved to implement more modern gaming tastes. Still, fans of classic JRPGs ask for things to remain that others find difficult to deal with, such as random battles and fully turn-based combat. It seemed like these elements were on their way back a few years ago though, with the release of Bravely Default on 3DS and Octopath Traveler on the Switch. And while the latter was well received overall due to its reliance on these classic gaming mechanics, it still struggled in other respects. This is all true once again at Octopath Traveler arrives on PC, with some enhancements and related issues tacked on as well.
The story of Octopath Traveler is very much rooted in the JRPG gengre itself. An expansive plot that involves tons of lore and the titular eight characters that you’ll be playing as, it would be impossible to do it justice here without spoiling it. Outside of splitting the story up among the many playable characters though, there isn’t much innovation going on in the story area, marking one of Octopath’s biggest faults. While the overall story is intriguing, it doesn’t come together all that well. And the potential of intermingling the stories across the characters falls a bit flat.
It doesn’t help that the English voice acting is on the lower end of the quality spectrum. Eventually you’ll likely want to switch to Japanese VO with subtitles, at which point you might notice just how much dialogue there is in Octopath Traveler. Never one to use few words when many would work instead, you’ll be tapping buttons in order to quickly make your way through or suffer hours of endless talking about not-so-interesting things. Which is unfortunate given how intriguing some of the narrative mechanics can be, or could have been.
Where Octopath Traveler truly shines is in its art style.
This includes having all of your characters interact, which rarely if ever happens, and actually shifting NPCs around to your bidding through various character abilities. These don’t amount to much though, and the overall feel of Octopath Traveler’s narrative is one of missed opportunities. However, each individual character does offer up some interesting and touching plot elements. While the overall picture may not come together perfectly, players will find some things to enjoy along the way. This includes some enjoyable boss fights which pop up throughout your journey with these characters.
The gameplay is similarly familiar, harkening back to JRPGs from the 16 bit era of gaming. Turn-based combat has been making a comeback in a number of JRPGs as of late, and Octopath Traveler handles its return well. There’s some innovation here, such as Boost which builds up during the fight and allows you to unleash multiple attacks in a row. Overall fighting enemies will please while never getting to tiresome or old, though it rarely reaches lofty heights of greatness along the way.
Where Octopath Traveler truly shines is in its art style. Immediately clear to anyone who sees the game in motion or just in screenshots is the unique way the artists have realized this world. Featuring high definition visuals while still utilizing 16-bit sprites, it’s a nostalgia trip and visual powerhouse wrapped into one game. Few if any complaints can be leveled here, with the game offering up visual treats throughout its entire runtime which stretches into dozens or possibly over a hundred hours for some players.
This is also where this new PC port brings the most improvement over its Switch predecessor. While the options menu in Octopath Traveler isn’t the most robust out there, it has everything the majority of players could ask for. You can tweak resolution, texture and shadow quality, and all the usual suspects. And with the game running well on even medium level hardware, you can often get them much higher than before. The only downside is the lack of portability making Octopath Traveler the clear choice for those who have no reason to play it on the go, or who have a powerful laptop that can handle it.
There’s more that can be said about Octopath Traveler as a whole, though it’s all been discussed before when the game arrived on Switch. The game is an enjoyable throwback to JRPGs of the past, while still bringing those adventures somewhat into the present. This is done mostly in the visual department and in small ways through the combat. But this work is hampered by the poor plotting of the overall story. With such a cool premise and amazing visuals, the story should have helped keep your interest throughout, but most will find it becoming more and more unsatisfying as they delve deeper.
Octopath Traveler may not be the perfect JRPG revival that many had hoped for, but this PC port takes what worked before and makes it just a touch better. A disappointing overall story drags things down, but the basic combat and gameplay work well enough. The characters are intriguing enough as well, but the real star is the fascinatingly original visuals. Here is where the PC port shines brightest, offering players a chance to finetune the experience and bring it to even loftier places than the original Switch release. The cost is portability though, meaning this might not be the perfect fit for all players.
- Available On: Switch, PC
- Published By: Square Enix
- Developed By: Square Enix, Acquire
- Genre: JRPG
- US Release Date: June 7th, 2019
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: “Octopath Traveler may not be the perfect JRPG revival that many had hoped for, but this PC port takes what worked before and makes it just a touch better.”