Back in July of 2018 the world received anew JRPG from Square Enix in the form of Octopath Traveler on the Nintendo Switch. Sadly, however, it seemed it was going to be a Switch exclusive, leaving a lot of fans out of the loop. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and Octopath Traveler made its way onto the PC stage via Steam on June 7th just a week ago.
Developed by Acquire, one can have some apprehension regarding the quality of the game in the pure aspect of the JRPG genre. Acquire isn’t exactly known for their JRPG games. This didn’t bother me, of course, as I knew this company created one of my all-time favorite games, Tenchu, and had absolute trust they would do the game justice. What’s more, it would be published by Square Enix, and I think we can all agree that means a lot, at least to some of us. When the game was first announced, I was immediately drawn to the design aspect. I had just finished playing through Bravely Second and was looking for that next big JRPG to fill the gap, the idea of Octopath fit the bill perfectly. The question, however, is did it fill that gap? The answer is yes and no, and here’s why.
Octopath Traveler is a JRPG down to its core. Bringing old school pixel art to new levels in their HD-2D design with gorgeous graphics and an amazing soundtrack. Where it lacks, in my opinion, is a meaty story. Instead of having one overarching story, you have eight different, individual stories played out by each of the eight protagonists of the game. Each story is okay, they’re just far from perfect. Like trying to add too many stories into a single chapter of a book at one time, it doesn’t work out as easily as it was planned in your head. I feel like they were okay, simply good enough to be considered “good” and not bad. Which is sad because the main draw of the game was story, it’s a singleplayer JRPG, you expect a great story to be involved. Thankfully other aspects of the game outshine the story to bring the game above mediocre status, such as the beautiful design of the graphics, and amazing soundtrack, and the pure fun of the combat system, inspired by both Bravely Default, and Shin Megami Tensei.
When you have so many stories combined within a single game, a single character can never be considered the primary protagonist. Games that have a single character as the linchpin of the story being locked into the party is perfectly fine, that’s how the story goes. With Octopath, however, each story is completely separate from the rest, and having a single character locked to your party is a bit unwarranted. I struggled with this with the original launch, and I still struggle with it on Steam. Every character brings something unique to the party. Certain ones are better than others, and yes you can create a pretty hefty overpowered group, but not being able to change one character out is a bit much to me. Thankfully they added secondary jobs to the game. Each area revolving around each character has a shrine available that will allow you to unlock a secondary job pertaining to that area. An example would be going to the Shrine of the Flamebearer in Western Stillsnow. This is the area where you get Ophilia in your party, a Cleric, and the shrine allows you to make any other character a Cleric. There is a shrine pertaining to each job and unlocking them is relatively easy. You should keep in mind, however, there are four “hidden” jobs available, so you might want to avoid these shrines, as I’m not sure you can have both a second job, as well as one of these hidden jobs, you’d have to do some research!
While there is a significant amount of fluff in the middle of the game, large portions of required grinding involved (don’t skip battles people!), and while the story is far from superb, there are redeeming qualities in Octopath that truly make the game great. Taking inspiration from games like Bravely Default and Shin Megami Tensei, they have incorporated two of their best designs into Octopath. In Bravely Default, each turn you either attacked, used an item, or defended. If you attacked or used an item, it depleted a BP point. The developers added an additional feature to the game called Default and Brave. Default puts your character into a defensive position, and saves up a BP point, generating an additional point the next turn. Brave allowed you to use as many of the BP points as you had saved up currently. Octopath took that idea and made it a bit simpler. Each turn you gained a point, up to a max of five. Attacking and using items did not use these points, allowing you to constantly add points up as the fight progresses, and unleash pure hell every four turns. Combine that with the break system from Shin Megami Tensei, where every enemy has a weakness, and exploiting that weakness allowed you to break them, immobilizing them and giving you defense free damage, and you’ve got one dead enemy. It’s not uncommon to one shot an entire group of enemies you have in the break status, and sometimes it’s just awesome!
Let’s be honest, though, you’ve read the original Octopath Traveler reviews, nothing has changed. Octopath Traveler is the same as it was on the switch, simply ported over to steam. The real question is whether the port was good or not. I’d personally say they did a fantastic job with the port. My only complain is the poor mouse and keyboard controls. I was unable to use them to even navigate the menu easily, and quickly hooked up my PS4 controller to even start the game. Which goes without saying worked well. I also tried my Switch Pro controller, the one I used on the original launch, and it worked exactly as it should, even better than the PS4 controller, so there is hope.
One other minor issue I had with the port was depth of field. For some reason it felt extremely strong in comparison to the Switch version. There were several cutscenes that had faces blurred to the point you couldn’t really tell what was going on. Thankfully being a PC game now you have ini files you can change. Which means yes you can disable the depth of field, and the bloom if you so choose to. I disabled DOF and never looked back!
Octopath Traveler is a great JRPG for what it is. While the story isn’t fantastic enough to please me, the general concept of the game from design all the way to combat is what held my attention. As a fan of both Bravely Default and Shin Megami Tensei, I can say the addition of their mechanics truly made the combat fun. The game isn’t perfect, but it’s far from mediocre. If you’re a JRPG fan you should truly enjoy this game.
Score: 8 / 10
- Great Combat
- Soundtrack is Superb
- HD-2D Graphics are beautiful
- Locked primary character
- Disappointing Mouse / Keyboard controls
A code was provided for the purpose of review.