The old-school JRPG is alive and well in today’s gaming landscape. The popular genre has seen a steady line of releases over the years, so much so that has Square Enix set up the aptly named Tokyo RPG Factory to churn out nostalgia-baiting releases.
Octopath Traveler follows in those footsteps, developed by team members behind the Bravely Default games with help from Tenchu studio Acquire. But rather than ape on the golden age of pixel JRPGS, like Tokyo RPG Factory’s output, Octopath uses it as a base and builds on it to create a new beast.
The presentation, for example, is a gorgeous blend of new and old, with 2D 32-bit-like sprites integrated into 3D environments, giving the whole game a sort of diorama feel. The visuals are supplemented by a full orchestral soundtrack and voice acting – the former is evocative and includes a catchy battle theme, but the latter is hit and miss.
Take a deeper look into the game design itself and the updates continue. Unlike the linear stories you may be used to, in Octopath you’re given freedom to tackle eight quests as
and when you like to – each one tied to one of the game’s eight main playable characters. The battle system, too, is robust. It utilises a turn-based system – rather than an Atb-styled one – and favours tactical decision-making.
You can knock enemies out of the battle queue by exploiting their weaknesses, which is something you’ll come to rely on when duelling against the gruelling boss encounters.
Ultimately, this makes Octopath Traveler a pleasant surprise for fans of the genre. That said, with its nonlinear nature, the story does suffer. Party members don’t really react to one another in any meaningful way, and they don’t have a good, unifying enough reason to be travelling together outside of ‘because the game needs them to’. And while Octopath updates a lot of dated conventions, it still falls into the pitfall where random encounters quickly become busywork.
Still, though, this is perhaps the best retroinspired JRPG we’ve played in recent years, and is well worth picking up if you’re a fan.
[Switch] Alfyn’s handy with an axe, where Primrose works better as a support character.
»[Switch] Each of the eight main characters have their own quest to follow.