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Octopath Traveler

Posted by GG Goblin On July - 26 - 2018

Eight stories, eight heroes, one epic JRPG.

While the Nintendo Switch is already home to an impressive library of brilliant games, with more being added on a weekly basis, the big name titles are still taking their time to arrive. So when two big name titles arrive at the same time, it is a moment of great excitement for Switch players, and also for many the time to make a choice. The arrival of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker alongside Octopath Traveler would have presented an interesting decision for those who could only afford one game at the time. Puzzle game with the typical Nintendo polish and a super cute hero? Or an epic JRPG with a massive running time and a strong dose of nostalgia? Well, they may be two very different games, but as a JRPG fan who enjoys nothing more than sinking hours upon hours into an epic quest, I know where my money would be going. Take me to Orsterra!

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Octopath Traveler is a JRPG that looks to the future, with one foot still in the past. While the gameplay sets old ideas alongside new, nowhere does this modern take on classic games become more evident than in the visuals. Long story short, Octopath Traveler is one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen, and the way this has been achieved is quite simple. Heavily detailed sprites are set against 3D objects and sumptuous environments which are then blurred in the foreground and background to give a focus point which shifts as the character moves. Add to this the use of light and shadow, and it becomes almost like playing within a diorama of some sort. It is simply astounding to behold and much of the drive to play the game comes from just wanting to see what the next area looks like.

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Not that there aren’t plenty of other reasons to play Octopath Traveler, mind you. Most games of this type will give the player a hero and set them on the path to save the kingdom/world from some mighty evil. Sure, there will be some supporting characters, possibly with their own motivations and back stories. But the emphasis will be on a single hero. Octopath Traveler offers the player a choice from eight different characters at the very beginning. Eight!. Surely that’s value for money? Not only that, but each of the eight different characters has their own quest that will run through the game, and none of them are so boring as saving the world. I’ll admit that some of the motivations of these eight, very different characters are perhaps a little bit cliched, but it is still eight separate stories. Whichever character the player chooses from the very beginning, they will eventually come across the remaining characters and be able to jump in and out of the different stories they bring, with each story having four lengthy chapters to work through. While players can pick and choose which stories they want to concentrate on, working through them all will ensure that the party increases in strength at a suitable speed and cut down on too much unnecessary grinding.

Players will take their little group of characters and travel around an impressively large world. They will visit large towns and small settlements, picking up side quests that offer worthy rewards. They will also find dungeons to explore and caves to loot, all as they work through whatever story line they currently have active. And they will also have random encounters, finding themselves in combat situations without any warning. It’s interesting that the random encounters of old JRPGs were often a pain in the neck, but now that most games have moved on to active, avoidable encounters, their return in Octopath Traveler has actually reminded me how much I miss them. It’s a strange world.

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The eight different heroes each have their own abilities and skills, and their own jobs to improve as they progress. There are even second jobs to consider further down the line, allowing the player to tweak the characters according to how they want to play. Each of the characters have what is known as a Path Action, a special skill that they can use to interact with the world. While there are four general actions, each action comes in two different flavours depending on the character. For example, Tressa can purchase items from NPCs in towns, while Therion can also get items, but by stealing them. Other Path Actions include the ability to get information or pick a fight with regular townsfolk.

The combat is another place where the old meets the new. The core involves taking turns and picking a skill or ability to use against the enemy. However, there are a few twists. For example, enemies will be weak against certain attacks, and using these attacks will lower the enemies armour. Once the armour is depleted, the enemy will become far more vulnerable for a couple of turns. Then there are the Boost Points, or BP. Each character gets a Boost Point each turn they don’t use one, up to five. Then, up to three BP can be used by each character to boos their attack, doing more damage, more attacks or more effective ability use. Combine these two additions, and players will have access to quite a deep and tactical combat system that doesn’t become too complex. The encounters in Octopath Traveler can be quite tricky, especially the long, drawn out boss battles, but careful use of these two systems will ensure that players will never find themselves too overwhelmed, unless they wander into an area that is marked as being far beyond their level, in which case, prepare to suffer.

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There is a time and place to wear a toadstool and collect treasure. However, when faced with the possibility of taking eight interesting characters across a huge fantasy world, discovering their own stories along the way, all while fighting monsters with a deep and enjoyable combat system, I will quite happily throw my Toadstool hat away. Octopath Traveler manages to combine both the classic and the modern into a JRPG that simply shouldn’t be missed.




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