Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Octopath Traveler

I’m now 30 hours into Octopath Traveler, the new Square Enix JRPG exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. Good news if you don’t own a Switch: The game isn’t so good that you’d need to buy one. In fact I found Octopath Traveler less good than Battle Chasers : Nightwar. But Octopath Traveler is good enough for me to keep on playing, so I guess it’s okay.

What people remark first in Octopath Traveler is the graphics, which are fake 16-bit “classical JRPG” with added 3D and lighting effects. Pretty, but unfortunately not very practical. Often it is very hard to see what part of the scene you can walk on, so getting to let’s say a chest you see is harder than it should be. Besides invisible walls, the game has invisible monsters, or rather monster encounters are just completely random and can be spawned by walking in circles.

Combat is classic JRPG style, turn-based on a separate screen, with the monsters on one side and the heroes on the other. The novelty in combat is boosts, with heroes accumulating boost points every round, which they can use for stronger attacks when called for. Monsters also have weaknesses, so that hitting them with specific weapons or elemental attacks makes them vulnerable for further attacks. It’s a fin enough system, although I personally prefer the Overcharge system of Battle Chasers, especially since in Octopath Traveler mana regeneration is a bit of a problem for spellcasters. It gets better later in the game when gear and second jobs give you better mana regeneration.

The weakest point in my opinion of Octopath Traveler is the story. There isn’t one, at least not for the first 30 hours. Instead you get 8 individual stories for the 8 individual characters. And you can’t even follow one of those stories for more than one chapter due to levels: You need to do chapter 1 for each character, then do chapter 2 for each character, and so on. That makes the story experience rather disjointed, and it is unclear why the group would even travel together. Plus most of the individual stories are rather bad, or at least bland and generic, with the exception of Primrose. With each chapter following the same basic pattern, some dialogue in town followed by a dungeon with a boss at the end, story in Octopath Traveler is rather forgettable.

The class, skill, and level system in Octopath Traveler is allright. The only annoying thing is that you can’t freely change which 4 out of 8 characters are in your group. Until very late in the game you are stuck with your first choice of character. Fortunately I was aware of that, and took Alfyn the Apothecary, who has good group heals using cheap materials and no mana. The 8 characters also come with either a “noble” or a “rogue” version of 4 different skills that can be used with NPCs to get more information, to fight them, to get items from them, or to make them join the group temporarily. You need those skills to do various quests, but frankly I found those quests a bit annoying, as they are frequently about getting an item or person or information from A to B, but the game doesn’t necessarily tell you where the other location is. You basically need to talk to every NPC in every town and then connect the dots yourself. I rather cheat and use a side quest list. My least favorite part of the system is the rogue having to steal stuff, often with a low percentage chance. It just leads to save scumming, which isn’t fun at all.

On the positive side, Octopath Traveler is a huge game. After 30 hours I’m just half way through chapter 2, and I think there are 4 chapters. Think of it as 8 JRPGs glued together, with all the advantages and disadvantages such a collection has. Not my favorite game, but certainly playable for a long time, especially if you are the nostalgic type and love to see a new spin on this genre.

Yeah Octopath Traveler had me hyped at first but once information came out about the story, I've decided not to buy it. I hate random battles as well. I know it's a staple in old school JRPGs, but it's one I wouldn't be sad to see go away permanently. Guess my RPG switch craving will have to wait for Wasteland 2 to hit the Switch.

On a side note Enter the Gungeon is on sale this week. I don't know how your attitude is towards roguelikes nowadays but for $7.50 it's well worth the price of admission. It's not as deep as something like Binding of Isaac but it's a really fun game. If you don't have it I definitely recommend picking it up.
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