For a sure set of role-playing followers, the Tremendous NES period represents the golden commonplace of RPG design. That’s nostalgia talking to a sure diploma; in spite of everything, many individuals encountered menu-based battles with groups of magic-slinging warriors by way of the likes of Remaining Fantasy 6 and Chrono Set off. It’s solely pure that these could be their touchstones. However it’s additionally true that RPGs of the 16-bit period genuinely did possess a sure je ne sais quoi. They ran on simply highly effective sufficient to permit sport makers to precise their daring narrative concepts, but not so highly effective as to make improvement too costly for devil-may-care experimentation. With Sq. Enix’s Octopath Traveler, now we have the most recent modern-day RPG whose creators hope to recapture slightly of that 16-bit magic.
This truly isn’t Sq. Enix’s first try to rekindle the Tremendous NES fires in 2018. Fortunately, Octopath Traveler comes loads nearer to realizing that dream than the hopelessly cluttered Misplaced Sphear and painfully clumsy Secret of Mana did. Whereas the endearing whimsy of classic classics like Chrono Set off continues to elude Sq. Enix’s writers — Traveler is nothing if not self-serious — this newest effort comes nearer to recapturing bygone days than maybe any retro-chasing RPG thus far.
The very first thing you’ll discover about Traveler is its hanging graphical type. It appears, fairly merely, like no different sport earlier than it. Sq. Enix has utilized Unreal Engine four tech to classic sprite work, making a world that blends trendy polygons with old-school bitmap graphics. They’ve created a storybook world that extrudes the dungeon maps of 16-bit console RPGs into three dimensions, then soaks every thing in atmospheric lighting and shadow results.
The look doesn’t at all times work; character sprites typically seem haloed by ugly darkish outlines, and the blurry filtering on sure environmental particulars will remind you of Nintendo 64 graphics, in a nasty manner. Nevertheless, apart from these small aesthetic flaws, Traveler’s 2D-sprite-diorama type could be completely hanging. In dressing up polygons as sprites and presenting them with mounted digital camera angles, you find yourself with one thing like an interactive pop-up guide. This dev group beforehand aimed for the same impact with Bravely Default, however Traveler does a much better job of it, because of extra superior tech methods like depth-of-field blur.
These methods aren’t merely a gimmick, although. Take for instance the low digital camera angles. They create pure hidden pathways that cover treasures and secret areas behind raised foreground parts. It’s paying homage to, say, the little invisible passageways that appeared all through Remaining Fantasy four — however right here the usage of surroundings to obscure these secret paths makes for extra intuitive exploration than you noticed within the older sport. Traveler’s degree design does a wonderful job of teasing you with seemingly inaccessible treasure packing containers, then permitting you to determine learn how to attain them. It turns practically each city and overworld path right into a form of spatial puzzle to be unraveled.
Octopath Traveler attracts upon basic RPG parts in a novel manner whereas additionally including one thing new to the combination
Actually, Traveler’s graphical gimmickry sums up the ethos behind the whole sport: drawing upon basic RPG parts in a novel manner whereas additionally including one thing new to the combination. There’s nothing intelligent nowadays about making a sport that merely appears previous or that conspicuously references previous favorites. A sport that stirs recollections of these bygone works whereas nonetheless making new inventive strides for the style, although? That occurs far too hardly ever, and Traveler must be celebrated for pulling it off.
The cumbersome identify “Octopath Traveler” straight pertains to the sport’s central narrative idea: You assemble a celebration of eight totally different adventurers, every with their very own story to finish. All eight heroes search impartial targets, and the in-game journal tracks your progress by way of all eight particular person storylines. If there’s a failing to Traveler, it’s that these tales don’t intersect, not less than not within the early going; the characters can group up and journey collectively, serving to each other full their respective aims. However there’s no actual narrative motive for them to take action. They arrive collectively and partake of one another’s tales as a result of it’s an RPG and that’s merely what is completed in these video games. It’s a prolonged RPG, and I nonetheless have fairly a bit of every character’s story to finish, so I’m to see if Traveler does in the end reveal some grand unifying plot to provide function to this ragtag group of heroes, or it’s merely a scattered set of tales by which a gaggle of adventures cameo in each other’s life tales.
Nonetheless, even when Traveler does in the end quantity to a bunch of disconnected vignettes, it does handle to carry these totally different heroes collectively extra neatly than many different video games that take an analogous multi-character method. You start the sport by choosing any one of many adventurers as your preliminary point-of-view character, nevertheless it’s attainable to expertise all eight tales in a single playthrough fairly than having to finish a single quest earlier than beginning over (which is the way it often works in Sq. Enix’s SaGa sequence, for instance). The truth that you’re meant to play by way of all of Traveler in single go is already some extent within the sport’s favor, however much more outstanding is the magnificence with which the fight mechanics adapt to your progress.
There’s no set sequence to the method of assembly up with the opposite protagonists, and the problem degree of every character’s story scales as your occasion grows. When you kick off the sport with, say, the hunter H’aanit’s story, her preliminary boss can be difficult however not not possible for her to sort out on her personal. When you meet up with H’aanit as your third or fourth occasion member, nonetheless, her first boss will combat much more ferociously to account for the bigger fight roster. RPGs by no means self-adjust this elegantly, and the truth that this one does speaks to the consideration Sq. Enix has invested into Traveler’s workings.
The sport’s eight heroes are all well-defined characters, every distinctive from the opposite. They distinguish themselves by dialect, personalities and quest targets. They’re a gaggle of extremes. One one hand, for instance, you might have Ophilia, a selfless cleric decided to carry out a sacred mission whereas permitting her sister to sit down by their dying father’s aspect; on the opposite, you might have Therion, a thief who’s been outsmarted by extra devious criminals and compelled to do their soiled work for them. Whereas they make for an awfully somber bunch (with one or two exceptions), they’re all neatly outlined and fairly likable.
The characters’ personalities tie into their distinctive “path actions”: a novel talent accessible for every protagonist’s interactions with the non-player characters that fill the world. Effectively, they’re distinctive to a degree. Every path motion seems in two variations that obtain the identical finish in a barely totally different manner. H’aanit’s “provoke” talent (which permits her to battle NPCs) is essentially the identical as Olberic’s “problem” potential, simply as Therion’s “steal” (with which he can swipe valuables from unwitting NPCs) quantities to a much less trustworthy variant of Tressa’s “buy.”
In any case, path actions create attention-grabbing alternatives for interactions with NPCs past merely speaking to them for clues, and they are often each useful and detrimental. You possibly can steal higher armor, consumable gadgets, and even story-related quest gadgets from townsfolk. When you bungle your try, although, your popularity in that city will undergo, stopping you from absolutely interacting with the locals. It prices fairly a bit to revive your good identify, including a risk-reward factor to those elective interactions.
This identical breadth that accompanies your NPC interactions defines the battle system, too. Octopath Traveler’s fight mechanics focus closely on the concept of “breaking” foes by hanging their weaknesses, inflicting them to change into surprised and weakened. This creates an enormous quantity of technique in even mundane fight encounters — particularly whenever you consider your occasion’s distinctive character abilities. In contrast to in, say, Remaining Fantasy 13, breaking foes doesn’t merely quantity to pouring on as a lot injury as attainable to filter out monsters. A foe troubled with the “break” situation isn’t merely weakened; it loses a flip, too. Generally it’s finest to concentrate on a single damaged foe to clear it off the battlefield, however in different instances you may discover it finest to unfold out your assaults to interrupt a number of foes directly and provides your occasion a little bit of respiration area for a flip so you possibly can regroup or get well.
It’s value noting that many character-specific battle talents change into more practical because the goal enemy turns into weaker. Although it actually is sensible to pile on injury onto a foe to wipe it out, there’s worth in merely weakening it to a essential state so Therion can steal from it or H’aanit can seize it to summon in battle. The perfect moment-to-moment techniques for every random encounter can differ wildly relying not solely on the character of the monsters you face but additionally in line with your particular group make-up.
Each factor of Octopath Traveler comes collectively brilliantly to create a refreshing tackle the style. Whereas it channels the spirit of previous favorites, it by no means feels spinoff. It genuinely does really feel like a 16-bit RPG that has developed into one thing new fairly than being mere nostalgia-bait. Even when its visible methods can really feel strained at instances, I love the best way Traveler sidesteps and even corrects the errors that different RPGs are inclined to make in making an attempt to recapture the essence of the Tremendous NES period. It’s knowledgeable by the classics, nevertheless it by no means feels blind or slavish. Whereas I don’t really feel comfy placing a rating on this overview till I’ve accomplished the sport and seen how (or if) the tales come collectively, I can confidently say that anybody who’s been pining for an amazing RPG is not going to be disillusioned by Octopath Traveler… whether or not they need a classic expertise or a brand-new one.
This overview can be up to date with ultimate ideas; please verify again later this month.
Octopath Traveler was performed utilizing a ultimate “retail” Swap obtain code offered by Sq. Enix. You’ll find extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.