Octopath Traveler is a lovely, difficult and infrequently totally sensible throwback to the golden age of Japanese RPGs – however important structural issues maintain it again from being a real basic.
There’s a variety of buzz round Octopath Traveler, and for good purpose – when the builders of a recreation declare it’s designed to be a love letter to the golden age of one of the vital important and beloved genres round, it’s no shock that followers sit up and take discover. Sq. Enix has had a crack at these throwback RPGs a few instances just lately with the likes of I Am Setsuna and Misplaced Sphear channeling video games like Closing Fantasy 6 and Chrono Set off, however Octopath feels a bit totally different to these video games. It’s extra grand, and appears to have a far stronger unifying imaginative and prescient behind it – and that’s particularly thrilling.
Octopath’s closest sibling are the favored Bravely Default video games over on 3DS, although it is a grander affair. Its visible fashion calls again to Closing Fantasy 6 particularly, with comparable sprite work cleverly layered throughout partially 3D environments to make a recreation that feels like these SNES-era classics even when in execution they’re utterly totally different. Fight is an old-school affair too – heavy on the grind, with a easy turn-based system that hides appreciable depth that it’s essential to breach with the intention to sort out the hard-as-nails, tanky bosses. It’s all great – however features of Octopath Traveler work far much less properly, and the deeper I bought into the sport the extra what it was lacking nagged and hampered my enjoyment.
An exquisite, difficult and infrequently totally sensible throwback to the golden age of Japanese RPGs – however important structural issues maintain it again from being a real basic.
Octopath Traveler may simply appear to be your traditional Sq. Enix JRPG nonsense identify, nevertheless it truly has a really particular that means: there are eight characters (thus octo, from the Latin for eight), and every has their very own distinctive path via the sport’s world. Every thing is constructed round this – relatively than some deep, over-arching world-saving plot, Octopath Traveler is as a substitute eight smaller, distinctive tales about every of the forged. The sport is open-ended, so you’ll be able to select any of the eight to begin with after which interact the others in any order you want. Every character’s story is break up into chapters, so theoretically with a variety of grind you can transfer from chapter one to 2 and past with just some characters, or you can recruit all eight by enjoying via all eight chapter one tales one after one other.
This technique of storytelling is definitely a superb concept, and it’s pretty to see a recreation of this kind that’s targeted on smaller character conflicts relatively than saving the entire world. Cracks start to look on this construction fairly rapidly, nonetheless. As a result of you’ll be able to sort out them in any order, each chapter one is roughly the identical, thus seeing the circulation of the early recreation flip painfully predictable. As a result of the sport doesn’t know should you’re going to finish every thing earlier than transferring deeper into a person character’s story you’re pressured to grind character ranges to stay aggressive on many quests – and since characters not within the present social gathering of 4 don’t earn any expertise any time you swap anyone new in you’re pressured to grind them as much as scratch. You possibly can’t persist with one dependable social gathering of 4, both, as every character must be current in battle for each chapter of their private quest line.
All of that is disappointing, however most irritating is how the precise forged of characters get alongside – which is to say they don’t, actually. Due to the open-ended nature of the sport, the builders don’t know what social gathering members will probably be current in any given quest aside from the one character that particular quest is about – and so relatively than write a bunch of dialogue, the others simply stay silent. Temporary skits within the fashion of Tales Of and Fireplace Emblem present a bit one-on-one character interplay from chapter 2 on and there’s a tiny little bit of cross-over interplay between a couple of tales, however in actual phrases the forged of Octopath Traveler don’t actually work together. It feels as if these characters are adventuring collectively for no purpose – it seems like they wouldn’t know one another’s names, actually. For me, this sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of the in any other case well-told particular person tales, and it actually feels just like the builders could have merely run out of the time and money wanted to inject correct social gathering interplay into such an open-ended story.
Regardless of the story issues I stored enjoying, nonetheless. Octopath Traveler’s fight is a pleasingly advanced net of strengths, weaknesses and totally different character lessons that play off one another brilliantly. The important thing pillar of fight is the power to ‘break’ enemies – that’s, to hit them with assaults of a sort they’re weak to till they’re put right into a shocked state the place they’ll’t act and take further harm. Octopath’s bosses are actually difficult, however little feels as satisfying as locking a boss down in a loop of stuns repeatedly, stopping them from performing so as to wail on them. This isn’t a simple feat, nonetheless, and that’s what makes it rewarding.
The sport drags you into battles and hooks you, correctly getting the blood pumping in a manner that solely the most effective turn-based video games can.
As the sport wears on you’ll be capable to unlock a second class for every character and swap them at will – and whereas the lively talents of a category don’t stay should you swap it out, the passive talents you earn do stick round. This then lets you equip a broad vary of buffs to create really distinctive character varieties, and later within the recreation extra superior lessons that actually enable for some important boosts could be discovered. A number of that is open-ended, too – it’s simple to overlook the shrines that give additional lessons on the market within the overworld, so that you’re thus inspired to discover by this greater than by the run-of-the-mill aspect quests on provide.
Battles actually are a spotlight of Octopath Traveler – they’re tactical and enjoyable, and whereas the character battle barks can get a bit grating the music is completely phenomenal. The animation is extra like SNES video games, so don’t anticipate a lot motion, however there’s beautiful particle results and a few actually spectacular sprite work, particularly on the bosses, all of whom tower over you at ridiculous, threatening sizes. When at its greatest the sport drags you into battles and hooks you, correctly getting the blood pumping in a manner that solely the most effective turn-based video games can. I might stand to see battles transfer a bit extra rapidly, however they transfer at an honest clip as it’s.
The beautiful visible design continues outdoors battles, with the artwork fashion that the builders dubbed ‘HD-2D’ maybe a brand new gold commonplace for the presentation of sprite-based RPGs within the fashionable age. It could’ve been really easy for this recreation to make use of naff 3D fashions or terrible smoothed-over sprites, however as a substitute it does one thing a bit in between. 2D sprites are handled to lighting results from Unreal Engine four, and the environments are simply luscious. It’s the most effective 2D throwback video games ever made visually – though the attitude typically causes a bit little bit of confusion when navigating hidden pathways in dungeons and the like.
It’s simply that rattling story construction – it’s the design equal of a bucket of chilly water being poured over a product that’s in any other case scorching sizzling. The issue, to be clear, isn’t the shortage of a giant over-arching plot, it’s the shortage of character cohesion. Early on this doesn’t trouble, however the deeper you push into Octopath Traveler and the longer you spend with these too typically mute characters the extra pronounced these issues turn out to be. Slowly that concern evolves from a tugging nag to a real downside with how the sport conveys its story – as a result of on this style, story is usually the factor that primarily retains you pushing on. To be trustworthy this additionally speaks to Octopath’s mechanical programs, thoughts: I stored enjoying to see the place they led, because the narrative didn’t hook me a lot in any respect.
In order that’s Octopath Traveler: a lovely, difficult and infrequently totally sensible throwback to the golden age of Japanese RPGs that someway scuppers its probabilities of being a real basic via an bold however finally flawed narrative construction. That open-ended story design pushes the sport to be grind-heavy and, worse, fails to do its world, characters or the remainder of the sport usually justice. Hardcore and lapsed Japanese RPG followers ought to completely look into this, because it’s a joyous expertise for anyone who remembers that magical period for console RPGs within the mid to late 90s – however a real, good successor to these seminal video games this isn’t.