JRPGs may not be the most accessible video game genre. But every once in a while that one special game comes out that stands out from the rest. Enter Octopath Traveler, the JRPG recently released on the Nintendo Switch. An homage to the 16-bit RPGs of the 1990s, it has already become a critical darling. Octopath Traveler is already looking like a hit, so much so that a physical copy is becoming hard to find. But just in case you haven’t pulled the trigger yet, here’s why it should be a game on your radar.
Octopath Traveler doesn’t aim to replicate the 16-bit art style of yesteryear. Rather, it attempts to bring it into the modern era. Characters are still represented by the classic sprites that defined RPGs. But these sprites live in a high-definition, polygonal world with modern lighting and particle effects. Combining these elements creates a world that evokes a pop-up storybook.
Even if you only play your Switch in handheld mode, it’s worth it to pop your system into the dock at least once to bask in the beauty of this game. If we’re lucky, this won’t be the last Square Enix RPG to use this style, whether it be an Octopath sequel, or maybe even a Final Fantasy VI remake.
The Battle System Is Stellar
Octopath Traveler is a classic turn-based RPG. There’s no Active Time Battle (ATB) system here. But there’s one simple addition that shakes up the tried-and-true formula for the better. Each enemy has a set of weaknesses. By exploiting these weaknesses, you can whittle down their defenses until you finally “break” an enemy and leave it stunned for a turn.
This makes every spell and weapon important. Staves, often used only as a last resort, can become the deciding factor in battle. In fact, a character’s level is less important than the abilities and weapons they have access to. The Boost Points you get with every turn is also a great way to make your attacks extra effective. You can use a melee attack multiple times to break your enemy’s defense or cast an extra-powerful spell to hurt a stunned monster even more. Octopath Traveler elevates the JRPG battle formula.
No, You Don’t Need to Play It Eight Times
Octopath Traveler has eight playable characters, each with their own unique storyline. Despite what you may think, you don’t need to create eight separate save files. In fact, after picking the character you start off with, you’re encouraged to go seek out the other seven heroes. Once you encounter them, you are able to play through the beginning of their story. From there, you can then travel to the next locations for each specific story.
It’s no secret that JRPGs tend to be hours-long affairs. Octopath Traveler streamlines this process. It doesn’t force players to start a brand new story from scratch and grind their way up eight separate times. True, each time you start a new character’s story they start at level one, but since you have the other characters and equipment you’ve gained prior, it helps things scale properly.
Many gamers don’t have the time to sit and grind through an RPG. That’s the beauty of Octopath Traveler being on the Switch. You can play it on the go. Suddenly, the prospect of a 50-plus hour playthrough is a little less daunting.
Grinding in an RPG is a lot more manageable when you have the ability to play it anywhere. Waiting for the doctor, on your commute, anywhere. Being on the Switch immediately makes Octopath Traveler more accessible for any gamer. (If you own a Switch, of course.)
You Can Try It for Free
If you’re still not sold on Octopath Traveler and don’t feel comfortable dropping $60 on it, there’s good news! There’s a free demo available on the Nintendo eShop right now. It’s not a vertical slice of the game, either. It’s the full game — you’re only limited to three hours of play. And let’s be honest, three hours is a decent amount of time to decide if you’re on board or not.
You can even transfer your progress from the demo into the full version of the game. That means you don’t have to worry about starting all over again. If you enjoyed where your playthrough was heading, you can start from where you left off. Or, if you want to start out with a new character instead, you can do that too. If you decide it’s not for you, well, then delete the demo. There’s barely any risk involved (except the valuable space on your microSD). So, why not try it?
Octopath Traveler may not be the successor to Final Fantasy VI many were hoping for. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a darn fine one. The storyline may not be the most engaging, but there’s a definite heart there. It’s a game that is accessible enough for those who are RPG newcomers. At the same time, it’s also satisfying for those who have more RPG experience.
Octopath Traveler is now available on the Nintendo Switch.