After a year as a Nintendo Switch exclusive and a PC port last year, Square Enix’s 2018 surprise hit Octopath Traveler is coming to Google Stadia. Made by the producers of the Bravely Default games, Octopath topped sales charts upon its release, and physical copies were so in-demand that Square Enix had to apologize twice as it struggled to keep up the supply.
The game was initially showered with praise from critics and gamers, who praised it for it’s gorgeous art-style, unique battle system and eight compelling characters, each with their own individual arcs. But despite the positive reception, high sales, and momentum the game had at launch, Octopath’s massive amount of content led many to abandon the game before completing all eight of its storylines and hidden endgame content. With the game finally being accessible to a wider audience than ever before, let’s take a look back at Octopath Traveler and why it’s a must-play for any fan of retro RPGs.
Octopath’s unique style, referred to as “HD-2D” by its developers, mixes the sprites and textures of the SNES era with a 3D space and modern advancements in detailing. The game’s lighting brings depth to the world, while realistic sand, snow, and water make the continent of Orsterra feel alive. Players will see blades of grass blowing in the wind or shadows when they walk underneath a tree.
The game’s battle system is also innovative and engaging. It focuses on discovering and exploiting enemy weaknesses to take down their defenses, and players will have to learn when to hold back and when to unleash powerful, boosted attacks to gain the upper hand. Character-specific abilities and the game’s job system allow players to try a variety of strategies to take down average foes and bosses alike.
In addition to its visuals and gameplay, Octopath Traveler gives each of its protagonists full, four-part story arcs with a primary goal and twists along the way. There’s Ophilia, a Cleric on a pilgrimage; Cyrus, a Scholar searching for a lost tome; Tressa, a Merchant seeking to prove herself on an adventure; Olberic, a Warrior uncovering the truth regarding his fallen kingdom; Primrose, a Dancer looking to avenge her slain father; Alfyn, an Apothecary who wants to heal those in need; Therion, a Thief fulfilling his end of a bargain; and H’aanit, a Huntress searching for her missing master.
Each of the stories are unique and offers something different. Want a lighthearted, fun story full of adventure? Start with Tressa, whose journey leads her to fight pirates, compete with rival merchants and find treasure. Looking for something darker with more suspense? Focus on Primrose, whose stoic facade and alluring act help her survive long enough to complete her mission and track down the men who ruined her life. While the chapters hit similar story beats, each of the eight stories come with their own set of NPCs, bosses, and poignant moments of character growth.
Many gamers were turned off by the fact that Octopath appears to have no overarching story or villain to tie all of the protagonists together and contains few interactions between them to show their relationships grow as they spend more time together. However, while more interactions aside from the brief travel banters you’ll find by bringing certain combinations of characters to inns or reaching certain points in a chapter would have been nice, their omission gives the player way more flexibility.
There is nothing forcing you to fill out your party or recruit all eight characters. Players looking for a challenge are free to attempt a solo-run with their favorite character. The only barrier here is the difficulty spike between chapters, meant to encourage players to see everything the game has to offer. But while it’ll require plenty of grinding to overcome this, nothing is stopping you from trying.
And while the protagonists may not interact very often, the game makes it clear that they belong to a larger, dynamic world. You’ll hear characters you met on Therion’s route mention characters that Tressa encounters, or learn that an old friend of Cyrus knows someone Primrose grew up with. On top of that, there’s an incredibly challenging post-game quest for those who have finished all eight stories that links various NPCs and explains why many of the story’s events occur.
Though most players missed out on this epic final boss and extra world-building, saving it as a post-game bonus keeps the spotlight on the smaller-scale character arcs and acts as a nice reward for those who stuck with the game. With a rich world, interesting characters and unique gameplay and art design, Octopath Traveler is more than worth the time of anyone who loves classic JRPGs.
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With Octopath Traveler now available on Google Stadia, let's look at why JRPG fans should play this massive game.