HANO Review: Octopath Traveler

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Greetings, everyone! Today we are gonna discuss the JRPG: Octopath Traveler.

About the Game:

Octopath Traveler is a role-playing video game developed by Square Enix, in collaboration with Acquire. The game was released for the Nintendo Switch in July 2018, for Microsoft Windows in June 2019, for Stadia in April 2020, and for Xbox One in March 2021. The game has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide by February 2021 and received "generally favorable" critical reception, with the most common point of praise going to the graphics and art style. A prequel, Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, was released in 2020 in Japan.

All in all, I've always loved JRPG, or Japanese role-playing games, with all the cute chubby characters fighting together in rounds. And you can always be immersed in the fantastic world that they have created for you. So far, for Octopath Traveler, I’ve had mixed feelings, but definitely in favor of the game.

On the one hand, I love the gameplay. Each character is viable in combat, although Cyrus and Ophelia have easily been my powerhouses. Yes, my cleric is one of two powerhouses.

This is thanks to the secondary job system, which is pretty cool. I haven’t unlocked any of the advanced jobs yet, but I love how you can turn any character into any other job, at any time (the only restriction being that you can’t have two characters with the same secondary job at the same time). You can even switch jobs just to unlock a perk or two in another job.

The combat is simple enough to understand, and you’re given plenty of time to figure out how to make stuff happen. While the fights start off simple enough, they become more complicated, with bosses introducing their own gimmicks to the fights, such as locking away their weaknesses so you can’t break them until you’ve beaten all of their goons.

Enough of that, though. Next up is the story.

I have mixed feelings about this game’s story. First of all, it really plays out as eight different stories, and this shows in all the wrong ways. In theory, we should see this:

But we never do, except for with the “travel banter”, which is literally the only time you’ll ever see two of your party members talking to each other. Even when you first go to recruit someone, that person is the only one talking.

This game tries too hard to be nonlinear, and it seriously holds the game back. There is literally no overlap in the events of any characters’ stories, except for the cities they take place in. Granted, I haven’t finished everyone’s chapter 3s yet, but that’s still halfway through the game.

The way the characters’ stories are structured is comparable to TV: you play through one character’s chapter, then move on to the next, and so on, until you’ve cycled through everybody, at which point you move onto their next chapters. This somewhat works, but since there’s no overlap in everyone’s stories, we don’t get to see them develop as much, and we don’t get to see our group of eight travelers develop as a team.

In fact, we never actually find out why everyone is helping each other. This is perhaps the game’s greatest weakness because we have no reason to believe a girl going on a religious journey would help a guy who’s trying to rob a mansion for the sake of robbing a mansion. Everyone’s stories are too separated from each other and don’t take place in the same locations, which makes it hard to believe that the party would stay together at all. At least with some characters, such as Alfyn, they don’t really have an overlying goal or destination, but instead just want to see the world, but with others, such as Therion, their goals are clear cut, and their destinations set in stone.

However, everyone does have at least a decent story. Each character also seems to have some sort of developmental theme, the most obvious being Olberic, who constantly questions what he’s fighting for. However, I think some characters would’ve benefitted from having other party members involved in their story. Alfyn in particular would have benefitted greatly from having his travel partners there to help him when he’s forced to face the harsh reality of his job. However, each character is still wonderfully written, and they develop a lot, despite the little time they actually have for development.

Overall, this game has been fantastic so far, and its episodic format for its stories works, but there is a total disregard for unifying the party as a whole. Even so, the fun battle mechanics, great characters, and above-average individual stories make up for this huge oversight.

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