Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler released as a Nintendo Switch exclusive in July of 2018. JRPG fans who do not own a Switch, myself included, were left to wonder if we would ever get a chance to play this game everyone kept talking about. No, Octopath Traveler is still not available on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but now you can pick it up for PC via Steam.
While I normally avoid PC gaming, as I do not have a rig well equipped to run much, I decided to give this PC version a try since the low system requirements allowed me to play it on my Surface Book. I had no idea I would be glued to my laptop for the next week straight.
Octopath Traveler is best described as a retro style JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game). Graphically it most resembles the design of Final Fantasy III (North America) for the Super Nintendo. Don’t let that dissuade you though. There are enough lighting effects and depth blurring to give Octopath Traveler a more modern, if not diorama feel.
That said, it isn’t for everyone, but for someone like me who played these SquareSoft Super Nintendo games when they originally released, seeing Octopath Traveler’s graphics made me tear up a bit with nostalgia.
Octopath Traveler doesn’t just look retro, it plays a lot like the old SquareSoft JRPGs as well. There are enough changes to the basic formula of turn-based menu selection though that it does feel fresh. Each enemy has a weakness that the player must discover, such as fire or axe, for example. They will have a shield with a number inside it, if attacked enough times with one of their weaknesses they will reach a “Breaking Point,” be stunned, and take much more damage.
This creates a great flow in combat and makes players think more strategically to utilize those stuns at key moments or open the enemy up to big attacks from your party members.
Big attacks also come from “Boosting.” Each turn every character will gain a boost point and these can be activated to allow your weapon to attack up to four times that round or increase the damage output of a single spell. This also adds an updated element to the turn based combat that I thoroughly enjoy.
All of these things create a retro experience with a more involved and strategic combat. I never felt like I was just spamming the same attacks or literally one button to get through a random encounter. I did not think I could be surprised by a JRPG after all these years but Octopath Traveler proved me wrong. I actually enjoy combat and it doesn’t ever feel stale.
Players are given the choice of eight different starting characters. Be sure to pick one you enjoy though, because while you may have the option as you progress to add all the rest to your party, and even play through their respective intro stories, you will be forced to keep your first choice in your party for the majority of the game.
Each character plays very differently, obviously, but the best part of Octopath Traveler is the addition of the job system. It’s a bit like Final Fantasy V, but I found it much easier to understand and juggle. The job system allows you to not only customize your characters as they level with different skills, but eventually open up a secondary “job” for them.
For example, if you want extra healing, you can add the cleric job to your warrior. I personally loved this as it lets me customize a team of all my favorite skills and spells with my favorite characters as well.
Storywise, Octopath Traveler reminded me even more of the old days of SquareSoft. Each character has an interesting introduction and by the end of it the player should really know if they like the character and want to keep using them. Each will have a long storyline that you can follow if you choose, but you are really only forced to follow your starting character.
I love all the conversations and interactions available to the player, but I am very accustomed to reading word bubbles. Overall, I loved the whole plot, even if a few of the characters and their stories weren’t as strong as the others.
Octopath Traveler is a great combination of retro pixel based visuals with updated effects. I will say this though, the depth of field blur can take some getting used to. I did find out that this can be totally disabled since the game is now on PC. Do so at your own risk of course, but I found it simple and it improved my experience.
While the music itself in Octopath Traveler is brilliant, I did find some of the English voice work to be lacking. The symphonic soundtrack is fantastic though and it fits perfectly with the game environments.
As I mentioned before, one great thing about Octopath Traveler being a retro style game is the fact that it has very minimal system requirements. I had no slow down or issues running it on my basic Surface Book.
I was even able to hook it up to my 55-inch monitor and play with an Xbox One controller wirelessly. The controller is still the best way to play Octopath Traveler. While the keyboard wasn’t horrible, it definitely felt more natural with a controller.
Overall, Octopath Traveler is a must play for any fans of retro JRPGs. While not perfect, it is definitely the best and truest turn based game experience I have played in a long time. The fact that you can play it on the go via a laptop gives the option to many more players who do not own a super gaming PC or Nintendo Switch to play this fantastic game. If you grew up with Final Fantasy II and III on SNES you should feel right at home with Octopath Traveler.
Octopath Traveler is available now for PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch. This review is based on a Steam copy provided by the publisher. All images provided by and trademark Square Enix.
- Amazing retro graphics
- Beautiful symphonic music
- Not overly complex but addictive combat
- Interesting story with eight different characters
- Keyboard/Mouse controls are not optimal
- Blur effect gets old after a while
- Some cheesy voice work