Not being a real gamer myself (though I’ve completed every Halo on Legendary *proud*), I did what I always do and handed the Octopath Traveller Review over to a local professional. Or teenager, as they’re more commonly known. Here’s what Joe, 17, has to say…
Octopath Traveller is Nintendos latest attempt at an old school traditional JRPG. With its HD-2D art style, engaging battle system, and sumptuous musical score, Octopath Traveler is a JRPG that evokes the old-school in every pixel while embracing modern production values.
All the elements are there, and newbies to the genre or diehard fans of the classics are sure to enjoy their first impressions of the game.
However, people looking to explore in more depth should probably look elsewhere. On the surface the game is stunning both visually and audibly – I spent the first few hours game play oohing loudly and forcing family and friends to come watch and look and listen and see this. I genuinely loved it.
But deeper within there lie flaws that disrupt the pleasing aesthetics and fun gameplay.
First up, a quick note on the age rating. It’s okay to create a simple game that’s aimed for the youngest age group – 8yr old tend not to be too discerning over dialogue scripts, nor repetitive gameplay.
But despite its childish appearance to an innocent parent, be aware; Octopath Traveller is most definitely NOT aimed at 7-10yr olds. The game is rated for teens, and rightly so; there is more sexual innuendo in the game than you’d let a pre-teen watch. Primrose, the dancer, is sexually objectified multiple times, and sexually harassed and assaulted by numerous non-playable male characters. It’s not appropriate for my 11yr old sister to be in the room.
Octopath’s biggest change to the genre is its way of adding something new; but that also becomes its biggest downfall. In traditional JRPG’s you have 4 main characters. You start with the character you intend to play, and inevitably go along and find 3 budding plucky adventurers to take along with you on a quest to save the world.
Octopath, as its name suggests, breaks this by giving you 8 main characters, all playable from the get-go. It’s an exciting, potentially brilliant concept… but digging even slightly into it reveals the structure is poorly thought out, and a weak attempt at best.
The game plays out as follows.
You choose a character to begin your journey, you complete their first chapter, you then get given an open world to explore and a location for your chosen characters second chapter. This gives you the illusion of choice.
However its evident after only a few hours of the Octopath Traveller Review that there are no choices to be made.
Every chapter has a soft level lock. By which I mean that you can proceed at any level you like, but continuing on any level below the recommended one is near suicidal.
So in order to level up, you have two options.
1 – Grind monsters for hours and hours.
2 – Meet the rest of the crew and finish all their chapters.
Which basically means the whole ‘open world’ idea is pointless; you essentially just go around in a circle collecting your party, much like a traditional Pokemon game, where you go from town to town fighting gyms.
Sure its an open world, but it’s not so ‘open’ when you’ve got to do it a certain way.
You might think that at least all the characters are unique, providing an incentive to mix things up. But unfortunately the characters ‘uniqueness’ is filled with holes. Each character has a special ability, of course, to use outside of combat, interacting with its open world, as in every JRPG ever.
But it’s pretty evident after meeting just six of the eight characters that there are four abilities copy-pasted twice. Meaning that you basically just choose 1 of each type. Another illusion of choice, and even more annoyingly it’s simply a great idea wasted.
And in their efforts to hark to the past, Nintendo have also carried on another trope which needs to die – the male characters are heroes and warriors, and the women are holy daughters, or obsessed with loving/avenging/killing their fathers. If you love a complex narrative, you won’t love this.
In combat the variation is better with a unique JRPG battle system. You exploit enemy weaknesses to break them, and use Boost Points to augment important actions at the right time to swing a fight.
Each character really does have their own unique spells and weapon choices. However unless the boss you are fighting specifically requires something only a certain party member has, the traditional mix of four (mage, thief, warrior and healer) is still the best way to go. So despite their best efforts and mixing things up, they fall back on their traditional roots, and the old way is still the easiest and most enjoyable way to play.
I didn’t change my party once from this core design, and I didn’t encounter any problems aside from being under-levelled. Ultimately I was left with feelings of frustration – there are plenty of points in the game when you can see just how gorgeous and exciting Octopath Traveler could have been. Give the eight independent characters a tightly written story script to draw the player in. The absolutely beautiful look and sound of the game and the exciting and interesting world is all squandered under a mass illusion of choice, awful writing and monotonous grinding.