A Hero's Journey
Class Of 1994
Okay, it doesn't 'make' you, and part of Octopath's unique charm is that you don't have to approach it too much like you would the games it mimics. You don't need to recruit everyone (there's crossover in most field skills and all eight characters' jobs can be obtained and used by anyone as early as chapter two) or go everywhere if you don't want to – it's just that we've been conditioned to be completionists in these kinds of games by many years of it being the 'right' way to play. While its structure may make feel like it'd better suited for multiple shorter plays, even the game itself never really leans into this. Recruitable characters are all flagged on the map and there's content inevitably locked behind finishing all eight stories, for instance, funneling players into do-everything mode and the grinding that entails when there actually exists a way to play that makes it a better paced, less repetitive, and more personal experience. Don't get us wrong – doing everything isn't necessarily a worse experience, especially if you make use of the Switch's key strength of letting you play anywhere to chip away at the game over a long period of time. Still, it's worth noting that the formulaic nature of the story chapters and the grind of getting underused characters leveled and geared for their respective missions can get a bit much if you're the kind of person who likes to enjoy RPGs in epic sessions rather than bite-size chunks.
Dungeons can't really be said to be up to the same standard, unless you're a fan of minimalism. With no unique hooks or mechanics to be found here, each is just a differently-skinned generic web of corridors, chests, and random encounters with a boss at the end. The formulaic nature can grate a little if you play for long enough to hit more than a couple in one sitting, but that again is alleviated by the portable nature of the game as you can just chip away at it bit-by-bit. Persona 5's sprawling themed dungeons are a good example of what happens if you push dungeons too far in the opposite direction and bog players down in mechanic-heavy mazes, but decades of experimentation in the genre have offered plenty of examples of finding the middle ground between these two extremes. And again, it's only really an issue you'll notice if you play for hours and hours at a time, so most players might not even find it to be too much of an issue anyway.
- Beautiful diorama-esque art style
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Interesting combat mechanics
- Chapters can feel formulaic
- The odd cruel difficulty spike
- Some sketchy writing/delivery
Octopath Traveler Review (Switch)
Freedom to built your party and tackle each character's story however you like is certainly refreshing given the genre's typical linearity, but it can work against Octopath at times, too – party permutations for each encounter are prohibitively extensive for your typical inter-character banter, for example, so each story only really features its star, while party members communicate with one another almost entirely through optional isolated one-on-one skits.
While it probably won't earn a spot in the pantheon of all-time classic RPGs, the fact that a new IP like this manages to come as close as it does is testament to its quality, and we really hope Square sees fit to continue this series – it's possibly only a couple of iterations away from a comfy throne alongside the genre greats that inspired it.
Our Review Ethos
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