Octopath Traveler is a Pile of Dog Doo

square enix

The game is a mashup of Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy and Romancing SaGa series. A bit of history for you:

Final Fantasy is the JRPG that defines the genre. Linear, story-focused, strong character attachment (sorry Aeris), turn-based battles, leveling via XP, predictable pool of spells, and occasionally difficult battles but not terribly so. You know the drill.

Romancing SaGa is the proverbial black sheep of the JRPG family. Non-linear, half-baked story, party is a ragtag group of randos you pick up at bars, difficult, unorthodox battle systems that take you 2/3 of the game to fully understand, randomized leveling, very big bosses and very long boss fights. Popular in Japan, never quite made it in the US.

Octopath Traveler attempts to merge the two models in a way that is tantalizingly close to working for both audiences. SaGa fans will enjoy it more, but they probably bought it already. Final Fantasy and other JRPG fans will likely be disappointed by its shortcomings.

- The music is out of this world.
- Beautiful character and landscape art.
- Battle system is novel, interesting and occasionally throws a few wrenches in your plan.
- Main story bosses aren’t terribly difficult, but some optional bosses can drive you Dark Souls-insane.
- Job system is well designed and gives you interesting new ways to optimize your party every few hours.
- There is a sense of attention to detail. Lots of little things were done right.

- Atrocious level design. Every dungeon looks and feels exactly the same. When you spend lots of time in dungeons, this is a real problem.
- Weak, cookie-cutter dialogue even by SaGa standards. I skipped most of it.
- Weak, cookie-cutter side quests. Most of them are just “match character X in Town A with character Y in Town B.”
- The “Path Actions” idea meant to give characters a unique flavor is novel but quickly becomes a chore.