Octopath Traveler first impressions: Neither totally new nor totally old but still addictive


Should you pick up Octopath Traveler? The answer depends on how much you know your RPGs, and how willing you are to try something new.

Somehow, yours truly never got around to playing the Octopath Traveler demo, either in its new or old form. That’s probably not an uncommon occurrence, though; there are so many games and not enough time to play them all, let alone a demo. But nevertheless, after spending some hours in Octopath Traveler‘s full version, it’s clear that this game’s retro aesthetic is hiding some intriguing innovation.

The game doesn’t force you into choosing any one path at the beginning of the game; you’re going to meet the other seven characters regardless. In about four and a half hours of play, though, I’ve completed the first chapters of Primrose, Tressa, Cyrus, and Olberic, leaving four undone. All these chapters have pretty similar setups — establishing the setting, teaching you about the special ability of each character in the overworld, and facing a small dungeon with a boss. (You can skip the starts of other characters, to be fair.) But each chapter scales up in difficulty, meaning that the game actually levels up with your play to make sure things aren’t too easy.

So far, the stories have been mostly individualized, but there are some things starting to come together and give a clearer picture of the wider world. However, the individual first chapters mean that there’s a lot of room to give characterization, which is definitely not a bad thing. More traditional JRPGs can occasionally make their later characters suffer by virtue of having less time to develop. Here, with each character writing chapters of their own stories, to borrow from Tressa, more gets to be revealed.

Additionally, the game does keep track of a lot for you. You’re able to see at a glance on your map where you’ll need to go for the next chapter for everyone. Additionally, you’ll get a warning as to what level your characters should be at.

Despite the game’s classic-style appearance (and there’s some pretty sprite work here, although the camera occasionally tears a bit when moving during cutscenes), it’s by no means a completely old-school and opaque game. Instead, there’s rather a timelessness to it all. For JRPG fans of old, you might get the sense that you’re playing Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger‘s long-lost cousin. Newcomers to the genre shouldn’t feel unwelcome, though, thanks to the game offering so many conveniences.

Where the game does struggle a bit is in dialogue and even voice-acting at points. Some lines from each of the characters simply come off as flatter than perhaps intended. Meanwhile, the dialogue has unironically used the word crivens. And yet, when it’s on point, the game can hit your emotions even with the limitations of the sprites.

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So far, it’s been an engaging journey. We here at Culturess will bring you a full review once we’ve had a little more time with the game. In the meantime, if you need something that promises to have plenty of content and some classic JRPG style, you can’t go wrong with Octopath Traveler.