Octopath Traveler review round-up: What the critics think of Square Enix's new, old-school RPG

Octopath Traveler was one of the most intriguing games announced alongside Nintendo Switch back in January 2017. Now that it's finally here, what do the eviews have to say about its nostalgic look and unique approach to eight-part storytelling? I used my Web Browsing path ability to bring back relevant review snippets from critics of all corners, focused on various parts of the game for a holistic look on what your experience with Octopath Traveler might be. Let's take a look!

Octopath Traveler has a beautiful, old-game-plus look - GameSpot (8/10) 

"Retro throwbacks rarely go for the mid-'90s mix of 2D sprites and low-res 3D models, but along comes Octopath Traveler, a game that manages to both faithfully recreate the aesthetic and add to it in subtle yet meaningful ways. It's a great look, one that draws you into the world and delights you with small artistic touches that bring something magical to otherwise simple environments. Enemies and bosses alike are lavishly drawn despite the confines of the game's intentional low-res aesthetic. It's a similar treatment that you can find in a game like Final Fantasy VI, where rough sprites in the overworld transform into big, detailed illustrations in battle."

Octopath Traveler's stories can feel disjointed - Kotaku (Unscored) 

"One late chapter’s scene, for example, features a dramatic turnaround where a villain escapes after gravely injuring the main character. For Octopath Traveler to ignore the three other characters - who are following that main character around and participating in every battle - is hard to get over. Why couldn’t one of them stopped the villain? Your party members can interact during optional Tales-style vignettes between cut-scenes, but they’re insignificant, just there for flavor. As you’re progressing through each main story, the party won’t talk.

Most JRPGs ask you to suspend your disbelief in some way - sure, you can fly around the world raising chocobos even though a meteor is about to destroy the world - but Octopath Traveler takes it to an extreme. You have to spend the entire game not only buying that a noble cleric and honorable swordsman would hang out with a nasty thief, but that they’d participate in his heists. You have to buy into a whole lot of narrative decisions that simply don’t make sense."

Octopath Traveler's path actions make NPCs more interesting - Polygon (Unscored) 

"The characters’ personalities tie into their 'path actions': a unique skill available for each protagonist’s interactions with the nonplayer characters that fill the world. Well, they’re unique to a point. Each path action appears in two variations that achieve the same end in a slightly different way. H’aanit’s “provoke” skill (which allows her to battle NPCs) is largely the same as Olberic’s “challenge” ability, just as Therion’s 'steal' (with which he can swipe valuables from unwitting NPCs) amounts to a less honest variant of Tressa’s 'purchase.'

In any case, path actions create interesting opportunities for interactions with NPCs beyond simply talking to them for clues, and they can be both beneficial and detrimental. You can steal better armor, consumable items, and even story-related quest items from townsfolk. If you bungle your attempt, though, your reputation in that town will suffer, preventing you from fully interacting with the locals. It costs quite a bit to restore your good name, adding a risk/reward element to these optional interactions."

Octopath Traveler's combat is intricate and rewarding - IGN (9.3)  

"There’s a fantastic layer of strategy to battles that gives value to even the lowliest attacks, even in the late game. A wizard staff might only inflict a few points of damage, but if it breaks an enemy’s defense, it’s completely worth it to spend your turn that way. When’s the last time you used a staff in a JRPG for any reason other than you ran out of magic points? Now, you have a reason, and as a result each encounter required me to stop and think about the best approach. Do I spend my accrued battle points and swing my axe three times to break the enemy’s defense, or do I hold off and maximize my next attack and try to break defense with one of Alfyn’s elemental potions, or use Therion’s Steal SP attack to strike twice in one move? Discovering novel approaches to battles, experimenting with efficient use of spells and weapons, and uncovering the best strategies is hugely fun and feels like a masterfully-crafted tabletop game brought into the digital realm."

Octopath Traveler gets repetitive, both in narrative and grind - VG24/7 (Unscored) 

"[I]t’s lovely to see a game of this type that’s focused on smaller character conflicts rather than saving the whole world. Cracks begin to appear in this structure pretty quickly, however. Because you can tackle them in any order, every chapter one is roughly the same, thus seeing the flow of the early game turn painfully predictable. Because the game doesn’t know if you’re going to complete everything before moving deeper into an individual character’s story you’re forced to grind character levels to remain competitive on many quests – and because characters not in the current party of four don’t earn any experience any time you swap somebody new in you’re forced to grind them up to scratch. You can’t stick with one reliable party of four, either, as each character has to be present in battle for every chapter of their personal quest line."

Octopath Traveler's world is fun to explore and full of secrets - USGamer (Unscored) 

"Octopath Traveler is a lot of game, and the more time I spend with it, the more impressed I become with how cleverly it's assembled. The 2D-HD sprites are gorgeous, of course, and treat you to breathtaking effects like the perpetual hazy dark of snowbound lands and glints of sunlight off running brooks. Navigating through the hills and crevices of the wild areas that connect towns can be difficult—but that's by design. You're often handsomely rewarded for going off the beaten path and searching for hidden bumps and dips in the landscape. If you just want to make a straight-shot from town to town, you need only follow the dirt roads and consult the signposts at each junction."

Find more worlds to lose yourself in with our ranking of the best video game stories ever. 

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.