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As modern RPGs gradually shift towards real-time action, Octopath Traveler stands out as a loving tribute to SNES nostalgia fans. The aesthetic of 2D sprites on a gorgeous 3D world is visually striking and I cannot overstate how spectacular the soundtrack is. The game includes 8 different stories told through 8 playable characters, and the player is given a lot of freedom in choosing how they progress the stories and interact with the world.
The 8 main characters are simple enough, harkening back to classic RPG archetypes and jobs. Their stories are very straightfoward, and after playing through a few chapters, you will understand they all follow a predictable narrative pattern each chapter. One notable concern is that the main characters are mutually exclusive to each other, so there is no influence on the story based on your party, which is a let down. Brief party banters are available, but a certain sense of unity is lost without this feature.
The true complexity of the world is gleamed through the numerous NPCs littering the world map, many of whom have surprising depth that can be explored with the various Path Actions. Side quests are quite plentiful and shed further light on various NPCs, but the quests are rather unintuitive, often times requiring a good bit of detective work on the player's part using the Path Actions to figure out how to solve them.
Combat is where the game shines brightest with highly versatile customization available to your party members once secondary jobs are unlocked. It was a lot of fun testing new skill combinations, and all of the characters can be made perfectly viable to whatever role is needed. The Breaking system is a very rewarding feature that adds a nice foundation to base your strategies off of. Notably, I couldn't really afford to put myself on auto pilot in battle - I had to be ever conscious of the enemies I faced as they all have different weaknesses that must be taken advantage of.
Grinding, while present, was not very common, and rarely interfered in my playthrough. Skill learning is surprisingly accessible, even with countless character and secondary job possibilities. The skill system made it very easy to change gears and start building new combinations at a moment's notice.
Despite the minor gripes, I was repeatedly surprised and pleased by not only Octopath's unique presentation, but how it was able to purposefully take old JRPG tropes and mixed them with some modern twists for a fun and satisfying experience. Octopath is a nice return to Square Enix's roots and kind of stands alone shouldering this particular genre of RPG in the modern era, especially amongst the current Switch line up.
If you're curious about this game, I highly recommend trying out the very generously sized demo. If you need to satisfy a JRPG craving or want to get introduced to the genre, Octopath is one of my best recommendations to try out.
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