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Game Info:

Octopath Traveler
Developed By: Square Enix, Acquire
Published By: Square Enix
Released: July 13, 2018
Available On: Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
Number of Players: 1, offline
Price: $44.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Different characters should interact with the world in different ways, and that’s exactly the premise for Square Enix’s latest old-school JRPG. Eight quirky characters await you on your journey, each with their own story and their own special ability they can use to overcome obstacles.

Besides the beautiful 3D pixel art, the game looks and plays much like a polished Final Fantasy game from Square’s SNES heyday. You explore the world, brave random encounters, fight turn-based battles, and of course, level up your party. But upon this solid, well-worn foundation, Octopath Traveler delivers an innovation that is truly unique.

Each of your party members has a special ability called a Path Feature, which they use not only to progress in their own story, but also as a way to interact with the world while they are in your party. For example, when the thief Therion is in your party, he can pick the pockets of any character you meet. And with the friendly alchemist Alfynn, you can delve past a character’s brief dialogue to get a deeper sense of their personality. This does wonders to make the world feel more alive, and much more fun to play in.

Octopath Traveler
Highlights:

Strong Points: A JRPG with real depth to its world. Character abilities provide a sense of discovery. Combat is among the best in the genre.
Weak Points: Minimal character interaction. Repetitive.
Moral Warnings: Aside from standard fare like fantasy violence and obscenity, there are serious themes of sexual exploitation that are likely unsuitable for most children.

This is especially true when you use your party’s abilities in tandem with each other. Alfynn might learn that the spear Therion stole from an old woman was a memento of her dead husband, a fisherman. The knight Olberic can challenge any character to a duel, but when he is bested by a dung-slinging swineherd, you can use the dancer Primrose to take the boy into combat as a follower, where he can lob his biohazardous waste at any unfortunate goblins who cross your path.

This all ties in nicely to the game’s nuanced turn-based combat system, which is one of the best in the genre to-date, alongside such luminaries as Bravely Default and Final Fantasy 6. Each enemy has weaknesses that you can target to interrupt their attacks and break their defenses. Along with the usual resources like HP and SP (mana), your characters also gain one battle point each turn, which can be used to power up abilities or attack multiple times. If you save them up, however, you can cash them in to unleash massive damage on a vulnerable enemy. In challenging fights, this all adds up to an intricate dance of death, with an immense sense of satisfaction when you prevail.

For those who are more story-inclined, Octopath Traveler certainly has a lot to offer. It is jam-packed with quality writing and stories that are legitimately compelling. I enjoyed each and every one of the characters, a rarity for me when it comes to JRPGs, which are often littered with flat, one-note characters who I prefer to stash in the reserve core rather than travel with.

My only gripe is the lack of inter-party dynamics, something that other RPGs like the Tales series and Fire Emblem do quite well. Lovely little merchant Tressa hates stealing because of the way it hurts the economy, but when it comes to her sticky-fingered companion Therion, she is conspicuously silent. This is a man who will literally steal medicine from a sickly child to pawn for a new set of daggers, yet she can’t even needle him a little bit about it? And once Alfynn learns that the feeble old woman is also half-blind, might he think about stopping Olberic from knocking her dizzy with a great sword and leaving her unconscious in her own drool? Sure, the ridiculousness of these juxtapositions is entertaining, but a few in-character conversations outside of the main story could demonstrate their relationships without spoiling all the fun.

Octopath Traveler
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 57%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - 1.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

I have already touched on it briefly, but underneath the good-humored veneer of Octopath Traveler is a veritable narcissism simulator. The characters, regardless of their backstory or personality, are expected to operate with the same cold, self-serving logic that we, the detached gamer employ. There is no reward for good behavior, or any kind of real punishment for pillaging and terrorizing your way across the land. Even as a relatively desensitized person, it’s hard not to feel guilty when you deceive a naïve farm boy into taking a spear for you in the depths of some dank cavern miles away from his sleepy hometown. Or when a merchant declares “I’m not one for physical activity,” as you coerce him into an unfair duel.

These moral qualms are not limited to the decisions of the player either. The story of Primrose the dancer is particularly grotesque, hinting at, alluding to, and outright showing incidents of abuse, rape, prostitution, sex slavery, and murder at the hands of a vile tavernmaster. Despite the expressionless pixel art and minimalist voice acting, these scenes are as shocking as they are powerful. The implications of this (admittedly brief) portion of the game will raise difficult questions far beyond the scope of most T-rated games. The game doesn’t contain the kind of titillation and violence you might find elsewhere, but I would venture to say that most children are unprepared to face these themes without adult supervision.

Overall, Octopath Traveler continues the trend of strong retro RPG offerings from Square Enix, cementing the notion that while Final Fantasy has moved in a different direction, the company still has a strong commitment to the traditional turn-based JRPGs that made them a major player in the video game industry. I couldn’t be more pleased to report that their latest adventure stands right alongside those seminal classics.

-Dylan Sitterly

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Dylan Sitterly

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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