Octopath Traveler is a Love Letter to the RPGs in Our Hearts

Within a week the gorgeous and much talked about Octopath Traveler will be gracing Nintendo Switchs everywhere as players begin or continue an already-exciting journey carrying their progress with them from the demo. Octopath Traveler might not be out, which means reviews aren’t out, but it’s hard not to love everything about this game from the demo alone, maybe because it felt like a proper demo and not a slice cut short at a critical moment. Instead Octopath Traveler wants the player to sink into the world in hopes they will play every character and see as much of the world as possible in the three-hour window given at the start of the journey. While character selection might feel a little daunting, no doubt, every player will find that character that fits them best or just play the game multiple times with eight different mains; I applaud you. Out of everything Octopath Traveler has to offer, it’s the heart of the game that truly makes it sing and why it’s so hard to wait for even a week more to see the rest of this journey out.

Octopath Traveler weaves an excellent spell of mixing old with new as can be seen from the aesthetic alone. What makes the feeling of familiarity so tangible is that the audience at large has seen these characters and places time in and time out. They’re as familiar to us as a home and Octopath knows it. Every bit of this game is soaked to the bone in nostalgia and wears it proudly. From characters to towns to story beats, every part of Octopath feels like a memory. It’s been seen before, but much like the foggy lighting and faded edges of Octopath, it can be hard to fully make it out at times. It’s a clever trick that makes players want to search every nook and cranny of it. No matter if starting with the Cleric Ophelia, Hunter Hann’it or the Scholar Cyrus, each character feels familiar yet fresh.

The cast of characters might be the best part and why shouldn’t they? The story revolves around these eight individuals and their interconnected tails. Even just reading their bios is enough to tell anyone who they are and known what they’re signing up for. Yes, it can be hard to pick a main character — once you pick a main, that’s the main for the whole game — but with such easy reads of who these people are, it’s not hard knowing who to pick based on what one wants to see. It’s the reason I went with Ophelia. I figured she was too good for her own good, but there also seems to be something more mysterious lying underneath that smile that I’ll just have to wait and see. That’s the trick Octopath seems to be pulling so well: these characters are familiar coming from  just about any RPG, but Octopath still wants to hold a bit of mystery and it works. Octopath doesn’t need to sell itself on big set pieces or in-your-face gameplay, instead presenting what players know and lets them play.

Maybe one of the best parts of Octopath is knowing that while there are all these feelings of knowing and familiarity, it’s still a completely new world. The spells might have different names, the quest might seem a bit too reminiscent, but that’s OK because Octopath, again, is the complete package when it comes to being a love letter to fans of JRPGs/RPGs everywhere. Knowing there is an entire world not seen before in any game is what makes Octopath more exciting than another Fire Emblem, Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. It’s not hard to get excited for a new IP, but the energy surrounding Octopath feels electric and with a strong demo backing it, it’s hard not to see this game making it in to the realm of game of the year lists for many.

The only thing left to do now is either wait or go play that demo if you haven’t. Octopath will be releasing on Nintendo Switch next week July 13. The demo is a stellar showcase of what the game has to offer, perfectly introducing players to the world and characters knowing that all progress carries forward once the game is purchased. Traveling through the world of Octopath Traveler looks to be as exciting as it is fun and I can’t wait to finish Ophelia and everyone else’s stories as the journey through Octopath Traveler continues next week. Go play that demo!