Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – studio makes a game. They decide to focus on gameplay and story over the graphics. To save on processor power and development costs, they decided to go use 8 or 16-bit graphics and sprites and go for that sweet, sweet, retro appeal to cash in on older fans’ (read: me) nostalgia. Project Octopath Traveler, at first, reeked of all that to me.

So when this game was first announced for the Nintendo Switch, two thoughts came to me:

  • That is a mouthful of a name. Yes, it’s just a working title, but come on.
  • Another retro-style JRPG? From Square Enix? For the Nintendo Switch? Gee, where have I seen that before?

Needless to say, it’s pretty obvious that I wasn’t excited for this game. Well, not until I watched the September 13 Nintendo Direct and I saw this trailer:

Seriously, this concept that lets me pick eight different characters and play this game eight different ways is fantastic. The soundtrack is great, and the art style that uses 16-bit sprites in modern ways (which the developers have called “HD-2D”) is something I never expected to like.

Project Octopath Traveler Demo

Look at that depth of field, guys.

Open Paths

Right now, you get to pick one of two characters – Olberic the disgraced knight, who can summon almost every single NPC to a duel, and Primrose the dancer, who can use her allure ability to get anyone to join her. As most turn-based classic and classic-style JRPGs are samey experiences in terms of gameplay, I really appreciated that each character has different skills that can drastically change gameplay. Plus, having eight characters with different skills and storylines each is a fantastic way to boost replayability.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR OLBERIC’S STORYLINE for Project Octopath Traveler BEYOND THIS POINT

Okay, I’ll admit, I only played Olberic’s storyline so far. He’s a knight who went into hiding after war broke out and he failed to protect his king from a grisly fate. He sought refuge in a village that welcomed him with open arms. Under a false name, he spends the last few years since his fall as a hedge knight, protecting the village from the occasional group of bandits.

Project Octopath Traveler Battle

Battle is as you’d expect from a turn-based JRPG. It’s the usual, with a twist here and there, and here you have the option to double or more your attack power if you keep enough boosts during the battle. It’s pretty standard, and it’s not broken, so I’m okay with it.

Easy on the Ears

The soundtrack is lush, orchestral, and epic. Coming from I Am Setsuna’s minimalist piano-only soundtrack, this was a welcome change. Voice acting is fantastic, too – everything was done superbly, with just the right amount of cheese. Implementation of the Switch’s much-touted HD rumble was also great – every hit that you land on an enemy (or vice versa) feels right, and it doesn’t feel like your regular controller rumble. Also, when you go in a door, of all things, the resulting HD rumble feedback is fantastic.

I’m Sold, But…

Project Octopath Traveler Demo

So am I going to get Project Octopath Traveler on launch? I’m probably going to wait for a little bit, as you know my list for the rest of the year is already packed. That list doesn’t even include the newly-announced games from the last Direct like Doom and Wolfenstein 2. Seriously, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Skyrim, Resident Evil: Revelations 1 and 2, and Super Mario Odyssey will be more than enough to tide me over until early next year.

But once I’m done with those big games and I’m itching for something slower, I’m sure I’ll be picking up Project Octopath Traveler or whatever they’ll call it by then.

Have you played the Project Octopath Traveler demo yet? What do you think of it? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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