Once a Nintendo Switch exclusive, Octopath Traveler has made its way to the PC. Console ports have a reputation for suboptimal usage of PC-side features and, that being the case, we're here to give you an idea of how Square Enix's RPG fares.
Octopath Traveler is a turn-based RPG that loosely knits together the personal stories of eight different characters, each with different classes of skills and unlockable secondary classes, as well as unique abilities. Some of these abilities give characters ways to advance in quests, uncover secrets, and fill out the world's stories. As individual character stories progress the party will have optional discussions, and finishing everybody's story will lead to a denouement, though at any one time you can have a maximum of four characters including the character you started with, whom you can't trade out until their personal quests are completed.
While at times the game feels a bit disparate, with characters running parallel stories and their subtle abilities overlapping, the game has a wonderful degree of flexibility in how you tackle it. During our PC run, we've focused on a few characters, trying to get into more difficult areas (all with suggested levels that can be used to gauge how likely you are to survive) to unlock new jobs and visit new towns. A bit of grinding was necessary since we didn't just go around collecting every character first, but with fast travel always available to any visited town, more than 20 save slots, and autosaves upon entering a new area, experimentation-orientated gamers will have fun putting their unique stamp on the game. And while the stories may feel less epic and less coherent around the party than what one might expect, the focus on individual stories feels entirely welcome since the world feels less like it revolves around the player characters.
For a clearer picture, it would be a good idea to familiarise yourself with our original Switch review. The port has the same clever use of pixel art with smooth-scrolling 3D parallax and depth of field lending a world-of-miniatures feel, and the music can feel both grandiose and intimate.
The game did start in windowed mode which was a bit jarring, but a few setting switches later and we'd almost forgot it had happened. However, any ported game veterans will want to know about the controls, and it's a mixed bag. If you have a controller, as we used to play the game, the controls are quick to learn and intuitive, as you might expect. There was a hiccup when we first added a controller, as the keyboard shortcuts were used until we loaded up again. The keyboard is less friendly: the default largely hovering around WASD as you would think, with cursor keys also working for movement, but you might want to assign the tab-through-menus buttons as something other than Q and its distant relative O. Movement in WASD is a bit stiffer but since Octopath is turn-based with random encounters there's no real performance pressure to speak of. As for the mouse, well, the buttons and the mousewheel select and scroll through menus, but it can't be used for movement, and moving the mouse does nothing, with no onscreen cursor. If you were hoping for full mouse support, it ain't there.
If you meet Octopath Traveler halfway with a controller you will discover a solid port of a very good game. If your control needs are more particular be prepared to spend a minute assigning keys and setting the mouse aside. However, a game with this level of polish deserves a look from anyone fond of the genre. Octopath Traveler isn't grand in story, but all its little careful details, gameplay puzzles, beautiful visuals, orchestral style music, and charming character moments are great ingredients that together make this feel like digital comfort food.
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