A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents should know that Octopath Traveler is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) for the Nintendo Switch that's reminiscent of classic RPGs from the '80s and '90s. Players have the option to help people in need or ignore their pleas; the rewards of helping people out reinforce a moral ideal that assisting people is a positive virtue, although conflict resolution is handled only through combat. The visuals include small, pixelated characters that fight against enemies and interact with hundreds of characters in the game's virtual world. Fighting is a large part of gameplay and is handled in a turn-based fashion in which characters can use swords and cast magic spells like fireballs to destroy enemies. There's some blood, but it's not realistic, and the small, unrealistic visuals affect the impact of the violence. There's a bit of flirting in the dialogue between some characters, plus phrases like "damn it all to hell," and characters are seen drinking beer or mead in taverns.
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What's it about?
OCTOPATH TRAVELER -- as the name suggests -- is a role-playing game that lets players choose from eight different characters, each with a unique story and abilities, as you set out on a grand adventure. Reminiscent of classic fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) such as portable Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest (and even The Legend of Zelda) titles, the game offers turn-based combat, the ability to level up and equip yourself with better items, hundreds of characters to talk to (including allies to band with), locations to unlock, and items to find and use (and buy and sell). Each of the eight characters takes you down a different path in the same game universe. Whether you choose to specialize in swordplay, magic, thievery, or healing, it's up to you to chart each character's journey and determine the fate of this world.
Is it any good?
While this massive adventure takes some time to get into, the excellent story and deep gameplay will keep you exploring and fighting through its amazing world for dozens of hours. The turn-based combat in Octopath Traveler provides lots of depth: Players have different items and spells to use, combo attacks and chained moves, defensive maneuvers, and a Boost mode to unleash an even greater attack or give aid to allies. Players will have to determine which attacks are most effective on which enemies (e.g., considering vulnerabilities to fire or ice blasts). While combat starts off at a reasonable difficulty, it ramps up quickly -- boss fights can crush you quickly if you don't have a stockpile of healing and protective items. Couple this with the lack of health bars for enemies, forcing you to guess how much damage each will take to be defeated, and you'll quickly realize that this is a seriously tough game.
While you're roaming through towns, the countryside, and caves, you'll meet many people who may ask you to do something for them or join your party, and all your decisions will have lasting effects on the storyline. There are love interests, revenge-laden story paths, and tales of friendship, family, and loyalty. The dialogue can be pretty cheesy, including dramatic voice acting that might make you roll your eyes. And during combat, the lines you hear grow repetitive. But between the many characters you can play, deep turn-based gameplay, and huge environments to explore, Octopath Traveler is a great pocket-sized game from one of the best developers in the business. Players who love classic RPGs on Nintendo Game Boy or Nintendo 3DS will fall for the charm of this well-crafted, smoothly executed adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. How is the impact of the violence in Octopath Traveler affected by the small, pixelated graphics? What message does it send that conflict resolution is handled solely through combat?
What's the appeal of "retro" pixelated graphics in video games? Do you think that the classic visuals in Octopath Traveler allow the designers to focus more on telling an engaging story? Would the game be as engaging if it had current visuals?
How is the impact of helping others in need affected by the fact that you can only solve problems by fighting? Should characters who help people be rewarded with things?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: July 1, 2018
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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