The Tropey Writing Of 'Octopath Traveler' Is Part Of Its Appeal

Octopath Traveler is a game explicitly marketed to those yearning for the J-RPGs of yore. Its lovingly detailed pixel sprites, its job and subjob systems and its intense grindiness all point a finger backwards through time. Octopath Traveler's "HD 2D" look updates the genre's aesthetics with a fresh look that's reminescent of older games without actually being dated, while grindy gameplay is leavened with an innovative combat system that makes hours of battles a rip-roaring pleasure.

The one place where Octopath Traveler didn't really innovate? Its writing. Each character is straightforward, and you can guess what their plots will entail just by knowing the character's class. Each chapter is more-or-less the same: you enter a town, you meet a character, not all is as it seems, you enter a sub-area, you fight a boss, your character reflects on how the chapter has moved their plot forward and you move on.

But the character tropes are tried-and-true. The kind and gentle cleric whose faith is a light for herself and others? Check. The surly, cool and quiet thief who only works alone? Check. The serious, earnest barbarian who speaks to animals and respects nature and the forest? Check. The scholar who just loves the hell out of some books? Done and done.

These tropes are comforting and familiar, like chicken noodle soup when you're sick, or your favorite recipe from childhood. They aren't tropes that will change the world, but they are the tropes Octopath Traveler 's desired market will recognize and love.

Not only that, half the stories revolve around pure-hearted characters eager to do good in the world. Alfyn the Apothecary is traveling the map motivated solely by his desire to provide free healthcare to others. Treesa just wants to see the wide, beautiful world and learn about all the wonders it has to offer. Ophilia is doing a pilgrimage, for Pete's sake, and her Chapter Two is about her intervention in the squabbles between a group of little boys. Therion has to learn to believe in others again. H'aanit is the only adult daughter-father figure story I can remember seeing in games in a hot minute.

know your meme cinammon role
Too good, too pure. Via KnowYourMeme, TheOnion

Sure, Primrose wants to murder the guys who ganked her father, but she also wants to light up a few stages along the way because girls just want to have fun. Cyrus wants to uncover the secrets behind a missing murder death book, but he also wants to learn everything there is to know about anything because he's a scholar and a gentleman. We know these characters already and we love these characters. We love them every place we've ever seen them.

As for the structure of the game itself, which is more like eight separate short stories rather than an interconnected lacing of eight narrative threads, this really boils down to personal preference. There is travel banter — usually three instances per chapter — but nothing along the lines of the constant back-and-forth in Bioware games. The stories don't connect and they don't surprise, either.

An RPG where the story is predictable might be a weakness in another franchise. But Octopath Traveler is founded on deep love and appreciation for J-RPG tropes. That kind of all-forgiving nostalgia is a prerequisite for enjoying Octopath Traveler.

You might wish the story was structured differently, but if Octopath Traveler was made for you, you already know it — and love it, tropes and all.