Video Gamer Play // Octopath Traveler: a 90s-style JPRG brought to life wit...
Octopath Traveler: a 90s-style JPRG brought to life with cutting-edge tech
The Japanese RPG has travelled a long road since the early days of sprite-based 2D adventuring, but in Octopath Traveler we have a fascinating blend of old and new. Exclusive to Switch, it takes the traditional top-down style of Super NES greats like Final Fantasy 6 and blends it with the cutting-edge 3D rendering techniques of Unreal Engine 4. It’s a hybrid JRPG for a hybrid console, but developers Square Enix and Acquire know exactly where to push the boat out technically and where to stick to the tried and tested 2D template. The result is a beautiful and compelling Switch exclusive that’s well worth checking out.
Fundamentally, Octopath Traveler is built on sprite-based characters – but look closer and you quickly see how extensively Unreal Engine 4’s features are applied to the rest. Towns, for example, are modelled in 3D, but wrapped in pixelated textures to simulate a much older game. Each texture acts like a copy-pasted tile, as if bound by the memory budget of a 16-bit era console – even if in fact, the entire scene is built on a polygonal framework.
For replicating an older style it works brilliantly – it’s certainly more ambitious than sticking with a traditional 2D design and the effort pays off with the effects it layers on top. A case in point is the game’s high quality bokeh depth of field. The quality of the effect wouldn’t be possible without a 3D logic running underneath – making the most of spatial depth to add a shallow focal range to each area. It’s proudly exaggerated too by Square Enix, sharpening the frame at the screen’s centre, while distorting specular points towards the back and foreground. Unreal Engine 4 brings plenty to the table, but this is perhaps the most eye-catching part of the old-meets-new experiment. It also has an unusual side-effect on the game’s sense of scale – mimicking a tilt-shift photographical style, making everything look like a miniature model.
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