Octopath Traveler’s music blends nostalgia with something entirely new

By Alicia Haddick, Contributor

Eight characters, eight journeys, separate yet intertwined—that is the promise of Octopath Traveler. Each of these characters come together for one complete adventure: a moment where these people from the far-flung corners of the world, having dealt with their own concerns, must come together to save the land they love.

Entering the world of Octopath Traveler feels so special because it’s one that continues living and breathing through your memories even if you’re not present. It’s like the wind has kept blowing through each and every one of its pixels since long before you stepped inside its world of Orsterra, and lives are being lived even out of your immediate view.

This is all true whether we talk about the port town of Rippletide—where the wide-eyed merchant’s daughter Tressa Colzione lives with a desire to leave her small town and see the world—or the Cliftlands, where mysterious master thief Therion is asked by a noble family to recover stolen Dragonstones. You can feel Tressa’s hometown come to life in the beautiful "HD-2D" renderings of this calm, loving abode—the glare on the seawater igniting a desire to explore a world beyond. Unfortunately, the class divides in the Cliftlands feel all too apparent.

Octopath Traveler S Music Blends Nostalgia With Something Entirely New Bridge
Yet it’s the remote, harsh Frostlands, home to Ophilia Clement, that captures just why this world evokes such strong emotions. A cleric at Flamesgrace Cathedral, the responsibility Ophilia’s adoptive family has over the Sacred Flame—ensuring it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands—feels all too real. The weight of responsibility over a centuries-old tradition you never knew existed till a few hours ago now hangs heavy on your conscience.

While far from the only people living in Flamesgrace, it’s hard not to feel isolated in those snowy peaks, as life revolves around the church and few venture far from the mountain. Despite this, the strength of community feels welcoming, enveloping you from beyond the screen. A big part of that comes from the game's music, which is wonderfully orchestrated throughout the world yet deliberately pared back in this desolate land.

As snow blizzards bear down from the sky—blanketing the area with a sheet-white glisten that reflects the lights of the town from the clifftops above—a calming piano lulls you into its warm caress. It’s contemplative, as though it too is considering the burden placed upon Ophilia, and it never leaves her feeling truly alone. The guitar backing this piano melody feels supportive rather than oppressive, while a repeating 12-beat synth riff backing the tune is the heartbeat that keeps it going.

Rather than remaking the past, or creating something identical to the RPG experiences for which Square Enix has become known for, developer Acquire built upon that history to create something new that still evokes those tactile childhood memories. In the Frostlands, the music takes on an almost ethereal embrace. It pairs well with retro-inspired pixel art that shines in environments and towering boss fights to push beyond comforting nostalgia to an unseen future.

Octopath Traveler is a joy because of these moments. You can stand in snow for hours reminiscing on bygone days without succumbing to the cold it portrays. When you pick up that controller, however, new experiences can be built upon that joy of the past.

There’s not many experiences quite like it.

You can find Octopath Traveler on the Epic Game Store now.