I know I'm late to the party, but I recently started playing Octopath Traveler. I have limited money, limited time, and what feels like an unlimited backlog, so I'm often one of the last to play a game. I'm about 30 hours in so far. I'm probably not as far along as you were at 30 hours, cos I really take my time with RPGs. I like this game enough that it's been consuming my every waking thought. So much so, that I just have to express my appreciation for it.
This is not a review. Partly because it's a little late for that. Partly because I have not yet completed it. Mostly tho, because I am utterly unqualified to review such a masterpiece. Would I write a review for the Mona Lisa? What level of expertise is required to properly convey the nuances of such a timeless, beloved work of art? So, instead, this is a love letter. This is my pitiful attempt to express my personal adoration for a perfect work of art. By which I mean Octopath Traveler, of course. Not that eyebrowless piece of trash.
Ahem. So let me start things off by saying that, for all the years since 2011, the highest honor I have ever given an RPG is "Best RPG since Skyrim". Skyrim set a high bar for RPGs. There have been plenty of good RPGs since, but none have been able to better Skyrim... until now. It is difficult to compare the two, as they are quite dramatically different beasts. It is further difficult to compare the two, because Octopath Traveler is so much better that it makes the comparison pointless.
Comparing it to something more similar, I could say that Octopath Traveler is the "Best JRPG since Final Fantasy VI". It shares much in common with that title. Final Fantasy V had a very fun job system. Final Fantasy VI lacked that particular feature, but blew it away in terms of great story, lovely spritework, and more likable characters. Octopath Traveler essentially takes the best parts of those two titles, combines them, and turns it up to eleven. Add in (excellent) voice acting, and some gorgeous lighting and weather effects. Many modern titles that use oldschool pixel art feel like they just didn't have the budget for anything else. Not this one. It never for a moment feels cheap. I didn't even know Unreal Engine could use sprites? Are these actually sprites? What manner of witchery is this? At any rate, Octopath Traveler completely outclasses and blows away all classic Final Fantasy titles. And I know a criticism I've heard about Octopath Traveler is that it doesn't have a main story. So far, near as I can tell, it doesn't have -A- main story... it has eight. 8 > 1 last I checked, so that claim is dismissed.
So where can I go from here? I feel that I have not yet conveyed the extent of this game's greatness. We'll have to leave the RPG genre. "Greatest video game since Tetris" is one way to put it. Between multiple iterations on multiple platforms, I have logged countless hours into Tetris. The game is simply a classic. It is so simple, so elegant, so perfect. It almost feels like the quintessential definition of a video game. It also feels like something that simply can't hold a candle to Octopath Traveler.
Going back further... Octopath Traveler is clearly a better game than Chess. Acutally, I kinda like Go better than Chess. While I am, admittedly less familiar with it, Go is rather Tetris-like in it's elegance. Which is, of course, not good enough to beat Octopath Traveler.
Octopath Traveler is probably more akin to art than game, so let us look at other pieces of art. Octopath Traveler is more majestic than Beethoven's 5th. More beautiful than the Sistine Chapel. Better dialog than Shakespeare... All things traditionally considered to be "art" are clearly rubbish compared to Octopath Traveler.
So, I guess a more apt comparison would be to the building of the Great Pyramids. Or the Moon Landing. Or the discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle. These are watershed moments in human history. And yet, they pale in comparison to mankind's single greatest achievement, the development of Octopath Traveler.
You will attain Nirvana more quickly by playing Octopath Travler than by listening to a Siddartha and Kurt Cobain duet.
A popular depiction of the creation of the universe states that God created the universe in six days. On the seventh day, he rested. I submit that they merely thought he was resting. In actuality, he was meticulously planning the aeons-long sequence of events that would one day lead to the creation of Octopath Traveler. That's right, Octopath Traveler is the answer to 42. However, to say that Octopath Traveler is the culmination of the work of the Architect of the Universe is an understatement.
When we wax theological, a common question is this: "If God created the universe, who created God?" The answer to that question? Octopath Traveler. Yes, all that is, was, and will be- since before the dawn of time... The Universe is nothing more than the expression of Octopath Traveler in the process of creating itself.
tl;dr I really like Octopath Traveler