Octopath Traveler is a role-playing game that sports a graphical aesthetic known as "HD-2D", defined by the developers as combining retro Super NES-style character sprites and textures with polygonal environments and high-definition effects. The game puts players in the role of one of eight adventurers, each of whom begins their journey in different ways. Each character comes from different parts of the world, each of which determines their job or attribute. Each character has a unique Path Ability command that can be used when interacting with NPCs that are divided into two categories: Noble, the ability's effectiveness dependent by the character's level or amount of in-game currency, and Rogue, which has a risk of its user losing credibility upon other NPCs. For example, Olberic and H'aanit can challenge characters, Cyrus and Alfyn can inquire about certain bits of information, Tressa and Therion can acquire items, and Ophilia and Primrose can guide NPCs and use them as guest summons.
The game features turn-based battles, in which the player can attack using different kinds of weapons or elemental attacks, as well as use abilities and items. Playable characters receive a Boost Point at the end of every turn, of which they can store up to five at a time. During their turn, a player can use up to three Boost Points to boost a command, allowing their character to attack multiple times, raise their defense, or increase the potency of an ability. Enemies have a shield counter that lowers whenever they are attacked with a weapon or element they are weak against. When the counter is depleted, they enter a stunned state where they can receive more damage and lose a turn.