Octopath Traveler II has finally arrived, and as a follow-up to my most-played game on my Nintendo Switch, as I was cautiously optimistic and excited to jump straight in. If you’re not at all familiar with the series, Octopath Traveller is a traditional, turn-based JRPG with a heavy emphasis on its stories developed by Square Enix. Where most JRPGs present a linear method of progression, however, Octopath Traveler takes a very different approach in its characters
The game follows eight protagonists, each with their own unique story, set in the fantastical world of Orsterra. This allows for a diverse cast of characters, each with their own motivations and personalities and backgrounds. Players can choose any one of the characters as their primary protagonist, but they will also be able to explore the stories of the other characters as they progress through the game.
The gameplay is a refreshing blend of traditional turn-based combat and modern mechanics with heavy RPG elements. It retains the classic turn-based combat of its predecessor, but introduces new mechanics such as a job system that allows players to mix and match abilities from various classes, alllowing for a deep and customizable gameplay experience that can be tailored to suit individual play-styles. This is just a surface level summary, so let me dive into the nitty-gritty of whether or not Octopath Traveler II is worth your time and money.
I’ll mix things up a little bit from my traditional formula and start with what I think is the most glaring issues with Octopath Traveler II – and that’s in referral to how little the game has actually changed from it’s predecessor. There’s no glaring differences from either title, and it’d be relatively easy to mistake the sequel for an expansion from first glance alone. I’d never be one to complain about more Octopath, but not really feels like with the amount of time in between games, there really should have been a substantial addition or new feature to separate the two.
The stories between the two games aren’t directly connected either, which can be seen as both a positive and negative approach, as there’s no lost knowledge from the initial game due to the stories being completely unrelated, but there’s also no further expansion on the characters or story explored either. It would’ve been a worthwhile inclusion for one of the eight playable characters to be one of the original cast as a nice callback to some of the many beloved inclusions from the first instalment of Octopath, but this doesn’t at all mean any of the new characters aren’t worth raving home about.
The focus on individual characters arcs rather than ‘main’ overarching enemy is a welcomed inclusion in the sequel, allowing Octopath Traveler II to tell a variety of well thought out stories covering a huge array of topics and plots. It is worth mentioning that some of these stories are noticeably weaker than their counterparts, but others are gripping throughout and incredibly in-depth. Temenos has one of my favourite plots, as they are seek to investigate a murder caused by a religious cult (it’s something right up my DnD obsessed-alley, so you can’t really blame me).
One of my favourite elements of Octopath (which remains true in the sequel) is it’s lack of hard barriers for progression. After you finish the first part of a character’s story, you are free to progress however you choose, with no rail-roaded set path in place. This of course doesn’t mean you can just stroll anywhere in the world without caring/preparing, as some areas have a much higher difficulty spike than others, but if you’re willing to attempt to take on that challenge; the option is there for you.
In fact, a lot of the time – adventuring to these risky places can give you a lot better rewards, but it’s perfectly reasonable to play it safe as well. Octopath Traveler’s lack of hand-holding compared to many other JRPGs may be off-putting at first–it doesn’t offer much guidance aside from very basic tutorials–but the freedom it grants you to explore and attempt challenges at the comfort level you choose is one of its strongest points.
Path Actions are another gameplay element worth raving it, which are unique to each character. These actions can be employed when interacting with most NPCs, allowing for various forms of engagement, such as acquiring items, learning abilities, gaining additional information to complete quests, and even recruiting NPCs as allies in battle.The game also features a day/night cycle, which can be controlled at will, altering which NPCs appear and which Path Actions are available.
For instance, during the day, you may be able to purchase items from NPCs at discounted prices, while at night you can instead can enlist characters as assistants in combat. Although some Path Actions may overlap in function, discerning which one is most beneficial in a particular situation adds a layer of strategic depth to town exploration that is not often seen in JRPGs.
Now let’s get to the really good stuff, and by far my favourite part of the game: the combat. Octopath Traveler II expands upon the turn-based encounters of its predecessor by prioritizing strategic decision-making in battle. Players must use specific skills and weapons to break down enemy defences, while the “boost” system allows characters to consume Boost Points and increase their effectiveness. Each character’s unique abilities play a crucial role in combat, like Hikari drawing from knowledge learned from NPCs, and Ochette capturing enemies to use their skills or cook them for health.
You don’t have to be content with just the default skills of your characters, either. Like the original game, you can assign characters a sub-job, which will allow them to learn active and passive skills specific to each class, as well as equip a wider variety of weaponry. Playing around and discovering particularly effective combinations of gear, party composition, and skillsets is quite enjoyable and rewarding, with each new skill unlock adding something new to your overall repertoire–and hidden job classes and EX skills found over the course of the game add even more surprises and options.
A new battle mechanic introduced in Octopath Traveler II takes the form of ‘Latent Powers’, which are character-specific abilities that can dramatically affect combat when used at the right time. Each party member’s ‘Latent Ability is unique’, and can impact combat in a variety of forms. Using these abilities in tandem with the right equipment and sub-jobs can lead to really satisfying outcomes and combat experiences (with a world of meta-gaming opening up if that’s what you’re into).
Somehow, I still haven’t even managed to comment on the visuals, which by this point should be considered a crime. The game’s visual design is breathtaking, with 2D pixel art that is both nostalgic and modern simultaneously. The attention to detail is evident in the game’s environments, which are richly detailed and varied. This game just understands my idealized game-art style and I really can’t fault it at all – this aspect of the game didn’t need to improve whatsoever from the original.
This is further highlighted by the game’s soundtrack, which is another standout feature. The compositions are beautiful and atmospheric throughout the entirety of 20+ hours so far, enhancing the game’s already immersive world. Each area of the game has its own unique music, adding to the sense of exploration and discovery. In any good JRPG, a story can draw me in, but it[‘s really the visuals and soundtrack that’ll keep me playing, and I can confidentially say that there’s nothing to not love about Octopath Traveler II’s visual and sound design.
All in all, Octopath Traveler II is a worthy successor to the original game. Could it have been slightly better? For sure. Did I have an incredible time with the game nonetheless? To the moon and back. With a deep and customizable combat system, beautiful visuals, and an atmospheric soundtrack, there’s really not more I’d want in this style of game. It’s hopefully the start of several Octopath sequels in the coming years and an excellent addition to the JRPG genre. You can pick it up now on P.C and Nintendo Switch