Octopath Traveler was a pleasant surprise when it debuted a few years ago. Its then-new HD-2D engine was a delight to behold, and the gameplay was inspired by some of Square Enix’s most famous franchises: a deep Final Fantasy-esque class and customization system combined with non-linear exploration and storytelling. from SaGa. series with a dash of combat that was inspired by Bravely Default. These are great inspirations to draw on, but they resulted in a game that, while excellent, seemed to be striving for a distinct identity. Perhaps the developers recognized this too: with Octopath Traveler II, Square Enix seems to be trying to add new gameplay elements that give the franchise a personality of its own. And, for the most part, it has been admirably successful.
The core of Octopath Traveler II is a traditional turn-based JRPG with many of the usual gameplay elements: cities and dungeons to explore, objectives to complete, etc. However, where most JRPGs feature a linear progression method, Octopath Traveler takes a very different approach: You start the game by selecting a “main” character from among eight candidates. This character has his own unique background, story arc, and objectives, and will serve as a constant presence throughout your playtime. After an introductory chapter of the story, you are free to explore the world at your leisure. Eventually, you’ll meet the other seven characters, allowing you to incorporate them into your party and follow their stories as well, all culminating in an ending that ties the individual story threads together.
The focus on individual character arcs rather than one big, high-stakes threat for most of the game’s runtime is refreshing, allowing Octopath Traveler II to tell a variety of intriguing stories that vary wildly in both tone and plot. approach. Some of them are comparatively weaker, but others dominate and hold your attention and keep you craving for more. Agnea’s star-struck quest for fame is remarkably smooth, for example, while Temenos’s investigation into an assassination plot by a religious cult and Throne’s quest to kill the foster parents who they bred are excellent standouts. My favorite quest line is the story of Osvald, whom I chose as my starting character: the story of a scholar who plans a Count of Monte Cristo-style prison break and revenge after being framed for the murder of his own family. by an intriguing colleague.
As soon as you finish the first part of a character’s story, you can continue to the subsequent chapters, as there are no hard barriers to progressing in any way you choose. However, that doesn’t mean you can wander anywhere in the world without worry: some areas feature significantly more dangerous enemies than others, and trying to stumble upon them with a low-level party is pretty extreme risk, though one of the The game does not stop you from trying if you feel confident in your survival skills. In fact, going to risky places can yield some major rewards, but there’s nothing particularly punitive about playing it safe, either. Octopath Traveler’s lack of grip compared to many other JRPGs can be off-putting at first, it doesn’t offer much guidance other than very basic tutorials, but the freedom it gives you to explore and attempt challenges is at your comfort level. you choose is one of its strongest points.
One of the most interesting facets of exploration is the unique path actions of each character. Path Actions are available when you interact with most NPCs, allowing you to interact with them in a variety of ways: acquiring items, learning skills, gaining additional information needed to complete main and side quests, and even recruiting them as helpers in combat. . New to Octopath Traveler II is a day/night cycle (which, thankfully, you can control at will) that changes which NPCs appear and which path actions are available to you. For example, the merchant Partitio can buy items from NPCs during the day at reduced prices, while at night he can hire characters as combat assistants. There’s an overlap in the roles of character path actions, but judging which one is more useful in a given situation adds a fun layer of strategy not often present in city-exploring JRPGs.
ing in the features of character path actions, but judging which one is more useful in a given situation adds a fun layer of strategy not often present in city-exploring JRPGs.
Then we come to the combat, which is the most satisfying and engaging element of Octopath Traveler II. Turn-based encounters build on the foundation laid by the original, emphasizing the need to strategically break down enemy defenses through the use of specific abilities and weapons. There is also a “boost” system that allows you to significantly increase the effectiveness of character actions by consuming boost points that slowly accumulate during each combat turn. The unique nature of each character extends to her performance in combat: each party member has various individual abilities and quirks that significantly affect their specific actions and the flow of combat as a whole. Castti the apothecary can mix elements to create useful or harmful concoctions. Perhaps the most fun of these abilities is that of Ochette, a beast-woman who can capture enemies and turn them into meat to restore health and condition, or keep them to use her abilities in combat.
You also don’t have to be content with the default abilities of your characters. As in the original game, you can assign characters a secondary job, allowing them to learn class-specific active and passive skills, as well as equip a wider variety of weaponry. Playing around and discovering particularly effective combinations of gear, party composition, and skill sets is quite fun and rewarding, with each new unlocked skill adding something new to your overall repertoire, and the hidden job classes and EX skills found in the course of the game add even more surprises and options.
A new element of Octopath Traveler II’s battle strategy are Latent Powers, character-specific Limit-Break-style abilities that can dramatically affect combat when used at the right time. Each party member’s latent ability is different: Osvald can transform multi-target attacks into intensely powerful single-target attacks, Throne can take an extra turn, Hikari and Ochette gain access to new attack abilities, and Temenos can break through defenses with any stroke. Using these abilities in conjunction with a carefully crafted setup can create deliciously devious results.
For example, he can have others enhance Osvald’s magic attacks, attack to put the enemy into a broken state, and then use Osvald’s latent ability and various boosts to create a massively damaging single-target spell attack that melts enemy HP. like butter.
Finding effective tools and builds can allow you to overcome combat situations where you might ordinarily be terribly under-par, bringing immense satisfaction when everything goes according to plan. Which, sometimes, is not the case, but that is a risk for you.
However, Octopath Traveler II is not without its quibbles and frustrations. Every character that joins you starts out at a low level, requiring an investment of time before they reach parity with the rest of the party. Dungeon and field exploration is very basic, with few puzzles or tricks to enliven the typical path followed, with just a few back roads leading to treasure chests taking you off the beaten path.
Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by the paralysis of choosing what to do next in the various stories, while other times you feel like all your potential next moves are high-end adventures that can throw you in over your head.
The risk/reward system for certain actions in Path is utterly absurd: I won’t tarnish my reputation in town by raiding or fighting people, but I will if I don’t lure an NPC into joining my party. These aren’t huge flaws by any means, but they are things I hope will be worked out and fixed in potential future installments.
Octopath Traveler II is an ideal sequel. It builds on the foundations of the original by improving what worked, establishing common pillars of design and gameplay (combat mechanics, path actions, freeform progression) that will hopefully continue in future games.
It also repeats concepts and ideas taken from other JRPGs (the day/night cycle and latent abilities) that enhance the overall experience. Octopath Traveler II is a delight from start to finish, and has left me wanting to see where this series will take in the future.