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Octopath Traveler II Review-In-Progress

Nick Shively Posted:
Columns The RPG Files 0

It’s been nearly 5 years since the launch of the original Octopath Traveler, developed by Square Enix and produced by the talented Tomoya Asano. It was the RPG we didn’t know we needed by combining old-school turn-based RPG mechanics with a simple, yet beautiful 2D-HD world full of nuance and pleasant voice acting. It wasn’t simply a callback to the old days; it was a significant improvement in almost every aspect. Now we’re within weeks of the release of Octopath Traveler II, and although the original was excellent in its own right the sequel needs to do enough different to form a path of its own.

Same Old, Same Old

It’s unfair to expect a sequel to be a complete divergence from the original, and with Octopath Traveler II, why should it? The original Octopath Traveler already offered a lot and only needed a few minor tweaks.

So this time around, we once again set off with 8 traveling companions who each have their own story. You’ll select a main character, which you’ll be locked into initially, and travel around the world collecting the other travelers. This doesn’t have to be done in any particular order, and it is possible to just progress the initial story, but it’s best to at least collect a full party of 4 before venturing onto the proceeding chapters.

The core mechanics haven’t changed either. During combat, it’s essential to exploit enemy weaknesses to break them and store up Boost Points (BP) to unleash devastating attacks. As your characters defeat enemies, they’ll earn Job Points that can be spent to unlock new active and passive abilities. Each character can also equip a secondary job that unlocks the weapons and skills from that job.

It’s safe to say that if you didn’t like the original that enough is similar in Octopath Traveler II that you still won’t like the sequel. However, there are enough additions that the second title can clearly stand on its own.

Octopath Traveler II

New and Improved

So far through my journey in Octopath Traveler II there have been two main improvements over the original. The first major improvement is the addition of the Crossed Paths and overall improved story arcs.

In the original game, there was barely any collaboration between the characters. It honestly felt like 8 individual stories that happened to share a world. Of course, there was the occasional Travel Banter, which is still present, between two characters during their stories, but now there are actually intertwined stories. For example, Temenos (Cleric) and Throne (Thief) need to join forces and find a mysterious treasure hidden by the church. Both characters are on-screen during the cutscenes and interact directly with any important dialogue.

While subjective, I’ve also found the main stories for most of the characters to be deeper than the original. There’s an array of narratives that aren’t simply someone or something did a bad thing and I have to chase them across the entire world, which most of the plot from the original game seemed to devolve into. While a couple is straightforwardly based on vengeance, such as Osvald (Scholar) wanting to track down the man who framed him for his family’s murder, others are more lighthearted like Agnea (Dancer) who wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps to become a star.

The second key change has drastically improved the flow and diversity of combat. While it might seem like a simple addition, there’s now an option to double the speed of combat. One of my biggest pet peeves with the original game is how often random encounters occurred and how long it took to grind through them. The increased combat speed makes grinding levels and traveling through the wilderness much less annoying.

While the increased combat speed can be convenient, there are also a few new combat tools available for each of the travelers. The most powerful new abilities are the Latent Powers, which act similar to Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy 7. The Latent Power gauge will fill whenever your character takes damage or breaks an enemy and they either grant access to new skills or supplement existing skills.

For example, Hikari (Warrior) can use his Latent Power to use a powerful single-target attack, a multi-attack skill that lets him act a second time at the end of the round, or an area-of-effect spear and sword combo attack. Each of these abilities can be powered up with BP and costs no Spell Power (SP). Conversely, Castti (Apothecary) can use her Latent Power to mix alchemy spells without using ingredients.

In addition to the Latent Powers, characters can utilize secondary jobs (like in the original game) but tasks can be completed for the job guilds to increase the number of characters who can use them. Finally, EX Skill shrines are hidden around the world, which unlocks a powerful, exclusive skill for each character. Between the guilds, EX Shrines, and dungeons, there are plenty of reasons to explore the side paths in Octopath Traveler II.

Finally, there is now a Day and Night cycle in the game, which can be controlled manually that opens up additional options in the game. At night, monsters are stronger but also give more experience and job points, which makes it a better choice for leveling up. Certain NPCs are only around during specific parts of the day, and each traveler has access to different actions at night and Day. For example, Throne can steal during the day and knock NPCs unconscious at night. Picking the right time of day is important for both main and side quests.

The Journey so far

All of these new abilities have definitely made combat more interesting, but at the same time, they’ve helped trivialize the fights so far. I’ve completed at least Chapter 2 for each character and try to be close to the recommended level, but even the boss fights have barely been a speed bump. I’m hoping that some of the later chapters are significantly more challenging and I can really push my party to its limit.

Despite combat not being all that challenging, I’ve enjoyed the rest of Octopath Traveler II quite a bit more than the original. Once I got out of the beginning towns, there are usually hidden paths or shrines worth exploring for with lots of treasure along the way. The visuals, while still simple, have enhanced detail and feel more dynamic during cutscenes. Finally, most of the characters and their stories have been more interesting and emotionally deep than the original cast.

Hopefully, the challenge ramps up in the second half of Octopath Traveler II and the narratives don’t fizzle out. This is definitely one game I’m excited to see through to the end.


Nick Shively