Sequels have the unfortunate stigma of needing to be better than their predecessor or they’re often criticized or forgotten. They can’t simply replicate what the original did right or they’ll be written off as bland an unimaginative. Thankfully, Square Enix realized the faults of the first Octopath Traveler while also building upon what made it a strong title in Octopath Traveler II.
The gorgeous HD-2D graphics are back in full force with improved cut-scene rendering, and it’s clear that no expense was spared on the beautiful soundtrack and top-notch voice acting. If old-school, turn-based JRPGs are your thing then prepare for a treat with Octopath Traveler II.
A Stronger Narrative
One of the biggest issues I had with the original Octopath Traveler was the lack of interesting stories for its characters. I found some to be more stimulating than others, but overall the storytelling was just okay; it didn’t go above and beyond to truly move me.
With Octopath Traveler II, I found nearly all of the stories to be significantly stronger. Two of my favorite story arcs in Octopath Traveler II followed Temenos the Cleric and Throne the Thief.
In the original, I found Ophilia (cleric) to be too wholesome. There were eventually some dark elements to her story, but her character overall was a bit vanilla. Temenos, on the other hand, is clever and sharp-tongued. Despite being an Inquisitor for the church, he questions everything including the church, its Sanctum Knights and his gods. His slogan is “doubt is what I do,” and he focuses more on deductive reasoning than prayer or faith, which is unconventional for a white mage archetype.
While I did enjoy Therion’s story in Octopath Traveler, it was very straightforward and predictable; a young thief gets caught and needs to pay his debt while somewhat rebuilding his faith in others. Conversely, Throne was essentially forced into servitude as a slave, hates the sight of blood, and never wanted to be a thief. During her story, you’ll need to eliminate certain members of the Blacksnake thieves’ guild in order to win her freedom, but things are never as they seem and you’ll uncover a dark truth about the guild.
Of course, not every story is a winner or involves interesting plot twists. Osvald the Scholar is a snooze of a man who only converses in calculated outcomes, and Hikari follows the typical white bread Warrior who needs to redeem himself narratively.
In addition to overall stronger storytelling, there were improvements to the chapter structure and cohesion between the travelers as well. While each story was a straight path through 4 chapters in the original, Octopath Traveler II provides additional side content and choices for many of the characters. For example, Ochette has three different paths available after her introduction while Hikari’s 5 chapters have to be played in order. Being more diverse with how the stories are told, and their level requirements helps reinforce the idea that this is a journey and not a single, linear story to be told.
Additionally, there are multiple sidequests and shared stories that bring more context and interaction between the characters. The Crossed Paths are a nice addition along with the return of travel banter. The banter is mostly just flavorful interaction between multiple characters, but the crossed paths have two characters interact along an adventure, which can include multiple cutscenes and a boss fight. While Octopath Traveler II still feels like you have eight individual adventures instead of a cohesive party, at least it feels more like a singular world this time around.
The combat in Octopath Traveler was a strong point, albeit a bit simple, but Octopath Traveler II blows is out of the water. The core mechanics remain the same with a focus on storing up Boost Points to wear down enemy Shield Points and then unload powerful attacks while they’re in a weakened state, but there are new tools this time around that make combat feel way more dynamic.
One of the biggest additions is the Latent Power gauge, which acts similar to the Limit Break system from Final Fantasy 7. The gauge is generally filled by taking damage or breaking your enemies and provides a powerful and unique skill for each character. For example, Throne can take an additional turn and Hikari gains access to a plethora of free attack skills. These Latent Powers make each character really stand out from the others, even when job combinations can make them feel similar.
Speaking of jobs, there are now more flexible options when it comes to jobs. The addition of job guilds can allow you to unlock multiple licenses (up to 3) for your characters, so it’s technically possible to have 4 warriors in your party at once. While definitely useful in combat, this level of customization does weaken what makes each character feel special. However, each character can gain access to unique EX abilities at hidden shrines or by clearing their story, which cannot be learned by those using sub-jobs.
Having access to multiple job licenses really expands the amount of customization you can do with your party, and once a character unlocks the passive abilities from a job they remain regardless of your sub-job. This is important if you want to equip all of your characters with the most powerful support skills, such as the warrior “Deal more damage” ability that lets you break past the 9,999 damage limit.
Finally, there’s now a day and night cycle that changes the enemies you’ll encounter in the wilderness. Creatures are more dangerous at night but also grant more experience. Each character also has a unique talent based on the time of day, such as stealing from or guiding NPCs. The addition of a combat speed option improves grinding and traveling time, which sometimes felt sluggish in the previous game.
Octopath Traveler II is simply a better version of the original. It expands upon what made the first game great while shoring up its weaknesses. That being said, if you didn’t like Octopath Traveler then the formula is similar enough that you probably won’t like the sequel either. This is an excellent take on the classic 2D JRPG and fans of the genre won’t be let down.
Full Disclosure: The product was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.