Octopath Traveler II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'Octopath Traveler II'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 20, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Octopath Traveler II is the next entry in the RPG series where players will embark on an exciting journey through the brand-new world of Solistia.

Buy Octopath Traveler II

The original Octopath Traveler was a game that came out of nowhere to capture the hearts of plenty of JRPG fans. Mixing Final Fantasy with SaGa, it created something that was a little of both and had a ton of heart. While it had its flaws, they weren't enough to drag down the game. With Octopath Traveler II, the developers were bolstered with confidence from the reception of the first game. It's larger, more ambitious, and more polished, and it is absolutely a wonderful JRPG experience.

Octopath Traveler II is the story of eight difference characters, each on their own adventure. There's Ochette, a hunter who is seeking powerful monsters to protect her home island. Castti is an apothecary with amnesia trying to learn the truth of her identity. Osvald is a famous scholar who's falsely accused of the murder of his family; he must escape from prison and take revenge. Throne is a thief who is trying to escape the collar that keeps her bound to her masters. Temenos is a cleric who works as an inquisitor for the church and is trying to solve a murder. Partitio is a merchant who has made it his life's goal to eliminate poverty from the world. Hikari is an exiled prince who must gather an army to battle the usurper who took the throne. Finally, there is Agnea, a dancer who wants to become a superstar so she can bring smiles to the world.

Octopath Traveler II's core cast is really strong and intriguing. I am hard-pressed to name one I liked less than their respective Octopath counterpart. Temenos' actual job is being a Sherlock Holmes-style detective who re-creates crime scenes to identify clues that nobody else can. Osvald is out for revenge, but he finds academic interest in some of the horrors that he encounters. Partitio is probably my favorite of the lot. He's a merchant who earns money to give it away to people in need and invest in making the world a better place. It's a really fun cast to interact with.

One of the big complaints about Octopath Traveler was that the characters never really interacted with each other. Octopath Traveler II makes efforts to address that complaint, but it can be weird at times. Each character's main story focuses exclusively on them, and none of the other characters appear in the cut scenes. The game has a greater number of party chat scenes, where the characters comment on the events. There are also crossover chapters where two characters have a little side adventure with each other. There is an overarching plot that comes together near the end of the game.

This is an improvement, but it's still not perfect. Some plots feel incongruous with the idea that you have seven other people along for the story, and at the end of the day it's still best to view them as stories that are taking place in the same world. How much this bothers you depends on how you feel about that, but if you've played the original, this can only be an improvement, if an imperfect one.

I found the character stories to be more engaging than in the first Octopath. Not every story hits, but they have a more driving narrative and focus that keeps the characters interesting. Probably the weirdest thing is the massive shift in tone between characters. Some are straightforward heroic stories, and others made me say, "Wow, that is a lot of murder." The game has a couple of really neat plot twists that I'm loathe to spoil, so don't think everything is as it seems.

If you've played the first Octopath title, you have a pretty good idea of how the sequel plays. Pretty much all of the core mechanics have returned, but with some upgrades and changes to make them more interesting. Every character in the game now has two Path Actions, which are special abilities that can be used on NPCs. One is available during the day, and the other at night. Merchant Partitio can purchase items during the day, and at night, he can hire people to work for him, which unlocks the ability to use them in battle along with passive bonuses to Partitio's buying and selling ability. Warrior Hikari can challenge people to a fight during the day; at night, he can slip cash to people to learn more about them.

As in the first game, there is overlap between these skills. Each one falls into the category of Get Item, Knock Out Person, Get Information or Guide Person. The major difference is in how they are executed. For example, Get Item has Buying (for cash), Stealing (has a chance of failure), Mugging (must win a fight to steal) and Charming, (gives you the item if you are a certain level). Some are only available during the day and others at night, which means that if a character has a valuable item you want, you need to decide who's is the best choice for the job but also if you can find the person at the correct time of day.

The star of Octopath Traveler II is the world. This was also true of the first game, but Octopath Traveler II has a very packed world. There are tons of side-quests, secrets, hidden areas and storylines that exist in the background. I enjoyed talking to NPCs and poking at strange areas because you would never find out what you'd discover. I was discovering new dungeons and areas until the very end of the game, and I know that I didn't discover every secret and every item.

This is really what set apart the first game, and Octopath Traveler II is an improvement over that. It's clear the developers got more confident, so you can discover neat secrets by experimenting. I found a lone soldier whose Investigate message said he was looking for a master to train him. I had Hikari challenge him, only to discover after each challenge that he got stronger and unlocked new techniques that Hikari could learn. Remembering obscure NPC facts helped me to solve side-quests further down the line. If a woman is wondering about her fiancé-to-be's personality, you can investigate someone near him for more info, or you can bribe the guy to come and meet her himself.

Likewise, the combat system is very similar to the original. The same premise is still there. It's a turn-based combat system with a focus on Breaking enemies. Every enemy has a Break gauge that is tied to one of a handful of elements: Axe, Bow, Club, Dagger, Darkness, Fire, Ice, Light, Lightning, Spear, Sword or Wind. Hitting an enemy with one of the elements that they're weak against reduces their gauge. When the enemy is broken, they are temporarily defenseless and take more damage. Your own party members have a Boost meter, which is similar to Bravely Default in that you gain one Boost per turn and can spend up to four Boosts per turn to increase your attack power. Some attacks only become available at maximum Boost, and the key to success is timing a full Boost to Breaking an enemy.

New to Octopath Traveler II are Latent Powers, which are basically limit breaks. When you take damage or do damage to break points, your Latent Power bar fills. Once it is full, you can do a character-specific special ability. Castti can use her mixing ability without using up any ingredients, which can be absurdly powerful. Agnea can make her single-target abilities multi-target attacks. Hikari can unleash his inner darkness, which allows him to perform a special high-damage attack. Partitio's power instantly fills his BP, which means he always has access to high-damage attacks or powerful buffs.

Similar to the first game, you can customize characters with a subclass, which include every other character's classes and a small number of bonus classes. Not a lot has changed from the first game, except that there's a heavier emphasis on the character's default class being best, with a couple of exceptions. Part of this comes in the form of EX skills, powerful bonus abilities that only the main user of that class can use. The other comes in the form of passive bonuses from path skills. Agnea's Allure skill gives her dances a buff, which means they will always be more potent than another character. Hikari's learned sword skills can't be used by others in the Warrior class.

On the one hand, this is limiting because it means subclasses are almost always weaker than the main party member, but on the other hand, it also means there are even more customization options. Hikari is clearly built to be a melee fighter, but many of the skills he can learn are based in magic or support. If you subclass him to a magic class, you can end up with an incredibly potent magic user who also can deal a ton of damage. Many of the EX skills offer flexibility between different classes, which can go a long way toward making something special.

The improvements also mean that some characters are almost superior to others. Ochette the Hunter is absurdly strong. She can capture monsters and use them in battle — as much and as often as she likes. Her EX skills improve this ability, and she can break all but the toughest Break Gauges almost instantly. She's so overwhelmingly strong that I felt bad having her out of my party because any fight would be tougher. There's a clear power gap between some of the characters, and I would've liked to see someone like Throne or Temenos get more skills so they don't feel weaker.

Octopath Traveler II tries to fix a number of the annoyances about the first game, and the results are mixed. Characters that aren't in your party still don't get EXP, but the developers boosted EXP rates so anyone who's under-leveled would gain a level (or more) per fight to quickly bring them up to par. It's faster, but it's still not as fast as it could be. Likewise, you still have to constantly march back to a tavern to change characters. Near the end of the game, you unlock the ability to swap characters instantly from anywhere — and that feature would've been welcome throughout the game. These are minor annoyances at best, but it would've been nice to see improvements.

Octopath Traveler II uses the same HD-2D art style as the first game, but the sprites have more animations, and the backgrounds make much better use of the "blurring" field effect. In the first title, I occasionally got a headache from that effect, but in the sequel, it works almost perfectly, and some of the zones are strikingly beautiful. The voice acting and music are both top-notch, with a fantastic number of great songs that remain stuck in my head. It's a great example of how 2D sprite work can carry a game as well — if not better — than 3D.

Octopath Traveler II is a case of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Almost everything is very similar to the first game, but there's more content, and the features are smoother. There are a number of areas where the developers clearly had more confidence than they had in the original Octopath. I loved the first game, and I found the second to be a more enjoyable experience in pretty much every way. It's a charming, delightful, and incredibly fun JRPG experience that fans of old-school RPGs should relish.

Score: 9.0/10

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