Octopath Traveler 2 is the sequel to 2018’s Octopath Traveler that combined an unprecedented art style, deep combat systems and eight storylines. So the bar for the new installment is pretty high and Octopath Traveler II manages to meet that bar.
A new adventure
At the preview you could already read how Octopath Traveler II is not a direct sequel, but a completely new and stand-alone adventure. It features a wonderful new world, much more interesting and dynamic than its predecessor and a new motley crew. These eight travelers have the same classes you know from Octopath Traveler, and the gimmick where the first letters of their names spell “Octopath” also returns. This time we work with Osvald the Scholar, Castti the Apothecary, Temenos the Cleric, Ochette the Hunter, Partitio the Merchant, Agnea the Dancer and Throné the Thief and Hikari the Warrior. Each have their own story which is played out over four chapters, making Octopath Traveler II follow the example of the first game. What is new is that your characters are not always alone.
In fact, this time there are Shared Stories allowing two characters to create a story together. This is a response to the biggest complaint from 2017, where the eight characters don’t actually do anything together. Yes, there was travel banter, which is also here and still doesn’t amount to much. I’m referring to really pulling together and having conversations flow differently based on who is with you. Your group started a story on which only the main character of the chapter was part of what happened, only in battles did the other members of the group appear.
This is no different in Octopath Traveler II, and the Shared Stories still don’t quite fulfill what I wanted from them. Rather, they are side-stories involving multiple characters. Like Throné and Temenos searching for a treasure in a monastery that is rumored to exist – to find out if it’s really there, of course. Not to steal it. It doesn’t affect the rest of both characters’ story arcs, though it’s fun to see how the two get along. Having completed all the chapters and all the shared stories, the last big challenge opens up in the form of a final chapter where all the characters must work together to fight a great evil.
Diverse in tone
I don’t want to elaborate too much, but I was very positively surprised by most of the characters and their stories. Some are downright dark, like Throné who wants to escape life in her thieves’ guild and therefore turns against the leaders. This husband and wife are called father and mother, considering most of the members were recruited as children, and in the retrospectives you notice that this parental couple is certainly not gentle with their offspring. So emotions can run quite high and it is particularly interesting to follow characters through their events. Even characters whose beginnings I didn’t find mega interesting like Partitio and Agnea certainly turned out to have substance as their story unfolded.
The variety that comes with following eight stories at once also keeps the adventure fresh. One moment you are in Osvald’s heavy revenge story, where the next you are helping the upbeat Ochette. Dialogues are well written and convincingly delivered by the voice actors. Even though Partitio’s voice can be like a cheese slicer for your hearing.
Octopath Traveler II’s greatest strength is its combat, no matter how good the stories are. The combat system takes the same fine variant of turn-based combat of its predecessor with a few new twists. Each round you build up BP, which can be used to attack multiple times in one round with a weapon or give your spell more power. More important is to pay close attention to the enemy’s weaknesses and thus break them, after which they are equally helpless and receive more damage. Especially in the boss fights you will have to take advantage of this to the max, keeping it interesting for hours.
With each new enemy you try to figure out what his weaknesses are and how to exploit them to the maximum. I planned ahead in my battles that I would take one more round of damage to be able to put in that extra BP and prepare Osvald and Hikari to do double damage before I went wild. At times, the game threw such tough bosses at me that I easily lost several hours of progression. That felt frustrating and fortunately those moments were on a handful, but it did teach me that I needed to do better.
New to combat are the Latent Powers that look different for each character and build up throughout the fight. For example, Throné gets an extra turn, Partitio recovers his full BP meter in one turn and special powers awaken in Hikari. For Osvald, it means that a magic attack that hits everyone concentrates on a single enemy for extra damage, where Agnea does the opposite by making a single attack apply to everyone. Even without this mechanic, there is plenty of variety in the combat styles of the eight.
Throné can handle multiple weapons, making her very versatile. Not weak on a dagger? Then try a sword or an axe. Or maybe Ochette’s bow is what we needed. The huntress enhances her title by being able to capture hostile creatures after weakening them, only to have them place attacks in front of her. This is similar to Temenos the Cleric who can by no means just heal. No, in addition to holy light attacks, he can guide NPCs to join the fight. For example, I regularly summoned archers with poison attacks or an apothecary who used healing items on the party for several rounds.
Magic casters feel particularly powerful, but are more vulnerable and need to be protected. That’s precisely where the system with boosting attacks puts a tasty risk & reward puzzle in front of you; do I choose to heal or do I try to finish the fight as quickly as possible by throwing everything at it – at the risk of it not being enough and me being open and exposed? Additional skills can be obtained with the secondary jobs system which is distributed through guilds. Here you get a license to give a character a new, additional role. For example, I made Hikari not only a warrior but also a Cleric for healing and had Throné build catapults as an inventor.
All this takes place in a beautiful world called Solistia. The art style that made the original stand out, where 2D sprites move through a 3D world combining 16 bit textures with realistic visuals, is even better here. First, there is more variety and detail in the cities, buildings and nature. It also does more with lighting effects and makes the HD-2D pop, even more so through the updated camera work. In both story and during battles, the camera turns slightly to show the situation from a fresh how. It makes the whole thing a lot more dynamic, which is welcome during the sometimes interminable dialogues. As a player, you can now manually switch between day and night, which comes in handy since the number of path actions has been doubled.
Path actions are skills unique to each character that can be applied in the world. Think of stealing items from a villager, where your success rate is indicated by a percentage. If you get caught several times, no one wants to have anything to do with you – until you pay the fine at the inn. Castti and Temenos can find out information and get Agnea and Partitio people with them. Often these skills are used in the storylines where it makes sense and never did this feel forced or imposed. On the contrary, I enjoyed going into each new village to visit everyone to see what I could pull off. The day and night aspect also matters in this, considering there are certain people and activities that take place only in the dark. The icing on the cake of all this atmospheric world packed with systems, secrets and splendor, is the insane orchestral soundtrack; each theme fits the characters perfectly and songs can range from small and subdued to grand and bombastic.
Octopath Traveler II is more of the same, but better on so many levels. Thanks to an all-new world and traveling party, even newcomers can easily get into this dyke of a JRPG. The eight stories are diverse, well-written and convincingly delivered though it’s unfortunate that they still don’t really intertwine. There are now shared stories, but these feel like separate side adventures and not the interwoven web of story I was hoping for. Fortunately, the world and its insane art style and framed with fantastic soundtrack more than makes up for this, but it is the combat that shines brightest. The brilliant implementation of turn-based combat, where attacks can be boosted has extraordinary dynamics and depth. Octopath Traveler II is a dream for the fan who wants to see old traditional JRPGs merge with the contemporary.