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Octopath Traveler II is the glorious marriage of the old and the new. Like its predecessor, it is the future of the 16-bit golden era of JRPGs but in the modern 3D golden resurgence. This game takes everything that was in the first Octopath Traveler and bumps it up to the max.
For some, this could be a game that will disappoint due to the fact that it does so little to differentiate itself from its predecessor. But, on the other hand, there are players like me. I find that Octopath Traveler 2 is noticeably better than the first game because it addressed nearly every issue I had with the original.
In turn, Octopath Traveler II proves that, sometimes, bigger is better in the grand scheme of things. Combat has a few more intriguing options this time; the characters are vastly better, the stories are more intriguing, and the freeform exploration across the stunning world of Solistia is unforgettable. But that isn’t to say it is perfect by any means.
HD-2D Is Still the Greatest Art Style in Gaming
Immediately upon booting up Octopath Traveler II, the first element of this wondrous JRPG you’ll likely notice is the grand return of the signature HD-2D art style. Without a doubt, this is the best graphical style in all video games, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Even though we are nearly five years off from its debut at this point, it still never gets old to me. The blend of incredibly detailed pixelated environments with rich coloration and 3D structures never loses its flair. It reminds me of a pop-up storybook in a way.
You have the faux 2D characters at the forefront of your vision and the gorgeous settings of forests, rolling hills, snowy mountains, beachside cities, and grueling deserts. Octopath Traveler II never failed to be like the sweetest candy for my eyes.
And while I enjoyed games like Live A Live and Triangle Strategy, there is something about Octopath Traveler II and its expansive HD-2D world that still looks the best in this premier art style. While I adore bombastic 3D graphical showstoppers like God of War Ragnarok, there is nothing quite like the artistic beauty that is Octopath Traveler II.
Combat Is Spectacular but Shows Its Flaws
What you’ll spend most of your time doing in Octopath Traveler II is fighting monsters and other enemies in random encounters. Admittedly, I’m not sure I like that random encounters returned in this game, as I am certainly of the ilk that believes it’s time for this feature to be retired for good.
That said, there are at least some quality-of-life features you can unlock, like reducing random encounters, that help to ease this nature. And even when I was in the random battles, I had a great time with the return of the original game’s tactical turn-based systems and a few crucial improvements.
Up to four characters (of the total eight) can be in the party at one time. Each character takes its turn, as noted by the turn order at the top of the screen. During a character’s turn, they can attack, use a skill, pull out an item, summon a friend, and all that.
These are all the standard gameplay mechanics you’ll find in most JRPGs. However, this game stands out in its unique mechanics, like the stars each character gains per turn, up to five. These let the character boost, making their attacks much more powerful and occasionally allowing for more than one of the same moves in a turn.
This is where the combat in Octopath Traveler 2 started to frustrate me. The boosting mechanic is the same as the first game, and I still appreciate its risk-and-reward approach. Do you boost now to break the foe’s defenses, so they are weakened? Or do you hold out and wait for an even more powerful attack?
This system is fun and intriguing, derived from the Bravely Default combat, but it still pales in comparison. For instance, Bravely Default lets you mix and match moves when you boost (or brave in that case), whereas you are limited to a single move in Octopath Traveler II.
Worse still, not all moves do it four times in a row, despite you boosting four times. For instance, take the Icicle ice elemental skill that the Apothecary Castti has at her disposal. Say you boost her four times and then use this move. While you might hope it goes four times in a row, that isn’t the case, as it will simply boost the single action four times.
But then, ironically, you have moves like the basic attack in the game. If you boost a basic attack four times, it is guaranteed to land four times instead of one sizeable singular hit. The worst part is that the game doesn’t always make it clear what happens when you boost a particular move, leaving it to guides and guessing to figure it all out.
The point of all of these different elements and weapon types, such as swords, spears, and axes, is to focus on the break system. Each enemy you face has at least one move type they are weak to. It could be an element, like dark or wind, or it could be a weapon type, like daggers and staves.
Most of the time, though, enemies generally have at least three weaknesses, and sometimes they are even tied to specific characters if they are in a story dungeon for them. But at first, you don’t know the weaknesses and must guess.
This adds a layer of difficulty to the game since you’ll have to experiment and find out what an enemy is weak to. In reality, though, it is a little unfair that there is only one way to alleviate this problem: to bring the Scholar Osvald with you at all times, who can reveal a weakness each time the battle starts.
Then there are the noticeably missing features that should have been here in the first place, such as faster combat speeds and auto-battling. There came the point where my gear was too powerful for the areas around my party’s levels, yet I still had to mash buttons to win impossible-to-lose fights due to the random encounters. All the while, auto-battles could have fixed this problem.
There is also no difficulty level selection, which is a massive problem for Octopath Traveler II. There are times when the game is extraordinarily easy, mainly due to me breaking the game, but then there are bosses that have hundreds of thousands of health points and the ability to move five times a turn.
These are times when the options, especially in combat, are limited to give off this old-school vibe, but I would rather have the nostalgic feel and look but with more modern, necessary mechanics.
Jobs Feel Much More Necessary Now
Even with my gripes about some of the missing features in the gameplay, there are some parts where the game vastly improved. One of the most notable gameplay changes has to do with the jobs system. Jobs felt somewhat arbitrary in the first game, with each character embodying a job.
Those same eight jobs return, but this time around, they mean more. You earn the same job points (JP) as before, which allows you to expand your moveset by unlocking new moves in whatever order you like. The more you unlock moves, the more passive skills you get that can vastly improve gameplay by letting you reduce random encounters or earn more XP.
That hasn’t changed. But what I love now is that you can go to certain guilds in the world right from the start of the game and unlock job licenses for each of the core eight classes. This lets all eight characters get a secondary job, allowing for ridiculous combinations.
For instance, you can take the Cleric, Temenos and give him the Scholar job from Osvald. This lets him be your de facto healer and also an elemental magic powerhouse at the same time. You can even do the opposite and give Osvald the Cleric secondary job, as I did, and have both be your versatile magical healers/glass cannons.
That is even before including the fact that there are — spoiler alert — four additional jobs you can unlock, some of which can be found right from the start of the game. The choices are plentiful, so even if you end up stuck for most of the game with a cruddy party leader that you chose first (another feature that needs to change), such as Agnea, Castti, or Partitio, you can at least improve them somewhat.
A Tale Much More Worth the Effort
Speaking of the characters, this group of eight is so incredibly better than the original cast in Octopath Traveler. I cared far more about most of the tales this time, with vastly improved writing all around. I especially appreciated that the team tried hard to give the worst characters a somewhat entertaining story.
I only cared for Primrose, Olberic, and Therion in the original game. On the other hand, I enjoyed every single story from start to finish in this sequel, except for Ochette and Partitio, which were a bit predictable. Even still, they were better than their counterparts in the previous game.
Some of them surprised me, too. While Agnea is on the lower end for me, her dancer storyline showcases how different each tale feels this time around. Her story could be seen as a full-on musical in a way, with dance numbers and opera singing throughout the chapters.
Then you have someone like Throne with her heart-breaking assassin storyline that feels like it is deserving of her own game. This is all before bringing in the character I chose first, Hikari, who has the most epic story about gathering strength and allies to return and take down his evil brother who took over his kingdom.
There were even two other characters who had some somewhat surprising storylines that I won’t spoil but offered some intriguing twists, even gameplay-wise, that you may not see coming. Without a doubt, the developers flexed their creative muscles, and it showed in improving upon my biggest gripe of the first game: the story.
I enjoyed at least 80% of the narrative in Octopath Traveler II, as opposed to a much smaller number in the first game. This was also helped by the new Crossed Paths storylines that do a better job of bringing party members together. There are four extra tales that pair up two members of the party.
You get some delightfully weird combinations in the process, such as the happy-go-lucky Merchant Partitio and the criminal Scholar hellbent on avenging his family, Osvald, pairing up for a surprisingly goofy side adventure.
This is even before bringing up the postgame of this title, which once again brings the entire party together in a smoother way. In the end, Octopath Traveler II is the epitome of being about the journey, not the destination, and the journey was much more enjoyable this time around.
Freeform Exploration Is Still My Favorite Feature
By far, my favorite part about Octopath Traveler II still remains the loose progression system that the game has going for it. While it isn’t, technically, an open-world game but more like a segmented open-world in a way, I appreciate that you can pretty much go anywhere and do whatever you want from the start.
For me, this meant breaking the game as soon as I could. My party was in the teens of levels, and I wasted all my money on a ship (another great new feature) before I even completed a second chapter for a character (other than Osvald). I then headed to an endgame-ish level 45 area and found my way to a late city.
At this point, I was able to fast travel here anytime I wanted, so I saved up money for an hour and then spent it on some of the best equipment you can buy in the game. From that point forward, I was defeating enemies and completing chapters that were ten levels above my party’s levels with only a decent bit of challenge.
This freeform nature of exploration is fantastic, and it feels even more satisfying with the richly varied world of Solistia and its two continents. In a more practical sense, the hands-free nature of progression is pleasant since it means you can complete the game in whatever order you want.
For instance, if you are like me and don’t like Partitio’s storyline all that much, you can get it out of the way first and leave the best stuff for last. Or you could even gun for the entire storyline of your main character right from the start so you can unlock the ability to switch them out of the party.
It also essentially means that it is unlikely that every person has the same path across the world and through the narrative.
Octopath Traveler II is a reasonably long game that will keep you busy for some time, and you should definitely play it on a system like Nintendo Switch. However, if you finish this game and want something more to play, here are a few fantastic alternatives worth considering:
- Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: There aren’t too many JRPGs, especially with turn-based combat, that allows you to go wherever you want and do whatever you like, such as in Octopath Traveler 2. If you appreciate that aspect, Pokemon Scarlet & Violet are games worth considering.
- The Legend of Heroes franchise: Characters are at the heart of the Octopath Traveler 2 storyline, and no JRPG franchise has better characters and writing than The Legend of Heroes series. You can start with Trails in the Sky, Trails from Zero, or Trails of Cold Steel.
- Bravely Default II: Coming from the same team who made the Octopath Traveler games, Bravely Default II features a lot of the same systems, such as changing jobs and the boost system. Arguably, Bravely Default II is more profound and better when it comes to its combat and job mechanics.
- Live a Live: Carrying the same HD-2D art style, this remake was, by and large, the inspiration for Octopath Traveler. It also has multiple characters with their own storylines. It is an excellent game to tie you over until a possible Octopath Traveler 3.
- Triangle Strategy: This is another Square Enix game with the classic HD-2D style. The difference here is for the players who prefer the tactical nature of the Octopath games but are blown up into a grid-based system. With a heavy narrative focus and choices that matter, this is a unique game worth checking out.
- Final Fantasy XIV: Finally, this MMO from Square Enix reminds me of Octopath Traveler 2 in its freeform nature. You can explore the world as you please while switching between jobs on the fly. Its characters are also a joy to check out here, too. It is one of the best MMOs and RPGs in general from Square Enix.
Octopath Traveler II Review: The Verdict
When it comes to the idea of a sequel, few games nailed this otherwise simple concept, as well as Octopath Traveler 2. For some, it may be too much of the same execution as the first game, but for me, that was exactly what I wanted.
All I wanted to see from this game was an expansion of the ideas from the first game branched out into a more enjoyable and cohesive experience. And Octopath Traveler 2 carried that idea from start to finish. It’s present in everything from the narrative to the characters to the world.
The open exploration is better than ever, allowing players like me to break the game as much as I want. The characters are so much more intriguing across the board, with stories worth checking out. And the gameplay has minor improvements that help it feel better.
Though some glaring omissions, like lack of difficulty options and no auto-battles, are annoying, this is one of the best JRPGs you’ll find in this generation.
- The characters are almost universally better and more intriguing than the previous cast.
- The storylines feel fleshed out and include better writing, even with the lesser ones.
- It’s fantastic being able to explore the world in whatever way I see fit
- The new Crossed Paths and unified ending help to make the experience more cohesive
- The HD-2D art style is still as phenomenal as it was in 2018
- The risk-and-reward turn-based combat is as terrific as ever
- There are expected JRPG mechanics, like auto-battles and static encounters, that are still not in Octopath Traveler 2 for some reason.
- The difficulty is all over the place due to the freeform nature of the game.
- There are no difficulty options or quality-of-life features to make the game harder or easier for players who want that.
- A couple of the characters still have filler-like storylines, though they are, thankfully, fewer than in the first game.
- Side quests are plentiful, but the lack of proper direction regarding them can suck the fun out of completing them.
Cody played Octopath Traveler II for more than 40 hours, getting close to the 50-hour mark at this point in time. He completed about half of the character’s main storylines in Octopath Traveler II and is nearing completion for the remaining half. He is either in the final chapter or in the second-to-last chapter for the remaining heroes.
This is in addition to having explored the entirety of Solistia, including the late-game areas you venture into and every city on the map. He also completed a fair bit of side content, including dozens of side quests and Crossed Paths storylines. This was more than enough to compare the events of this sequel game and the first Octopath Traveler game, which he 100% completed in 2018, and experience some of the overarching plots.
Octopath Traveler II Review FAQs
Question: Is Octopath Traveler II better than the first game?
Answer: Yes, Octopath Traveler II is better than the first game. It is the pinnacle of a sequel that does nothing too crazy different but improves on many aspects of the first game. The story is better, the writing is improved, and a few quality-of-life features helped the game out.
Question: Is Octopath Traveler II a long game?
Answer: Yes, Octopath Traveler II is a pretty long game. In fact, I would say that it is significantly longer than the original. I beat the first game in about 45-50 hours by completing most stuff, whereas I have already reached nearly 50 hours with the second game and have only completed half of the main stories, though I am close to finishing the others.
Question: Is Octopath Traveler II OK for kids?
Answer: Octopath Traveler II is rated T for Teens in North America. In general, it’s not that OK for kids under 13 years old or so. There is some challenging subject matter that pops up, including abuse, graphic murder, and some other topics I won’t put here that may surprise and bother you.
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