Eight new heroes enter a bar with more variety and prettier visuals.
Nearly five years after the launch of Octopath Traveler comes its sequel, aptly named Octopath Traveler II. First revealed during Nintendo’s early 2017 Switch unveiling, the first game came out in the summer of 2018 to voracious love from yours truly and a smattering of positive and negative sentiments elsewhere. At the end of the day, that first game sold very well, kicking off Square Enix using the HD-2D engine for Triangle Strategy, Live A Live, and the upcoming Dragon Quest III remake. Returning to the game that started off this trend feels meaningful though, especially since so much has changed about the HD-2D engine, the gaming landscape, and the world.
I’ve had the chance to play through the first chapters of all of the eight new characters (and even the second chapter of one character because of a neat twist) and so far this game feels like a refined and polished iteration in the young series. I’m intrigued by the potential of how the game will unfold from here while also enjoying the changes that I’ve seen firsthand so far. Here’s eight takeaways from my handful of hours of Octopath Traveler II so far.
The Combat Tweaks Make A Good Battle System Even Better
Octopath’s turn-based battles liberally borrowed from Shin Megami Tensei’s Press Turn system (with some more company-adjacent influences like Bravely Default) and for the most part, everything hones in on finding enemy weakpoints and exploiting those weaknesses to stun (or break) them. The biggest adjustment in the sequel is the addition of Latent Powers, which are special abilities triggered when a character receives enough damage or breaks an enemy. Each character has a unique one, whether it’s Throné the thief acting twice or Osvald unleashing a super-powered magic spell. They factor into the strategy of battles, deepening the pool of tactics you can draw from.
Day and Night Mechanic Visually Is Neat And Also Impact Gameplay
At the press of a button (in most situations), you can change the time from day to night and vice versa. Aside from the visual flair of the sun rising and falling to impact the look of the world, enemies are more powerful at night and certain NPCs only show up during one of the two times. It’s better to grind levels at night because of that. Also, the Path Actions from the first game are now double the fun with the day/night cycle. Previously, each character only had one Path Action; now they have two. So Ochette the hunter can provoke NPCs during the day, fighting them and taking their lunch money, while at night, she can befriend an NPCs, bringing them along as a fighter in battle. Every character has this duality and it does a good job of making sure you almost always have every type of Path Action at your disposal wherever you are. Having eight options at one time is a little daunting, but once you settle into it, it’s nice to have the versatility.
Chapter Ones Are Less Onerous
In general, it seems like the first chapters for every character are more streamlined than they were before. They are still story-heavy, functioning as tutorials for the abilities of each hero, but diving into chapter ones is less of a burden than it was in the first game. Also, you have the option of reflecting on a hero’s origins later on in the game as opposed to dropping everything right when you meet them. Ideally, you still want to assemble all eight before you go deeper into other stories, but the game is slightly less rigid with how you go about that.
Chapters Are Less Formulaic
The one major difference to how the first chapters go is Osvald’s, who I chose as my starting character. Osvald is a scholar locked in prison after being framed for the murder of his wife and kid. His first two chapters tell the story of how he breaks out of prison, making for a compelling early adventure and also a unique way of going about these origin stories.
Beyond that, you have multiple options of how to go about the stories as well. For Throné, she’s hunting down the leaders of her thieves (who are named Mother and Father for some reason) and after the initial chapter, you can pursue either leader in different places.
The Promise of Crossed Paths
In the preview segment, I haven’t experienced Crossed Paths at all, but it’s one of the parts of the game I’m most curious about. Adding to the variety of the chapters you can tackle are story segments that involve two characters. Put both characters in your party and go to the prescribed town to, uh, well I don’t know quite what yet. It might function as a standalone chapter or it might be a cutscene. Time will tell, but I like the idea of making these characters interact more. There are also travel banter segments that just seem like the character conversations in Tales games. Those are fine, albeit nothing substantial so far.
Sailing Has My Attention
At the center of Octopath Traveler II’s world is a big body of water that splits up the land masses. I began my story in the northeast with Osvald’s story and proceeded around the map clockwise getting the gang together. I reached a point where I was trying to figure out how to go from Throné’s origin city of New Delsta to the island where Ochette the Hunter lives. There was an underground waterway that I determined had to have a secret exit to get to Ochette’s area. At a certain point, it dawned on me that I can cross the water. So I went to the port section of New Delsta’s overworld and hopped on a ferry to Ochette’s island. Early on, you can ride canoes in smaller waterways on the overworld but it seems like later on you get your own ship. I don’t know how deep the sailing will be, but I’m intrigued because it looks like it might jazz up the exploration after I felt like the exploration dried up over time in the original game.
Visuals Look Great; Music Is Good
The soundtrack for the original game was one of my favorite things about it. It’s been almost five years and I still listen to it from time to time. I’m not thrilled that my takeaway after a few hours is that the music is merely good. I don’t want to conflate that as the music being bad. It’s solid, but the original game’s music wasn’t just solid. It was incredible. Time will tell and maybe I’ll find this game’s version of the sublime Frostlands track.
Visually, you can tell the HD-2D engine has had a lot of revisions since 2018. The camera is more dynamic and the settings seem less washed out by the bloom lighting. I’ve seen a number of novel visual tweaks, especially in any kind of flashback sequence. Castti the Apothecary is an amnesiac and in the few bits of her memories I’ve seen so far, there’s some neat tricks used to make her memory seem faulty.
Favorite Characters So Far
Osvald’s prison break was a fun sequence, so that magic wielder is one I’m glad is at the top of my party. Beyond that, I love having a thief with me to steal items from NPCs so Throné and her thieves guild warfare is another early favorite. Ochette talks to a giant lion in her homeland and I love building up a team of animals to use as accessories for combat so she’s an early mainstay. My fourth party spot is up for grabs currently, though I have a sinking feeling I’ll need to stay balanced as I work my way through the game so there might be a bit of a rotating cast. That being said, Hikari the Warrior Ninja Guy has some interesting potential as he can challenge NPCs during the daytime to then use their abilities in battle. I have not found a true weaklink character yet, which is encouraging because I remember quickly picking favorites in the first game. Time will tell as I work my way through their stories, though.