Octopath Traveler II
released on Feb 24, 2023
by ACQUIRE Corp.
This game is a brand-new entry in the Octopath Traveler series. It takes the series’ HD-2D graphics, a fusion of retro pixel art and 3DCG, to even greater heights.
In the world of Solistia, eight new travelers venture forth into an exciting new era.
Where will you go? What will you do? Whose tale will you bring to life?
Every path is yours to take. Embark on an adventure all your own.
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increíble juego, le quito un poco de puntaje solamente porque la estructura de ser 8 viajeros hace que se sientan un poco desconectadas las historias entre sí
Octopath 2 fulfills the promises made by the first game. Every aspect of the game has been improved upon to make for a wonderful experience.
Now I’ll be completely honest I never played the original Octopath Traveler though I heard a lot of mixed thoughts when it came to people I spoke to about it. So admittedly Octopath Traveler 2 was a bit of a gamble. Would I love this game despite my lack of knowledge of the first one? How would it compare to other RPGs that I’ve played over the years & would it do anything different to break the mould?
The answer is simply: this game absolutely rules & It’s worthy of every bit of hype in my eyes. This is probably my favourite game of the entire year so far & it really touched me in ways that I didn’t ever expect it to. Throughout my entire 100 hour journey I grew to fall in love with the world & the incredible cast of characters each with their own engaging stories & to be honest…it’s been a while since I’ve played an RPG with mature themes such as the ones that are tackled in Octopath 2.
Each of the eight main characters has their struggles. Hikari a prince driven from his kingdom by his tyrannical dictator of a brother & goes on a journey to forge alliances to reclaim his home & stop the long history of bloodshed his people have faced. Throné a thief enslaved by the abuse of the Blacksnakes searches for her freedom in order to escape from her chains. Osvald a man who was framed & locked up in prison for the murder of his wife & daughter plots his revenge against the person who ruined his life. Castti an amnesiac apothecary searches for her memories & who she once was before everything. Partitio a merchant who survived the suffering of poverty & wants to bring happiness to the entire world. And I mean sure not ALL of the stories are hits & feel very cliche & run of the mill (hello Agnea you’re very nice though) but I’d say more than half of these characters all have engaging plots & it’s well worth seeking out all of them on your journey. You’re gonna want to experience all of them & there’s no story that I consider to be genuinely bad which for a game as massive as this is a huge compliment & it says a lot about the quality of these eight compelling narratives. And seeing how they all come together is absolutely mindblowing.
The combat in this game is absolutely exceptional. Maybe one of the best turn based systems. In combat your opponents have a shield & in order to break through it, you need to find which attack they are weak to whether that be swords, knives, polearms, bows, staffs or magic. What’s really cool is you have an option with what’s called the boost system. If you have two boost points you can attack twice or alternatively you can wait after the turn to attack three or even four times or use a more powerful attack to deal massive damage. Once you get through the shield your opponent will enter a break state which then allows you to deal much more damage to them. There’s also latent powers which when your power gauge is full you can use an ultimate move depending on the character. For example Partitio’s allows him to have maximum BP, Agnea’s has her attacks/buffs reach everyone & Ochette & Hikari will be able to use extremely powerful attacks. These abilities are especially handy in tough boss fights as one wrong move could mean losing the entire battle. I found this game to be genuinely challenging at times especially in the early stages when I was still getting a hang of things. But once the combat clicks man it’s such a satisfying feeling.
On top of that there’s also a job system which allows you to acquire a license of a class to use a secondary job for each character. These include hunter, warrior, apothecary, thief, merchant, dancer, scholar & cleric. You can use the job points that you acquire from battles to invest in whatever job you choose as it will give your party more abilities & support skills. The combinations are endless & ultimately I feel there’s some jobs which suit characters much better but you’re free to experiment at your leisure to find the perfect fit. There are also secret jobs which are well worth seeking out especially in the late game which give you even more powerful abilities such as the Armsmaster which will allow you to wield all six weapons types or the Arcanist which specialises in much more powerful magic.
One thing i absolutely love about Octopath Traveler 2 is the amount of freedom you have from the very start. The world of Solistia is vast & sure you can follow your main character’s story but you’re free to roam wherever you choose, even higher level areas if you’re brave enough. The game doesn’t hold your hand at all, this is your adventure & you can go about it your own way. I haven’t felt an RPG has given me this kind of experience since the YS series & I much prefer this kind of game design over vast bloated open worlds. There’s also a day/night system which you can toggle at will. This is another mechanic I love about the game as you can do different things at day & night called path actions. For example Hikari can duel people to learn different skills during the day & bribe someone for information at night. It also changes the NPC’s that you will encounter depending on the time of day you choose. I find this to be such a unique inclusion of a day/night cycle & it really gives Octopath 2 an identity of its own compared to other RPGs.
I don’t think I even need to mention the artstyle do I? Square Enix have taken a lot of L’s recently with the decisions they’ve made especially in the business side of things but one thing I don’t think anyone can deny: these HD 2D graphics are absolutely GORGEOUS. I played this game on the PlayStation 5 & oh my goodness it looks beautiful. It’s got a very old school feel & I would love to see more of this kind of artstyle in modern RPGs.
And how could I forget about the incredible soundtrack composed by the wonderful Yasunori Nishiki whether it be the relaxing town themes or the bombastic battle music which pumps you up with untold amounts of adrenaline. There were so many tracks in this game that really went so much harder than they had any right to & it’s definitely one of the best game soundtracks I’ve ever heard.
Now does this game have any problems that stick out to me? Well…yeah. Kind of. While each of the stories are engaging I will admit it feels a little disjointed at times. When you start a character’s chapter the other characters kind of just bugger off & don’t have a lot of impact, which I’m aware was an issue with the original Octopath. To counteract this you do have travel banter which actually sort of reminded me of the skits from the Tales of series where two or more characters discuss what is happening in that moment or perhaps just bond & tease each other. This is definitely a good addition & I always enjoy when these scenes play out when you have the option to view them but I still wish there was more interconnection between the cast at pivotal story moments.
Overall though, I really loved Octopath Traveller 2. As a fan of RPGs you owe it to yourself to check this game out if you haven’t already. As long as Square Enix continues to make titles with as much love & care as this then I’m sure I’ll be more than happy to stick with them because it truly proves there’s still a place for turn based RPGs in the modern era of gaming. Definitely my game of the year for 2023 & will be extremely hard to top.
I'm still not really sure what possessed me to go all-in on Octopath Traveler II. Team Asano's 2018 outing felt like a miss to me; among a slew of complaints about OT1's mechanics feeling half-baked and Team Asano's now-signature HD2D look not quite finding its footing, its very loosely connected plot and minimal character interactivity felt like a waste of a wonderful setting and good characters and left me lukewarm on the possibility of more Octopath. As it'd turn out, it's always darkest...
Flash forward a bit: Team Asano's much-praised LIVE A LIVE remake (I've had some choice words to say about it here on backloggd) went WAY over on me while raising questions. "If this existed before, why did Octopath feel like a step back?" The blueprint was right there! LAL didn't even play around with the pretense of needing the characters to all be in the same region -- without spoiling much, characters' connectivity felt thematic and driven by a late-game plot event -- and the way things came together legitimately felt like a surprise. My faith restored, even if only in part, I figured the team could learn from both longstanding criticisms of OT while looking toward a game like LIVE A LIVE to draw some inspiration. With that in mind, I decided to give Octopath Traveler II a tentative go.
I came out of it feeling vindicated for taking a leap; Octopath Traveler II is everything its predecessor couldn't be. Although it doesn't change much of its series core DNA -- you're still playing through 8 different narratives, combat is largely untouched save for a couple new bells and whistles, the music still absolutely rocks -- II massively improves on many of the weak points presented by the original. Characters' stories now sprinkle some breadcrumbs hinting at an overarching narrative, the cast now acknowledges each other more frequently (even in battle!), and perhaps most importantly, a few joint chapters and skits throughout the game give some of the main cast an opportunity to bond and lean on each other's strengths to solve problems and uncover truths of their world in a way that doesn't feel cobbled together and inelegant. They really did it.
Of course, I do have my squabbles. Exploration feels very dioramic; although the world is "open", for lack of a better term, nearly every field and dungeon lays its cards out on the table with a minimap/radar highlighting points of interest for players to simply sprint over to without a second thought. It does work for some highly "Point-A-to-Point-B" gaming -- I lovingly referred to it more than once as a "blue collar RPG" -- but it's the sort of inorganic lean that really does turn the moments between into box-ticking with some turn-based combat sprinkled in. Personal actions are very similar in that regard, making every town a checklist of NPCs to harass for info, hidden treasures, skills, and so forth. The world of Solistia is teeming with a ton of essentially non-essential lore revealed by using these actions, though; every town feels like Value Town. This focus on details permeates through other portions of the game, too, with some incredibly well-planned moments even revolving around integrating character abilities directly into plot progression.
Character stories are largely better in II (Agnea's and Partitio's were personal favorites), though it was a bit strange that the scenario team still hasn't quite nailed how to put the cast in situations that at least consider the presence of party members, be it through a couple extra lines of optional dialogue or even a slight deviation in how a chapter plays out. Still, it's a monumental step above OT, even moreso emphasized by a jaw-dropping final chapter that felt like it was crafted specifically to address everything I thought the first game missed out on.
Octopath II sticks its landing cleaner than I thought it would. Really, I think the only place it DOESN'T far outstrip its predecessor is its music...but even that isn't because of a dip in quality, I just thought OT1's soundtrack was that good. By the time credits rolled, I had been moved and entertained in ways that OT hadn't compelled me to be, making this one a huge bright spot in my recent gaming landscape and a worthy GOTY candidate. Go into this one with confidence if you love and appreciate modern craftsmanship and classic RPGs.
my irks are restrictions regarding your party (i am fine with the protagonist lock until story completion; however, i believe exp should be shared across active and reserve members, we don't have to stick to that archaic restriction despite the visual aesthetics; once party formation is free to use w/o the taverns, they still don't treat it as if you can interact with all of them); wish the game speed went up to 3x; no clear data / new game plus option :(
i did not play the first octopath traveler beyond the demo, but i'm glad that party interaction went up a bit here with the crossed paths and travel banter (wish that was voiced). the battle system is great and i like the customization options, though adding additional job slots can be bit out the way depending on types. played in english and think the voice acting was top notch and quite like some localization choices (rendering partitio's kansai-ben as a southern accent >>>). music is great, they need to put it on spotify. plot is nothing special, but i enjoyed what it had to offer.
When Octopath Traveler 1 came out in 2018, it was kind of a big moment for pixel rpgs. The "HD-2D" art-style was a stunning graphical wonder. There was some broad criticism by some people who considered it ugly or "lazy", but like most of the endless online discourse, it faded away once there was something else to focus on. But within the last five years, the HD 2D style has shown it might be here to stay. It encouraged Square Enix to consider bringing back lost pixel RPGs that players are still invested in. After several poor remaster attempts, the Final Fantasy Remasters have been really positively received. Bolstered by that, the Live A Live HD-2D remake was released to rave reviews across the seas. I think there's an argument to be made that those re-releases wouldn't exist without the existence of Octopath 1.
Still, the first game was burdened with some major problems. Despite its marketing around 8 party members, the cast virtually never interacts with each other across the entire game. The "travel banters" where they did interact was exceptionally easy to miss content. The game also became notorious for its exceptional difficulty, making progression daunting for new players. Even finding the final boss of the game was locked behind various obtuse, unmarked side quests. The game sold a million copies, but the actual story didn't seem to leave much of a cultural impact.
Its why its kind of sad to me that the initial sales of Octopath 2 don't seem too hot, when I really do think its something special.
It took me a long time to fully decipher the mechanics. The overworld and battle mechanics aren't entirely well explained and it was one of the reasons I bounced off the first game. I'd say it took me 15-20 hours into the system to grasp its fundamentals. But once the system clicks with you, it connects together in a really crunchy way. Balancing the job systems, the special skills, and all the other layers makes for a truly gripping combination of systems and gimmicks.
One of the major criticisms of the first game was how little the cast interacted with each other. In 2, the Travel Banters are easily collected in your journals to view any time, even the ones you missed. It helps you get a good sense of each character's dynamic. This is expanded upon in "Crossed Paths", where two characters pair up to their own sidequest and bounce off each other more directly. Not only does it alleviate the concerns of the first game, it also helps flesh out the cast. How they act around different people and how their behaviors change in circumstances. It helps them feel more real and defined. And that's crucial for the kind of story Octo
The core theme of the game, as with many rpgs, is this idea of lightness versus darkness. Straight-forward enough. But how the game delivers that message is through this idea of the overwhelming horror of violent history. The cycle of betrayal, heart-break, corrupt systems, and how they make future seem so horrifically bleak. Its a hard topic to really deliver if the writers don't fully understand those systems. But for the most part, I think Octopath threads the needle. Its in the stories themselves
Castti the Apothecary
I don't often go for healer girls or amnesia stories. Healer girls are often a bit too soft for my liking, a bit too deferential and "traditionally" cute. So much of what makes Castti work is how tired she seems beneath the surface. She's treated as and performs as the "mother hen", fussing over the other characters. But she's old, she's seen things. A nightmare sequence features her chased down by all the people she's failed to heal. All the blame she places on herself for those deaths. It makes her decision to keep working all the more powerful and heart-breaking.
There's a narrative beat about the Book of Night. It appears to detail the worst of history, every nightmare-ish act of human villainy ever written down. Most characters go nuts and decide to burn the world down after they read it. Castti's just like "...yeah? And?" She's seen the worst and doesn't care. That's just more people to heal. She signed up for that. Seeing the worst and building something better comes with the job description. Its the kind of characterization the game needs for its core theming to work.
Throne and Agnea
I liked Primrose in 1. But, there was weird stuff too. Her "Seduction" mechanics as the Dancer just felt uncomfortable when paired with her history. Trafficking, exploitation... it doesn't mesh well.
Primrose's main traits are diverged into two characters. Agnea is the Dancer and she's portrayed as a joyous inspiration chasing her dream. I never quite fell in love with that story, but its a nice way to balance the game's darker tones and its a much better characterization for the Dancer type.
Throne gets the bulk of the darker storytelling. For the game's narrative of "finding hope in the future," they need a story about someone who seemingly has no future. No control. No options. The Blacksnakes are a team of criminals who are kept in line with their poison collars. The Mother and Father of the guild can activate the poison any time, killing their unruly children. So Throne's goal is simple. Kill her "parents", unlock the collars, gain freedom.
Through this darkness, we dive deep into the idea of freedom and control. What it means to fight for something everyone else has, discovering your identity when your identity has been determined since birth. What you have to sacrifice to win that fight. Its bleak, but its perhaps the most thematically interesting of the batch. It swerves into so many fascinating directions, none of them quite what you'd expect. How it establishes the systems a parent sets up for a child, what that child grows into, and all the complications through it all... its such a fascinating picture. The darkness works here. Its pointed and purposeful. I adore it.
Takes a lot to sell me on a Royal Prince Must Win story. But Hikari's story really works for two reasons.
1. The nation of Ku has subjugated and massacred its neighbors for generations. Its a horrific place. Hikari is the only political force with the support to rework it into something better.
2. Hikari's power doesn't come from his royal bloodline. It comes from his humble roots. While the Ku family mocks him as part-royal/part-lowborn, his connection to the average civilian gives him a perspective the nobles lack. While the Ku Family embrace this weird demon power that encourages bloodshed, he can actively resist it by knowing the consequences of such violence on the average person. Its great. Its a good hook. Hikari's a good kid.
The thing I really had to let go of while playing this game is the wider political ideas of Ku. Hikari's goal to return to power kind of dances around the idea of what the public sentiment is. Ku massacres any dissident, yeah, but it never quite examines if there's a major political body that likes the murders. People kill because the royal family orders murders. Once Hikari's in power, everyone will happily not murder peasants anymore. That's the only logic we need to follow. Trying to overthink it past that? Not what the story is about. Sometimes, you just gotta accept what the story's doing.
Ochette's just fun. In the midst of these darker tales of depravity and corruption, here's a shonen protag. I love it. Good tone balancer.
Osvald and Temenos
These are pretty good. Osvald's story is gripping enough, even if it just checks some boxes in my eyes. Dead family. Get revenge. Find a new way to live.
Temenos' story is probably the most connected to the Overarching Plot of the cast, which makes his murder mystery plotline a little difficult to follow at times. The narrative has to hide some of the cards for the finale. What you're left with is a Twink Church Cop who dances his way through some murders. They try to balance out the whole "I'm an inquisitor for the church chasing down heretics" tension with the characterization that Temenos himself doesn't... really care about religion. He likes to solve crime. Finding "heretics" is how he does that. Since the people that hate the Church in this game miraculously end up being murderers, it works out. Weird tension there. Hard to grapple with it.
More than anything, both of these lads just really excel as Travel Banter characters. Osvald is the grumpy straight man, gloomy and miserable and baffled by the wackier antics of the other characters. Temenos is the perpetual tease, needling others, getting under people's skin. For the dynamics to work, you need these guys! Essential for a large party! If everyone gets along too well, they become less interesting. With a grump and a jackass, you get good variety. Its perfect.
A Kentucky-fried traveling salesman decides to end poverty with 1. the planned assassination of oil barons and 2. department stores.
Don't look to media for politics, its never a good idea. But its hard not to look at Partitio's weird balancing act between loving and hating capitalism. The villains use the word capitalism. They spew off hatred for worker's rights. The villain's final monologue involves proclaiming "money is meant to be hoarded by people like me!" The game's very intentional with this! The industrial revolution and its impact on society is the key center piece of what this story path is about. There's no denying that.
But I think fans who put Partitio as a socialist king are sort of missing the mark of Partitio's character. Because honestly, I'm not even sure the game knows what Party's beliefs are. Partitio likes trade and he likes money. He's fervently in favor of the industrial revolution and generally seems to like capitalism. But he wants a nice capitalism. An equitable enough capitalism. Fair wages and good bosses. Its a really specific needle the story is trying to thread and I can't say they succeed. Cause at the end of the day, Partitio's plan is to be a Good Billionaire. The only path out of capitalism is Good Capitalism. Its a really odd piece.
But he's fun. He says goofy folksy quips. He... offers to buy Throne's poison collar and find a way to make a "good" version of it, which seems like a loaded concept to drop casually in a travel banter. But he's fun. The charm overrides most of the head-scratching.
This kind of game has a lot to prove. Investing time into a huge rpg, especially right before Zelda ToTK release, is tough. And I think a lot of people passed on this for so many complicated marketing reasons. But despite my reservations on some story aspects... the game really hooked me. I dedicated a whole month to this monstrosity, after I expected to drop it from the first 10 hours. It grabs you. Its exudes charm and passion. It grows from the first game in such smart ways. And more than anything... I want more of these games. I want the Octopath franchise to keep growing and improving. They've got so much to show off and I think they have a lot more stories to tell. I loved this game. I hope to see more of it.