The original Octopath Traveler back in 2018 was the first title Square Enix debuted with their iconic HD-2D art style. Featuring a Final Fantasy-inspired setting and a traditional turn-based combat system, the game did look and feel like a typical JRPG, but it had some neat tricks up it’s sleeve which helped make the adventure stand out. While Octopath Traveler II chose not to deviate from what made the first entry so memorable, the overall formula has now been polished to a brilliant shine.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…
The addictive Break and Boost mechanics are addictive as ever, where you can immobilise and lower an enemy’s defences for one turn—after you figure out their weaknesses—then follow up with a big-time assault of your own. Want to use 3 Boost Points for a charged 4-hit combo? Go for it! In the mood for 6 turns of increased damage? Full steam ahead! This is what the Boost system is capable of. Coupled with the newly introduced Latent Power ability; limit break options which lets players unleash even more epic devastation, and it helps make each intense battle feel like a highly tactical affair.
The bosses and their stacked HP bars do not joke around, folks. In the famous words of Ludacris, “Make one false move, and I’ll take you down” describes the difficulty quite well. But at the same time, even if you equip the best gear available, you’ll still have your nose to the grindstone at points—especially for the final boss. Wa-hey! Good luck with that… Upon completing each of the 8 characters’ respective stories though, an optional final chapter opens up, where our heroes join forces for one giant, climactic showdown. While you can only assign 4 members per party during the journey’s 8 chapters, make sure to choose wisely at all times, as sidelined characters will not earn any type of XP. So always keep the end game in mind as you trod on your merry way.
Once you’ve completed the first chapter with a chosen character, players can then recruit other party members, use their character-specific skills and grind XP around map. Upon receiving the 5th member and onwards, it won’t take long for them to catch up in terms of overall level, but JP or Job Points do require a bigger time investment. Although, after you’ve accrued enough JP, they can then be spent on unlocking handy skills for a traveler’s starting job. The passive Support Skills are also really great, as they can be applied outside of their respective Jobs (and Secondary Jobs) once others are unlocked. While mixing and matching these and the now hidden, yet extremely helpful EX Skills and unlockable Secondary Job Licences—allowing other characters to equip the same Secondary Job—go a long way in removing Shield Points off of various enemy types for maximum Break potential.
As you’re grinding JP, the upgraded HD-2D visuals will give those eyes something to marvel at in the process. Especially with the new day and night Path features which you can instantly switch between. Osvald, the wrongly-accused prisoner can Mug victims at night if he bests them in battle. Whereas during the day, he’s able to Scrutinize; glean information from townspeople with varied rates of success. Failing the percentage-based Path actions too many times negatively impacts a traveler’s reputation, disabling it’s use until a price has been paid at a local tavern. A great example of gameplay-story integration.
Speaking of story, don’t worry if you haven’t played the first game, as Octopath Traveler II is completely self-contained. Any connections to the first entry are most likely coincidental. However, one thing that’s been improved over the original is the more nuanced take on writing. Instead of the more cliché characterisation of it’s previous main cast, this sequel looks to subvert the tones and expectations of it’s audience in several clever ways. Even though there are interwoven side chapters in between each traveler’s plight, I do wish the plot was more universally connected. That all being said, I’m just glad there’s no leftover “payen thy debts thou only finishedst paying” gobbledygook, because that was an absolute crack up.
To match the more nuanced writing is a voice-acting cast which is consistently solid across the board. Each of the main cast sound exactly like you’d imagine and no one ever really feels out of place. Same goes for the music as well. Yasunori Nishiki returns to nail an epic score full of big-time choirs and soaring string melodies that fit the Octopath Traveler universe perfectly. But to not let the stunning presentation go to waste, be cautious of playing on the Nintendo Switch. The PS4 version I reviewed ran without a hitch, but the Switch edition I also tried lacked some of the lighting effects of it’s predecessor. It lagged out hard during certain cutscenes and boss battles as well, which made me almost press the reset button on more than one occasion… Not something you want happening in the middle of a blistering boss fight, that’s for sure.
Octopath Traveler II has stuck to it’s guns and further refined what made the original entry so renowned. Alongside the addictive Break and Boost systems are the Latent Power abilities, which make combat even more tactically compelling. Combined with the high levels of customisation and unlockable Skills, Job Licenses and gear through exploration and side quests, and there is a tonne of content available for any casual or diehard JRPG fan alike. The story and characters are also a standout. While a more universally connected story would’ve been preferred, it’s still great to see side chapters which flesh out individual relationships. Topped off with some excellent voice-acting and music from Yasunori Nishiki—Octopath Traveler II is an adventure you won’t soon forget.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PlayStation 4
It’s only made a handful of changes over the original, but Octopath Traveler II is a 60-100 hour journey that’s well worth experiencing. The travelers’ tales are more nuanced, the highly customisable combat has been refined to a T, and the music and voice-acting are tantalisingly top-notch. It’s a bit disappointing that the main story doesn’t entirely revolve around the core eight as a group, but it’s still an absolute blast to play.
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