Yesterday, a demo for the upcoming turn-based JRPG Octopath Traveler 2, shadow dropped during the latest Nintendo Direct. Allowing players on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4|5 try the game out early. This demo will be dropping today on Steam for PC and Steam Deck players. This demo only allows players to try the game out for three hours.
But how does this game fair as a sequel to Octopath Traveler? How does it also hold up on the Nintendo Switch? Let us find out!
Familiar, Yet Braver Travels
Octopath Traveler 2 allows the player to choose between eight characters at the start, the same as the original title. In my demo playthrough, I started as Partitio, the merchant, and had enough time to recruit Agnea, the dancer. Paritio’s story starts off with him as a child and the beginning chapter slowly shows his progression to who he is today. A tough man with a heart of gold that has to watch his entire town slowly wither away after the owner of the town gets too greedy.
While this is a tense beginning for one character, Agnea has more of a heartwarming story. As she performs in the tavern of her village for money to eventually leave it to follow her dreams of becoming a star like her mother. Despite her clumsy and kind disposition, her father opposes her for a reason they mutually agree on but come to terms with.
These stories by themselves are very powerful. Each character has a history with the other that shines through in their dialogue. This helped me get emotionally invested to the point of tearing up in the opening story for Agnea. Their unique accents and fantastic voice direction for everyone in their stories also helped me recognize them as real people. The villain for Partitio’s story also felt cliche but nuanced during the resolution of that story. Suffice it to say, that these stories are a marked improvement over the original in every way I could think of. Especially the combat.
Similar, Yet Improved Combat in Octopath Traveler 2
The combat in Octopath Traveler 2 has not really changed too much. It is still the normal combat from the original. But with a few improvements that help it feel distinct. The “Latent Power” gauge is given to each character near the end of their first chapter. This gauge is filled by taking damage or breaking enemies by striking their weaknesses. How this is used in practice, is by having the latent power affect the character during their turn.
For example, Partitio can instantly restore all of his BP. But you can then spend the BP during that turn. So if you are 3 or 4 weakness hits away from breaking a boss, you can spend all of your available BP. Then use his latent power to deliver a devastating blow after the break. Agnea’s latent power allows you to share the buff that you cast with the whole party. So you can use Lion Dance to instantly increase the physical damage each character dishes out. The latent power feels tactical, especially in a group and is not tedious to refill.
Outside of combat, path actions now have a night and daytime effect. Such as Agnea being able to recruit NPCs during the day. But at night being able to get items from NPCs. All of this is great stuff, but how does the game world differ from the original?
A Living Breathing World
Solistia, the game world in Octopath Traveler 2 feels way more alive than the original game. Outside of the areas feeling sometimes more condensed or bigger. There are tons of little details and differences to appreciate. Such as shops, and inns having noticeably different designs to help them stand out so you do not have to rely on just the signs to find them. You can also go inside them as well. The town where Partitio resides has tumbleweeds blowing across the landscape. As well as vultures atop certain structures.
The forest where Agnea’s village is has deer in the background. As well as noticeable foliage movement like flowers and trees moving with the wind. But it does not stop there. As the night and day cycle can be swapped at any time. Resulting in the music changing from a normal fitting tone for each location. Like flutes and gentle drum taps for the forest during the day and at night changing to soft chanting and light usage of piano notes.
But the biggest change in the world is the fact you can explore up and down rivers via canoes at piers. These can be used to find treasure in areas you can’t reach by land, but you can also be attacked by enemies on your boat which is a great touch to keep you engaged.
Technical Performance and Closing Remarks on the Octopath Traveler 2 Demo
Since I played the Octopath Traveler 2 demo on the Nintendo Switch, it was fine but lacking in some regards. The resolution output is not really noticeable and neither is the framerate. But loading times were pretty slow, especially after transitioning out of combat. However, this is the only issue I was bothered by. Since the game never froze, had stutters or glitches and crashes. So expect this in the full game.
The soundtrack for the game is shockingly better than the original game’s soundtrack, which was already mind-blowing. The regular battle music uses similar arrangements to the original first battle theme. But the different instruments help it stand out. Both Partitio and Agnea’s theme songs were also fantastic and unique from one another.
Overall, Octopath Traveler 2 from the demo alone seems like an early candidate for game of the year discussions. The quality is consistent, the combat is as fun as the original with noticeable improvements and the world seems vastly upgraded. If you have not yet downloaded the demo on the Nintendo Switch, Steam, or PlayStation 4|5, please do at your earliest convenience to get a taste of something truly special. Your progress even carries over to the full game when it launches on the 24th of this month.