Octopath Traveler 2 is the sequel to the sleeper hit from 2018, Octopath Traveler. When the original game came out to acclaim from both critics and people who played it. As always, there was room for improvement when it came to games from a new IP. So when it came to improving the experience provided in Octopath Traveler 2 from its predecessor. The effort is felt in the noticeable leaps in quality found in its stories, characters, writing, gameplay, and the world that left me constantly in shock and awe throughout my lengthy playthrough and a finale I will never forget.
Similar Paths in Octopath Traveler 2
Octopath Traveler 2 follows the same format as the original game. Having eight unique characters with unique stories to choose from. After selecting the one you are most interested in, you can then pick up the remaining seven characters and see all of the characters’ stories. Alternating between depending on where you are in the game world.
You have Hikari the Warrior, Ochette the Huntress, Castti the Apothecary, Partitio the Merchant, Osvald the Scholar, Temenos the Cleric, Throné the Thief, and Agnea the Dancer. Each story has a specific tone that matches the character. Agnea’s story is a heartwarming tale about her rise to stardom, lifting the hearts of those she finds along the way. As well as Partitio’s story is about a noble journey to help rid poverty of the world since he came from a town once stricken with poverty.
In contrast to these tales are darker stories like Osvald escaping a life sentence in a prison on an island secluded from the rest of the world to end the life of the man who took everything from him. There was never a dull moment in any of these stories and I was eager to see each chapter of every character’s story. Similar to Live A Live, all eight stories also play into a fantastic final chapter that ties every story together in a thrilling, yet heart-wrenching conclusion that kept me engaged until the credits rolled.
New Choices for Their Stories
While the format for the storytelling feels similar to the original. There are a lot of new touches to how they play out. Such as choices in some of the character stories.
For example, Ochette can choose from one of two animals to accompany her on her journey. While this seems minimal, this does have an effect on the interactions between Ochette and the companion. I personally chose Mahina the owl and her timid and wise demeanor played off Ochette’s childish, yet endearing, personality. Additionally, there are some less effective character choices. Like Throné being able to choose which character to assassinate in her story first. It does allow the story to feel less linear but I would have liked some changes in the dialogue depending on who I picked first.
However, despite some of the choices not feeling too important. It does add replayability to see what can change in certain characters’ stories. I am eager to start again so I can see how the other companion for Ochette plays out in her story. But the most crucial touch in the overall storytelling is how the characters interact with one another, unlike the original game.
More Character Interactions
When finding the rest of the characters in Octopath Traveler 2, they now join you in scripted cutscenes. As opposed to just standing in one place in the original game which always felt jarring. There is a key focus on more interactions with every character in a meaningful way. Like the new side stories with pairs of characters.
Temenos and Throné have a side story where they go on miniature adventures that adds to the aforementioned finale. As well as Ochette and Castti investigating a strange disturbance in a forest near Agnea’s hometown. However, while this sounds great to see the characters having stories with each other. The main stories for each character are still isolated from the rest of the characters. Meaning you will not see Agnea in Osvald or Partitio’s story cutscenes.
The only time the rest of the crew shows up in these stories is just in combat. However, during the finale of the game, the characters all interact with each other so naturally. Just like they do in combat. Like Partitio the Merchant telling Temenos after breaking opponents in combat that he will handle the rest.
The interactions in combat, dual character side stories, and the finale of the game helped make the overall team feel like a close-knit group of travelers. Something that was completely missing from the original game. I really loved this change despite the characters still not interacting with each other in their main stories. Even having the rest of your current party in the background reacting to story moments would be a nice touch.
Familiar, Yet Improved Combat
Octopath Traveler 2 still has the same break and boost combat system as the original game. Enemies have weaknesses that, when you exploit those weaknesses enough, break, allowing you to have a full turn to use abilities you boost with a special resource that is generated each turn to take them out. However, there are some changes made to the combat system that makes it feel really fresh. Such as the latent powers.
Each character has a latent power that functions similarly to a limit break from Final Fantasy. For example, Throné can use hers to act twice in a turn. I found a good use for this ability to have her reduce the physical defense of enemies and buff the physical attack of Hikari so when he uses his strongest attacks, they hit way harder, making some bosses feel trivial. Another latent power I loved was Castti’s since you can use her remedy crafting in combat for free to replenish SP or BP for characters.
There are a lot of tactics that go into using these abilities and I only found Temenos’s ability to be lackluster since he can use it to help break enemies but it feels very situational. Another addition to the combat that helps make characters more unique is the EX abilities. These abilities can be used at any time when unlocked and some of them are pretty fantastic. Like Castti having a heavy-hitting axe ability or Agnea having a wide-ranged spell that allows the team to attack first on the next turn.
This new combat feels really easy to pick up and can be very fun to play around with overall. There is a lot more variety and every character feels very useful no matter the situation.
A Brave New World in Octopath Traveler 2
The world of Octopath Traveler 2 is completely different from the original game as well. Solistia, the world, feels more condensed and varied. The lush and beautiful forests around Cropdale are breathtaking. As well as having some nostalgic western areas around Oresrush. Filled with saloons, tumbleweeds, and cart rails aplenty. When exploring the continents of the world I never felt like any area looked the same, almost forcing me to just stand at certain vantage points to take in the beauty.
Every character, including the main cast, and bosses have distinct looks to them. Hikari wears a garb that resembles a ronin. Castti wears a simple nurse-looking outfit while Partitio wears a button-down shirt, overalls, and a jacket. While the bosses in each story match in looks. Like Hikari’s sibling being a shogun atop a horse. They all feel like belonged to different timepieces overlapping in a world that is leaving the medieval ages that the first game was set in. The main cast rivals and at times exceeds the phenomenal cast of Triangle Strategy.
One of the new key additions to the game was the new day and night cycle you can change at any time. Certain NPCs and shops outside of the main towns will only appear at night. Like a black market near some ruins or a group of assassins you can challenge at will. I fell in love with nighttime after discovering that certain characters like Temenos or Throné can hinder enemies and buff allies instantly during nighttime. It almost felt essential to adventure during nighttime due to these differences.
The final major addition to the world is the boat. You can buy a boat in the game and adventure across the seas. Finding hidden bosses, and chests along the way. There are also hidden locations that give you special rewards like new classes for your characters. You can also adventure in canoes along rivers in certain locations in the main lands too to find secret locations and loot as well. Allowing the game to feel freer to roam. I loved exploring every bit of Solistia in its broad expanse.
Steam Deck and PC Performance
I played through Octopath Traveler 2 on the Steam Deck with some time spent on my custom-built PC consisting of a Ryzen 5 2400, 16 gigabytes of RAM, an RX6600, and an M.2 NMVE SSD. When playing on the Steam Deck, the game stayed at sixty frames per second in cutscenes and general gameplay, combat included. But it would drop in frames when transitioning from combat to roaming around in the world or from story cutscenes to roaming around. I never noticed it outside of the performance capture indicator, however.
When playing on Steam Deck, I was able to play at 1080p at 60 FPS when hooked up to my TV on medium settings with v-sync enabled. But the PC settings are pretty strange. You can modify the texture quality by render resolution and if you enable v-sync to reduce screen tearing you are stuck at a framerate you cannot lower or raise. Despite these small issues with the PC settings, it was simple to figure out and I still had a generally fantastic time playing it with no crashes, stutters, or bugs of any kind.
The UI is also smooth sailing as it was intuitive, easy to use, and familiar to the original game. I never felt lost navigating it to change the equipment of characters. Or equip jobs or swap out supporting skills. It is light and snappy. You can also navigate the world map without having to exit the menu now, which is great.
Great Voice Acting and an Unbelievable Soundtrack
In JRPGs, voice acting can be hit or miss. But I feel like Octopath Traveler 2 has an excellent voice cast overall. From story NPCs to the main characters themselves, the entire crew knocked it out of the park. One of the standouts is Partitio considering he never faltered with his western-sounding voice. As well as Temenos always having this snarky tone to his voice for a lot of his lines. Even the antagonists have fantastic line delivery. Like Dolcinaea from Agnea’s story having this stuffy attitude I always picked up on when she was antagonizing Agnea.
All of this is coupled with an absolutely stunning soundtrack. It had a way of surprising me when fighting bosses since some would have a somber tone to the music. Or upbeat tempos to capture the spectacle. As well as hidden bosses having this gothic sound I was not expecting at all. The final boss music also went all in on a metal opera track that kept distracting me due to how much effort was put into the whole track. Additionally, when exploring the world there are unique tracks for night and daytime in each location. It is attention to detail I genuinely loved.
But the tracks that belong to each character. Such as Hikari, Ochette, and Partitio, all have a unique flavor to them. Like Hikari having Asian cultural arrangements. Ochette has tribal arrangements to hers. While Partitio has a rock and jazz mix to his theme song. Every location in the game has spectacular music as well. Such as Ku, Hikari’s hometown having similar instruments to his character’s theme song. The soundtrack for Octopath Traveler 2 is going to easily go down as one of the greatest of all time.
Final Thoughts on Octopath Traveler 2
Octopath Traveler 2 is a JRPG unlike anything I have played in recent years. Its combat system feels so fresh compared to the original considering the latent powers and EX abilities. The focus on character interactions, as well as their respective voice cast, allowed me to fall in love with every character from the main cast. As well as leaving me stunned by the calculated risks taken in the finale of the game that deliver emotionally impactful moments. The sites of Solistia and the freedom I had to explore with the soundtrack accompanying me left a lasting impact on me.
Octopath Traveler 2 is an absolutely fantastic time from start to finish even when reaching the 70-hour mark. You do not want to miss it. As I believe it is the best in the class of Square Enix’s 2D-HD games so far.
Octopath Traveler 2 is available now on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4|5 for $59.99. With a demo, you can try to see if you like it.