When the original Octopath Traveler launched back in 2018 it instantly became one of my favourite games to release in that year. The game honoured the things I loved from JRPGS of the past, while also implementing modern mechanics and visual techniques to create something that many fans of JRPGs really connected with. Now the sequel has taken on the feedback of the first game, while maintaining the things that already clicked with players to make a really solid entry in the Octopath series, and one of my favourite JRPG titles of recent years.
Much like the first game, and as the name suggests, the overall story follows 8 separate characters, each with their own journeys to complete and mysteries to uncover. You can play them in any order, and there is more cohesion this time around with the individual stories interweaving and playing into the overall narrative than what was featured in the first game. Upon beginning the game you’ll be presented all 8 characters and their initial backstory. Read the bios and start with the one you find most personally interesting as you’ll eventually get the ability to witness them all, the order in which you play them will influence what order your party grows though as selecting a character to play adds them into your ongoing party.
I really loved that many of the individual stories were so different too. It keeps things really fresh as you play through the lengthy adventure that is the main narrative, a single playthrough took a little above 80 hours, but it can easily take longer if you want to see everything each chapter has to offer, and the grinding required to take down the game’s more tougher foes. Each character’s story plays out over multiple chapters, allowing their character a decent amount of time to develop. Each have satisfying and sometimes even heartwarming conclusions and you don’t really know what’s ahead of you when you start a new one as the plot, stakes, locales and the size of the settings varies quite drastically from path to path. This mystery of ‘what will I experience next?’ was one of the biggest driving forces keeping me invested in the individual stories and to keep progressing through the game.
Octopath Traveler 2 also features a day/night system that can be toggled at will as you play. Each character has their own individual Talent as well as a separate day and night Path Action. This is an action they can perform during the day or night portion of the day respectively and often assist with gaining an advantage for the near future or or aid in progression. Castti the Apothecary’s Day Action for example is Inquire, which allows her to obtain information from people in the towns, Throné the Thief, another one of my favourite characters has a Night Action called Ambush which allows her to knock people unconscious, which obviously assists in being a better thief many times throughout the story. I found it to be a really interesting mechanic as it makes the world itself feel more real, with each day having it’s own cycle and also with the way that certain characters or interactions can only occur at certain times of the day as there are characters that only appear within the cities during the night for example, which means getting information from them or stealing items can only occur during a particular time.
When it comes to the combat, the system is incredibly similar to what appeared within the first game. The game utilises a strategic turn based system where each character on their turns are able to attack, presenting a number of weapons, strikes, special skills, magic abilities etc to pick from to gain the upper hand over your foe or foes. Each of your characters have their own strengths and weaknesses you’ll discover the more you play. And as your party increases you’ll start to buff the weaknesses by incorporating different strategies and discovering how certain units can support others. And while each character has their own attributes they bring to the party thanks to their class based Job you also have the ability to mould the individual characters to your liking, opening up new skills and weapons to use that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to while utilising just their original class.
Octopath 2’s combat also implements a weakness system. If you’ve played recent Persona games, the system will be quite familiar to you. Once you’ve discovered what an enemy is weak to via battle it will be tracked going forward from that point so if you reencounter them again you’ll be able to see the discovered weakness and battle accordingly. It does take a bit of trial and error to discover an enemies weaknesses once you first discover a new enemy type, and for many of them it’s not as straight forward as you may think as the visual attributes of enemies don’t always correspond to what they’re weak to. Which is why I really appreciated that once it’s discovered, the enemy stats and weaknesses are tracked via an icon from that point onwards.
It’s a good thing that Octopath 2’s combat is so fun and the combat loop is flashy and rewarding because you’ll be doing a lot of it. The game does require a bit of a grind to ensure your party is ready for the next area or boss battle at multiple stages throughout the adventure. If the area has a recommended level it suggests, I found that it’s pretty much bang on. The amount of time you’ll spend trying to come up with the best strategy to succeed after dying over and over again should just be invested in grinding for a little while to level up your party and make the whole process of progression a fair amount less stressful. The game offers a real challenge and if you like that, then sure go ahead and ignore the recommended level gating but if it’s not your thing, I’d stick to the game’s advice. This is surely doing to be a detractor for players that prefer constant narrative progression over grinding but I can assure you that the grind does eventually pay off with a story full of twists and turns and a climax that’s even more satisfying than the first Octopath game.
Just like the first game, Octopath Traveler 2 utilises the gorgeous HD-2D visuals that the first game made popular. It’s been seen in a number of games from Square Enix recently, including the remake of Live A Live and Triangle Strategy, as well as the upcoming remake of Dragon Quest 3. These visuals honour the classic pixel art style of 90’s JRPGs but also uses plenty of modern day techniques like parallax scrolling, dynamic cameras, particle and weather effects like mist and rain to make the game feel like a modern title that is honouring the roots from where it came.
Even though the game is a numbered sequel, Octopath 2 is completely standalone, featuring a new cast of characters and original story. It does share it’s core 8 character mechanic and most of the combat system with the original game, so if you do play the sequel and enjoy it, I’d highly recommend going back and playing the original if you haven’t already.
For any games that I’m going to spend extended periods of time with, and especially JRPGs, I find the audio side of the game incredibly important. It’s used to compliment the tone of the game, set the scenes and also to provide an addicting backing tune to your lengthy adventure. Octopath 2 ticks the boxes in all these regards and I personally found the music to be on a higher level compared to the first game. Yasunori Nishiki has returned to compose the game, and he’s produced a great score full of music that is going to hook you.
Also on the audio side of things, I loved that the game was pretty much fully voice acted, further adding to the immersion of the world and the cast they’ve used is top notch and features some of the best in the business working today. I did encounter an issue multiple times throughout the game though where the audio comes through unbalanced, often pushing the voice lines back, favouring the background music especially in louder, chaotic scenes, like cutscenes involving battles etc. Hopefully things can be balanced out in a future patch, as it was a little difficult to make out what characters were saying during these moments and would have been impossible to follow if the dialogue didn’t also appear on screen.
Octopath Traveler 2 is a fantastic follow up to the first Octopath game and an incredibly fun and rewarding JRPG adventure with a large but deep party of characters. It’s music will captivate you right from the start and it’s combat and job system provided plenty of room for individual customisation. It’s taken what worked in the original game and further advanced aspects as well as fixing up a number of the issues pointed out with the original game some fans didn’t particularly like to create a great adventure game, and one of my favourite JRPGs from recent years. It’s a long adventure, but it’s one well worth checking out.
A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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