Octopath Traveler is all about the journey. You may start your adventure alone, but you’ll quickly be joined by stalwart allies – each with their own story and path to travel. Every character’s arc serves as a short story of a sort, but I don’t think that’s what makes these two games so interesting. It’s the things you don’t see on screen, a feeling of adventuring with good friends that you can only get through using your imagination. That’s what makes Octopath Traveler II special, facilitated by a host of improvements that put it a cut above the first game.
To begin Octopath Traveler II, you first need to pick a protagonist from one of the eight characters. These are: Ochette the hunter, Castti the apothecary, Temenos the cleric, Osvald the scholar, Particio the merchant, Agnea the dancer, Throné the thief, and Hikari the warrior. Whoever you pick first will become the protagonist, and be unable to be removed from the party until their story is complete. Every character comes with their own job, skills, and path actions, so choose wisely.
While you begin with one character, you can recruit the rest to your party as you travel around the world. You can team up with as many or as few characters as you want, but to see the credits you need to complete every character’s story. Just like Octopath 1, stories are divided into chapters, with recommended levels, and focus entirely on one specific character. It’s a bit weird to have the rest of your party disappear in cutscenes, all of which are now fully voiced, but it’s not too big of a deal, especially with the new Crossed Paths chapters.
After progressing two characters’ stories up to a point (usually finishing Chapter 1 and then their final chapter), a pair will have a side story. For example, Ochette and Castti investigate the wildlife of a forest while Throné and Temenos solve mysteries together. These pairings mean you won’t see Ochette and Hikari interact outside of instances of party banter or the final act, but they’re a lot of fun. I grew to really love this party, and I would have loved to see more scenes with all of them together. Though a lot of that love probably came from imagining how they would interact with each other’s stories, I must admit.
This is partially because the individual stories are so strong. Every single one is at the very least interesting, with my favorites probably being Castti’s and Agnea’s. Castti has her recover her memories while fighting a deadly illness caused by purple rain, and Agnea’s is the most lighthearted since she’s trying to become a famous dancer. Agnea’s has some great comedic moments near the end too. I did find it a bit difficult to keep track of what was going on in some stories, like Hikari and Temenos (other than his budding romance with Crick), but they’re still very enjoyable tales. All of them have connections to the larger plot at the end too, which is fun to piece together.
I find the pacing much better than the first game as well, with each story being as long as it needs to be and not dragging things out to meet the same number of chapters as everyone else. Ochette only has three chapters while most have five, but her second chapter is divided into three different routes you need to complete. Some chapters don’t feature any combat at all, which helps to break up the formula of town-dungeon-boss that could get repetitive in the original. It’s a refreshing structure that better serves to tell each character’s story.
I do find that a few stories slow down thanks to a massive level spike right at the end. The game wants you to jump from level 35 to 45 when entering the final chapters, and that’s just not feasible without a lot of grinding. Not as much as the first game, but still enough to be annoying. Even then, I had to grind all the way up to 50 to stand a chance against Hikari and Agnea’s final bosses, when the rest were basically a cakewalk. Hikari’s in particular has a final phase that’s much more difficult than the three preceding, and retrying that takes a few minutes to get back to. Some checkpoints would have been appreciated.
You may have a vastly different experience depending on how you build your team. With Ochette as my protagonist, I had to use the Hunter job for a majority of the game, which wasn’t an issue since it can be ridiculously powerful. Every job comes with weapon proficiencies, moves to learn, and skills to equip. For example, Hunter uses axes and bows while also providing some nice buffs and debuffs as well as a lightning spell to boot. Characters come with unique abilities as well, Ochette can capture and use monsters in battle while Hikari can battle townsfolk to learn special moves. It’s a neat way to make each class feel unique to that character, even if everyone can use every job.
As you explore, you’ll come across guilds that will give you access to other characters’ jobs. These can be set as a secondary job, so setting Osvald as a cleric will give him access to both scholar and cleric skills. Battles will earn participating characters EXP as well as JP, or Job Points, which they can then spend to unlock abilities. Unlocking abilities will also unlock skills. A character can equip up to four skills regardless of job which will give them various bonuses. These can be anything from simple stat increases to removing the damage cap to increasing experience earned. This gives you a ton of customization options; you can make normally physical focused characters into casters and vice-versa, or give someone like Partitio even more utility.
While a lot of the fun in Octopath Traveler II comes from setting up your party, actually executing those strategies in battles is of course enjoyable unto itself. Combat is turn-based, with the turn order displayed at the top of the screen. When a character’s turn comes around, they can attack with one of their equipped weapons, use available abilities or items, defend, or flee the battle. Your ultimate, short-term goal in every fight is to break the enemy by hitting them with weapons or elements they are weak to (shown under them if discovered) and reduce their shield points to 0. Once they’re broken, an enemy will take even more damage than usual.
If you want to make an action more powerful or hit more times, you can spend Boost Points (BP). Every character earns one BP per turn (unless they boosted the previous turn), and you can spend up to four at once by pressing R. You may want to use them early to break an enemy quickly, or save them to spend on massive damage after the fact. This is what really ties every mechanic together, especially the new Latent Abilities exclusive to each character.
Latent Abilities are basically super moves. They build up over the course of battle, persisting between fights, and can be activated by pressing X. These really emphasize the strengths of every character. For example, Agnea’s allows any single target move to instead hit the entire group, so you can use her dances to buff the entire party at once. Meanwhile, Ochette can use incredibly powerful attacks or howl to greatly reduce the physical and magical defense of all enemies. Temeno’s is probably the most situational and I forgot about it for most of the game; it causes any attack to reduce an enemy’s shield regardless of weaknesses. I didn’t have much use for this since I set him to be healing and support, but I can see it being pretty good with a different build.
Taking all of this into account, you can really break the game wide open with some creativity. While I still had trouble with bosses, I quickly learned to trivialize normal encounters with a specific setup on Ochette. Equipping her with Full Power, which fills up the Latent Power gauge at the start of battle, and Boost Start, which gives one more BP also at the start of the battle, I could double boost her LP on the first turn to kill every enemy in one shot. Needless to say, this became my grinding strategy to more easily level up other characters. It’s incredibly cool that something like this can come about naturally in a playthrough, and I’m sure there are tons of other combinations you can use.
When deciding on your party, you’ll also want to consider each character’s Path Actions. These are essentially different ways to interact with NPCs to do things like knocking them out, getting their items, gleaning information, or temporarily recruiting them to be summoned in battle. Everyone has two Path Actions, one during the day and the other at night (you can change the time of day at any time with ZR). These actions, while accomplishing the same end goal, have several different ways to go about them, like being level based, using a percentage change, costing money, or initiating a one-on-one battle with that character. For example, Throné can steal items during the day based on percentage, or knock out NPCs at night based on her level. Making the most of this system will get you some great equipment or other bonuses, and you’ll occasionally need to use it for side quests or the main story.
If you’ve been looking at the screenshots, you’ll know just how gorgeous Octopath Traveler II is. This HD 2D style is a beautiful aesthetic, in particular, the lighting and sprite work is amazing. I do wish there was a bit less bloom as it somewhat blurs sprite details together, but that does replicate the pixel blending that older, sprite-based games were made to be viewed with. The music is just as incredible, with an all-around amazing score. Agnea’s theme is probably my favorite track, conveying the hopeful naivete of her character, but I’ll never get over how cool it is when a cutscene song seamlessly transitions into the boss music with a nice flourish. It honestly feels like SquareEnix is showing off with this soundtrack and dynamic music.
The voice acting is also usually great, I love Particio’s southern accent, but there are some less-than-stellar performances that crop up and one really weird instance of very low-quality audio. In Particio’s story, a character by the name of Ori whose audio is noticeably worse than everyone else. It seems like whatever mic was used wasn’t up to standards or something got corrupted because she’s the only character you can hear peak the audio. It’s a shame because she’s a really fun character, and I hope there’s a way to fix this with a patch or something.
Octopath Traveler II
Octopath Traveler II surpasses the original in every way. The additions to combat were greatly needed and spiced up battles, the story, characters, and pacing are leagues better, and somehow the music cranks it up another few notches. There are still a few issues to be ironed out, like grinding, but this is a retro-style RPG you won’t want to miss.
- Great story and characters
- Battles have a ton of depth
- Phenomenal soundtrack
- Fully voiced
- Some grinding required
- Big difficulty spikes
- Still very little party interaction