There is a very simple way to tell if you will enjoy playing Octopath Traveler 2. If you liked the original Octopath Traveler, you will like the sequel; if you did not, I don’t think this will interest you.
I mean this sincerely. For all the additions Square Enix and Acquire have made, this is ultimately the same game in structure and style, if not in content. Those who disliked it should look elsewhere, and those who have not played the first entry in the series should read on.
Octopath Traveler 2 tells the tales of eight people embarking on their own adventures across the world to accomplish their own goal. You pick one to start, and upon completion of their introduction, you are thrust into the world that you can explore in whichever way you want to pick up the remaining heroes and explore their individual stories.
For example, Osvald is a scholar who seeks revenge on the man who framed him for the murder of his family; Thronè is a thief who needs to kill the leaders of her gang in order to be free; Partitio is a merchant who wants to eliminate poverty; Castti is an apothecary who has amnesia and is trying to find out who she is, and so on.
The characters are fine and interesting even though they embody their archetypes to a T. The exception for me is Temenos, an inquisitor for the church who is equal parts detective, zealot, and gadfly. His storyline is the most interesting in the game thanks to his personality, and his interactions with others are a clear highlight in the writing.
Yet I kept wishing that the characters would interact with each other more. Apart from skit conversations and several storylines where characters pair up with one another independent of their own narrative, there still isn’t much talk between party members. And the chapters where characters pair up are just that — pairings, where two people interact, and the rest of the party may as well not exist. As much as I appreciated these pairings for livening things up, I still want to see these characters talk to each other more.
Then there’s the structure of Octopath Traveler 2 itself, wherein every chapter follows the exact same formula. You enter a location, talk to some important person related to the character, use some Path Actions to solve a problem, contrive a way to visit a dungeon, fight a boss, and then wrap the chapter up in cutscenes.
While the content of each chapter is frequently engaging, the fact that each chapter is structured the exact same way causes it to get tiresome after a while. Which is a shame, because I like playing Octopath Traveler 2. Yet I couldn’t help but grow tired of it when things are repeated to this extent.
Fortunately, Octopath Traveler 2 is aesthetically gorgeous. The 3D environments are enhanced thanks to a great lighting system that prevents the world from feeling stale, even though the locales are a bit generic at times. The sprite work is great, particularly in a battle, where you can see the amount of work put into the animations. And the music is phenomenal, easily the highlight of the entire game.
“…you can truly build some powerful characters within Octopath Traveler 2’s framework.”
The combat, while not on the same level, is similarly engaging. The turn-based battles focus heavily on taking advantage of the enemy’s vulnerabilities. Each enemy has a few weaknesses to take advantage of, be they weapons or magical attacks. By breaking down the defences with enough attacks, that enemy is stunned for a turn and takes increased damage.
Characters also gain Boost Points every turn that can be used to increase the number of attacks in an action, improve the power of an ability, or increase the length of spells.
Battles become a balancing act of buffing and healing your party while setting up the perfect moments to go all out. Couple this with each character’s unique skills, the option to equip secondary jobs, and a wide range of passive abilities that can be assigned to each party member, and you can truly build some powerful characters within Octopath Traveler 2’s framework.
Outside of battle, exploration is a mix of bland travelling through maps and more engaging interactions with NPCs in towns and cities. Each explorable zone could be found in any paint-by-numbers RPG, with a handful of paths branching off the road with the occasional secret to discover. More interesting is the ability to switch between day and night with the push of a button.
Depending on the time of day, different characters can be found standing about, different monsters can be fought, and different actions can be performed. Each character comes with two unique Path Actions — one for the day and one for night — that allow you to solve small puzzles, acquire information, or gain items or temporary allies. Thronè, for example, can steal items from NPCs during the day or knock people out at night. There is a lot of crossover between Path Actions, but the unique way that they are presented makes them natural as opposed to contrived.
But I keep coming back to how Octopath Traveler 2 is built. Despite the additions of a day-night cycle, chapters where characters interact with each other, and a more vast world, the overall structure of it is still incredibly similar to its predecessor. For some, that’s welcome. For me, I want more. Because the framework of Octopath Traveler is solid; it just needs a few more tweaks to be great. Octopath Traveler 2 is a step in the right direction, but for those who did not like the original, they had best look elsewhere.