The goal and hope of any game is, once it manages to get a sequel, that its next iteration builds upon what people loved, cherishes the things it did right, and adjusts anything that might not appeared entirely right. The original Octopath Traveler is a lovely game, but often felt experimental in its execution and implementation. With Octopath Traveler 2, Square Enix and Acquire’s series and its characters are allowed to flourish and branch out in new, very much appreciated directions.
As with its predecessor and as indicated by the title, Octopath Travelers 2 tells the story of eight different characters each setting out on major journeys. Some of these feel like coming of age tales, with the dancer Agnea wanting to see the world and young hunter Ochette growing into her role as a stalwart protector. The tale of the amnesiac apothecary Castti or cleric inquisitor Temenos each searching for truth can feel like more traditional JRPG tales. We also have darker stories of people betrayed, abused, and searching for freedom with the scholar Osvald and thief Throne. Essentially, every base is not only covered, but covered fairly well.
While Octopath Traveler’s storylines and characters were fine, it can feel like there is even more definition and depth to the cast of the sequel. We still have very varied experiences, with more lighthearted characters like Agnea and Partitio existing alongside the darker stories Osvald and Throne’s paths tell. I felt like I knew these people better, sympathized with them more, and wanted to support them in ways I didn’t with some members of the original cast. The storytelling is such that they can seem more identifiable and compelling. Not to mention some may find it easier to connect with this entry’s hunter, Ochette, than the original’s H’aanit due to dialogue decisions.
As there are different routes, Octopath Traveler 2 handles its stories in a novel fashion. You begin with one character and go through the first leg of their story. Then, the ensuing chapters appear in different continents on the world map. You can then directly pursue the rest of their path, or choose to stop by others folks’ current locations to add them to your party of playable characters, look back on their first chapters, and gain the option to see their stories through too. There’s a lot of freedom, with things clearly laid out and taverns allowing you to easily swap in and out allies or choose which story to witness. Likewise, the game is very specific about if you would or wouldn’t be ready for the next area or series of events, with warnings advising you of a suggested level.
As we are following eight unique individuals with different roles, this also means they possess their unique path actions to use out of battle during the day and night, as well as special talents and latent powers in the game’s turn-based battles. The nature of these abilities tend to fall into certain categories. Castti, Hikari, Osvald, and Temenos can all get information out of people in various ways, with Inquire, Bribe, Scrutinize, and Coerce available, respectively. You can also bring somebody around, either to use them in battle or to complete a sidequest, with Agnea’s Allure, Ochette’s Befriend, Partitio’s Hire, and Temenos’ Guide working similarly. They’re organized in such a way that no matter who you have in your party, you should have access to the same sorts of abilities and be able to pursue things like character, item, knowledge, location, or skill access in various ways. It might mean needing to change the time of day to access said abilities, but that can be done at the click of a button to change Path Actions you can use, as well as make certain enemies or NPCs appear.
As for in-battle, these actions can help make people feel valuable. These are somewhat traditional turn-based fights. There’s a bit of the Bravely Default nature to it, in that you can “boost” an attack’s strength or number of hits, if you have enough charged up. Your goal is to break enemies by targeting their weaknesses, so you can prevent them from taking turns and deal more damage to them. Depending on the character’s main job and secondary job, different sorts of skills will be available. (For example, a cleric or scholar secondary job will enable magic usage.) Some people might prove more useful than other, due to a limit break-like Latent Power that an involve stronger than normal attacks. For example, Throne’s allows her to act twice, while Temenos has an easier time of breaking down enemy shield points even if it wouldn’t normally be weak to that sort of attack. It all makes people feel like they carry weight, even though you can add that secondary class to them, and like you would need them around for specific situations.
It’s also a relief to see more interactions between Octopath Traveler 2’s characters that acknowledge that yes, they do know each other and could assist one another with their special abilities. This still doesn’t always offer the same experience as a more traditional JRPG. We don’t see people throughout every step getting involved in each others’ lives. Yes, you might get a prompt to press a button and witness a brief interaction between two people when they are in the same party and at the same place. There are also some connections that pop up. However, the inclusion of the new Crossed Paths storylines is a much appreciated addition. I especially liked the ones involving Temenos and Throne and Agnea and Hikari.
But what really surprised me about Octopath Traveler 2 is how much richer the sequel feels. This is a lavish game with unexpected attention to camera angles, lighting, and music. It’s incredibly cinematic and dynamic. Even just wandering down roads as you go from one space to the other send people in the foreground and background, moving about all sorts of hallmarks. The artistry is impeccable. There are some times when the use of light during the day can almost wash out some sprites, but even so it’s extraordinary to see the depth, dimension, and details that come up as you explore homes, wander the world, and encounter enemies.
Octopath Traveler 2 opens with the promise of adventure and journeys that show how characters grow and shape the world, and it sends you across a lavish world as you help each individual and, along the way, make Solistia a better place. There is so much potential here, with everyone able to choose how they approach it all. More importantly, it’s approachable, ensuring everyone can appreciate the stories Square Enix and Acquire will tell.
Octopath Traveler 2 will be available for the Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC on February 24, 2023. A demo is available.