Octopath Traveler II Game Review – A thoroughly enjoyable RPG

A thoroughly enjoyable RPG

Octopath Traveler II is a wonderful ode to those old pixel art RPGs of yesteryear. With a distinct Chrono Trigger/Final Fantasy charm, Octopath presents a vibrant and very accessible RPG, with a unique hook and some great storytelling to boot. The second game excels and builds upon the great qualities the first had, bringing a unique 8-story hook, which serves as both its main strength and its Achille’s heel.

Octopath Traveler II takes place in the bright and biologically diverse world of Solistia. Eight different travelers venture forth into the world, intent on bringing their own stories to life and making a difference. The catch, however, is that the way these stories play out is entirely up to you, the player. No two players are likely to have the same experience, and because of that the story can be as meaningful or lackadaisical as you want. You see, there is no main character – not in the traditional sense at least.

When you first open up the game, you’re given the choice of 8 different travelers to pick from, each with their own unique job and class (more on that shortly). Some of these travelers are after redemption (like Osvald’s revenge mission against his rival) while others feel hand-picked for your main character (like Temenos’ investigation into a series of murders and Hikari’s epic war odyysey). There are also very clearly side characters too, including Merchant Partitio who sets out to become the best vendor in the world.

Across the 50+ hours you’ll spend with this one, Octopath casts its gaze out to the wider world, with an interconnected map and player choice at the forefront of everything you do. Along the way, you “recruit” the other travelers to join you in your quest, and in doing so, can mix and match different stories together to craft your own tale.

Each of these 8 heroes have around 4 or 5 main missions, most of which including bosses at the end and a steep difficulty curve, especially during the latter periods of the game. However, the narratives are rewarding and come armed with some well-worked twists too. In fact, a few of the storylines are so brilliantly written, I wish they’d have been their own stand-alone games! Throne’s Thief quest, Temenos’ journey and even Ochette’s heavily inspired Pokemon adventure, all work extremely well and stand out as some of the best.

At the same time, other stories here feel tacked on and really don’t have much in the way of excitement. Do you fancy venturing out to become the best dancer in the world? No? Well, welcome to Agnea’s tale. What about the age-old amnesia story, with a healer desperate to find out the truth about her past? Yep, that’s here too. The ensuing result gives this game more of an uneven feel than it perhaps should, especially as it does so much right in the stories that shine brightest.

After you’ve finished each of these quests, Octopath adds in some Combined Tales, where you join another companion for an extra bonus tale, before eventually coming together for the final fight. Be warned though, this is not for the fainthearted. Not only is the final boss difficult, it also requires you to level all your characters up evenly across the playtime. And if (like me) you end up focusing solely on 4 or 5 characters, you’ll have a tough time of grinding levels at the end to get through the two-stage final boss.

Having said that, this mission is absolutely vital for getting the most out of the story, especially as it ties up loose ends and gives more context to some of the plot beats explored in the individual stories.

Aesthetically, Octopath Traveler II looks fantastic. The game has a wicked blend of pixel-art and 3D-rendered environments, feeling like a natural extension on those isometric games of old. The settings are all vastly different to one another too, with various weather systems, biomes and a clever Day/Night system to keep things from stagnating. Seeing the different towns and villages light up with flickering torch light and streetlamps at night, compared to being bathed in sunlight and lake water glistening like diamonds, makes for a very visually pleasing experience.

In fact, one of the more subtle inclusions here comes from the music too. The sound design is absolutely exquisite and although the voices for winning battles or casting specific spells can become a bit grating after a while, the way the music slows down or speeds up in tempo, depending on the time of day and where you are in the world, is a pretty impressive inclusion. On that same note, the end mission utilizes silence and very minor string compositions in a way that really elevates the tension.

All of this good work would be for nothing if the gameplay wasn’t on point, and thankfully Octopath Traveler II excels in this category. The game plays out as a standard turn-based RPG, with plenty of equipment to collect, lots of weapons to mix and match stats for your characters, along with Jobs and Secondary Jobs to add in extra depth.

The Jobs play out as a Class system, with abilities ranging from Warriors (that excel in physical damage) to Thieves (versatile physical attack with strong speed) and Healers (self-explanatory), along with Scholars (elemental magic wielder). There are also a number of “secret” jobs you can unlock too which add extra layers of strategy to the game. Mixing and matching different combinations can yield some great rewards too.

For my playthrough, I doubled up Temenos as a healer, which worked well with his “Heal Wounds” ability, while I had Throne doubled up as a Warrior, executing some high-damage attacks late on in the game, and with her extra speed and Latent Ability (more on that in a sec) made for a crucial member of the team.

This tinkering to find a team that works for you can be the difference between life and death, especially in tough fights with the various bosses that crop up. The aforementioned Latent Abilities basically work as the Octopath equivalent of Limit Breaks, allowing different characters to execute a special move. For Throne, she gets another free move, right after executing her attack. Meanwhile, Partitio maxes out his Battle Point Meter, allowing for extra damage and attacks to be used that turn.

These Battle Points are added after every turn in a fight, indicated by a handy timeline in the top center of the screen. You don’t have to use these though, and sometimes using restraint and saving up battle points, can result in more devastating abilities further on down the line. For magic wielders and special attacks, this can do some serious damage.

This damage can then be combined with whittling down enemies’ shield points, which essentially act as a defense buffer and limit the maximum damage you can do. The aim of the fights, especially those aforementioned boss fights, boils down to knocking Shield Points down, which then essentially stuns enemies into submission, allowing you to do your most devastating abilities.

Of course, there’s more to it than that, including “Support Skills”, unlocked with JP after battles, which grant up to four abilities that can be as simple as evading fights in the wilderness to even recovering health after each turn. That, coupled with the two equipment slots per character, will satiate the thirst any geeky RPG player will have to maximizing the best this game has to offer.

The level of detail put into Octopath Traveler II is definitely admirable, although one could point fingers at the side quests, which feel like very low-level fetch-quest grinds. The rewards for which mostly involve gaining money and a couple of items too, which is a bit disappointing. Given there are around 100 or so in the game, it would have been nice to gain some Experience Points here too, especially as there’s no quick way to grind up levels.

Overall, Octopath Traveler II is a decent RPG, with a surprising amount of depth and lots of stat tinkering that’ll whet the appetite for any fan looking for a stat-heavy turn-based RPG. The 8 stories are a bit of a mixed bag though, with some standing out as excellent and others feeling a bit underwhelming.

Through it all though, the game manages to bring everything together in the end, and the 50+ hours you’ll spend getting through the main missions certainly won’t feel wasted. Whether this will be crowned best RPG at year’s end is debatable, but it’s a damn good game all the same and well worth playing.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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