Aside from having one of the most unusual names for an RPG, Octopath Traveler really made a splash a few years back.
It has a vintage 16 bit style, but modernized using 2.5D and mechanics that lend themselves to recent adventures. For instance, splitting the journey between several aspiring adventurers, each with their own specialties and backstory.
It’s a fascinating take and the game is such that you can take a break from one adventure to see how another unfolds. Then, before you realise it, you’re in the midst of a story, told from multiple perspectives, that offers something different and refreshing while still maintaining the tropes of a classic RPG. And it is wonderful.
So you’ll be pleased to know Octopath Traveler 2 mostly does not change the core dynamics and stays faithful to the vision. Some might even say to a fault, but from my perspective, I found each story to be more varied, intriguing, and above all else compelling. And then there’s the small matter of crossed paths, which just enriches everything tenfold.
From an aspiring dancer who follows in her mother’s footsteps, to a warrior who is immediately cast out onto the field of battle, the game manages to stay unpredictable and the cast of characters especially unexpected.
And as each traveller emanates from the different corners of Solistia, so they eventually stumble upon one another’s towns and cities and can band up together in pursuit of greatness. This is such a cool dynamic as you can jump straight into the full backstory on your teammate before even doing anything, then use each character’s unique ability, combining them to progress the game how you see fit.
For instance, there’s a merchant who can theoretically buy anything from anyone. Even if they don’t want to sell it. His knack and skill are such that you can even get some things at a discount.
Or as the dancer, Agnea, you can actually convince people to follow you and help you out. These villagers or townsfolk can even be called upon in battle by summoning and have a unique skill, like a certain degree of healing properties or marksmanship with a bow and arrow.
And to further iterate on this, Octopath Traveler 2 now has a day and night cycle which you can change at the press of a button. This actually affects your character’s unique skill and can diversify the way you play. And even change up the story somewhat.
But be warned as enemies are also tougher at night, though that can also be a good thing if you’re looking to try and boost your character’s leveling.
Speaking of, combat feels great in Octopath Traveler 2. Between the returning break and boost skills which sees you take down an enemies shield using their weaknesses against them, then performing multiple attacks in one go, you can whizz through battles pretty sharpish once you’ve got a knack for it all.
But there’s also a few new things to bare in mind, such as Latent Powers which are unique to each character. These can attack all enemies in one swipe and use one of the character’s distinct attributes while at it.
The jobs system also has more options which means you can play to your own strengths as well as those of your character.
Other marked differences to the game this time are the ability to canoe across water in groups or solo, and the visual upgrade. While the style remains the same, the game makes better use of camera angles this time, tilting them during battle to see the effects of your Latent Powers and boosts.
It’s incredibly impressive how the game can feel both retro and modern at the same time. But that’s what OT 2 does so well. While telling a series of great stories, each one mostly coming with a satisfying cliffhanger from the guise of an engaging protagonist, the world looks stunning in full 4K and the gameplay flow is immediately satisfying and fulfilling.
It is so easy to lose hours at a time to Octopath Traveler 2 and that’s because everything about the game is beautifully polished and refined. You want to spend time in Solistia, to meet all of its inhabitants and move the dialogue forward like turning the page of a good book.
So while there is more of the same here, I found everything better and more enjoyable about Octopath Traveler 2. For one, I found the game less ‘grey’ as there’s a more varied and vibrant color palette this time out.
Another, I really liked how different each story felt and how vast it made the world seem. The backgrounds are so very different but you believe in each person’s desire to go off on an adventure and see the wide world.
Finally, combat, which is so fundamental to any good RPG, is the perfect blend of fast-paced and strategic. It just works, never outstays its welcome and encourages you to keep investing in skills and upgrading your equipment in order to stay ahead.
While the original was a good game, I humbly believe Octopath Traveler 2 is a vast improvement and while its definitely the underdog this year for best RPG – there’s the small matter of Square’s own Final Fantasy 16 and that little game Tears of the Kingdom to come – this is a game that deserves to be remembered and appreciated for what it does and how it achieves it.
Octopath Traveler 2 is wonderful, from the choices it gives you right at the start, to the stories it tells, the ways they’re presented, and the mechanics that drive them. This is Square Enix at their RPG making best, the types of games they were renowned for years past and are at the very core of their DNA. One of the most enjoyable, refreshing retro-modernistic adventures I have ever had the pleasure of playing and one RPG fans simply must add to their collection.
+ Stylish aesthetics with wonderfully presentation and camera angles
+ Eight intriguing stories, mostly all paced well and are enjoyable to run through
+ Day/Night Cycling is meaningful and stunningly seamless
+ Solid battle mechanics keep the gameplay flow well balanced
– Probably not enough of an evolution for some if they didn’t enjoy the original
Octopath Traveler 2 is now available on Switch, Xbox, PC and PlayStation
Played on PS5
Code Kindly Provided by Square Enix