The original Octopath Traveler came with such a presence that it inspired an entirely new visual style, one that fans have asked to be used for their favourite games. The HD-2D engine inspired a lot of faith in classical remakes but also the gameplay it brought with it made for some incredible encounters along the way. Square Enix has been on a hot streak as of late and while it seems like there are no signs of slowing down, you’ll want to when playing Octopath Traveler 2.
So, you might ask, what’s changed in the five years since the original Octopath Traveler launched? Well, let’s get into that question since it seems like there aren’t a lot of changes. While a lot of the same elements appear, it’s odd more work wasn’t done to enhance the sturdy foundations its predecessor made half a decade ago.
Eight new adventures within the world of Solistia
At first glance, Octopath Traveler 2 hardly changes anything compared to its predecessor, which was initially released exclusively for Nintendo Switch. Visually, the world with its tilt-shifted view of the world is incredible, returning to showcase why so many of us adore the HD-2D engine. While you experience the world itself from a kind of bird’s-eye view, the classic turn-based battles take place in a more lateral view. The Boost system, with which you can overcharge attacks, or execute several blows in succession, returns, as does the Break system, with which you remove the resistance of your opponents to leave them vulnerable.
The way you experience Octopath Traveler 2 is by selecting your main character, which the first title introduced. Each character has their own story only this time a lot of the issues have been resolved in the sequel. An introductory chapter will familiarize you with the situation before leaving you free to dive into the world to explore it to your heart’s content. From there, you’ll begin to meet other characters, the same ones who will go on to lead their own chapter of this colourful storybook before ultimately coming together for the finale.
I’m glad you can tackle the eight character arcs on your own terms, which is what the ‘Octopath’ name denotes. However, unlike last year’s Live A Live, a title that allowed you to start and stop a chapter if you weren’t ready to continue it, Octopath Traveler 2 locks you into the character’s campaign until you clear it. It’s a small nitpick but once you’ve had that freedom it’s hard to go back to not having it available in a similar title.
Octopath Traveler 2 is a safe sequel but it improves on many aspects of its predecessor
Thankfully for most of the time I spent with these characters, a lot of them had better-written stories than their predecessor. One of the standout characters you’ll meet when you pick up Octopath Traveler 2 is Osvald, a character caught up in a revenge plot that may feel familiar but implemented in a refreshing way. Other characters aren’t as impressive as Agnea’s obsessive search for fame, a tale that I couldn’t wait to move on from. Throné’s tale of leaving her past as a thief behind makes for good drama, balancing some of the lesser stories with better-written ones.
There’s more to do this go-around with each character having a pair of abilities to match the newly implemented day and night cycle. You get one ability for the day and one for the night, and you can also toggle the cycle freely instead of waiting. There are instances where you’ll be only to meet certain characters at night so it’s a welcome bonus instead of having to wait for them to appear, which would make the gameplay unnecessarily drag on. Additionally, if you head out at night enemies will offer more challenging encounters.
Speaking of encounters, combat is turn-based, and a lot of mechanics remain largely unchanged. Encounters are random and often challenging but the trade-off is the Boost and Break systems making most encounters a fun risk-reward scenario. If you decide to use your party member’s Boost Point, it’ll be added to quadruple the power of your attack. Every enemy also has Shield Points, which must be broken through physical or magic attacks. Once the Shield Points are depleted, the enemy enters a Break period where they are vulnerable to attack. However, to mix things up, the developers have added Latent Powers, character-specific attacks that can turn the tide in battle by supercharging your abilities by filling a new gauge.
Compared to its predecessor, Octopath Traveler 2 has better-written characters, and you’ll want to actively use them in battle, but part management is a mess. In the first Octopath Traveler, any active party members gained experience, at any time, only four characters earned expertise, leaving the others to fall behind. This trend continues in the sequel, which paired with low levels from the start, makes grinding once again necessary if you want to keep the entire team evenly levelled. There are still archaic design decisions being used today and this one sticks out more than others — I would appreciate this no longer being something games use to inflate game time, but it seems to persist.
I was hoping we’d see what an overworld would look like in the 2D-HD style this time, but Octopath Traveler 2 is essentially interconnected paths. Many of the locations in Solistia have their own incredible vibe to them and feel far more realized than Orsterra ever did. Similarly, the new Crossed Path mechanic is worth mentioning given it focuses on two party members in generally short missions located on your map. It certainly feels like these stories were added because the first game had no consistency between characters who barely interacted with each other. Now, you’ve got the opposite where there seem to be building blocks to something bigger but it still never hits a satisfying stride.
Octopath Traveler 2 is a safe sequel that enhances and fleshed out the existing systems from its predecessor. Not much has changed in five years and whether it needs to drastically can be a topic of discussion in the future. For now, revel in the gorgeous graphics and impressive battle system, which is a blast because of how it expects you to exploit your enemies’ weaknesses. Many of the characters are better written and feel better to use, so things feel much more interconnected this time. And you’ll want that given it might take you 100 hours to get the full experience.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]