When thinking of the most important RPGs of the last decade, one of the first games that comes to mind is Octopath Traveler. When it released in 2018 it immediately jumped into the hearts of RPG fans, with its unique battle system and retro game all glown up visuals. I can’t think of many other titles in the genre that are so universally loved, so when a sequel was announced I certainly wasn’t alone in my excitement. Now Octopath Traveler 2 is finally here, and I am delighted to be able to tell you that it does not disappoint.
Just like last time, Octopath Traveler 2 follows the story of eight different characters from totally different backgrounds. Each of these people has a reason they need to travel the world, ranging from saving their kingdom from a tyrannical ruler, to dreams of becoming the greatest dancer in the land. This desire and need to travel is what brings our cast together one by one, until eventually this merry band of misfits is working together to accomplish their goals.
One of Octopath Traveler 2’s greatest triumphs is the fact it tells eight interesting stories instead of just one. Broken up into chapters, you’ll dart in and out of each plotline and are often left with a little intriguing tease of what’s to come next. These aren’t the twee stories you might have come to expect from a JRPG, nor do they tell a grandiose tale about saving the world from some sort of evil god. These are stories of trying to raise money to help the lower class; stories of trying to break free from a life of crime, and stories of remembering and overcoming past trauma, and they are told beautifully.
Just because the stories are separate that doesn’t mean the characters are though. Throughout each chapter you’ll be regularly given the option to hear travel banter to hear what the other party members think of the current situation. This really helps to flesh out the weird and wonderful cast, and I awaited every new little interaction with glee. Alongside the chatter you also unlock side chapters that feature pairs of party members dealing with tasks and problems together, which were always a treat.
Although there’s a lot of narrative to experience, there’s also a lot of turn-based fighting to indulge in. Fans of the first game will be happy to see the return of the Boost and Break systems. For those of you not in the loop: every turn your party members are given a boost point. These can be spent at any time to deal an extra attack up to a limit of four. The reason this is so important is that every time you hit an enemy with a weapon or spell they are weak to; you lower their break points, and reducing these to zero will force them to skip a turn and take extra damage.
From start to finish these systems ensure that the combat is engaging and thought provoking. Often you’ll need to decide if it’s worth trying to spend a turn trying to uncover some extra weaknesses by switching up your weapons, or maybe you’ll decide that healing or buffing the party instead of taking that risk is the key to victory. Do you focus your attacks on the broken enemy that’s vulnerable, or try to break its ally first to avoid taking extra damage? These questions come up constantly, especially in boss fights, and when you make the right decision the satisfaction is unmatched.
It’s worth mentioning how different every single party member you gather is in battle. The warrior has a variety of weapons and learns new skills from people he fights in the towns and villages, the merchant can hire allies to fight alongside you in battle, and the scholar can analyse enemies for weak spots and fire off all sorts of elemental attacks. Even the two healers are completely different – with one focusing on single target healing and instant revives, and the other offering full party healing and light based magic. Switching between the fateful eight is always a joy, and there was never a character I felt was the weak link in the team.
Another way each of the characters differs is in their Latent Ability. This new mechanic for Octopath Traveler 2 is essentially an ultimate ability that you can use when you’ve broken enough fools and taken enough damage. The Latent Abilities might be my favourite part of the game, because they really shake up the combat. One character gains the ability to change any single target move into one that hits everyone, another can use her potion mixing without consuming ingredients. No matter who has the opportunity to unleash one of these super moves, the end result is almost always a huge swing in the tide of battle.
Once you’ve beaten up all the enemies in your way, you’ll have plenty of to use your out of combat abilities. These are called path skills, and offer up lots of ways to interact with NPCs. My main gal Agnea can use her charming personality to gain allies to summon in combat by day, but at night can appeal to them for all sorts of free items. The thief Thronè can similarly get items from unsuspecting civilians via pickpocketing, but can also knock them out if they’re blocking a door you want to get in. This is just the tip of the iceberg, with information gathering, duels and herbal healing to get to grips with.
There’s so much more to Octopath Traveler 2 once you get stuck in, too. After half a dozen hours you’ll start to discover secondary jobs and will be able to combine the powers of your eight heroes. There are also side quests that send you exploring the entire map, the ability to switch between day and night to make enemies tougher, and passive abilities that are ridiculously powerful once you find the right combinations. Even well past the fifty hour mark, I was discovering new elements to the game and loving every moment.
There has to be a special mention to the visuals and audio of Octopath Traveler 2. The pioneers of the HD-2D art style have done it again, with gorgeous lighting effects and stunning locales that absolutely took my breath away. All of the audio is superb too, from the consistently exceptional voice acting to the soundtrack I can’t get out of my head. This game honestly has it all.
Octopath Traveler 2 not only lives up to the first game, it surpasses it in every conceivable way. The combat is as fresh as it felt five years ago, the stories really resonated with me, and the visuals are simply unmatched. As long as you have the time to invest in this mammoth RPG, you won’t be disappointed with this phenomenal experience.
The turn based battles are always compelling
Every single one of the stories is so gripping
One of the best soundtracks of all time
Gets off to a bit of a slow start