Octopath Traveler II

released on Feb 24, 2023

This game is a brand-new entry in the Octopath Traveler series. It takes the series’ HD-2D graphics, a fusion of retro pixel art and 3DCG, to even greater heights.
In the world of Solistia, eight new travelers venture forth into an exciting new era.
Where will you go? What will you do? Whose tale will you bring to life?
Every path is yours to take. Embark on an adventure all your own.

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my irks are restrictions regarding your party (i am fine with the protagonist lock until story completion; however, i believe exp should be shared across active and reserve members, we don't have to stick to that archaic restriction despite the visual aesthetics; once party formation is free to use w/o the taverns, they still don't treat it as if you can interact with all of them); wish the game speed went up to 3x; no clear data / new game plus option :(
i did not play the first octopath traveler beyond the demo, but i'm glad that party interaction went up a bit here with the crossed paths and travel banter (wish that was voiced). the battle system is great and i like the customization options, though adding additional job slots can be bit out the way depending on types. played in english and think the voice acting was top notch and quite like some localization choices (rendering partitio's kansai-ben as a southern accent >>>). music is great, they need to put it on spotify. plot is nothing special, but i enjoyed what it had to offer.

When Octopath Traveler 1 came out in 2018, it was kind of a big moment for pixel rpgs. The "HD-2D" art-style was a stunning graphical wonder. There was some broad criticism by some people who considered it ugly or "lazy", but like most of the endless online discourse, it faded away once there was something else to focus on. But within the last five years, the HD 2D style has shown it might be here to stay. It encouraged Square Enix to consider bringing back lost pixel RPGs that players are still invested in. After several poor remaster attempts, the Final Fantasy Remasters have been really positively received. Bolstered by that, the Live A Live HD-2D remake was released to rave reviews across the seas. I think there's an argument to be made that those re-releases wouldn't exist without the existence of Octopath 1.
Still, the first game was burdened with some major problems. Despite its marketing around 8 party members, the cast virtually never interacts with each other across the entire game. The "travel banters" where they did interact was exceptionally easy to miss content. The game also became notorious for its exceptional difficulty, making progression daunting for new players. Even finding the final boss of the game was locked behind various obtuse, unmarked side quests. The game sold a million copies, but the actual story didn't seem to leave much of a cultural impact.
Its why its kind of sad to me that the initial sales of Octopath 2 don't seem too hot, when I really do think its something special.
It took me a long time to fully decipher the mechanics. The overworld and battle mechanics aren't entirely well explained and it was one of the reasons I bounced off the first game. I'd say it took me 15-20 hours into the system to grasp its fundamentals. But once the system clicks with you, it connects together in a really crunchy way. Balancing the job systems, the special skills, and all the other layers makes for a truly gripping combination of systems and gimmicks.
One of the major criticisms of the first game was how little the cast interacted with each other. In 2, the Travel Banters are easily collected in your journals to view any time, even the ones you missed. It helps you get a good sense of each character's dynamic. This is expanded upon in "Crossed Paths", where two characters pair up to their own sidequest and bounce off each other more directly. Not only does it alleviate the concerns of the first game, it also helps flesh out the cast. How they act around different people and how their behaviors change in circumstances. It helps them feel more real and defined. And that's crucial for the kind of story Octo
The core theme of the game, as with many rpgs, is this idea of lightness versus darkness. Straight-forward enough. But how the game delivers that message is through this idea of the overwhelming horror of violent history. The cycle of betrayal, heart-break, corrupt systems, and how they make future seem so horrifically bleak. Its a hard topic to really deliver if the writers don't fully understand those systems. But for the most part, I think Octopath threads the needle. Its in the stories themselves
Castti the Apothecary
I don't often go for healer girls or amnesia stories. Healer girls are often a bit too soft for my liking, a bit too deferential and "traditionally" cute. So much of what makes Castti work is how tired she seems beneath the surface. She's treated as and performs as the "mother hen", fussing over the other characters. But she's old, she's seen things. A nightmare sequence features her chased down by all the people she's failed to heal. All the blame she places on herself for those deaths. It makes her decision to keep working all the more powerful and heart-breaking.
There's a narrative beat about the Book of Night. It appears to detail the worst of history, every nightmare-ish act of human villainy ever written down. Most characters go nuts and decide to burn the world down after they read it. Castti's just like "...yeah? And?" She's seen the worst and doesn't care. That's just more people to heal. She signed up for that. Seeing the worst and building something better comes with the job description. Its the kind of characterization the game needs for its core theming to work.
Throne and Agnea
I liked Primrose in 1. But, there was weird stuff too. Her "Seduction" mechanics as the Dancer just felt uncomfortable when paired with her history. Trafficking, exploitation... it doesn't mesh well.
Primrose's main traits are diverged into two characters. Agnea is the Dancer and she's portrayed as a joyous inspiration chasing her dream. I never quite fell in love with that story, but its a nice way to balance the game's darker tones and its a much better characterization for the Dancer type.
Throne gets the bulk of the darker storytelling. For the game's narrative of "finding hope in the future," they need a story about someone who seemingly has no future. No control. No options. The Blacksnakes are a team of criminals who are kept in line with their poison collars. The Mother and Father of the guild can activate the poison any time, killing their unruly children. So Throne's goal is simple. Kill her "parents", unlock the collars, gain freedom.
Through this darkness, we dive deep into the idea of freedom and control. What it means to fight for something everyone else has, discovering your identity when your identity has been determined since birth. What you have to sacrifice to win that fight. Its bleak, but its perhaps the most thematically interesting of the batch. It swerves into so many fascinating directions, none of them quite what you'd expect. How it establishes the systems a parent sets up for a child, what that child grows into, and all the complications through it all... its such a fascinating picture. The darkness works here. Its pointed and purposeful. I adore it.
Takes a lot to sell me on a Royal Prince Must Win story. But Hikari's story really works for two reasons.
1. The nation of Ku has subjugated and massacred its neighbors for generations. Its a horrific place. Hikari is the only political force with the support to rework it into something better.
2. Hikari's power doesn't come from his royal bloodline. It comes from his humble roots. While the Ku family mocks him as part-royal/part-lowborn, his connection to the average civilian gives him a perspective the nobles lack. While the Ku Family embrace this weird demon power that encourages bloodshed, he can actively resist it by knowing the consequences of such violence on the average person. Its great. Its a good hook. Hikari's a good kid.
The thing I really had to let go of while playing this game is the wider political ideas of Ku. Hikari's goal to return to power kind of dances around the idea of what the public sentiment is. Ku massacres any dissident, yeah, but it never quite examines if there's a major political body that likes the murders. People kill because the royal family orders murders. Once Hikari's in power, everyone will happily not murder peasants anymore. That's the only logic we need to follow. Trying to overthink it past that? Not what the story is about. Sometimes, you just gotta accept what the story's doing.
Ochette's just fun. In the midst of these darker tales of depravity and corruption, here's a shonen protag. I love it. Good tone balancer.
Osvald and Temenos
These are pretty good. Osvald's story is gripping enough, even if it just checks some boxes in my eyes. Dead family. Get revenge. Find a new way to live.
Temenos' story is probably the most connected to the Overarching Plot of the cast, which makes his murder mystery plotline a little difficult to follow at times. The narrative has to hide some of the cards for the finale. What you're left with is a Twink Church Cop who dances his way through some murders. They try to balance out the whole "I'm an inquisitor for the church chasing down heretics" tension with the characterization that Temenos himself doesn't... really care about religion. He likes to solve crime. Finding "heretics" is how he does that. Since the people that hate the Church in this game miraculously end up being murderers, it works out. Weird tension there. Hard to grapple with it.
More than anything, both of these lads just really excel as Travel Banter characters. Osvald is the grumpy straight man, gloomy and miserable and baffled by the wackier antics of the other characters. Temenos is the perpetual tease, needling others, getting under people's skin. For the dynamics to work, you need these guys! Essential for a large party! If everyone gets along too well, they become less interesting. With a grump and a jackass, you get good variety. Its perfect.
A Kentucky-fried traveling salesman decides to end poverty with 1. the planned assassination of oil barons and 2. department stores.
Its weird.
Don't look to media for politics, its never a good idea. But its hard not to look at Partitio's weird balancing act between loving and hating capitalism. The villains use the word capitalism. They spew off hatred for worker's rights. The villain's final monologue involves proclaiming "money is meant to be hoarded by people like me!" The game's very intentional with this! The industrial revolution and its impact on society is the key center piece of what this story path is about. There's no denying that.
But I think fans who put Partitio as a socialist king are sort of missing the mark of Partitio's character. Because honestly, I'm not even sure the game knows what Party's beliefs are. Partitio likes trade and he likes money. He's fervently in favor of the industrial revolution and generally seems to like capitalism. But he wants a nice capitalism. An equitable enough capitalism. Fair wages and good bosses. Its a really specific needle the story is trying to thread and I can't say they succeed. Cause at the end of the day, Partitio's plan is to be a Good Billionaire. The only path out of capitalism is Good Capitalism. Its a really odd piece.
But he's fun. He says goofy folksy quips. He... offers to buy Throne's poison collar and find a way to make a "good" version of it, which seems like a loaded concept to drop casually in a travel banter. But he's fun. The charm overrides most of the head-scratching.
This kind of game has a lot to prove. Investing time into a huge rpg, especially right before Zelda ToTK release, is tough. And I think a lot of people passed on this for so many complicated marketing reasons. But despite my reservations on some story aspects... the game really hooked me. I dedicated a whole month to this monstrosity, after I expected to drop it from the first 10 hours. It grabs you. Its exudes charm and passion. It grows from the first game in such smart ways. And more than anything... I want more of these games. I want the Octopath franchise to keep growing and improving. They've got so much to show off and I think they have a lot more stories to tell. I loved this game. I hope to see more of it.

Octopath Traveler 2 was a nice surprise, as richly detailed diorama of a game that seeped soul. Each of the micro-stories worked in building out the tone of the world. The BP system is super fun, and breaking the battle systems was a great way to defeat some of the tougher bosses. The flow of combat is great, and the way the game forces you into making risky calls by letting you see an impending barrage from a tough enemy that will wipe your team makes those risky moves feel great when they pay off.
The character writing varies from story to story, but overall I loved the characters. In particular, Partitio, Throne, and Osvald were highlights. The day / night cycle and it's corresponding character skills is a really unique system, and I absolutely loved the soundtrack and sprite art.
Octopath Traveler 2 nails what it is going for, and feels like a perfect pastiche of SNES jrpgs. I really hope they keep the momentum going with a third entry.

ive got to finish this... for khang... and roxas....

Octopath Traveler was a game that took me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it. Initially, I wasn't interested in the game due to it resembling Bravely Default and because I got filtered by both Bravely Default & Octopath Traveler's demos when those were released. In retrospect, I went into them hoping for and expecting them to be games that I could play and keep my brain turned off. Before & during my playthrough of the first Octopath Traveler I realized I was a total idiot. When I finally gave the game a proper chance, I found the strategy required in taking down bosses and enemies to be one of the best parts of the game. Octopath Traveler II keeps everything good about the first game and improves upon its shortcomings to deliver a fantastic RPG that is sure to become a classic in due time.
The gameplay is mostly the same with all of the primary jobs from the first game coming back. Even the new secondary jobs share some similarities to the ones in the previous game. However, they added one new mechanic and it is one that can become a game-changer in tough situations, Latent Powers. Each traveler has a unique one with different benefits. A few examples would be, Partitio's latent power that allows him to have max BP, Agnea's which allows her single attack moves to attack all enemies, or Hikari's & Ochette's which give them access to special attacks. I can't count the number of times this mechanic saved me from what would otherwise have been a game over had it not been added. There are also EX skills that grant you access to more powerful abilities but I didn't use them as much as I probably could have. They may not have been vital additions to the game, but they are welcome ones that make the game a little bit easier and each character more unique.
The biggest issues with the first game were the story and the 8 travelers you play as barely interact with each other. While there were a couple of travelers from the first game whose stories I ended up enjoying more, in most cases the stories were more interesting and an improvement over the first one. The pacing for each story was better too. Some chapters are split into two parts that give the game a little more breathing room to flesh out the story a little more compared to everyone in the first game where they only had 4 chapters. They fixed my biggest gripe with the first game's story and that was the lack of connection between each traveler's quest. The final chapter unites all of the characters together in order to save the world and also adds some lore that pieces some events in their respective stories together.

The travelers interact with each other a lot more and in a handful of others ways than they did in the first game. There is the banter dialogue which is a lot easier to find than it was in the first game (I didn't even know it existed in Octopath 1 till the end of the game), the crossed paths chapters that involve two of the travelers going on an adventure together, and the final chapter that unites them all. Seeing all your party members interact with each other might seem like a small, unimportant oversight, but it comes a long way in enhancing the experience.
While the first Octopath Traveler may have a special place in my heart, Octopath Traveler II is a game that surpasses it in pretty much every way. If this game is an indication of what is in store for the future of the Octopath Traveler franchise, then its a series that has a bright future ahead of it.

This game came out and I was like... woah... I haven't beaten it yet but holy this game is so good, its an actual direct upgrade to the first one and its so awesome. I love the characters, the story, the ost, and the art.