Octopath Traveler 2 – Game Review


Octopath Traveler 2

(available for PlayStation 4 & 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC with SteamDeck compatibility. Nintendo Switch version used for this review)

Octopath Traveler 2 is the latest Square Enix game from Team Asano, who has been knocking it out of the park recently. They had excellent entries with games like Triangle Strategy and the Live a Live remake, both of which I reviewed last year, with the latter of which coming to Playstation and PC shortly after this review comes out (unless you’re reading this after April 2023 in which case it’s already out, so go out and buy it! It’s one of the best RPGs released in recent memory).

Team Asano’s first entry with the HD2D engine was the first Octopath Traveler, a project that was worked on with Nintendo Switch in mind to recapture classic Super Nintendo-era RPGs like the old Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana. They did a good job with the battle system that they had in place which made it stand out from the rest. It felt like a classic RPG brought to the modern age, not just visually but mechanically. I also felt that Octopath Traveler had a lot of issues that should have been fixed- don’t get me wrong, I really liked it, but it was incredibly grind-heavy, even by RPG standards. It’s also a game that really benefits from a guide for learning enemy weaknesses.

Octopath Traveler 2, however, was announced in a September Nintendo Direct, with the promise that it would be the original game expanded. To cut a long story short, it has achieved that.

Octopath Traveler 2 is a very good game, but you’ll be noticing that this game came out in February and I’m getting this review out in April. That is because this is a LONG game! You’re looking at a bare minimum of 70 hours if you’re good. My playtime was 100 hours by the time of the final boss. I only did a few side quests for the purposes of the review! The game is full of content. I think that this is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I think that they managed the content well, but on the other hand, I think that this game is a massive time sink. If you’re buying it as a way to tide yourself over until Tears of the Kingdom comes out, you won’t finish it before then.

As for my thoughts, well, I would say it has improved on the first in pretty much every way, to such an extent that I’m not sure I will be able to go back to the original. The most confusing aspect of the game is the fact that this game is getting a PlayStation version despite the fact the first one didn’t have a version, and the sequel doesn’t have an Xbox version despite the fact that original did appear on that one!

Square Enix’s questionable marketing aside, it’s clear that they see a future in the HD2D engine with this franchise. I wouldn’t put it past them to reveal a new game with this engine in the next Nintendo Direct outside of the upcoming Dragon Quest 3 remake which I keep forgetting is a thing.

PROS

  • Storylines

Like the original game, you’ll be choosing one of 8 characters to be your main character. You’ll start off by performing their first chapter, or if you chose Osvald as your main character you get the first two chapters since his first two chapters are so interconnected. Don’t worry if you feel like his story is sped along, since he gets an extra chapter compared to the other characters to make up for it.

The eight choices this time are:

  • The Warrior Hikari
  • The Dancer Agnea
  • The Merchant Partitio
  • The Cleric Temenos
  • The Scholar Osvald
  • The Thief Throné
  • The Hunter Ochette
  • The Apothecary Castti

Like before, they each come with their own individual storylines, Hikari is trying to regain control of his home nation following a coup from his brother, Ochette is searching the world for mythical monsters to defend her home island, and Osvald trying to get revenge from a tragedy involving his tragedy. The great thing about this game is that they all have much better story structures. The problem with the first game was that there wasn’t an ongoing storyline for each of the characters, they were a lot more episodic in nature. Octopath 2 has much better storylines, they feel a lot more satisfying no matter who you pick as your character. You want to be careful about choosing your main character, because, unlike the last game, they will be stuck as your main party character until you finish their story.

Outside of the bantering dialogue, the characters don’t really interact in each of their stories, they’re rather solitary. Given the fact that they have dialogue amongst each other in battle, they feel more like a party in this game compared to the last.

I picked Hikari as my starting character, and if you want brute force, then he’s your best bet. But if you want a good healer in your party then I would recommend Castti or Temenos. While Hikari can gain a bunch of new abilities, Ochette also performs that well by capturing beats to use throughout the battle. Your main character will inevitably be overpowered, so pick one that suits your playstyle. Hikari was incredibly overpowered by the time I got to the final boss.

If you’re worried about the team make up, don’t worry since you have access to the team guild early on in the game. This gives you the ability to add a secondary job to each character. In my case, I made Hikari a warrior cleric, so I guaranteed that there was someone who could perform a full party heal at all times. I probably made my biggest mistake of the playthrough by making Osvald a scholar dancer- his special abilities didn’t blend very well in that department, but it was worth it to give him a dagger which was sorely needed a lot of times.

Despite the fact that the characters don’t really interact with each other, they make up for it by having crossed-path storylines. This involves the characters having their own individual story, you’ll gain access to a lot of them early on but you won’t be able to finish these storylines until you’ve finished each character’s final chapter. Think of them as nice epilogues to each of the stories.

Of course, the game comes together with a final story towards the end. I won’t dare spoil it, but I think it did a better job tying all of the stories together than the first game did.

  • Battle System

The battle system is a bit more interesting this time, it’s virtually the same as before, you’re trying to target certain weaknesses and you can only learn so many through trial and error. I’d actually recommend trying to have a scholar in your party for most of the time, be it Osvald or whoever you give that secondary job to. Word of advice, when Osvald isn’t in the party, have your second scholar in the party as well. Having the ability of Analyse to reveal one weakness at a time doesn’t cost much SP (this game’s equivalent of what would normally be called NP) and it revealing a weakness is always a good thing to do ahead of time.

As before, there is also BP or Battle Points. They build up over time and you can cash them in to gain extra attacks, reaching a maximum charge of 4. This either revolves around you attacking multiple times with the same weapon, so you can cash in for four sword attacks or you can make an ability even stronger.

It’s not very different from the previous game, you’re trying to knock down enemies’ weaknesses so you break them and they, therefore, skip a turn and receive more damage from attacks. The big difference to this battle system this time is the special abilities that have been added, each character comes with a different one. Hikari gets special attacks, Temenos can attack and break enemy shield points each turn, Agnea can target multiple enemies, and you get the gist. They build up by either breaking enemies over time or by taking damage. You can also power them by using the new item the Empowering Lychee.

Everything about this game feels like it takes the good battle system from the last game and refines it. There are a few issues I have with specific battles, but as a whole, I think this is the best turn-based battle system that we’ve seen in a game in years. It’s still fantastic and I think that it has improved greatly in this game.

I would also recommend checking out some of the optional classes that you can get, like the Inventor and the Master of Arms. The Inventor in particular is a great one to get, though you won’t be able to power it up through job points which you earn with experience points in battles which assign you the extra abilities.

  • HD2D

I’ve gushed enough about how good this engine looks in my reviews of Triangle Strategy and I also talked about it in the Live A Live review, so I won’t go on too much about it- but Octopath Traveler 2 is a visually excellent game. If you liked the look of those other games this one will give you more of that. If I was to comment about a significant improvement, it would be the character designs., They are a lot more distinctive and there’s a better use of colours on display for these designs.

MIXED

  • Side Quests

The side quests aren’t terrible, but they have a couple of issues. The major one is that they’re all fetch quests, so you won’t gain experience points as a reward. You do get money, though, so I would recommend doing them early on. Since those rewards come in quite handy, you will be able to purchase some of the more expensive items early on.

The other issue though is that they’re incredibly cryptic and you don’t gain a map marker to show you what you’re supposed to be doing. Even in the specialist ones for Partitio. Since he’s a merchant, he gains some commerce-based side quests, which you should do as early as possible since it benefits you in a later chapter. If you forget to do it, the game warns you when it will be beneficial to have those quests completed. There’s no penalty for not having them done, and you can go back to them.

In short, the side quests are good but I wish they were a bit clearer. I had to find a guide to figure out what was required of me.

CONS

  • Boss fight Length

One thing I didn’t like about the first game that has not been improved in this game and that is the boss fights. Some of them are incredibly gimmicky. I don’t want to give away many spoilers but some of them were so frustrating. I especially noticed that some of the bosses in Throné’s chapters were especially annoying.

That being said, the biggest offender was the final boss of Agnea’s storyline. Word of advice for that boss fight: Agnea’s secondary job needs to be an Apothecary, make sure she knows to Rehabilitate by the end of her fourth chapter. If she knows that it will make the second phase of that boss fight way less of a hassle. Even then though, it was so gimmicky that I was looking at movie-length playthroughs. I’ll admit that some of my characters were slightly under-levelled, but even so, this fight shouldn’t have taken that long. I timed it with a few of my colleagues during one of my playthroughs and it went on for an hour and thirty-five minutes– and that wasn’t a successful one!

In short, there are no short boss fights in this game, and I think that that’s more annoying than it is enjoyable. At some point, you’re not going to get away with having some of the characters be at the recommended level for that story, which leads to my next point:

  • Grinding Heavy

It’s not as bad as the first game, but they haven’t fixed one of my major issues with it and that was the heavy grind aspect. At certain points, I was noticing it way less and that was when I got a better system in place for levelling up characters. However, this game still has large portions of grinding. It doesn’t help that side quests don’t give out experience points as rewards. My advice is to walk everywhere without fast travel for a while, you’re inevitably going to end up against under-levelled enemies. Find areas which are good for grinding, it’s certainly a lot quicker if you had a good system in place. I had an apothecary and a scholar in my party at all times and then alternated characters when they over-levelled each other. One scholar would swap out when they got one level above the other one, same with the apothecaries, etc.

This obviously might be affected if you wanted to use this system if you chose Castti or Osvald as your main characters. The best advice that I can give is to find a way to level up the characters that work for you. When you’re getting into those final chapters (which is usually chapter 4 or 5 depending on the character) you are going to have to make sure that all of your characters are at the recommended level.

Despite the fact that it does give branching pathways for each other chapters, you’ll have to take both of them at some point anyway, so you may as well take the lower-level one first.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Octopath Traveller 2 is a really good RPG, but the boss fights kind of dragged it down for me. It’s a really good RPG, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s one of Square Enix’s best, and it can easily stand up against Triangle Strategy and Live a Live, even up against NEO: The World Ends With You. However, I do have to say that this is a grind-heavy game and some of these boss fights are going to infuriate you. If you’re having trouble, there is no shame in looking up a guide.

Visually, it’s stunning, the soundtrack is amazing and I want Apple Music to give me access to it. I really like the new Day and Night system which gives each character an extra on-map ability. The battle system is as good as ever and the storylines are significantly improved, they actually got me to really care about these characters.

This is a top-level RPG, though if you care about performance, you shroud only be getting the Switch version if it’s the only console you have since the PlayStation and PC versions have much better framerates. As a whole, I really liked it on Switch since the franchise lends itself to Nintendo well.

If you liked the first one, this one is an improvement on it. If you had issues with the first, it doesn’t fix all of them but it does fix a good few.

Final Score: 9.0/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia10th July 2024
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