The hype around the original Octopath Traveler proved that there’s a market of gamers hungry for large studios to invest in retro-style adventures. While the presentation was the overall selling point, the idea of eight protagonists joining up to go on an adventure is caught my attention. Sadly, the stories were more self-contained than I would have liked making each character feel removed from the individual narratives.
Regardless, the adventure was worthwhile, and my excitement returned when Octopath Traveler II. After playing the opening chapters of each protagonist, it’s clear the developers are listening to feedback but sticking close to ideas presented in the first game.
You’re allowed to begin Octopath Traveler II with any of the eight protagonists. Each character has a reason for setting out on their own, some being more important than others, but you’ll likely have your preferences. With eight protagonists from different walks of life, I was worried that I wouldn’t resonate with all of them. However, each character has something they bring to the table, whether it be a unique outlook on a current situation or an important ability. The only character that confused me about their involvement in the group is Agnea Bristarni, who is just a dancer with the dream of becoming a star. Her quest has no sense of urgency, which makes me curious about where her story leads.
My first choice was Throné Anguis, for maybe too obvious of reasons. After being brought up in a thieves guild, she aims to change her fate and fight back against those who have pretty much enslaved her. Her ability allows her to steal from NPCs during the day or knock them out at night. The success rate depends on a few factors, including her level, but I won’t lie and say I didn’t cheese some of the lower probability equipment steals by saving before and loading if I failed. Reputation scores in town will drop if you get caught slipping five times. However, it is possible to reverse this at the pub with a little coin.
But I digress; this mechanic is shared with each of the protagonists, who have unique abilities that depend on the time of the day, a feature that you can fully control with a press of a button. The first chapter of each character highlights their abilities and how to utilize them, which is essential because it’s a feature you’ll be using a lot.
I have grown addicted to interacting with each NPC in a town and seeing what I can swipe off them or check if they’re strong enough to join my team for a few rounds. Other options abilities include finding hidden treasure or just getting them to spill the tea about their love for another NPC in town. It’s like an ongoing side-mission that offers optional ways to interact with townspeople and make them more than just information givers.
The battles in the open chapters aren’t too significant across any of the protagonists’ openings. Although special skills are introduced, the opening is mainly story-focused, but not to worry, the moments after will have plenty of fights to jump into. There are two-speed options for battles, and movement on the overworld is swift. Everything seems streamlined to cater to various JRPG fans, with options to fit a player’s playstyle.
After completing the opening of your first character, you’re free to explore and continue to the next chapter or grow your team. There’s an enormous amount of freedom given to the player once they set off, and I was thoroughly surprised to find myself able to venture off the beaten path, where I quickly died being under-leveled. Still, at least I had the option.
I’m playing using the English dub, and I can say that it is really good. This is mainly important because of how freaking fantastic the soundtrack is, and you wouldn’t want the audio tracks to be completely overshadowed by this banger of a soundtrack.
The UI can sometimes be a bit tough to read, especially when checking out the equipment details. Also, the mini-map on-screen shows you a general direction but doesn’t show paths, so I used the menu map often when getting around. Thankfully, a fast travel system was available early on, so it wasn’t too daunting going too far away from quest markers.
As I continue my journey, I look forward to seeing how these characters’ stories intertwine and how the battle system evolves in later chapters. With the option of secondary job classes, side quests, and dungeons, there’s a lot to unpack here.
Octopath Traveler II continues to impress with its HD-2D visual presentation and unique way of storytelling. The opening moments of each chapter set up numerous possibilities for adventure, highlighted by the freedom players are given to explore. This is the shaping up to a perfect evolution of the series, and I can’t wait to discover everything it offers.
Octopath Traveler II is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC on February 24, 2023.
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