We don’t give scores, but if we did, this one would be 8/8. Find out why in our Octopath Traveler II review!
Since their RPG debut all the way back in mid ’80s, Square Enix (previously SquareSoft) have been widely recognised as the founders of the JRPG genre. Alongside rival publisher, Enix, the pair of companies dominated the role-playing scene for decades before eventually merging to become the powerhouse we know today. With classics like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Dragon Quest under their belt (among hundreds of others), it should be obvious that Square Enix have shaped the genre that so many of us love.
The HD-2D series has kicked off a classic JRPG revival.
And in 2018, Square Enix paired up with Acquire (Tenchu, Way of the Samurai) to commence what would be a classic JRPG renaissance through the release of their inaugural HD-2D title: Octopath Traveler. Combining classic pixel art visuals with detailed 3D environments, a clever spin on turn-based combat, and eight mini stories a la LIVE A LIVE, Octopath heralded the revival of the classic genre. This was soon followed by further entries in the HD-2D series, with Triangle Strategy and the LIVE A LIVE remake both receiving critical acclaim.
The charming cast of the original Octopath Traveler.
Further establishing HD-2D among the modern JRPG scene, Square Enix returns to offer their first ever sequel in the series with Octopath Traveler II. Retaining all elements established in the original game and polishing them to perfection, Octopath Traveler II might just be the shiniest gem yet in the HD-2D crown. So let us set off on yet another journey and discover the eight who await in out Octopath Traveler II review!
Octopath Traveler II Review – Story & Characters
As with the original Octopath Traveler, this entry is divided into the tales of eight individual protagonists, each of whom bring unique skills, settings, and motivations. Beyond their useful skills in combat, every character also has access to two unique Path Actions which vary between day and night, allowing them to interact with NPCs in various ways. Without further adieu, let’s meet our new protagonists.
Who are the characters of Octopath Traveler II?
Ochette, the Hunter
Life is peaceful on Toto’haha, an isolated island paradise nestled amongst a lush jungle, awash with life. This is where Ochette calls home, living amongst her fellow Beastlings in harmony with all life on the island. But that harmony quickly fades, as the Night of the Scarlet Moon approaches, a calamity that occurs once every 400 years. To protect her island, Ochette must journey across the continent to reunite the three “Creatures of Legend” and fend off the foreboding darkness.
Path actions: Provoke (challenge an NPC to combat), Befriend (gift tasty jerky to an NPC to gain their trust)
Castti Florenz, the Apothecary
Leading Eir’s Apothecaries, a band of traveling healers who travel the continent, Castti lends a helping hand to all in need. But after a calamity that wipes out an entire village, Castti’s memories of her past life have faded almost entirely, becoming a mystery she must unravel. Everywhere she travels, Castti is met with hesitation and hostility, as locals fear the blue garb of Eir’s Apothecaries as an omen. Can she piece together he memories and uncover what happened that fateful day?
Path actions: Inquire (gain valuable information from an NPC), Soothe (heal an NPC with a tincture of ingredients)
Throné Anguis, the Thief
An orphan raised on the rough back streets of New Delstra, Throné has known nought but the smell of blood from a young age. Recruited into the deadly tribe of assassins known as The Blacksnakes, this powerful femme fatale has been literally collared under the command of her leaders and adopted parents, Mother & Father. But with a successor to The Blacksnakes needed, Throne will stop at nothing to disband the unruly crew, even if it means killing the ones who raised her.
Path actions: Steal (pickpocket an item from an NPC), Ambush (knock an NPC unconscious)
Osvald V. Vanstein, the Scholar
What is a man’s purpose in life once everything has been taken from him? Revenge. A talented scholar who worked alongside his research companion, Harvey, attempting to uncover the power behind the One True Magic. But tragedy befalls Osvald after he is framed and wrongfully convicted of the murder of his beloved wife and daughter. Spending eternity in a desolate island prison, Osvald’s plan to break free and enact revenge will see him once again reunited with his partner in magic as he lusts for revenge.
Path actions: Scrutinize (assess an NPC to gain information from them), Mug (beat down an NPC and take their stuff)
Partitio Yellowil, the Merchant
Where most JRPG protagonists seek to defeat a physical foe, like an enemy or an evil God, Partitio seeks instead to defeat a concept: poverty. Raised in the desolate town of Oresrush, this charming young merchant was taught the value of hard earned cash after experiencing years of financial hardship. Wishing that not a single soul across the continent should befall such a fate, Partitio sets off on a journey of riches to spread the wealth he accrues amongst those who need it most.
Path actions: Purchase (pay an NPC in exchange for an item), Hire (recruit an NPC to combat for a sum on money)
Agnea Bristani, the Dancer
Watch me shine! Making people smile is all Agnea has ever wanted, a bright and stunning young girl who comes alive the moment she steps foot on the stage. Hailing from a small village, this little dancer has big dreams, and sets off on a journey to become the next big star. Meeting and motivating fellow performers along the way, Agnea has a unique way of uplifting the downtrodden through the power of dance. Although, the continent’s current number one star, the stunning Dolcinea, won’t go down without a fight!
Path actions: Allure (perform a dance to entice an NPC to follow you), Entreat (use your charm to gain gifts from an NPC)
Temenos Mistral, the Cleric
The truth lies within the flame… This ode is one that drives Temenos forward throughout not only his own devotion, but to seek out the lies and misdeeds of the church he has dedicated himself to. Given the role of Inquisitor within the church, Temenos is well aware of evils that lurk within those who claim to be pure of heart. And after the tragic murder of his pontiff, this Cleric uses his deductive skills to uncover the truth from within, and take down those responsible for the church’s corruption.
Path actions: Guide (allow an NPC to follow you), Coerce (twist the arm of an NPC to reveal their secrets)
Hikari Ku, the Warrior
Locked in battle for hundreds of years, the warriors of Ku are known for their ferocity and relentlessness on the battlefield. Thousands have died at the blade of the Ku, and with Hikari next in line for the throne, the fate of the nation rests upon his shoulders. But after a coup staged by his brother, General Mugen, the tyrant siezes control of the country and seeks to eliminate his own brother and cursed bloodline. The cycle of bloodshed must end, and it falls upon Hikari to ensure the people of Ku may one day know peace.
Path actions: Challenge (take on an NPC 1v1 in armed combat), Bribe (provide a small sum on money for an NPC to turn the other way)
Where the previous game well and truly divided characters with little interaction beyond brief conversations, Octopath Traveler II thankfully learns from its predecessor and ensures that the protagonists’ paths overlap, intersect, and interact wherever possible. This makes for a far more gripping and compelling narrative, especially as the finale culminates with all characters coming together to achieve a common goal.
Octopath Traveler II Review – Gameplay
For those among you who’ve played the original Octopath Traveler, the gameplay of the sequel will immediately feel familiar, which is not necessarily a bad thing. At its core, the gameplay is completely unchanged. You’ll be given the option to choose one of eight characters to begin with, who then becomes locked into your party as the lead protagonist. After completing their opening chapter, you’ll be given free reign to travel across the continent and recruit the remaining 7 members until your team of 8 is complete.
Choose your starting character wisely! You’re stuck with them.
The game is broken into episodic chapters, with each character having approximately 5 one-shot segments that often involve an intriguing subplot, new cast of characters, all topped off with a boss fight. Each of these takes approximately an hour to complete and over the course of the game becomes a total of ~60 – 70 hours of gameplay in total. This chapter style of gameplay felt fresh but fragmented in the first game, and has been vastly improved upon in Octopath Traveler II. Each character feels far more fleshed out, especially due to the overarching interconnected nature of their journeys.
The added day/night cycle is a nice touch.
It feels a bit like reading eight individual chapter books, and being to swap between books at your own leisure by visiting a pub and rearranging your party. This is given even more depth through the game’s day/night system, allowing you to change the time at will, as certain characters may appear or actions only occur at a particular time.
In typical traditional JRPG fashion, during each of the journeys, you’ll be faced with random encounters scattered throughout the environment. Once battle commences, your chosen party of 4 will face off in turn-based combat, drawing upon the skills of their primary “Job” and the secondary job they’ve been assigned.
The Break/Boost system returns from the first game, allowing each character to accrue “Boost Points” (BP) each turn that can be unleashed all at once for devastating attacks. This system offers some of the most polished turn-based combat ever created, and a near limitless number of combinations as to how your can arrange your party and their skills.
Break and boost!
Where the game is truly at its peak is during its epic boss sequences, where simple sprites upon the screen morph into horrific and detailed enemies that cover half the screen. These boss fights will require you to think tactically, relying upon breaking the enemy with certain weapons or elements in order to avoid being pulverised into a pulp. Unless you’re significantly over-levelled, many of the boss fights will present a significant challenge, and may require multiple attempts.
Knowing exactly when to boost is the key to success.
In addition to the characters’ main narratives, a new addition in Octopath Traveler II is the game’s “Crossed Paths”. These story-focused sections bring two characters together in a united sub-plot, which is an absolute pleasure to see the dynamic of such different personalities interacting. This new addition in one of the key improvements of the sequel, and something I personally would have loved to see more of, as only 8 of these short episodes occur throughout the entire game.
The “Crossed Paths” are exactly what the first game was missing.
Lastly, no good JRPG would be complete without a tonne of added side quests, and Octopath Traveler II is no different. Every location you visit is scattered with NPCs in need of help, offering riches and powerful rewards if you complete their request. Most of these side quests rely on your characters’ “Path Actions” (which I detailed in the character section), giving you extra information, pinching items, or guiding NPCs to certain areas.
Some stones are best left unturned…
While the quests are generally quite simple, there are certainly some that require some serious thought, presenting like a mini or puzzle to be pieced together.
Octopath Traveler II – Visuals
Unless you’ve been reading this review with your eyes closed (and if you have, how?), then you would have noticed that Octopath Traveler II is absolutely stunning. This is the HD-2D aesthetic at its absolute peak. By combining the lasting appeal of classic pixelated sprite graphics with detailed visual effects like depth-of-field, bloom lighting, and particle effects, Octopath Traveler II is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive titles from Square Enix to date. Just take a look at this collection of screenshots below:
But it’s far more than just pretty environments to travel across, because Octopath Traveler II features some of the most stunningly detailed pixel art you’ll ever lay eyes upon. I don’t exaggerate when I say the sprites are colossal, with many of the impressive taking up a large portion of the screen Kefka Palazzo-style. I won’t spoil them, but here’s one just to whet your pixelated palette.
Admittedly, if you’re a sucker for Octopath Traveler II’s beautiful aesthetic, then the Nintendo Switch may not be the best way to play it. Although the game runs reasonably well in handheld at a native resolution of 1280×720, the PC and PlayStation 5 releases support up to 4K. There are noticeable frame drops during busy battle sequences on Switch, and the game targets 30fps as opposed to other platforms which are capable of up to 120fps. But if handheld play is the biggest drawcard (which it was for me, having played the game almost entirely in handheld), the game still looks excellent on the Switch OLED display.
Octopath Traveler II – Audio
For the VGM fanatics out there, you’ll be delighted to know that the composer for the original game, Yasunori Nishiki, returns for the sequel. His musical style is truly at its most triumphant in Octopath Traveler II, with a ridiculous 7+ hour soundtrack that spans almost every genre of music imaginable.
Boasting a ridiculous suite of musicians from across the world, every single track is more impressive than the last, with many of the emotive character themes capable of covering you in goosebumps. This is without a doubt one of the best game soundtracks in years, and here’s just three of my favourites from the game’s 132 separate tracks.
“Osvald, the Scholar”, featuring heart-wrenchingly emotive cello.
The delightfully playful “Cait’s Theme” that plays when a special enemy appears.
Intense and fast-paced symphonic boss music in “Critical Clash”.
But the game’s audio is far more than just its music, with the cast of charming characters also fully voiced by many VA veterans. Every single character sounds absolutely perfectly suited to their style and background, with the southern drawl of Partitio (Jas Patrick) and Agnea (Xanthe Huynh), the pompous superiority of Temenos (Jordan Dash Cruz), the perky playfulness of Ochette (Suzie Yeung), and the dour and deadly Throne (Erica Mendez).
As with other HD-2D entries, you’re also given the option to swap between English and Japanese voiceovers at any time. This is particularly impressive, as acclaimed voice actress Aya Hirano (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star), is actually one of the lead roles!
Octopath Traveler II Review – Post-Game Content
Once the credits roll on Octopath Traveler II, there’s not a whole lot else in terms of post-game content. New Game+ is not an option, but rather allows the player to continue to explore the continent once the true ending has been obtained. This involves several optional side dungeons, completing existing quests, gathering the mighty “Rusted Weapons”, and unlocking secret jobs.
Get the whole Octoparty together!
Admittedly, you’ll likely find yourself significantly over-levelled at this point, which removes any element of challenge from the game. Though despite this, the game’s hearty offering of content during its main story at approximately 60 – 70 hours is still enough to satiate most JRPG fans.
Given time to polish their new formula over the last few years, Square Enix have finally crafted the crown jewel of the HD-2D series in Octopath Traveler II. Improving on all aspects of the original game, this engaging tale of eight delivers superb visuals, a colossal soundtrack, and one of the most charming sets of characters ever to feature in a single title. The classic JRPG is well and truly alive, and if you’re eager for yet another incredible adventure, we encourage you to follow the Octopath.
So, why should you play Octopath Traveler II?
- Enjoyed the first game? You’ll love the sequel even more
- Charming cast of characters with engaging tales
- Stunning pixel art aesthetic bringing classic visuals alive
- Love game music? This is worth playing for the soundtrack alone
- Highly polished turn-based battles and job systems
But why shouldn’t you play Octopath Traveler II?
- You’re not a fan of turn-based battles or random encounters
- Prefer games with a single protagonist rather than several
A review code on Nintendo Switch was kindly provided by Bandai Namco Australia for the purpose of our Octopath Traveler II review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our other HD-2D reviews (Triangle Strategy and LIVE-A-LIVE) and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about them!