Octopath Traveler II – The Power Of Eight

Octopath Traveler II - The Power Of Eight

PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC

The popularity of JRPGs has fluctuate over the years almost exclusively based on the successes or failures of Square-Enix. At the genre’s peak in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the genre’s heartbeat was strong with the likes of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Dragon Quest all leading the way, but the 2005-2015 window was not at all kind to Square-Enix or fans of the genre as the mega-publisher seemingly lost its way, and even their competitors were failing to fire. The back-end of the decade though has seen a change in fortune for all int he space however, and for Square-Enix it has proven to be looking back to their past that has helped inform and inspire their future. The proliferation of remasters and remakes of their beloved classics has been a key pillar in their resurgence, as has the birth of the HD-2D engine, and the likes of Octopath Traveler, Triangle Strategy, and Live A Live that have all been realised using the engine. Now wave 2 of development for the engine has kicked off with Square-Enix reflecting upon the numerous successes of the original game to inform the development of Octopath Traveler II, a game that improves nearly every aspect of the original game.

Octopath Traveler II retains many of the core elements of the original game, from it’s wonderful use of the HD-2D engine to realise its beautifully designed environments, to the constantly engaging boost and break systems in combat, and of course, as well as the eight playable protagonists and their converging plights. Octopath Traveler II brings a range of new systems to the fore, that, while not particularly revolutionary, evolve the formula in meaningful ways that offer more depth of storytelling and gameplay to keep players hooked for well over 50 hours just to see the golden path to its conclusion. 

One of the primary concerns emanating from the original Octopath Traveler was the lack of interaction between the various party members’ stories, despite being on a globe-trotting adventure together, to Square-Enix’s answer to that are the Crossed Paths narratives. While these stories, that bridges the conclusion to each characters narrative arc with the climactic end-game convergence of events. 

In the combat arena is where we’ve seen the most evolution in Octopath Traveler II. Latent Powers are one of the most engaging new additions, with each of the eight adventures having their own unique skills, that can be called upon to devastate opponents with intense physical attacks, boost HP and BP, concentrate already powerful spells on single opponents, or even act multiple times in a turn. Creating the right party blends that allows you to maximise the strengths of each Latent Power as well as the party’s different classes, makes the combat even more immersive than before. Layer guild licences atop this, granting characters the ability to add a second job to the mix, further enhancing each’s capabilities, and nestled deep within the game are a range of advanced jobs that grant even more depth.

A Day/Night cycle has been added to Octopath Traveler II which increases the threat in the darkness, but also a range of path actions open up that can only be utlised in the light of day and dark of night, actions that impact the core campaign, as well as many of the one hundred side-quests in the game. The side-quests themselves can be quite small and insignificant in some cases, but challenging and extremely expansive in others. These run the gambit from fetch quests to impressive mini-story arcs that resonate as powerfully in some cases as the best moments of the primary narrative.

Octopath Traveler II includes the ability to speed up combat encounters, not to the level of recent Final Fantasy remasters, but to a point that makes the periods where you might need to grind a bit to boost character levels a bit more palatable. That is not to say that the combat is disengaging, as all of the aforementioned new inclusions intermingle wonderfully with the established elements to establish beautiful instances of combative choreography. But, of course, as is the way with JRPGs, those grinds can at times be hours in length and on multiple occasions, and so the ability to accelerate a little bit, especially as the party becomes increasingly powerful in relation to your opponents.

If you considered the original Octopath Traveler to be a beautiful game, as well as the games that had come since like Triangle Strategy and Live A Live, then Square-Enix clearly felt determined to lift the bar even higher with Octopath Traveler II. The environmental design of Octopath Traveler II is of the highest caliber and when paired with the incredible capabilities of the HD-2D, and suddenly the game becomes one of the most stunning games that you’re ever likely to see. The artistry extends to the incredible soundtrack, with sweeping tracks elevating the game’s biggest moments, high and low, to new levels, while even the combat sequences themes, which you will thousands of times never go old, and will in-fact exist rent-free in your mind well after you finish playing.

Octopath Traveler II isn’t a revolution of the traditional JRPG formula, but it evolves what has been built over decades and what was established with the original in 2018 in ways that feel constantly fresh. The power of the game’s eight protagonists drives an always intriguing plot through its disparate and connected elements and easily through the game’s dozens of hours of run time. Octopath Traveler II is the pinnacle of the modern take on classic JRPGS.

Octopath Traveler was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code kindly provided by Bandai Namco Australia

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