Review: Octopath Traveler II [Nintendo Switch]
May 7, 2023
Admittedly, I've never played Octopath Traveler from 2018 before. Nevertheless, the first trailer grabbed me right away: old-school turn-based strategy, impressive 2D HD pixel graphics and hopefully an enthralling story – all of this whetted my appetite for the game. So I sat down at the Octopath Traveler II from publisher and developer Square Enix , which was released on February 24, 2023, and now tell you whether it can be played well even without previous knowledge of part 1 and whether it motivated me to catch up on the first part . Stefan Ibels
ATTENTION: Any statements in this review only reflect the personal opinion of the author and not (!) those of ITweakIT and its partners.
Eight heroes, eight stories
Octopath Traveler II features eight playable characters, each with their own story. However, some of these stories lack a bit of creativity. Most have been heard of before somewhere, and while there are twists and turns, these are often predictable.
At the beginning of the game, Osvald the Scholar sits on a prison island, accused of murder, which, surprise, he didn't commit. Despite being imprisoned for a number of years, he still has an excellent command of his magic and uses it for his vendetta.
Castti , the pharmacist, has arguably the most clichéd theme of the playable characters. She is the classic heroine who has lost her memory. As a pharmacist, however, she is of course very familiar with herbs from which she can prepare helpful, healing or even poisonous mixtures that can be useful in battle. An anti-Hippocratic secret society and the frontiers of medicine mix a medical-mysterious story here.
Temenos , the priest, is also a healer, like Castti. He finds the content of his self-written holy book very dull, which always leads to funny situations. However, his combat skills are only rudimentary, while his story offers one of the most original settings.
Ochette the Huntress comes from a wildling race living in an idyllic island kingdom. However, they have a strange notion of what it means to live "in harmony with nature". For them, this simply means hunting and consuming everything. The narration doesn't feel very well thought out here, but her hunting skills are quite useful in combat. She is supported by her animal companion, who helps us to identify the enemy's weak points.
Partitio , the trader, is the group's financial expert. He opposes greedy capitalists and is himself more of a representative of the social market economy. He invests his wealth, which he acquires by collecting vast amounts of money, in various ventures of his business partners.
Agnea , the dancer, is a talented but inexperienced village beauty who quickly learns the dark side of the industry. The topic of sexism is omnipresent here. In fights, she uses her dancing skills and, if necessary, seduces innocent bystanders in order to draw them into the fight.
Throné is a skilled thief whose underworld drama story is reminiscent of Catwoman . She has to escape from the clutches of a criminal organization that enslaves, tortures and makes its members docile through perfidious mind games. Using her daggers and thieving skills, she fights her way through the underworld drama.
Hikari is an exiled prince of a declining noble house. Although he doesn't enjoy fighting, nobody can fool him when it comes to handling sword and spear. His strong fighting techniques are always extremely useful for the group.
Anyone who has ever played a classic JRPG will quickly find their way around Octopath Traveler II . You create a party consisting of your main character and three other members, choosing from the eight heroes presented above, who not only have their own story, but also their own special abilities. It's a good idea to first make sure you have all eight heroes in your party before committing to the story.
The developers give you a completely free hand in which order you want to play the episodes and chapters. The world map shows you where the action locations are and how high the level of difficulty is. This is practical in that it gives you the opportunity to level up in a targeted manner by being able to freely choose your routes.
The round battles are the main gameplay of the game, but fortunately they work very well and play smoothly. New strategies are always required. First you have to find out the individual weaknesses of your opponents in order to then destroy their cover with targeted attacks with melee weapons or spells. This gives you time to deal extra damage. In each round you collect boost points, which you can use to strengthen your actions. The better you have coordinated your party, the more powerful enemies you can take down in no time. We already know this principle from several JRPGs.
In Octopath Traveler II, however, a so-called "latent force" is now also added. This charges up during the fights and can then be activated for special attacks. Depending on the character, attacks that were actually only intended for one opponent can be used on all of them, or you get an extra load of boost points.
Even if the battles keep asking for new strategies, they still have the problem that the recurring random battles are repeated very quickly and they sometimes feel like annoying must-do tasks. Especially since you have to grind a little in some parts of the game to be able to cope with the opponents there. It was precisely at these points that I had the feeling that the game was dragging on a bit. Personally, I'd rather play through in one go than having to train somewhere else.
Away from the battles, you explore a lot and interact with the residents of Solistia. For some quests you also have different possible solutions. Depending on your character, you can solve problems differently. For example, do you prefer to hit with the fighter Hikari or do you prefer to squeeze someone with Inquisitor Temenos? As nice as it is that Square Enix is giving us the possibility of different solutions here, it's a shame that the end result is usually the same though.
Back to the 90s but modern
Retro games are currently very popular again and classic JRPGs in particular with lovingly designed HD 2D optics are currently experiencing a new high. Examples include Octopath Traveler from 2018, but also Live a Live or Triangle Strategy . Octopath Traveler II also follows the classic basic principle of games from the 16-bit era, in which you have a motley group with clearly assigned roles that explore cities, settlements and dungeons together and fight in random battles. These battles require skillful combinations of party abilities, weapons, and spells to be successful over the long term. Octopath Traveler II turns every encounter into an entertaining, strategic brain teaser, without over- or under-challenging.
The new offshoot also impresses with its beautiful appearance. The game world of Solistia consists of a western and an eastern continent, separated by a mysterious inland sea. The environment varies from jungles to big cities to mountains and deserts of sand or snow. The world is full of small details that offer real play value, such as hidden treasure chests and quest givers cleverly placed in the fixed camera angle. If you look closely, you'll often find hidden passages and ladders that let you explore new paths.
The Unreal Engine is cleverly used and surprises with 3D tricks such as tracking shots or time-lapse sequences. Effects such as the shadows of clouds, flying leaves or pollen and the excellent lighting create a dense atmosphere that is impressive both during the day and at night. You can change the time of day with the push of a button, which not only opens up new possibilities visually, but also in the game itself, since some people only appear at certain times of the day.
In big battles, the enemy troops are well animated and the fights against the sometimes huge bosses are impressive. As in the predecessor, the game's music was composed by Yasunori Nishiki, which fits perfectly with the mood of the respective scene and provides some real melancholic catchy tunes.
You have the choice between English and Japanese for the voice output, but the texts can be switched to German. I mainly played with the Japanese voice acting, which I liked and looks professional.
With around 80 hours of play , Octopath Traveler II offers plenty of time to immerse yourself in its beautiful world and its inhabitants. Since February 24, 2023, Square Enix' latest JRPG is available for EUR 59.99 (RRP) on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5 and the PC.
I had fun with Octopath Traveler II even without previous knowledge of the first part. I was particularly impressed by the combat system. The varied fights require a strategic approach, which motivated me to keep playing even after many hours. The boss fights were small highlights and perfectly staged. Many stories are told in the game, but these usually do not get beyond the “Nice” rating.
In my opinion, the stories of the eight heroes could have been more exciting. I still see room for improvement here. The visuals of the game, on the other hand, are simply fantastic. Anyone who can do something with pixel graphics will be amazed by the beautiful world and get excited. The impressive lighting mood and the numerous loving details on every corner invite you to explore the world. Along with some outstanding music , Octopath Traveler II definitely whetted my appetite for its predecessor.
Attention JRPG fans! Octopath Traveler II is definitely a recommendation for all those who are enthusiastic about turn-based strategy and pixel graphics. While the stories aren't very epic, they still provide an entertaining narrative.
Pictures: © SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All rights reserved.