In 2019, Square Enix released Octopath Traveler, a JRPG that has gone on to become recognized as one of the genre’s premier titles. With its world-class presentation, gorgeous throwback visuals, and stellar turn-based combat, there wasn’t much on the market that could compete. Almost four years later and we got the opportunity to review Octopath Traveler 2, which promises to build on the wonderful foundations of the original.
Much like the first game, Octopath Traveler 2 follows the adventures of eight heroes. Each of these heroes fills a fantasy role, be it a stoic warrior, plucky merchant, or tragic scholar. In addition, each of them has a dedicated storyline spanning five chapters that explores their motives and sees them grow into Solistia’s finest adventurers.
While Octopath Traveler 2 does keep the same core design as the original this is by no means just a serviceable sequel. Square Enix has listened carefully to feedback on the first game and implemented some key changes that help address its biggest flaws.
A more connected party
The most criticized aspect of Octopath Traveler was how its party members hardly acknowledged each other. Despite the eight party members working together, they wouldn’t speak to one another or interact much at all. It hurt the story big time. The narrative felt disconnected, as though each party member existed in a separate timeline despite sharing the same world.
The sequel makes an attempt at fixing this by greatly increasing how often the party interacts. The big addition is the new Crossed Paths storylines which see party members working together on a mutual goal. These are fun additions that help flesh out each character’s personality. Unfortunately, there are only four to play through. This is a real shame, as these Crossed Paths storylines produce some of the best moments.
There are also some smaller changes that help make your party feel alive. For one, you can no longer miss out on the travel banter between party members as they can all be replayed in the journal. Plus party members will call out to each other during battle. We’re only talking simple phrases like “Nice one, Osvald,” and “Excellent work, Hikari,” but it makes a bigger difference than you might expect.
To be clear, Octopath Traveler 2 is still no Persona or The Legend of Heroes. While party members do interact more often than the original, these interactions fall short when compared to other character-centric JRPGs. Square Enix has no plans of discarding this franchise’s identity with its main focus still being to deliver eight high-quality individual storylines.
The power that lies within
If you didn’t enjoy the combat in Octopath Traveler and it was a deal-breaker, I’d avoid its sequel. Octopath Traveler 2 doesn’t make many changes to the combat, choosing to stick to the same template. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the first game had some of the best turn-based mechanics in the industry, but it is something to be aware of.
The one significant change is the introduction of Latent Powers. These are a series of unique powers that each character can use once their latent power gauge fills up. Some of them are big attacks, others offer incredible debuffs and a few even temporarily change the rules of battle. The addition of Latent Powers helps each character feel more distinct from one another.
Outside of Latent Powers, most combat-related changes in Octopath Traveler 2 revolve around gameplay balance. Many jobs have been rebalanced and expanded to create a fairer and less game-breaking meta. Although it’s still possible to deal some ludicrous damage even as early as the mid-game if you know your stuff.
Explore this wonderful world
The world of Solistia is a joy to explore, offering greater diversity than its predecessor, Orsterra. There are now two separate continents that offer all types of cultures and landscapes for you to experience. From the beastling tribes of Toto’haha to the ore mining town of Orerush to the metropolis that is New Delsta. If you can think of a community, there’s probably some equivalent in Solistia. Plus this wonderful world is supported by equally stunning visuals which pick up right where the first game left off.
On its own, the new day and night cycle doesn’t add all that much. It’s pretty to look at as some of the cities look especially gorgeous at night, but the gameplay implications of this mechanic are limited. However, what is impressive is that just about every song in Octopath Traveler 2 has both a day and night rendition.
The daytime songs tend to be more uplifting and cheerful while their nighttime equivalents are slower and soothing. Having two separate soundtracks and being able to switch between them at will is the kind of nuanced gameplay design that you just don’t see all that often these days.
That sentiment lends itself to the rest of Octopath Traveler 2, which is just a well-crafted experience. I mean no exaggeration when I say Octopath Traveler 2 is one of the best-made games on the market today. In my playthrough, I experienced zero crashes, no notable bugs, and a flawless frame rate. In an industry that is obsessed with launching unfinished games and promising to fix them later, Octopath Traveler 2 proves that it’s still possible to release a product that feels complete.
Another defining entry
When it was released in 2019, Octopath Traveler became the defining JRPG of its year. Four years later, Octopath Traveler 2 carries the torch by doing exactly the same. Square Enix has done a great job of not falling into the trap of reinventing the wheel. This sequel just continues delivering on what the original did well while tidying up and improving its weaknesses.
The only true disappointment is how Crossed Paths have been handled. These new storylines should have been given the limelight but are instead treated as a side act. The four Crossed Paths in Octopath Traveler 2 are awesome, but the fact that there are only four is a problem. Hopefully, if we see another entry in this series it can take that final step and cement itself as perhaps the best JRPG ever made. For the time being, I’ll continue playing this incredible game that does almost everything right.