Octopath Traveler was a pleasing shock when it debuted a couple of years again. Its then-new HD-2D engine was a delight to behold, and the gameplay drew inspiration from a few of Sq. Enix’s most storied franchises: a deep Last Fantasy-style class and customization system blended with the non-linear exploration and story of the SaGa collection with a splash of fight that took cues from Bravely Default. These are nice inspirations to attract from, however it resulted in a sport that, whereas glorious, appeared to be struggling for a definite id. Maybe the builders acknowledged this as well–with Octopath Traveler II, Sq. Enix appears to be attempting so as to add new gameplay components that give the franchise a character of its personal. And, for essentially the most half, it has succeeded admirably.
The core of Octopath Traveler II is a standard, turn-based JRPG with lots of the normal gameplay components: cities and dungeons to discover, targets to finish, and many others. The place most JRPGs current a linear methodology of development, nonetheless, Octopath Traveler takes a really completely different strategy: You start the sport by choosing a “principal” character from eight candidates. This character has their very own distinctive background, story arc, and targets, and can function a continuing presence all through your playtime. After an introductory story chapter, you’re then free to discover the world to your liking. Finally, you will meet the opposite seven characters, permitting you to convey them into your occasion and observe their storylines as properly, all culminating in a finale that ties the person story threads collectively.
The deal with particular person character arcs moderately than an enormous, high-stakes menace for a lot of the sport’s runtime is refreshing, permitting Octopath Traveler II to inform a wide range of intriguing tales that change wildly in each tone and focus. A few of them are comparatively weaker, however others command and maintain your consideration and maintain you longing for extra. Agnea’s star-struck seek for fame is notably bland, as an example, whereas Temenos’ investigation right into a homicide plot by a spiritual cult and Throne’s quest to kill the adoptive mother and father who raised her are glorious stand-outs. My private favourite questline is the story of Osvald, who I selected as my beginning character–a story of a scholar who plans a Rely-of-Monte-Christo-style jail escape and revenge after being framed for the homicide of his family by a scheming colleague.
As quickly as you end the primary a part of a personality’s story, you are allowed to proceed on to the next chapters, as there are not any arduous obstacles to progressing the way you select. That does not imply you may stroll anyplace on the planet with out a care, nonetheless: Some areas function considerably extra harmful foes than others, and attempting to stumble by them with a low-level occasion is kind of an excessive risk–albeit one the sport does not forestall you from trying should you really feel assured in your survival abilities. In truth, going into dangerous locations can yield some main rewards, however there’s nothing significantly punishing about taking part in it protected, both. Octopath Traveler’s lack of hand-holding in comparison with many different JRPGs could also be off-putting at first–it does not provide a lot steering other than very fundamental tutorials–but the liberty it grants you to discover and try challenges on the consolation stage you select is certainly one of its strongest factors.
Probably the most attention-grabbing sides to exploration are the Path Actions distinctive to every character. Path Actions can be found when interacting with the vast majority of NPCs, permitting you to have interaction with them in a wide range of methods: buying objects, studying skills, gaining further info wanted to finish principal and subquests, and even recruiting them as helpers in fight. New to Octopath Traveler II is a day/evening cycle (which, fortunately, you may management at will) that adjustments which NPCs seem and what Path Actions can be found to you. For instance, service provider Partitio should purchase objects from NPCs throughout daytime at discounted costs, whereas at evening he can rent characters as assistants in fight. There’s overlap within the capabilities of characters’ Path Actions, however judging which is most helpful in a given state of affairs provides a enjoyable layer of technique not usually current in JRPG city exploration.
Then we come to fight, which is essentially the most satisfying and interesting ingredient of Octopath Traveler II. The turn-based encounters construct upon the inspiration set by the unique, emphasizing the necessity to strategically break down enemy defenses by using particular abilities and weapons. There’s additionally a “increase” system that lets you considerably enhance the efficacy of characters’ actions by consuming the Increase Factors that construct up slowly throughout every flip of fight. The distinctive nature of every character extends to their efficiency in fight: Each occasion member has a number of particular person abilities and quirks that considerably have an effect on their particular actions and the stream of fight as an entire Samurai warrior Hikari brings fight abilities realized from NPCs into the fray, whereas apothecary Castti can combine objects collectively to create useful or dangerous concoctions. Maybe essentially the most enjoyable of those abilities is that of Ochette, a beast-woman who can seize enemies and prepare dinner them into health- and status-restoring meat–or maintain them to make use of their abilities in fight.
You do not have to be content material with simply the default abilities of your characters, both. Like the unique sport, you may assign characters a sub-job, which is able to enable them to be taught lively and passive abilities particular to every class, in addition to equip a greater diversity of weaponry. Enjoying round and discovering significantly efficient combos of drugs, occasion composition, and skillsets is kind of fulfilling and rewarding, with every new ability unlock including one thing new to your general repertoire–and hidden job courses and EX abilities discovered over the course of the sport add much more surprises and choices. A brand new ingredient of Octopath Traveler II’s battle strategizing is Latent Powers, character-specific Restrict-Break-style skills that may dramatically have an effect on fight when used on the proper time. Each occasion member’s Latent Skill is completely different: Osvald can remodel multi-target assaults into intensely highly effective single-target strikes, Throne can take an additional flip, Hikari and Ochette get entry to new assault abilities, and Temenos can break by defenses with any assault. Utilizing these abilities in tandem with a fastidiously crafted setup can create delightfully devious outcomes. For instance, you may have others buff Osvald’s magic assaults, assault to place the enemy right into a damaged state, after which use Osvald’s Latent Skill and a number of other boosts to create a massively damaging single-target spell strike that melts away enemy HP like butter. Discovering efficient instruments and setups can can help you get by fight conditions that, usually, you could be horrendously under-leveled for, which yields immense satisfaction when all goes in line with plan. Which, generally, it does not, however that is threat for you.
Octopath Traveler II is not with out some quibbles and frustrations, although. Each character that joins you begins out at a low stage, requiring a time funding earlier than they stand up to parity with the remainder of the occasion. Dungeon and area exploration may be very fundamental, with little in the way in which of puzzles or gimmicks to boost typical path-following–with just a few facet roads resulting in treasure chests taking you off the overwhelmed path. Typically you are overwhelmed with alternative paralysis as to what to do subsequent within the numerous tales, whereas at different occasions you are feeling like your whole potential subsequent strikes are high-level adventures which will put you in method over your head. The danger/reward system for sure Path Actions is completely nonsensical: I will not get my popularity on the town tarnished for mugging or selecting fights with folks, however I’ll if I fail to entice an NPC to hitch my occasion? These aren’t big flaws by any stretch, however they’re issues that I hope can be ironed out and spruced up in potential future installments.
Octopath Traveler II is a perfect sequel. It builds upon the foundations of the unique by bettering on what labored, establishing widespread pillars of design and gameplay–combat mechanics, Path Actions, freeform progress–that will hopefully carry forth by future video games. It additionally iterates upon ideas and concepts borrowed from different JRPGs–the day/evening cycle and Latent Skills–that improve the general expertise. Octopath Traveler II is a delight from begin to end, and has left me wanting ahead to seeing the place this collection will take itself sooner or later.