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Octopath Traveler 2 preview: a gorgeous and gripping JRPG

Octopath Traveler 2 preview: a gorgeous and gripping JRPG

Octopath Traveler II's first chapters are utterly captivating, and have set up eight grand tales of adventure, revenge, and discovery.

Eight unique heroes, eight different journeys. At first blush, Octopath Traveler II doesn’t shy away from faithfully following what worked so well for its predecessor, but upon diving into the game’s opening chapters, it’s quickly apparent that the sequel has much more to offer.

Immediately upon loading the game up, Octopath Traveler II’s stunning land of Solistia is one that simply begs to be explored. As the title screen (complete with an epic tune fitting of a grand adventure) pans over the title’s plethora of diverse biomes, it’s plain to see that Square Enix’s gorgeous HD-2D art style has been perfected to a tee.

Take a look at the trailer for Octopath Traveler II on Nintendo Switch below.

Like in Octopath Traveler, although you’ll be able to experience all eight characters’ stories in one save file, the hero you start with will stay with you throughout the entire JRPG journey, and will be unable to be swapped out from your party. I decided to go with the cool and collected Throné - a thief who’s become tired of her ruthless line of work, and strives for freedom from the cycle of bloodshed she’s grown up in. Although I was initially drawn to her due to playing as Octopath Traveler’s thief, Therion, her first chapter immediately had me hooked, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds next.

She’s not the only character whose first chapter had this effect on me. In fact, pretty much all of them have set the stage for some intriguing tales. Hikari, for example, is a warrior prince who aims to bring peace to his nation, but he seems to harbour a dark secret which I’m itching to discover. Castti, on the other hand, is an apothecary who’s found adrift at sea with no memories of her past. Upon making it to the shore, she soon discovers that her identity may be far more sinister than she thought.

From my experience so far, the story of Osvald is easily the most compelling. Once a renowned scholar, his story begins in a high-security prison where he’s been locked up for murder. In order to get revenge on the man who ruined his life, he must plot a successful escape from a place where no prisoner has left alive.

Truthfully, there’s only one character whose story hasn’t initially landed with me. Partitio the merchant has a rather vague goal of eradicating poverty from the world, and although it’s a very respectable dream, it’s not clear how he actually intends to do this. Again, these are my thoughts after playing just one chapter of his journey, but all of the other heroes have much more defined objectives in mind, and more often than not, an air of mystery around them - something which he’s also lacking. However, he’s a very cheerful, optimistic guy with a loveable Texan accent (in the English dub, that is), which helps make up for it.

New to Octopath Traveler II is the day and night cycle - players are now able to hit a button to change the time of day at will. Not only does this allow you to take in all the gorgeous landscapes at different times of day, but the music alters, too - nighttime brings more peaceful, calming melodies, while tunes during the day tend to be more energetic.

The day and night cycle makes each area even more visually stunning. /
Square Enix.

Beyond the pleasing aesthetic, the day and night cycle serves a greater purpose - to give characters two Path Actions. Unlike the first game, each character now boasts an additional special skill to interact with the overworld - one of these can be used exclusively in the day, and the other becomes available during the night.

All of the Path Actions basically fall into four categories - acquiring items, learning information about NPCs, having an NPC follow you, or getting an NPC to move out of the way. Although there’s crossover between the goals of these skills, the execution varies from character to character. While the endearing dancer Agnea can charm NPCs into giving her their belongings (assuming she’s high levelled enough), Throné instead has a percentage chance of stealing anything she wants. Percentage-based Path Actions damage your reputation if you fail them, which can eventually rack up a hefty fee at the tavern, but can also allow you to access items and areas sooner than if you rely on the level-based Path Actions.

Octopath Traveler II’s battle system is also incredibly fun, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played the first game. Enemies all have different weaknesses - be it axes, lances, fire magic or any of the other attack types - and figuring out and exploiting them is the key to victory. After hitting a foe’s weakness enough times, you’ll ‘Break’ them, leaving them extra vulnerable. Additionally, with each passing turn, each party member gains a Boost Point, which can be used to land a barrage of regular attacks or power up a particularly strong one - whether you use them to quickly Break an enemy with multiple hits or save them to unleash a deadly charged attack is up to you.

New to the sequel is the addition of Latent Powers. Each character has their own unique skill which charges up during battle - to give a couple of examples, Throné’s grants her two actions in a single turn, while Partitio’s instantly grants him maximum Boost Points. These add for a whole new layer of strategy, and are really satisfying to use during tough fights - I’m excited to see how later battles will unfold with these in my party’s arsenal.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, I’m completely hooked on Octopath Traveler II. The entire time I’ve been writing this, my mind has been racing at the thought of all the secrets I still have to uncover, the paths I’m yet to tread, and battles I’ve not fought. The sequel had a lot to live up to, but it’s shaping up to fill its predecessor’s boots - and then some.

Featured Image Credit: Square Enix

Topics: Preview, Square Enix, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, PC