Square Enix’s 2018 hit Octopath Traveler sold over 3 million copies worldwide, but never made it to PlayStation. Now, the series heads to PS5 and PS4 for the first time with Octopath Traveler II. Still with the striking HD-2D graphics of the first game, the sequel takes what its predecessor did and builds on it, creating a unique gaming experience which will leave you wanting more. It’s a completely standalone game as well, so there's no need to power through the first title.
Like the first game, Octopath Traveler II gives a choice of eight protagonists: Osvald, Castti, Throné, Ochette, Partitio, Agnea, Temenos, or Hikari (OCTOPATH, get it?). Picking a protagonist ties you in to having that character in your party permanently, but you'll unlock the rest of the characters and their stories on the journey through the new world of Solistia, so there’s no chance of missing anything and having to start a new playthrough.
Collecting party members as you journey on will allow you to play the first chapter of each character’s story. This can either be done by playing straight away when you’ve encountered the character, or by visiting the inn in any town and choosing ‘Hear a Tale’ from the menu. There are benefits and drawbacks to each way; playing immediately often feels like it inhibits progress and interrupts the flow of action, but it does mean that you gain EXP, items, and money for that chapter which then carry over. Skipping the chapter means that character joins the party (or the bench if you already have 4 party members) at level 1.
Introduced for this sequel, Octopath now has a day and night cycle. This can be triggered with a press of R2, or naturally by waiting it out. Characters have different skills at night and at day, and NPCs will move around or appear depending on the time.
Each character has their own class, whether that’s Temenos the cleric, or Osvald the scholar, and everything in between. Each of these classes comes with their own combat style, and a Path Action for each character. This is a special action that can be used outside of combat; for example, Temenos the dutiful cleric is able to guide townspeople by day, meaning they’ll follow him wherever he goes until told otherwise, but by night he can coerce information out of them by battling them, and causing them to reach their Break.
Each of the characters has a story which feels so deep it could be a game on its own. Fully developed and nuanced, the plot of each drives a desire to find out more, to keep going, to explore more and to push further. There’s a constant feeling of ‘just a little bit more’, which is testament to how much fun Octopath Traveler II is, and how much we wanted to sink time and energy into progressing with each and every character. Occasionally throughout your travels, the option will come up to ‘Hear Travel Banter’, and a little scene will play out with party members. This is a really fun element that adds to characterisation.
Outside of main chapters there will also be'“Crossed Paths' stories. These are short missions which involve two travellers, and will be highlighted on the map. Both travellers need to be in the party to trigger the story, or they can be added later, and the story can be started from the inn. Like the Travel Banter element, these plot threads are really good fun, and give a great opportunity to see pairs of characters interacting and working towards a common goal. Whilst the members will be in the party for each other’s chapters, they don’t interact with the main character past appearing to support in combat — so this adds a welcome sense of comradery.
The characters themselves are incredibly well written and the voice acting for each is top tier, bringing layers to the dialogue. The danger with such a large cast is that certain facets of the cast's personalities often end up getting reused, and they can sometimes be a copy and paste of one another. Octopath Traveler II manages to present eight characters who are rich with personality, each having their own quirks and their own motivations. Their storylines are all completely different, too, which makes things even more varied. Don’t want to continue this path of revenge? Have a break and focus on becoming a world-class dancer instead. There’s so much variety here, and it often feels like we’re spoilt for choice.
It’s not just the characters that are varied; all the places in Solistia have a different vibe to them. From a wild west-esque town to an icy tundra, the environments are all varied with different aesthetics and unique soundtracks to them. Traversing Solistia throws varied enemies at the party, which have specific weaknesses and require different tactics to best in turn-based combat. Meanwhile, hopping from place to place is simple — there’s fast travel on the world map to visit places you’ve been before — and load screens between areas are virtually non-existent, so everything feels seamless.
Building on its already aesthetically appealing predecessor, Octopath Traveler II is exquisite in terms of visuals. Blending retro pixel art and 3DCG, coined HD-2D, this sequel is even more detailed. Everything just looks so crisp and more expressive than before, which really heightens the feeling of this being a cut above the property's initial outing.
However, it does feel like Octopath Traveler II stumbles slightly with its story progression. Opening up the world map shows where to go for each chapter, and what the recommended level is to complete that chapter. Handy, but getting to that level can really feel like a grind at times, putting a dent in the story's otherwise immaculate pacing. At the start, we were completing chapters left, right, and centre, but the further along we got — and the higher level we were required to be — the more of a slog it felt to get there.
This is also echoed somewhat in the repetitive nature of some of the battles, specifically boss battles. Some of the bosses have gargantuan health pools, and it really is a case of finding a strategy that works against them, rinse and repeat. It'll feel like you're on autopilot during some of these encounters, and with no visible HP bar – enemy names are white for high HP, yellow for mid-range HP, and red for low HP – we were left wondering if the end would ever be in sight.
We don’t mean this to sound like a gripe about the combat, though – the mechanics themselves are really enjoyable. Enemies have icons underneath them which you need to unearth, signalling what their weaknesses are. They’ll have a number in a shield, which shows how many attacks they have to take on their weak spots before they reach Break Point. Once the enemies are ‘broken’, their turn is forfeited for the current round if they haven’t already acted, and the same is true of the next turn. Broken enemies also take increased damage.
Each character has a different Latent Power, which, once the gauge is filled, are unleashed by pressing triangle. Using these Latent Powers can really turn the tides of battle, playing into an especially engaging tactical element of combat. The bottom line here is that fights can feel incredibly slick and nuanced in short bursts, but the longer the battles go on, the more it can feel like an exercise in button pushing.
Octopath Traveler II presents enough rich, turn-based action to forgive its minor combat system flaws. It's a breath-taking work of art, filled to the brim with story and adventure, bolstered by a cast of incredible characters who will leave you wanting more at every turn. A masterfully crafted RPG.