Octopath Traveler 2 Review
A good RPG lets you wander a bit before saving the world. Octopath Traveler 2 takes this a bit further. All eight stories can be completed in whatever order you wish. How refreshing! To say nothing of the side quests and extra content you can soak up along the way. While carving your own path is mostly a blast, there are some downsides. It’s hard to maintain things like pace and momentum with all that freedom, you know?
If you played the first Octopath, you know what’s happening here. Eight stories, seemingly disconnected, slowly intertwine in subtle ways. Emphasis on ‘subtle.’ One could even argue that they barely interact at all, right up until the credits roll. It’s sort of like the MCU. You might recognize characters and locations in common, but the tale is mostly self-contained. On the one hand, it makes Octopath Traveler 2 feel like eight separate games. On the other hand, each story is well-told. Every character is on a very different journey, each with its own satisfying payoff. Of course, the characters have other things in common.
The idea is that you can make a party of four using any combination of the eight available characters. For practical reasons, this means there’s some overlap in their story skills. It turns out there’s a lot of ways to bash someone in the head and take their stuff. You’ve also got a lot of options for temporarily adding people to your party. I appreciate the flexibility, but it makes everyone feel less unique, and more interchangeable. Between this and the secondary jobs, your party roster isn’t terribly important.
More Ways To Steal From Strangers
Thankfully, Latent skills are there to help individual characters stand out more. These skills are the Limit Breaks of Octopath Traveler 2. If you set things up properly, a Latent skill strike from Hikari can wrap up almost any battle. Meanwhile, Partitio’s Latent power is more utilitarian, less about brute force. Figuring out where every skill worked best kept battles fresh and exciting.
Which isn’t to say battles would be boring otherwise! Perish the thought. Combat in Octopath Traveler 2 remains the absolute highlight of my experience. Every fight is a puzzle, an elaborate combination lock to be teased open or smashed to pieces. No matter how strong a character is, they can still make a meaningful contribution to your victory. Breaking shields, laying out buffs, casting debuffs, healing, and gathering intel are all critical tasks. Plus, every region and every boss require different party configurations and different strategies. As much as I enjoyed the story, it sometimes felt like an obstacle between me and the battles.
Since the narrative is so cleanly split into sections, it’s hard to make a broad judgment. I loved some stories, while others left me feeling kind of bored. I won’t go into specifics, but I can disclose that at least five of the tales were rather compelling. In fact, the characters themselves were almost always charming enough to keep the narrative afloat. Only Hikari was too boring to make his tale of revenge worth remembering. And even then, the story was at least brutal enough to keep me awake. Whether it’s plot or personality, you’ll certainly find something in Octopath Traveler 2 to keep you hooked.
Eight Engrossing Stories
My biggest problem with the story was one of pacing. Once you finish your first Chapter One segment, you’re free to roam wherever you like. Your only impediment is your level. You know immediately which areas are too dangerous to visit yet. All of this is awesome, at least at first. But I found it quite difficult to maintain narrative momentum with this kind of freedom. The overall plot is already sort of threadbare. Those threads vanish quickly when you’re left on your own like this. I loved the moment-to-moment gameplay. But it rarely felt connected to a larger, more cohesive experience.
This is all a sort of mixed bag for me. I play RPGs for that immediate gameplay loop. Good plots are a big bonus, but they can’t hook me. Not in the same way that combat systems and compelling mechanics can hook me, at least. I recognize that there is no cohesive narrative at work here, not really. You’re just watching an episodic tv series out of order. But it doesn’t matter to me as much as the gameplay engine that powers the whole affair.
More Fun In The Moment
On that note, there are some new twists to the established Octopath formula. You can switch between day and night, for one thing. The time of day also impacts which of your story skills you can use. This adds a whole new layer when you’re trying to finish side quests and track down rare loot. The story skill system also feels more streamlined. It’s not more streamlined, but it feels that way. Truthfully, a lot of the systems in Octopath Traveler 2 are exactly what they were in Octopath Traveler. For me, this just means more of a good thing. But don’t be surprised if a lot of this feels very familiar.
All of that aside, I loved this game. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it yourself comes down to what you’re looking for. If you’re starving for more Octopath, then this is perfect. Eight new characters, a whole new world to explore, and a handful of new systems. On the other hand, if you’re hoping for something truly new, you’ll be disappointed. I loved the first game, so all I wanted was more of the same. There are enough little changes to keep me pretty happy. But if you weren’t happy with the first one, then Octopath Traveler 2 likely isn’t for you.