In the Game: “Octopath Traveler II” is a Magnificent and Beautiful RPG

I’ll be blunt. This is one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played. You play as this octopus who has to pretend to be a father. You control each of his individual limbs and get into silly situations. You have to support your family and do a lot of fatherly tasks that require patie- wait… this isn’t Octodad? OH! It’s OctoPATH. Octopath Traveler? Octopath Traveler II? THE SEQUEL?

Okay but for real, this sequel totally snuck up on me. I knew that it was coming out at some point this year, but I didn’t realize it would be out so soon. I’ve discussed in previous reviews that I really love RPGs and I REALLY love big numbers. How many playable protagonists are there in this game? Eight. That’s a pretty large amount of characters with fully fledged stories to pick from. The stronger you get, the more damage you do. Big numbers? Check. RPG? Check. One thing I haven’t really discussed much is my love of sequels that outdo the original in every way. How lucky are we that Octopath Traveler II is a prime example of exactly that?

If you played Octopath Traveler then you will be very familiar with how Octopath Traveler II starts. You get an overwhelming option right off the bat… which character do you start with? The list of selectable classes are as follows; thief, cleric, hunter, apothecary, merchant, warrior, dancer and the scholar. Each class is attached to a playable protagonist with their own fleshed out story. Each character has special abilities that only they can do. The Cleric is a good healer, the Dancer is able to summon fans to help in battle, the Warrior is able to deal huge DPS. Each protagonist also has a special ability they can use outside of battle. Hikari, the Warrior is able to duel civilians at night in exchange for gear or gold. During the day he is able to bribe people for information. Much like Hikari, every character has an ability they can do during the day and during the night. Each class has a different approach to combat. They also each specialize in different weapons and spells they’re able to cast. Whenever a new character is added to your party you get to spend some time learning what it is that they bring to the table. It’s a fun way to introduce party members and it makes you want to progress further.

Octopath Traveler II doesn’t stray too far from the original’s terrific gameplay loop. Combat begins either through story beats or random encounters in the open world environment. If you’ve played a turn-based RPG before then this shouldn’t be anything too new to you. One of the interesting mechanics that keeps Octopath Traveler II unique is Battle Points (BP) mechanic. Every time you attack, defend, use an item, you gain a stack of BP. You can stack up to 5 BP per character at a time. BP buffs your attack power, defence, effectiveness of spells, etc. Once you get a max stack you can expect to deal an absurd amount of damage. One of the keys to winning fights is managing your BP stacks and being effective with your usage of them.

A new combat mechanic introduced in Octopath Traveler II is called “Latent Power.” This is another special ability that each character has access to. These Latent Powers can buff moves or instantly replenish resources. Some are better for supporting your teammates while others are better for decimating your foes. The combat in Octopath Traveler II feels fresh and fun and endlessly exciting.

Another place where this IP continues to shine is the amazing presentation. Each environment is beautifully detailed and stunning to look at. I often forget I’m playing on my Nintendo Switch because of how stunning the game looks. Every area you traverse almost looks like an incredible diorama. The sprite characters ALMOST look out of place. But oddly they also manage to fit right in and look like they belong there. The juxtaposition between the highly detailed world and the pixel characters may need some adjusting to for some, but for me it was perfect. The pixel art is also incredible. Each sprite is filled with character and high detail. It’s so easy to look at these sprites and not realize the amount of work that goes into making them look as incredible as they do. As a big fan of pixel art, I was blown away once again by what Square Enix was able to pull off with this art direction.

There is a decent amount of enemy variety as well as these incredible boss sprites. The bosses tower over you and other enemies. They look so imposing and dramatic. I found myself often panicking just at the sight of some of them. Every time one of those big ass boss sprites shows up my heart starts to race. It’s exciting to fight them every time. The bosses are also quite challenging. It’s so nice to actually struggle against these canonically powerful characters and creatures. Many games nowadays hold your hand and tend to have easier boss fights, but Octopath Traveler II takes inspiration from RPG’s past and really lets you have it in terms of difficulty.

Another way the overall presentation shines is the music and voice acting. Almost every NPC is voiced in the main story and it’s so great to hear a fully fledged cast of characters. In a game filled with pixels, it can sometimes be hard to completely find yourself invested in the plot and protagonists. So it’s pretty fantastic that we get to actually HEAR what these characters are going with. It makes them that much more human and relatable. It’s also great to hear really well-written dialogue read out by these talented voice actors.

I found almost every story in Octopath Traveler II to be way more interesting than the eight stories in the previous game. Certain stories are way better and more intriguing than others, but that’s to be expected. I started with Hikari and I was immediately entranced by the story of this Japanese kingdom in the land of Ku. The hatred Hikari’s brother, Mugen holds for him was palpable and made me want to get revenge. I was immediately hooked. Agnea’s story? I was less hooked. But so far every character I have met has been super engaging and fun to interact with, even if their stories aren’t as great as some others.

Octopath Traveler II is an absolutely fabulous RPG. Square Enix has crafted an incredible sequel to a game that many wouldn’t expect a sequel to. Fans of classic RPGs, modern RPGs, good writing and fun gameplay will find a ridiculous amount of stuff to love here. I think anybody who is interested in video games even remotely will find a lot to love here. I can’t sing my praises for this game enough. Octopath Traveler II is an absolute classic and one of my favourite gaming experiences of the decade. I don’t care which of the eight paths you decide to go down, as long as you pick the one that ends in you playing this game.

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