Octopath Traveler II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2023


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Switch/PS5/PS4/PC Preview - 'Octopath Traveler II'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 9, 2023 @ 12:03 a.m. PST

Octopath Traveler II is the next entry in the RPG series where players will embark on an exciting journey through the brand-new world of Solistia.

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The original Octopath Traveler is up there with Bravely Default as one of my favorite "spiritual sequels." Unlike Bravely Default's take on Final Fantasy, Octopath was more like a mix of SaGa and Live-a-Live. While it had some rough elements, it was still an all-around delight. Octopath Traveler II looks like a sequel that is at once comfortably familiar and still fresh.

Like the first game, Octopath Traveler II is a series of interconnected stories. You get to select from one of eight different protagonists, who share the same jobs as the first game, but each is a distinctly different character. Osvald the Scholar is a prisoner who's been falsely accused of the murder of his wife and child, and he's seeking a way to escape and get revenge. Temenos the Cleric is a member of his church's Inquisition who uses his Sherlock Holmes-style detective skills and willingness to break rules to seek out the truth behind great mysteries. The sequel seems to lean harder on moral ambiguity than the first game, and it has me pretty excited to see where the plots go.

Perhaps the single biggest change to Octopath Traveler II is the day and  night cycle. You have the ability to change from day to night and back again. Some events are only available at a certain time of the day, and characters move around and reposition themselves. Enemies are stronger at night but may grant greater rewards. In essence, that means most areas have two different versions, which encourages you to swap and see what secrets you might be missing.

Most importantly, every character in the game now has two Path abilities. If you haven't played the first game, Path abilities are unique interactions that characters can have with NPCs. Each character has different interactions for day and night, which fall into a few different categories. There is some overlap to these abilities, but the day and night cycle means that even if abilities share the same basic purpose, they may not share the same usage.

For example, Osvald the Scholar's daytime ability is to Observe, so he can gather information about other characters; he has a percentage chance to fail, and that's determined by certain level differences. His nighttime ability is Mug, which allows him to fight an NPC and take everything they have if they're defeated. However, if the person who you need to get an item from only shows up during the day, you might need to use Throne, who can steal, or Partito, who can buy items. Likewise, Osvald's Observe ability is risky, but if you can only locate your target at night, you can use Temenos's night ability to beat the information out of the person instead.

In the first few chapters, the Path abilities and day and night cycle add a lot more variety to the gameplay, and Octopath Traveler II seems to be doing a good job of encouraging players to choose the right character for the right challenge. It also lends more personality to the actions. Partito is a merchant by day, but by night, he's trying to make friends and contacts that can grant him bonuses when buying or selling. The overlap feels less significant, and the fact each character has two abilities helps to keep any one party from feeling "obligated."

Path abilities are also more closely integrated to the character's skill sets. Hikari's Challenge ability allows him to learn attacks if he defeats his opponent. While he can only carry a limited number, this gives him an absurd amount of customization. Stronger attacks tend to come from stronger foes. Agnea's Allure ability not only brings characters to fight alongside her, but the chosen character also buffs her dance abilities.

While we've only spent a bit of time with the combat system in Octopath Traveler II so far, there are a number of changes to the basic combat. The same mechanics are there, with a focus on the same "Break" system as the first game, but everything has been tweaked. Some moves have been buffed, others have been weakened, and there seems to be a greater emphasis on each character's strengths and abilities.

For example, the Hunter Ochette has the same "capture" mechanic as H'aanitt from the first game, but instead of a limited number of uses, she can keep any monster she captures for as long as she wants and use them regularly in battle. That means the capture mechanic is a significant part of her play style. The Thief Throne can inflict bad statuses automatically during night battles, which is a huge advantage over foes.

Each character also gets special unique skills for their default class. These are EX skills, which we didn't see in our preview build. More importantly, every character gets a unique latent ability, which function like a limit break. As your character fights and takes damage, your latent ability meter charges up. Once it is full, you can activate it. Each character has a different latent ability. For one turn, Casatti the Apothecary can use her item-mixing ability without using any ingredients. Ochette can unlock a temporary set of incredibly powerful attacks. Each latent power is immensely useful, and it's easy to imagine they will end up being character-defining in the final version.

There are also a lot of small changes that should please fans of the original game. Perhaps the most noteworthy is that experience gain has significantly changed. Your party members don't get EXP when they're not in your party, but once they are, they level extremely quickly until they are at roughly the level of the area they are fighting in. It's somewhat similar to how Suikoden handles it, so you can swap between party members without needing to grind.

Octopath Traveler II is shaping up to be a fantastic sequel. The core gameplay is still there, but everything feels more polished and improved. The new cast looks to be as good, if not better, than the first game, and it's clear the developers have gotten more confident with some of the gameplay mechanics. If the full title is as strong as the opening chapters, then Octopath Traveler II is shaping up to be one of the must-have RPGs of 2023. Fortunately, we only have to wait a few more weeks for the release date of Feb. 23, 2023.

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