Octopath Traveler II Review - Reaching Nirvana
Updated: Jul 7
Octopath Traveler II
Octopath Traveler II's approach to being a sequel is very much about refining existing ideas. Nothing here will be very unfamiliar to anyone who played the original game, but nearly all of it is more fleshed out and generally higher quality. Although I liked OT1 a lot, I was disappointed by its eight stories being almost entirely unconnected and found little need to even think about some of the characters until the final dungeon suddenly required the use of everyone. OT2, thankfully, takes those common criticisms to heart and focuses heavily on linking its stories together.
Side stories featuring two characters are the most noticeable change. After advancing both involved characters to a certain point in their stories, a new mission starring both of them will appear somewhere on the map. These are largely unrelated to each character's main objectives, but they help build relationships between your party members while also featuring the abilities of characters you might not be using much. The events really help it feel like you have a coherent party journeying together in a way that OT1 failed to do, and even better, these stories hint at and build towards a larger plot that links all eight main branches. It's easily the best new feature.
The other features Square chose to highlight - the night/day system, boats, and latent powers - are fun additions, but don't radically change anything about the game. Night and day changes give you a little bit more to explore in each area and set up some clever ministories for NPCs. Boats allow treasures to be placed on easily seen islands that can only be reached by finding a less obvious dock. Latent powers give you powerful combat abilities with long charge times, although some character's powers are much more obviously useful than others. All of these are good additions, but I needed to re-read the game's store page to even remember that they weren't in OT1. That's an endorsement of how easily they fit into OT's other systems, at least.
I found the writing and combat to generally be stronger than in OT1 as well. Neither of these were major problems in the first game, but I can hardly remember anything about half of that game's characters and even less about its world or most of its fights. Although Partitio's story fell almost completely flat for me, the others were all fun and had memorable moments in each chapter. Major bosses almost always have something unique or cool about them, and even Partitio's boring story has some good fights at the end. Still, you'll find some of the best writing and combat in missable optional locations. There are loads of dungeons to the side of main paths with tough fights at the end, and you'll find the setups for quite a few good short stories if you learn the background of NPCs in each town.
Much like last year's Chained Echoes, OT2 is a game that executes old ideas extremely well. Almost everything in this game is an incremental improvement on what was already in OT1, but there's a lot to be said for consistent improvement on what was already a very good game. What it lacks in truly new ideas it more than makes up for in great world building, engaging storytelling, and clever JRPG battles. And I haven't even mentioned the music, which is every bit as much of a masterwork as the original. Even at 60-70 hours for a complete playthrough, OT2 never feels slow or dragged out. It's a nearly perfect delivery of its vision.
Time to beat: 66 hours to do everything except the super boss.
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