Octopath Traveler II

Octopath Traveler II

We've fallen in love with pixels again and been introduced to the lives of eight new characters in this standalone sequel.

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There was something special about the sorts of pixels that painted the fantasy worlds we visited during the 16-bit era. To think that thirty years later we would be basking in its nostalgia and using words like "retro" to describe this type of graphic-style. In this age, the contrast between more technically advanced graphics and the path taken by Octopath Traveler games is stark. But, luckily, there's room for both. Especially when it's as well-made as it is here, and it's largely thanks to the visuals that this sequel shines brightly. Where many new releases strive for technical giant leaps and realism, Octopath Traveler II flirts with nostalgia. But not without making effective use of several visual novelties.

I love JRPGs and I love the graphical style that the developers used in its predecessor and now of course continue with in this sequel. I think a lot of my fascination has to do with the fact that it also feels like it all has a natural progression. Because where something as simple as characters being very pixelated, their animations are still clear and vivid. Add to that details like technically beautiful water, atmospheric lighting, particle effects and the fact that everything is sharp and high definition. It simply feels like the pixel graphics of the past meets the technological advances of today. I'll talk more about how the visuals really elevate this adventure in a moment.

Octopath Traveler II
A dancer who wants to reach stardom is one of the eight stories we are treated to.

Basically, this game is the story of eight characters' lives. Just like the first game, you choose where your story will begin by picking the character you find most interesting, who then also becomes a permanent part of your future group. Fear not, you'll find out the other characters' stories along the way too. All of the heroes have very different personalities and their reasons for embarking on their journeys are very different. We meet everything from a warrior to a doctor to a dancer and then five more characters, all with their own reasons for venturing out into the wide world. Even here you can tell that the developers aren't trying to change too much from their predecessor, as these professions are the same as those of the eight who made up the ensemble in part one. If there's any major criticism of this sequel, it's precisely that things might feel a little too safe. There are, however, several novelties, and without shaking the foundations, they are welcome elements. For example, you can switch from day to night at any time at the touch of a button, thus changing the environment and making certain abilities only available at a certain time of day.

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Other novelties such as characters' paths crossing in small stories called "Crossed Path" where two characters simply share a shorter story have also been added. One of the biggest criticisms from the first game was precisely that the characters' stories weren't intertwined enough and unfortunately it's a weakness here as well. Having eight different stories is clever in many ways, especially when they are so different. But instead, you unfortunately lose a bit of that sense that it's a gang on an adventure together as the focus becomes on each character instead of the collaboration. It would have been nice if, for a possible third part, they managed to bring the characters together a bit more. I understand the point of telling each individual's journey but as soon as you start a chapter with one character everyone else becomes supporting characters. They are there, but are totally ignored in the story itself. It would have been more effective if, for example, one character had to seek out one or more of the other leads and they wove it all together a bit.

Octopath Traveler II
The fighting is really good.

Another disadvantage is that when you jump around between the stories, the world in which everything takes place becomes a bit strange in its presentation. You can take part in one character's story that takes them to a certain place, only to then be involved in another as a character arrives in a village or town you've already been to. While there are plenty of locations here, the very fact that the same place is used for multiple characters means that the exploration gets a little lost. One way to solve this would have simply been to save some villages and towns for later in the game for specific characters.

The narrative also gets a bit jumpy and disjointed overall, but there's also something good about being able to leave a character's story if, for example, you encounter a boss that feels too difficult. By switching heroes and exploring somewhere else, you can still level up characters you used in the other story, so hopefully they're strong enough for the challenge when you return to one you temporarily left. Simply visit one of the game's many inns to start a new story or resume one you interrupted and hopefully then move on.

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Solistia, the name of the world in which the adventures take place, is a varied world where distances between significant locations never feel particularly long. The variety, however, is stunning, with classic desert landscapes and snowscapes and, above all, stunning forests. But it's the bustling towns and small villages that are a joy to visit. It's a bit of a shame that characters are stuck in place, like echoes of old games, but otherwise it manages to create the feeling that you're really arriving in a bustling metropolis. There are more modern elements, but it still feels like classic fantasy in every way.

Octopath Traveler II
It's not easy when you've lost your memory. The only solution is to go out into the world on an adventure.

Octopath Traveler II is a very classic JRPG in every way. There are random and turn-based battles and most of the content is recognisable, for better or worse. That's not to say there's a lack of finesse, though, as there's plenty of challenge here, and the importance of knowing how best to adapt your party, making sure you have the right equipment at all times is crucial. Everything from classic weapons to spells are included in the game, and the importance of mixing and matching offensive and supportive items should come as no surprise to those who frequent the genre.

The formula is much the same throughout the adventure. There's a lot of dialogue at the beginning of each hero's new chapter, which then usually leads to a boss fight. Each enemy has either multiple weapons or magic as their weak point and once you've dealt enough hits you break through their defences and can deal damage for real. Each round your heroes get a new boost point, and you can save these to let your character deal more hits or more powerful ones. Breaking through the enemy's defences also makes them miss their next turn, so you get the chance to dish out some extra damage or get some health back. It becomes tactical in a way that turn-based battles can sometimes fail to be, and here it's all about constantly thinking ahead and taking advantage of your characters' strengths. The bosses also feel menacing in their appearance and you have to be prepared for several battles that take their fair share of time. I think the battles are brilliant even if they're of much the same type we're used to from JRPGs, but their features keep them engaging throughout and I never sigh out loud like I might in other games when it's time for a turn-based round against enemies. The developers have simply managed to find a good balance of tactics and finesse here.

Octopath Traveler II
To say that the environments are cosy is an understatement. The game is teeming with amazing locations.

Alongside these countless turn-based battles and boss fights, the main focus is of course an adventure, an epic journey, and here you have to be prepared for lots of dialogue. All eight stories are far from equally engaging, but there are plenty of highlights here. I personally liked the adventure of the trader named Partitio, and the one about a mage named Osvald who is out for revenge. These two stories in particular I thought had the best scenarios, and also the flashbacks are used very effectively to give the stories depth. There are also great encounters with other characters that you come across but as I said, I miss the connection between the eight heroes not having much interaction with each other, which is a shame.

I started the text by touching on the visuals and the fact that it got the focus right away is not surprising. Because the game's graphical style is also one of the biggest reasons for my infatuation. I am aware that it may sound superficial, graphics are not the most important thing and so on. But, there's no denying how enchanting this actually is. But even though it looks charming in pictures, it's in motion that it shines. Aside from the magical pixels, which paint everything to perfection, there are two things that stand out: the way each environment is packed with detail and the way past and present are mixed. As for the details, everything is brilliant from tiny butterflies fluttering around, to the way a bird sits in the foreground of the screen to how each room is incredibly ornate. An inn or gun shop has rarely felt more charming in a game. Add to that the way lights are also used to completely immerse everything in a magical atmosphere. Because if there's one thing Octopath Traveler II really succeeds at, it's making you feel like you're on a fairy-tale adventure. A few other things I'd also like to commend regarding the graphics are how, despite the two-dimensional surface, perspective and depth of field is effectively used to really elevate the visuals. The game is simply unparalleled in many ways and with a little extra trickery manages to make something unique.

Adding to this is the magnificent music. From epic arrangements to jazz tones that elevate the atmosphere even further. I myself am very fond of the low-key tones of piano accompanied by atmospheric strings. The voice actors also do very well so both the graphics and sound are simply brilliant.

Octopath Traveler IIOctopath Traveler II
The environments are varied and the places you visit are stunning.

Octopath Traveler II has oscillated between several different ratings during my playing time, all of which have been at the top end of the scale. I may find the game a little too safe and there are definitely some drawbacks here that I don't want to turn a blind eye to. My personal fascination with this kind of game, this kind of adventure, could easily overshadow everything, which it did for the first few hours when everything felt new and exciting. Most of what I had hoped for regarding this sequel is fulfilled and again, it looks so pretty and is so damn cosy. A perfect fairy-tale adventure in so many ways.

Every time I boot up the game I get the feeling that I'm about to embark on an adorable and epic adventure and Octopath Traveler II is truly perfect when it comes to offering a fantastic adventure in one of the most beautiful worlds in gaming. But it's not a perfect game. Even though I loved so much of it, I still have to be honest and state that the drawbacks detract from the experience a bit. But fortunately, you can have a passionate infatuation with something without it having to be completely flawless for that matter.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Visually stunning. Fun battles. Some really good individual stories.
A little too familiar. Characters lack interaction with each other.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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REVIEW. Written by Conny Andersson

We've fallen in love with pixels again and been introduced to the lives of eight new characters in this standalone sequel.

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