Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Also Available On: PS4, PS5, and PC
Developer: Square Enix / Acquire / Team Asano
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: February 24, 2023
I consider JRPGs to be one of my all time favorite genres to play. I like to play a mixture of both new and old school RPGs, and this one has the feeling of both in the same package. Back in 2018, one of my favorite titles came out on the Nintendo Switch. Now, less than four years later, Octopath Traveler II came out. I can, without any hesitation, say that they seriously did not disappoint with this game in all of the aspects. Why is the title so good? What changed since the first iteration of the Team Asano title? Well, I am going to explore all of that, and even more in my review after putting almost 75 hours into the game. Please note, this review will be as spoiler free as I possibly can make it.
Ochette (the hunter), Casti (the apothecary), Throné (the thief), Osvald (the scholar), Partitio (the merchant), Agnea (the dancer), Temenos (the cleric), and Hikari (the warrior) are the eight different heroes you play as. Using the first letter in their names, just like the first game, spells out the name of the game; Octopath. Octo also is also the Greek word for eight, which is why you take eight paths to uncover the story. Now, since I want to keep this as spoiler free as I possibly can, I am not going to talk directly about anyone’s story. Themes of the stories in the game include, but are not limited to; happiness, revenge, sadness, family, religion, trust, agony, despair, belonging, economy, and much more.
Saying this; however, not all of the stories were ones that I loved equally. Out of the eight stories here is how I would describe them; one that I thought was good, one that I thought was great, three that I thought were excellent, and then three that were exceptional. Can you guess who goes in what category? Each character has their own story which they take center stage in, with each having a different number of chapters or parts to complete. On top of this, there are four substories that partners two of the characters together. After you conclude all of their final chapters and the side stories, the final chapter begins which uncovers a lot of things that you definitely won’t see coming. I want to discuss the story of a few of them, but since I loved going in blind, I think it should be left at that. All of the stories have twists and turns that will both make you question a lot of things and will make you feel both happy or sad at the same time.
In terms of its gameplay, it is pretty tried and true in terms of how it goes in battle. At first, you must choose one character. Using just that one, you have to go and find the second, third, and so on until you have all eight members unlocked. Be warned that your starting character cannot leave your party until you complete their final chapter in the game, so pick wisely as you can only have four in your party at a time. In combat, you have standard normal attacks, guarding, special abilities for that character and job that uses SP, boosting which uses BP, and items. In this game, there’s something new, you have an ultimate attack that will charge as you battle. Each ultimate is something different; sometimes, it’s more support based while other times, it’s more offensive abilities. There is a support skill you can get that allows you to always start a battle with the gauge filled, and it’s so powerful that it’s a bit broken. In battle, you can see the next action at the top of the screen. This means you may want to strategize a little bit in terms of figuring out BP, SP, HP, and more. Here is a battle with basic level 45 monsters, granted I am higher leveled than that, but this is just a demonstration to see some of the strategies or skills that could be used.
Okay, so what about other things besides within battles? Well, there is a lot that goes into success in battles, so I am going to talk about that first. First off, there is your basic equipment like your weapons and armor. This is pretty standard, your stats go up or down with different effects depending on your setup. The rest is a little more complex. Each character, already stated, has their own job class. There are also secondary job classes that you can find throughout the world and equip them. So, for an example, my cleric also has the scholar secondary job to do both healing and also magical heavy damage. My warrior has the armorslayer job class, and everyone else is mixed and matched depending on my party setup at one time. Once you complete battles, you will get JP (job points) and can use these to get more abilities. Once you unlock enough abilities, you get support skills that allow you to affect more things within the world and battles. Below is a video of some of the many things to balance.
Lastly, besides battling and preparing for battle, there has to be more, right? Yes, there is! There are loads of side quests that require you to either bring items to people or use your abilities that you have in the game. What abilities you may ask? Well, that depends on the character and the time of day. Each character has two abilities that allow you to talk with the townsfolk. You could either steal items, inquire about information, mug people to get items, entrance people, get townspeople to follow you, battle them or knock them out, and more. There are also hidden chests, secret items and so much more that you can get by interacting with NPCs. Besides side quests, there are optional bosses that are powerful, jobs that you can upgrade, shines to get special character specific abilities, and a whole lot more. Even after 75 hours with the game, I didn’t even do 100% of what is available within the game.
In terms of voice acting and music in the game, is it good? Where oh where do I start with this game. Yes, it is exceptional! The voice acting in this title is some of the absolute best that I have heard from games in quite a while. From the upbeat and happy nature of some of the characters to the calmer and more mellowness of the others, everyone brings to life the characters they are portraying beautifully. The music, as stated before, is constantly changing depending on the location and time of day. The jazz in the big city, the calm but uneasiness of some of the forests, the upbeat and possibly my favorite area being Wellgrove, and so much more. Not once did I have to put on other music while adventuring or grinding, which I think is a great sign in any video game. The audio design is honestly phenomenal, and I give so much credit to their sound team for doing such a fantastic job! Below is just a taste of the differences in the same place at different times.
HD-2D art style has been around since 2018 with the first Octopath Traveler, and each time it is used, the games keep looking better and better. They used it in Octopath Traveler I, Triangle Strategy, Live-A-Live, and now Octopath Traveler II. I can clearly see upgrades from the first time it was used to now, and this game is just beautiful. The lush forests, the open waves, the big cities, the smaller towns, and everything else in-between just pops out at you. The OLED helps the art pop even brighter colors, and the vivid color pallet that is in the game as a whole is just brilliantly used. The game has a beautiful art style and every minute of the game is just beautiful. I would put this up there with one of the best looking titles on Switch.
So, I played most of this game (probably 95%) in handheld mode, and everything ran smooth as butter. Not once did I have hiccups, frame issues, or anything of the sort. Granted, since this game is a turned based RPG, even if there were stutters in battles, it would have been a horrible travesty for me personally. The resolution never tanked, and everything was pixel perfect on the screen throughout the almost 75-hour adventure. I think it runs as well as a bunch of first party made titles do on the Switch, and I couldn’t be happier. The tiny amount I played in docked mode, mostly when the Switch was low battery, was also great. I played mostly in handheld mode because the OLED screen makes the game look so beautiful. Everything played, sounded, looked, and ran stunningly.
The only thing that I still am pretty confused about for the game, even if it is a bit trivial and a small nitpick for me, is why it is also released on PlayStation. I play on PlayStation too, but the first one isn’t even on the console, so I was surprised when this was announced for the PS4/PS5. It’s not a bad thing at all, and I’m glad more people get to play it. It’s just the only weird thing about the game was the platforms it released on. The first one is on Xbox and was on Game Pass for a while, and this one doesn’t have an Xbox release. Maybe it will come later, but it was definitely a bit of a mystery for me.
I think there have been and will continue to be a bunch of fantastic games that already have released or will be coming out later this year. In terms of my GOTY, it is only the end of March so it is just a bit too early to really tell; however, nothing is coming close to touching Octopath Traveler II so far, for me at least. Everyone has different tastes in games, but if you are a fan of JRPGs, especially old school ones with new school elements, please play this game. For how many hours you can sink into the game, $60 is chump change for what you are getting in value here. It is an absolute masterpiece that people need to play and one that seriously needs to continue as an IP that Square Enix supports for a long time. I am eagerly anticipating the next adventure that Team Asano creates as this team has skyrocketed to one of my favorites on Switch.
Review Score: 9.5/10