Not every sequel needs to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes simple refinement does the job just fine. For every game that mixes things up, like Breath of the Wild, there’s another like A Link Between Worlds that takes a more subtly iterative approach to the standard formula. After playing through the first few hours of Octopath Traveler II, it’s quite clear to us that Square Enix's latest HD-2D project is more in line with the latter. Everything that you loved about 2018's original Octopath Traveler is here and arguably better than ever, while some of the things that you didn’t like about it may have been tweaked or adjusted.
All of the original eight classes have made their return again, but they’ve each been lightly reworked both narratively and mechanically to give you something that feels new. For example, the Scholar class still stars a magic-casting professor, but where Cyrus was a suave academic on a quest to track down a missing library book, Osvald is a bitter and broken prison convict on a single-minded mission to avenge his family’s murder. Here and there, you can see some similarities between the two, but Osvald is a whole different beast.
Such similarities and differences further extend to the skills each class uses. Agnea the Dancer, for example, can still use most of the same buffs that made Primrose such a potent support member, but new skills like the ability to move another team member’s action up in the timeline give her some interesting and new strategic utility.
Meanwhile, the story remains largely decentralized, and we’re quite curious to see how the fanbase reacts to this unique structure for its second time around. The developers have gone to noticeable efforts to build a greater sense of party cohesion and introduce more organic and plentiful instances of party interaction, yet this is still very much a braided narrative about eight individuals pursuing their own agendas and plotlines.
Based on what we’ve seen thus far, it feels like this kind of storytelling is working well and that the plots are generally more engaging than they were in the previous entry, but bear in mind that we were also huge fans of the polarizing story of the original game. At minimum, we expect people will be just as split over Octopath Traveler II’s narrative as they were with the first.
One of our favorite new additions has been the introduction of a day-night cycle, which has more of an effect than you may think. Some environments will change dramatically between the two, such as quiet ruins along the path of a country road turning into a bustling black market when night falls. The day and night changes affect battles, too, with stronger enemies coming out once the sun sets to make grinding easier, while some characters receive helpful passive buffs that only trigger during nighttime. The differences between day and night aren’t major, then, but we’re definitely reminded of the Zelda series’ recurring ‘dark world’ mechanic here. So far, it feels like a welcome change that has added new depth to the adventure.
Another benefit of the day-night cycle is that it doubles the number of gorgeous environments for you to gawk at due to the excellent art style on display. Octopath Traveler was quite the looker when it came out, but this new release clearly reflects all the lessons that Square learned through the development of other HD-2D titles in the interim and the maturation of that technology. New lighting and particle effects help to imbue the spritework with an extra dose of realism while a more dynamic camera allows for interesting cinematic touches. Watching the camera dramatically swing out just before you crack off a big boost attack never gets old.
So far, we’ve been very impressed with what we’ve experienced of Octopath Traveler II. The combat has more depth, the graphics got a nice bump, and the class system has shown signs of some key changes that we’re eager to explore further. This is Octopath Traveler on steroids, and we think fans of the original will — for the most part — be delighted by what the team has put together here.
Yet at the same time, there are times where it feels like Octopath Traveler II plays things a little too safe and follows too closely in its predecessor’s footsteps. It’s not a bad thing to double down on what works, but it remains to be seen how far Octopath Traveler II will go in establishing its own identity, as the early hours can sometimes feel quite familiar.
At any rate, Octopath Traveler II is at least comparable to the original in terms of production quality; it seems like it’s generally better at doing what the original game set out to do, but we’ll share our final judgment on that front with you soon enough.
My only concern is the story. Like is this a new world because both of the previous Octopath games tied that story mostly up with a bow. That being said I would love more lore about the gods/job givers.
I should really try revisiting the original Octopath sometime. I found myself checked out on it very early in because the constant stop-start-stop-start of the different narratives made it impossible to get invested in.
Really looking forward to this. Downloading the demo tonight.
I really wish these games didn't have random battles, I mean I wish you could see the bad guys and decide if you want to fight or pass by depending on your needs...random is so old school!
I’m all for sequels that rather takes what is good and just makes it better over sequels that gamble in trying to reinvent the wheel and is a worse game overall so Octopath Traveler II seems a more safe buy for me after the demo.
Loved many things about the first one, but there were some design issues that made it really cumbersome to get everything out of the game. I hope they fixed this.
Loved everything about the original, it's probably my favorite Switch game. Even if this is more of the same, count me in.
This game and Wandering Sword are what I'm gonna play for this entire weekend both on Switch and Steam.
Wandering Sword, an HD-2D RPG based on Wuxia mythology is fantastic, hopefully it comes to Switch someday.
Don't know. Funny enough, Im seeing more and more indie Japanese inspired Western rpgs doing the genre better than the big boys these days.
I don’t remember that well 5 years later, but the unconnected nature of the 8 stories was an issue, true. But I loved playing it nevertheless, put some 80 hours in. So I’m sure I’ll enjoy the second, much prettier part too
@JAPBOO Ha ha, I was saying exactly the same thing to my work colleague last week after I’d lent him the first one. You’re just walking along, minding your own business and then WHOOSH you’re in a battle whether you wanted to or not 😂
As if any game using this engine looks incredible.
In Tactics Ogre you (NL) complain about the smoothing filter. In Octopath Traveler (which looks even more unsharp) the same problem is called "incredible".
So hyped up for this! Loved the first one, and the music is insanely good.
I'm probably in the minority, but I'm glad they just went with more of the same instead of desperately trying to come up with something completely different. Early stages of buidling franchises should focus on fine-tuning, in my opinion.
Graphics looks very good. I am happy with that.
@Lizuka It stays like that the whole game. It's why I don't really like it.
I love the first game, the mechanics, all the battle combinations, stories, soundtrack.
I just wish they would not talk to each other that much, I had a headache from that.
Honestly don't care if 2 is the same as 1. If its just as good im happy.
And generally speaking, I do hope SE keeps up with these HD-2D games. So far they have all been great, and a blast to play.
For me i feel like the main thing im curious about is the performance on the switch version, i was happy overall with what i saw in the demo but hoping it can keep a stable one throughout.
other than that im sold on this game.
Liked the first game..this is an insta-buy
Still have to play the first game, but at this point I'll probably straight up jump into the sequel first when I have the chance.
@Coxula I mean, I know the HD-2D style isn't for everybody and even for me the depth-of-field can be a little much, but the difference is that these games are making a deliberate style, not just smearing old sprites. The actual sprites remain sharp when they're in focus!
I think I'm getting this on day one as I did with OT1.
Day one physical purchase for me! Game looks really improved visually over the first one and that one looked amazing already.
Hopefully the Metroid Prime physical releasing a couple days before doesn't take the piss out of this one.
So many demos to try! Plus GBA games! Great time to be a Nintendo fan
@JAPBOO Same. It would be better if every battle had a real reason. Like, even the "random" ones. If you enter a dark forest you are bound to run into some hungry beasts, but I don't have to run into them 25 times. Once would be fine, and then some cut-scene where they are pathcing themselves up, like that.
But I won't complain too much, I am still looking forward to this.
I didn't expect them to make such a big step and the the story together. But i certainly hope for a nice epic postgame finale like in the first game, that is what i am most excited for. They already seem to have improved on the terribly grindy aspect a bit, which was really the most off putting thing about the game.
With Square Enix games i tend to focus only on presentation anyways, in my experience that is what they usually do best when trying
I'm really enjoying the demo! Game of the year contender if they get the story right. The PC version with max settings is a looker!
The only issue I have is I'm not a big fan of all the random encounters. I like exploring. In the first game you had to put the mage in your party and lower your encounter rate using his skill.
This feeds in to the go anywhere design. The reason battles are random, and the "flee" command annoyingly barely works, is because you can go anywhere at any time, and they don't want you avoiding battles and looting a high level area.
I would kind of prefer the next game showed the enemies on the map, and you could avoid random battles, and the "Flee" command would just work. Maybe just level gate people, if you are less than 10 levels away, you can't enter a new area. I don't know.
Best music of any game released in years! Same as the first one!
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