JRPGs don’t tend to sell well in countries outside of Japan. Unless your Final Fantasy, Persona, Dragon Quest, or a franchise that blew up with the western audience these games end up being niche. They sell poorly, don’t find the audience the developers were looking for, and the publishers consider it a flop as they never return to the property ever again. Which is a shame, as you can find a lot of JRPG gems, some of which are miles better than the most popular entries in the genre. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim comes to mind when I think of the phrase “underrated game.” The game bombed at launch, but it had an incredibly beautiful art style and well written story that kept me engaged until the end. Gameplay was an afterthought, but so much care was put into telling its narrative that it can outsmart a lot of other sci-fi stories out there. There are a ton of underrated JRPGs and one of many is Octopath Traveler. A game that the tales of eight travelers at once, and utilized modern tech and the Unreal Engine to create a glistening pixelated world. It’s one of the first JRPGs I played and I still remember picking it up during the month of release. Exploring the land of Osterra and falling in love with the eight characters. The game didn’t sell well as Square Enix, the publisher, didn’t put out much advertisement material. It sold poorly at launch and Square Enix declared it a failure. The game also had a ton of flaws that chased casual gamers away, but I didn’t care because Octopath Traveler was my comfort game at the moment and my introduction to RPGs. It’s still one of my favorite games despite all its problems.
Octopath Traveler was a very niche JRPG. Despite my unrelenting love for it, I can understand and accept the reasons why casual players wouldn’t love it. It didn’t seem like it would get any support in future besides console ports, and any dreams of a sequel seemed out of reach as again Square Enix was pumping their fundings into big budget games nobody cared about. Looking at Forspoken specifically as the one million dollar next gen game that flopped, nobody liked, and got an entire development studio shut down within a month of release. Octopath Traveler was a once in a lifetime game and I was fine with that. The best games are all once in a lifetime titles, but then the strangest thing happened. During a Nintendo Direct of 2022 they were announcing a variety of games that would be coming out in the future. Usually I don’t care for these live directors as most of the Triple A titles they present are personally uninteresting to me. Then I saw that iconic look before me. A pixelated 3D world with eight different travelers wandering about. A majority of watchers were probably sitting there unhyped, but you can imagine how much I was bouncing up and down to see my favorite JRPG was getting a sequel. A niche game which I blame Square Enix for the failure of was getting the support it needed. A sequel that would not only expand upon the universe, but hopefully improve upon what the original helped set up. There was a little bit of skepticism within me, but I didn’t care as that was the most hyped I’ve been for a video game in a long time. Octopath Traveler 2 released this year and I managed to buy it at full price during the week of release. Booted up the same night I got it and just played it nonstop. I felt the joy I had playing the original for the first time all over again, and for the next few months I would try to find whatever free time I had to play the game.
Eventually I just stopped playing other games and just wanted to dive deeper into Octopath Traveler 2. I have 70 hours pumped into the game with all the traveler stories completed besides the final endgame mission. I am nowhere near experiencing all the content the game has, but I have experienced enough to form my final opinion. This game, much like the original, has flaws that will drive a casual audience away. However, it is an RPG dream and one of my favorite games in a very long time. It makes drastic improvements from the original, adds in elements that benefit the game, and is so far my Game of The Year for 2023. Nothing is probably going to come close for me! Octopath Traveler 2 is a masterpiece and I want to express my love for it in this review. Today we’ll be talking about Octopath Traveler 2 and why it deserves your attention.
The game takes place in the fantastical land of Solistia. A land divided into two continents, west and east. Across the two continents we’ll witness eight travelers team together to aid each other in battle and help achieve their goals. Each traveler has their own unique story and that’s what we’ll be explaining right now. Some of these explanations will be spoilers for a character’s first chapter, but it’s they're still spoilers nonetheless and these tales are best going in blind. You've been warned!
Osvald V. Vanstein, a scholar from a well renowned academy and researcher at heart. Outside of work he took care of his wife Rita and daughter Elena, and studied in a nearby lab. He studied the very elemental magic seen across the land, and helping him was his academy partner Harvey who was also intrigued in his studies. The two of them were good friends and nothing would split them apart. That is until one fateful day when Osvald was walking back from work. He saw his house up in flames and Harvey standing outside. Harvey had decided to betray Osvald and claim his research for himself. He burned down Osvald’s house with Elena and Rita still inside. He then bribed a bunch of guards to take Osvald to court where he blamed the death of them on his behalf. Osvald was imprisoned and sent to a cruel prison facility known as Frigid Isle. Where he would spend the rest of his days with a muzzle around his mouth and rotting alone in a cold cell. Several years pass and Osvald is old and alone. He dreams of getting revenge on Harvey, and after studying the prison and prison staff long enough he forms a plan to escape. His plan proves to be successful as he beats the warden, manages to get his muzzle off so he can perform his spells, and sails across the sea using an ice boat he constructed. He makes it land and his goal is clear. Find Harvey, ask him why he decided to betray him, and get revenge for his family.
Casitti Florenz, a young apothecary who was sent to drift out to sea. She awakens on a boat with no recollection of who she is and where she came from. All she knows is her name displayed on her uniform, and a small journal found within her satchel that describes some of the places she has been to. Casitti is taken to land by a group of sailors and arrives in the town of Canalbrine. There she attempts to ask the town residents who she is, but she gets weird stares from people. Accused of being a horrid person and running with a gang of doctors similar to her. However, she meets a young woman named Malaya who helps point her towards the right direction. She helps the town with a mysterious disease spreading about and is renowned as a forgiven hero. She then learns a little bit about her origins and that Malaya was actually a dear friend of hers. She tries asking Malaya about who she is and where they came from, but before Casitti can ask further Malaya disappears into thin air. Looks like the Malaya we’re talking to is pure memory, and we’re going to have to work a bit to find out who Casitti is. Why she is loved in some towns and hated in others.
Throné Anguis, one of many children to be taken in by the Black Snakes, a group of thieves who perform “special operations” and get what they want. Throné never knew who her true parents were, and spent most her life being abused by two figures named Mother and Father. Two heads of the Black Snakes who discipline their members and train them to be the best. The only form of comfort Throné can rely on are her three friends and they embark on a dangerous mission. On their last mission one of Throné’s friends gets killed, and this makes Throné reconsider her life a bit more. Does she want to do this for the rest of her existence, or does she want to be free. Away from all the torment and away from the Black Snakes? Father, who sees Throné as a successor to him, sends her out on another mission. This time to kill whomever she encounters. Throné then partakes on the mission and finds that Father sent her out to kill Pirro, her dear friend. Pirro had killed another friend of hers and the two clashed. Throné succeeds and Pirro dies a sad death as he says Mother and Father were pulling the strings. Throné gets fed and decides it was time she finally fought for her freedom. Obtain two keys from Mother and Father, get the collar off from her neck, and finally escape from the Black Snakes. Even if it meant learning the truth.
These stories have been sad so far, but here’s Ochette! A beastling who lives in the bright jungles of Toto’haha. She hunts for her tribe and trains to become a skilled hunter that can befriend any animal. Aided by an animal companion, Ochette is capable of taming any beast no matter their size. One day, Ochette is given a mission that will determine the fate of her land. The animals of Toto’haha have begun to act differently and it might be the lead up to the disastrous event known as the night of the Scarlet Moon. A night that brings forth a terrifying creature who will tear apart the land. Ochette must seek three legendary creatures hidden across the land. Get them to aid her and fight the beast who will appear on the Night of the Scarlet Moon.
Partitio Yellowill, an optimistic merchant from the west who has lived in a small mining town named Orwell for his entire life. The town was founded by his father and alongside their family friend Roque, they helped make Orwell a thriving community. Mining for silver and keeping the industry running. Partitio was taught to always share the goods he made to everyone around him, and Partitio taught himself to offer jobs to the people and give them purpose. The day Roque left the town is when everything started to go downhill. Industry came to an all time low, lack of food led to starvation, and the previous landowner who sold the property to Partitio’s father had revealed a rule that all money made from silver would go to him. Partition is saddened to see his father suffer from illness, so he goes to confront the landlord’s debt collectors. He beats them in a fight and the debt collectors reveal that the landlord is Roque. He had actually written in the new rule when Partition and his father weren’t looking, and he owns a big manufacturing company in the east which makes loads of money. Partitio sees this as a chance to journey outside of Orwell and make a name for himself as a merchant. He says goodbye to his father his employees, and goes forth.
Agnea Bistarni, daughter of a once famous traveling dancer. Her mother would journey across the land and put on fantastical shows for the world to see. That was until she fell ill and died of sickness. Agnea never really got to know her mother and father spends most of his days at home depressed. She has dreams of being a famed dancer like her mother, and one day after a festival she decides to journey outside of town. Her sister supports her dreams, and her father who had somewhat gotten out of his stage of depression decides to give Agnea a dress once worn by her deceased mother. Agnea wishes to become a star and along the way she’ll meet performers much like herself. All of whom she aids as she learns what it takes to put smiles on people’s faces.
Temenos Mistral, a humble cleric who lives in the religious town of Flameschurch. If you don’t know, the world of Octopath Traveler was created by eight gods and the gods gifted the people a holy flame known as the First Flame. No, this is not Dark Souls. The First Flame was seen as a gift from the gods for guidance and they have worshiped it ever since. Temenos is one of many believers for the church and is close friends with the pontiff. He entertains the children of the town by putting on puppet shows retelling the story of Alferic, one of the many gods and bringer of the First Flame. He gets called up to the cathedral one day and he makes friends with a sacred knight named Crick. The two venture to the cathedral where they find the pontiff dead. He was killed by a wolf, but upon further investigation they find the death was staged. Some had planned to kill the pontiff and Temenos was going to figure out who. He journeys out of Flameschurch to find whose responsible, and along the way Crick will help him stay out of trouble. The perfect duo to solve this case!
Finally there is Hikari Ku, one of two sons of a powerful emperor. They conquered the lands, fought in many wars, and over the years built a powerful kingdom. Despite having a violent life, Hikari tried to maintain peace by befriending the locals despite them living in poverty. Hikari was seen as a kind individual unlike his father and brother, Mugen. He’s one day confronted by his father who reveals how regretful he is of the life decisions he has made. He doesn’t want to see the Kingdom of Ku go down a violent path, and decides to pass leadership down to Hikari. Somewhere else, Mugen is planning to kill his father and take the throne for himself. He does so and chases Hikari out of the kingdom. Branding him as a betrayer and putting a high price over his head. Hikari is then told by his friend Benkei to seek his old allies Kazan and Rei Mei. Get them to fight for his side and retake the kingdom before more blood is shed.
Octopath Traveler 2 is a JRPG where you explore the land, fight a variety of enemies, level up, and progress through the eight stories beset before you. I suggest picking up all eight travelers as soon as possible, as having all eight will give you eight different classes to swap from. Forming the most optimal party to take on future challenges. Each class has their own purposes during combat and understanding how they function will help you determine who to utilize during tough encounters. Osvald the Scholar doesn’t do very good physical damage, but can dish out heavy elemental damage through spells. Casitti the Apothecary can do decent physical damage, and can both heal her allies and concoct a variety of medicines to support them in fights. Throné can also do a good amount of physical damage and can apply debuffs to the enemy. Personally I found Ochette good for keeping the pressure of the enemy and she captures any monster in the field to use in combat. Partitio is good for keeping the pressure as well and can serve as a distributor amongst the team. Agena is a support character who can buff allies, Temenos can heal the party of mass while applying buffs, and Hikari does the most physical damage amongst all your party members. Each of them uses specific weapons and elemental spells, and you need to know which ones you want if you want to cut down enemy defenses easily.
Combat is unique in that every enemy has a displayed defense number. Defense can be broken down by using specific weapons and elements, and when it’s fully broken then they are stunned for a turn. Allowing you to do critical damage no matter what and cut down their health quickly. I always revered this as smart combat design as it gets the player to consider what classes have the damage types they need while determining when to use their strongest attacks. You also have Boost Points, these little tokens you gain overtime. You can charge up five total Boost Points and use three of them in one turn. Boost Points allow you to either attack multiple times in one turn with one weapon or charge up a special ability. For example, if you use two Boost Points and pull out a spear then the character will attack three times with a spear. However, if you use those Boost Points on an attack like Osvald’s spells then their attack power will be increased by a certain percentage. This adds to the cleverness of combat as you decide when to use these points to nibble down enemy defense, but also save enough so that you can charge your strongest attacks when they are open. At some point you’ll discover allies have abilities that allow them to attack multiple times in one turn. Allowing you to save Boost Points, but still cut defenses down.
New to combat are Latent Abilities. These are special skills that can be initiated any time when the meter is full as they are different for all eight characters. Osvald can focus the damage of his spells on one foe for increased power. Casitti can concoct anything she wants without having to use up ingredients. Throné can perform two actions within a single turn. Ochette can go full-on beast mode and unleash heavy damage. Partitio can give himself five boost points immediately. Agnea can apply a buff to the entire team at once. Temenos can deplete the enemies defenses no matter what damage type he uses, and Hikari can unleash one of three powerful attacks. I like the addition of Latent Abilities as they open up new strategies. I can save Hikari’s Latent Abilities for when the enemy is wide open. Give Agnes the apothecary class and heal the entire team when her Latent Ability is ready. Give Temenos an ability that allows him to attack multiple times and then use his Latent Ability during an emergency. It’s great and it somewhat balances out what I believe to be pretty difficult JRPGs.
The world is free to explore. Sure certain areas have level recommendations and wandering into a high leveled area may lead to your party getting cut down easily, but you can go anywhere at any time. Determine when you should find better gear, go to the next character chapter, and when you should grind to level up. You can find numerous towns and these towns have NPCs you can interact with and shops to buy supplies. You can also perform character actions and they come in two forms, basically safe and non-safe. Safe actions allow you to perform a Path Action with one hundred percent chance of succeeding, but they require a certain level to perform. Risky path actions allow you to perform the action with a chance of failing. Fail enough times and your reputation with town might be ruined. You can restore your reputation by paying a fee at the tavern, but these fees are often really high. These actions range from Inquiring to Scrutinizing for information. Purchasing goods from NPCs to Stealing from NPCs. Challenging them to a fight to Provoking them with a beast. Guiding them to Alluring them. Your path actions can also change depending what time of day it is. Speaking of which, there’s a day and night system now. It not only changes where NPCs are and what your characters can do, but it can also change what you encounter in the field and how you tackle side stories. You may have a harder time exploring as stronger enemies appear at night, but you may gain more experience points upon beating them.
You can find guilds throughout the world and upon finding said guilds you unlock a secondary job. This allows you to give a character a whole new set of abilities that another character may have. For example, if you unlock the secondary class for Thief then you can equip the Thief class to anyone besides Throné. Equipping secondary classes may also affect a character’s stats, so it allows you to form specific builds with characters. I like build creation in Octopath, because it’s often wide without having to be too confusing. It’s already easy to understand what each character specializes in and giving them stat boosts that improve the character is helpful in the long run. You’re also going to need these for later bosses down the line as they tend to change up their weakness. I’ll end this section by talking about bosses as they are the gatekeepers between you and progression. They are meaty foes who’ll cut down your party within seconds if you are not careful, and you have to do your best to survive. Support your party members, cut down their defense before they can unleash powerful attacks, and dish out as much damage as possible. Only then can you journey further.
Octopath Traveler 2 is exactly what I hoped it would be the moment it got announced. Not too different from the original, but making changes that add to an already great formula. Combat is still really good and my god tier standard for how turn based combat should be. The good amount of challenge, decision making, and satisfaction for when you bring down a powerful foe. The Boost and Break system are still wonderfully designed and the addition of Latent Abilities is nice. Classes got reworked and this was a minor complaint I had with the first game. Not all the classes were terrible, but some were obviously better than others. The dancer and merchant were two classes I found absolutely no use for in the first game, and I thought the thief was the most broken class to start with. Some classes had abilities you would never use and there were some cases where I asked, “Why do you have this?” Why does the cleric need a “heal more” ability when using the basic healing spell with boost points is much better and cheaper. Why does the scholar have spells that allow him to attack once and twice, because most players will go for the spells that attack more often. I think the class reworking now is great. The dancer and merchant can actually do stuff and the thief isn’t as overpowered as they were in the last game. That’s not to say it’s not possible to make broken builds. If you give your travelers the right things they can do an unholy amount of damage and practically be unkillable. Still, the game is still pretty well balanced overall and I found myself testing new skills more often to survive fights.
World design also saw a massive improvement. The first game gave you a lot of freedom when it came to exploring the world, but the world design was basically a donut. You travel in a loop to get all eight travelers, and you occasionally branch off one of the edges of the loop to get to later chapters. Not only does having two separate continents feel more natural, but it makes the player wonder how they get to the other continents. I started out on the west continent and when I took the boat that led to where Ochette is I realized I couldn’t access the rest of the east continent as it was isolated. So I had to explore and find another boat just to get to where I needed to go. I love the day and night system, because it helps the world feel more natural and lets the player determine what type of creatures they want to face. I also felt like the world was more detailed. More decorations for the environment and more bustling towns to stumble upon. There’s more variation when it comes to the places you visit and the dungeons you venture into. Towns are more lively and you can witness NPCs roaming around. There’s now combat animations to special moves and bosses have these really cool moves when it comes to performing a charged up attack. I might be pissed when my entire party gets wiped out, but at least I was amazed with what they did.
The soundtrack was composed again by Yasunori Nishiki, and Octopath Traveler still has some of the best music I’ve heard in a game. With orchestral storms that’ll keep you pumped during fights and setting the mood for important moments. Pixelart is still gorgeous and I just love the art direction for these games. The glistening 3D environments and flat characters help create the feeling of a pop-up storybook, and enemy sprites are always miraculously detailed. The first game could have connected the eight stories together better, and the sequel improves on that. With side stories that allow two characters to interact, build relationships with each other, and how they connect to their tales. How the end game mission is a bombastic conclusion that ties the stories together smartly. I haven’t beaten the endgame mission, but I will say it’s designed a lot better than the original. I even like how characters congratulate on each other whenever one of them breaks an enemy's defense. It may not sound like a lot, but it makes the party and their effort to fight foes feel more dynamic.
I’m showering endless praise onto this game, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect one. Some of the problems from the first game are still here and they are reasons why some people won’t enjoy Octopath Traveler 2. Biggest problem being grinding. The first game had level recommendations when it came to future chapters and these were often very high. Usually seven or ten levels higher than where your characters currently were. It meant you had to dedicate a set amount of time leveling up your travelers and this can take up to 3-5 hours. It’s not a huge problem for me as the combat is great and sometimes the problem is your characters’ current gear rather than level, but when you have to grind because later bosses one shot your party it becomes mind numbing. The second game isn’t as bad as the level recommendations are much lower, but I still found myself grinding occasionally. Your starting traveler still can’t be swapped out of the party until you complete their story, and you better hope you choose a good one as it means you can’t swap them out for someone useful in an upcoming fight. This also means they’ll be your most over level traveler. Like I said, this game is fairly challenging and difficultly mainly comes from bosses. Some bosses are really well balanced and some are just unfair. Octopath Traveler 2 is just a game that requires a lot of dedication just like the last game. It took close to 50 hours to beat one traveler's story and then another ten hours to finish the rest. English voice acting isn’t the best, but it’s doable.
From the looks of it Octopath Traveler 2 has quite a few crippling flaws, so why am I calling it a masterpiece? In my opinion, masterpieces don’t always have to be perfect games. If what they are aiming for is done well then I consider it a success. I think what Octopath does is done so well that it masks some of the problems it has. Letting you venture into the unknown and witness the story of each character. The characters this time around are a lot better and in some cases I prefer them more than the first game. Their stories are much better, more tolerable, make more sense, and they all have better character development. Their personalities were and I was invested to see where they went next. Hikari’s journey to create a peaceful world, Agnea wanting to become a star that puts smiles on everyones’ faces, Partition creating a thriving market and not being driven by greed, etc. I reminded myself why I love Octopath Traveler so much. No matter what happens you persevere and try to do the right thing. Help those no matter where they come from and not stray off the wrong path. Stay optimistic despite all what tries to put you down. That feeling is felt the entirety of Octopath Traveler and that’s this game and the first game hold a special place in my heart. It has soul and has something purposeful to present. That’s why I view this game as a masterpiece despite all of its problems. It’s a hard recommendation, but it’s a strong one that I make. I recommend it to anybody who's a hardcore JRPG fan or loved the original as much as me. I give Octopath Traveler 2 a 10/10 for being downright incredible. It may as well be one of my favorite games to come out during the 2020s.
This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!