Octopath Traveler II is a game I’ve spent dozens of hours on, often playing deep into the early morning hours. I meandered endless roads, smacking around giant mushrooms and adorable, land-walking octopi. I collected dozens of quests vague enough to make Hidetaka Miyazaki proud. And like a woman with very poor self-control, I completed chapter after chapter, drawn in by the twisting mysteries of the eight protagonists I’ve grown so fond of.
Eight Sprawling Stories With Grand, Satisfying Conclusions
There’s something captivating and almost cozy about Octopath Traveler II. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic, 16-bit graphics, the fantastic soundtrack, or the utter freedom. You start the game by peering down, godlike, over a map of the ocean-cleaved continent of Solistia. Eight protagonists speckle the map, and it’s your choice whose story you’ll experience first.
Unlike most games, Octopath Traveler II doesn’t have one overarching plot but eight separate narratives attached to each of the recruitable characters. Their stories fall over a vast spectrum that hooked me each time. A scholar who melds science and magic escapes the Alcatraz of Solistia for one reason: to get revenge on the man who set him up and killed his family. A
cat girl Hunter from a tropical island must gather three guardian beasts to prevent a cataclysm that will destroy her home. An apothecary with amnesia feels compelled to help all those in need and learn who, and why, someone left her stranded in a boat in the middle of the sea.
These sweeping adventures unfold in chapters, with each chapter unfolding in a new corner of the map, with higher and higher level requirements. But as you delve further into each character’s arc, new hybrid chapters become available. These chapters, called Crossed Paths, feature two characters and highlight their unique dynamic. Some of these chapters lean towards the comical, like when the Merchant and Scholar cross, while others are far more serious and lean into strange and twisting mysteries. Either way, it’s nice to finally see the large cast of characters interact with each other outside of the brief conversations you see during their own chapters.
“Each character’s story felt intimate and compelling because that character was alone, and each reached a satisfying conclusion in their independence.”
Octopath Traveler II’s unique narrative structure charmed me throughout the game. Each character is essentially their own island, with the rest of their team only showing up for boss battles or Crossed Paths chapters. But each character’s story felt intimate and compelling because that character was alone, and each reached a satisfying conclusion in their independence.
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But this narrative structure does more than charm: it serves a very practical purpose. It forces you to use all eight characters, keeping them relatively equal-leveled.
Fight Giants With Unique Jobs and Skill Combos
If there’s one thing that makes Octopath Traveler II worth playing, it’s the combat system. Each enemy has shields which you can break by exploiting their weaknesses. A broken enemy is stunned for one round, giving you a chance to deal extra-powerful damage you can further amplify by using boosted moves, unique weapon effects, and job abilities.
The boss battles are some of the most epic moments in the game. Your team stands like defiant ants at the ankles of a titan, who has health in the double digits with the stats to match. And it’s almost a guarantee these fights will be a challenge (unless you’ve severely over-leveled), making each win a triumph. Bosses usually also come with their own unique gambits, which will require you to think your strategies through. Spamming ‘A’ will only get you shuffled to a “Game Over” screen and back to your last save point.
The boss battles are some of the most epic moments in the game. Your team stands like defiant ants at the ankles of a titan, who has health in the double digits with the stats to match.
These boss battles become increasingly more complicated and difficult the further you get into the game. But the further you get, the more options you have. There’s nothing like stacking buffs on your damage-dealer, breaking the boss, then unleashing a brutal skill boosted four times to the tune of six digits. But pulling off these maneuvers happens only once you’ve accessed better weapons, better jobs, and higher levels.
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It’s a good thing the combat system is so satisfying, because you’ll spend a significant amount of grinding through random enemies on the routes sprawling across Solistia. Doing so is necessary because you’ll need to keep your entire team around the same level in order to complete the game and because it’s the only way to get JP to unlock skills. I find grinding out levels to be the ultimate in cozy entertainment, but if you find it to be a bore, it’s likely this game isn’t for you.
Sit Back, Relax, and Lose 50 Hours of Your Life
You’re meant to take your time with Octopath Traveler II. There is so much beauty built into the routes connecting each city, so much love and care that went into the soundtrack, that it’d be a shame to rush through it. But on top of that, it’s a game that rewards exploration.
Many chests scattered throughout the game require you to carefully observe the map to find hidden corridors and tunnels. Most quests can’t be solved unless you talk to every random NPC or check their pockets with a character’s abilities. And it’s in this way you slowly learn the story of Solistia, its people, and the eight protagonists you’ll spend dozens of hours with. For that reason, I consider Octopath Traveler II a Cozy JRPG (is that a thing? I’m making it a thing), and the perfect title to curl up with during a late-night gaming session.
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But it’s not all roses. Certain features of Octopath Traveler II can be outright frustrating. While exploration is a cornerstone of this game, the mini map for the routes always feel like someone is gesturing broadly in the direction I should go versus actually telling me how to get there. The strange decision to force you to keep your starting character as your “main” character until their arc is complete baffled me in the original Octopath Traveler and it baffles me now. But these thorns are few and Octopath Traveler II has already cemented itself as my comfort game of 2023.
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- Vast, beautiful world that is fully fleshed out and a pleasure to explore.
- An interesting assortment of characters with the stories to match.
- A fantastic combat system that will keep me experimenting for weeks to come.
- The character names spell out Octopath.
- Agnea’s Southern slang makes me cringe.
- An auto-battle feature would really make grinding so much easier.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.