My longtime friend and fellow GiN columnist Vincent Mahoney gave me a copy of this game shortly before my surgery to pass the time. Deep role-playing titles like Octopath Traveler 2 take a while to play. So, while my surgery slowed me down quite a bit, I was finally able to spend enough time in Octopath Traveler 2’s beautiful world in order to complete this review, while also enjoying every minute of it.
For those of you who may not know, Octopath Traveler 2 is the newest entry in this RPG series, with the first installment, Octopath Traveler, initially released in 2018. Octopath Traveler was a huge hit and sold over three million copies worldwide. As such, anticipation was high for this follow-up title.
And it’s easy to see why the series is so beloved by those who play it. Almost as soon as I booted Octopath Traveler 2 up on my Nintendo Switch, I was mesmerized with its eight-bit style. Yes, I realize that at the time when 8-bit graphics were in widespread use, that was the maximum resolution and graphical power that consoles could render. So, it might seem strange to set a modern game with the same style. However, I can safely say that 8-bit graphics have never looked so good as they do in Octopath Traveler 2.
The color palette in each area is very well deployed, to the point that each environment has a very well-defined look and feel. This is especially true in some of the forest areas which are really spectacular. And in places where the landscape is part of the picture, like when there are frozen mountains in the background, it just makes for a visually amazing presentation. Yes, it’s far from what modern graphics would be able to render, but for an 8-bit style, you really can’t get any better.
Rounding out the graphics, there is even a day and night cycle, which the player can control. Not only do the NPCs in certain areas change at different times, but some areas look vastly different during the day than they do at nighttime. In either case, the places look brilliant, but you might enjoy some more in either sunshine or moonlight.
Getting started at the beginning of Octopath Traveler 2, you can pick from eight different characters to play, each with a variety of skills and advantages. That character will be your primary one and can’t ever be substituted out of your party. I chose the scholar (Osvald) because I am a nerd. The game started by having Osvald narrate his story, which was a very nice touch.
I want to stop right here and talk about the voice acting.
The voice acting in it is incredible, and since Octopath Traveler 2 doesn’t have the graphics capabilities to animate facial expressions, the voice actors had to work even harder in order to convey the deep emotion and various situations that they portrayed. The actor who voiced Osvald, the character that I played during this review, did such a magnificent job that it really made me happy that I choose him as my main avatar. His voice was deep, powerful, and full of emotion. The other characters are voiced just as well, but I really enjoyed playing as Osvald, and the voice work was just another reason.
The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward and takes players back to the days of older RPGs, but in a totally good way. Even though the battles are fought in two dimensional battlefields, they felt alive. The well scored music also helped to make the battles seem more enthralling. Also, the difficulty curve was balanced and ramped up slowly as I played. Plus, the boss battles had the right amount of weight. They were challenging, but beatable with the right amount of skill, with just a little bit of luck for good measure.
Additionally, I found the character interactions, both in combat and afterwards, were refreshing. For example, after a battle, the characters would offer each other some friendly banter about how they performed, which was extremely fun to listen to and just made Octopath Traveler 2 that much more interesting, and another reason to really enjoy the experience.
I can’t speak for all of the characters’ stories, or how they all intertwine. But of the four characters I played for this review of Octopath Traveler 2, they all had interesting histories and backstories such as working for organized crime, outright doomsday scenarios, and everything in-between. Each story was unique and offered a different tone. And none of the stories felt lazy or carbon copied from others. In fact, the stories are so good, it gives a good reason for players to go through the title again, delving into new storylines presented by other party members.
I can’t remember a modern RPG I have enjoyed playing this much. Tales Of Arise came pretty close before the story faceplanted at the end of that tale, but Octopath Traveler 2 keeps going strong right to the finish. In fact, Octopath Traveler 2 shows how much a good story and interesting characters can contribute to a successful title.
And as a final bonus, while Octopath Traveler 2 is a good RPG, it never really achieved the popularity that it deserved. As such, the Nintendo Switch version of Octopath Traveler 2 has decreased in price quite a bit since launch, so it might be a good one to purchase if players have limited gaming budgets. It’s also available for the PC on the Steam platform, so those who want to play it there (or who don’t own a Nintendo Switch) can still enjoy this amazingly underappreciated gem.