Octopath Traveler II£49.99
- Incredible retro pixelated graphics
- Expansive world and exploration
- Strategic, turn-based battling
- No visible enemy HP bar
- Limited party interactions and banter
- No EXP share for inactive characters
When Octopath Traveler II came out, I knew I was going to sink a ridiculous number of hours into this game. And whaddya know? I did – I’ve played for over 90 hours so far. Given my clear dedication, it’s high time I share my Octopath Traveler II review.
The original Octopath Traveler was sublime. Awash with stunning pixelated scenery that puts AAA games to shame, it offered beautifully told stories, and colourful characters. The Retro Dodo team loved the first game so much that we dubbed it one of the 15 best pixel art games of 2023.
But all that hype can sometimes be damning for a sequel, and so I was tentatively excited about Octopath Traveler II. Would it be much the same, quickly losing its appeal, or would it continue to build on top of strong foundations to give us an exceptional franchise?
In all honesty, it’s a bit of column A, a bit of column B.
Octopath Traveler II is just as stunning as the original, and it has just as much depth, detailed story building, and loveable protagonists. Still, while the places and faces are new, the gameplay mechanics feel a little too familiar.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Octopath Traveler II is an extrordinary game, but I wonder if it offers fans enough variation and growth. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s jump into my Octopath Traveler II review without further delay.
Table of Contents
A lot of video game reviews praise contemporary visuals – like what we’ve seen in the recent Dead Space and Resident Evil 4 remakes. But there’s a lot more to sublime visuals than photorealistic graphics; Octopath Traveler II is proof of that.
Octopath Traveler set the bar, with its sequel exceeding it with ease. The amount of times I commented, often to myself, about how great the game looked, before quickly taking a screen capture is bordering on obscene. But I was just so blown away.
Every inch of the game demands your attention, even if you’re exploring the desolate sands of war-torn Ku. You’re immersed in a dynamic world that other games can only hope to emulate; Octopath Traveler II isn’t the only pixel art game, but it’s one of the best examples of it.
When you marry those graphics with the audio, the result is nothing short of perfection, and I don’t say that lightly.
Another string to its bow is Octopath Traveler II’s open world atmosphere; we’re not strictly experiencing an open world game, but the way the stories unfold, and how you choose to play them, give a real sense of explorative freedom.
Players can start from one of eight points on the map, then choose to venture in whatever direction the wind takes them. However, Octopath Traveler II still holds the reins (however loosely) in impacting your decisions.
For example, regardless of who you decide are the best starting characters, you’ll finish the first Chapter(s) at Level 5. Considering that some areas of Solistia have a Danger Level of 20+ (like Winterbloom), you won’t want to head straight there in the beginning.
Yes, there’s worldwide exploration, and with it comes a lot of narrative freedom, but use it wisely. There’s Recommended Levels for main story quests for good reason, so heed them well.
Strategic Battling At Its Best
I’m not a huge fan of turn-based fighting – as much as I love RPGs, sometimes turn-based just feels too sluggish… but not with Octopath Traveler II.
If anything, the battles can feel overwhelming, especially in terms of difficulty, forcing you to really hone your party in order to succeed. For the most part, I love having to strategically plan for big boss fights, but there’s still some niggling issues that need addressing.
Chiefly, the lack of visible enemy HP. I know you can estimate how much enemy HP remains by looking at the colour of their name during battle (like I mention in my 10 best Octopath Traveler II beginner tips), but it isn’t as good as seeing a health bar.
Unless you have a character that knows Analyze, like Osvald, you end up guessing when and where the battle will end. There were plenty of times when I thought an enemy would die soon because their name was in red, only for the battle to last 10 minutes more.
It’s not an unforgivable problem, I just feel having a clear visual would make some battles feel less hopeless.
No EXP For Inactive Characters
Arguably, this is where Octopath Traveler II falls flat, at least for me; not being able to share EXP to all characters, even inactive ones, means levelling up is a grind.
My main team was Throné, Temenos, Osvald, and Hikari, leaving Castti, Ochette, Partitio, and Agnea to amuse themselves at local Taverns.
But rather than them levelling up alongside active party members, their levels remain the same, and so you have to go on a levelling up mission if you add one or more of them to your party. It’s a tedious process, especially when you’re eager to power through the main stories.
Similar to Fire Emblem Engage, there were too many characters to interact with, resulting in you eventually overlooking one or several of them.
I know that Octopath Traveler II is all about eight different stories, hence the name, but not every one of those eight characters is interesting. Consequently, you find it hard to motivate yourself to level up someone when they’re only Level 10, while the rest of your team is Level 30+.
Party Banter Falls Short
Despite there being the option to “listen” to party banter in the later stages of the game, it’s a pointless exercise that adds nothing to the experience.
First of all, the conversations aren’t really banter at all but rather throwaway discussions about good vs evil, past experiences, etc. Then there’s the fact you’re essentially pausing the gameplay to watch two pixelated sprites have a lacklustre chat; it’s just not entertaining.
I developed my love of RPG party banter from Alister and Morgan in DA: Origins, with comments like “Swooping is bad” forever ingrained in my brain. That back and forth added an extra layer to the team as a whole, something that Octopath Traveler II misses the mark on.
It’s not a make or break gameplay element, but it’s one that needs addressing if another Octopath Traveler title is released. These characters undergo such strong character development, but it becomes too heavy hitting, with little humour.
Retro Dodo’s Final Verdict
I loved this game. There, that’s my Octopath Traveler II review in a nutshell.
It’s such an expressive video game, filled with all sorts of intriguing side quests and harrowing tales that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time.
However, while it delivers on many fronts, there are aspects of the game that hold it back, like the lack of party banter, and no visible enemy HP. Although these are minute issues that don’t hinder the game’s progression, if they were refined, Octopath Traveler II would be a perfect.
I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next in the series, and how the developers will further expand on this already impressive, well crafted world. Still, I do wonder if the novelty of having eight different starting points, will eventually wear thin if innovation isn’t introduced…?
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Emma has loved video games ever since she first saw Alex Kidd platforming across her TV screen. Since then, the 32 year old has dedicated an obscene number of hours to playing as many games as possible. When she isn’t obsessing over games, she spends her time honing her vinyl collection.