Octopath Traveler 2 review: A masterclass in retro-RPG storytelling

Sam Smith
Octopath Traveler 2

Octopath Traveler 2 is the sequel to the 2018 original but does this new JRPG retro-throwback improve on the first outing? Here’s what we thought of Octopath Traveler 2.

Octopath Traveler 2 has a simple goal to provide a retro JRPG experience similar to the old-school Final Fantasy games, while also throwing in some fresh mechanics from modern titles. We’re happy to report that it succeeds in this goal, not only that, it improves on the original Octopath Traveler in every way.

The game builds on the foundation of the original, offering a more experimental experience that takes what worked from the first game but also corrects some of its missteps. At its core, the game is still very much a homage to the JRPGs of old, but if you scratch below the surface, you’ll see that this is a much more modern game than the art style and nostalgic sound effects would have you believe.

Octopath Traveler 2: Key details

  • Price: £49.99/$49.99
  • Developer: Square Enix, Aquire
  • Release Date: February 24, 2023
  • Platforms: PS5, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch

Octopath Traveler 2 trailer

Eight heroes, eight paths to take

Like the first game, Octopath Traveler 2 lets you choose between eight protagonists — each on their own quest of self-discovery, but like any good Square Enix adventure, these characters’ fates are about to become intertwined with each other and the wider story. Many of the classic JRPG archetypes are here, there’s the dispossessed monarch yearning to return to their land, save their people and claim their rightful throne. The fanciful young artist who dreams of a life less ordinary. The idealistic person of faith whose conviction is shaken as their innocence turns into experience, and the battle-hardened warrior looking for redemption after a lifetime of bloodshed.

In truth, none of these stories are wholly original, you’ve come across variations of them before, even in other Square Enix games. However, the artistry is in how Octopath Traveler 2 weaves these narratives together, and unlike games like Final Fantasy, it’s up to you as a player to decide how much you’d like to engage with each story. The game makes more of an effort to interconnect the characters in this sequel, and by the time the credits roll, those who felt like the original didn’t do this as well as it could have should be satisfied.

Octopath traveler 2 gameplay
Octopath Traveler 2 looks even more gorgeous than the first game.

A quest at your own pace

You select your primary character at the start and mostly play through the adventure from their perspective. You’ll also get to play through the other seven opening chapters once you meet these characters in the game world and add them to your party. Although, this is entirely optional. If you like, you can decide to not play through these chapters, shorten the main game, and save these chapters for a future playthrough as a different protagonist.

You can also decide to not play each chapter through when you first meet but do so later when in the tavern with them. This lends some added replayability to the game, although we must stress that this is easily a 60-hour adventure for those who take their time.

Each of the opening chapters is similar in length and each one is designed to spoonfeed you the game’s mechanics. You’ll be an expert after playing through all eight, and this will equip you well for when the adventure truly begins. Yet a lot of the fun in Octopath Traveler 2 lies in the journey. Simply exploring the world, assembling your team, and learning about them and the land they’re from was a relaxing and engaging experience. We were in no rush to save the world, we were having too much fun making friends.

While the original Octopath Traveler featured a world similar to medieval Europe, as the first five Final Fantasy games did, the sequel offers a more fantastical and culturally diverse world. It’s also one that explores eastern ideas, with Hikari’s chapter feeling like it was inspired by the court of Mongolian Emporer Kublai Khan or even feudal Japan. Other regions reminded us of Eastern Europe, Bavaria, Istanbul, and various other locations from real life.

octopath traveler 2 characters
The game’s characters are all uniquely different but blend together well as the story unfolds.

Deep & strategic combat

The turn-based battle system is similar to the original, but this time the game adds some cool new elements to make it more dynamic. The boost system allows you to build up extra attacks which you can use right away, or save and stack to inflict even more damage later. This creates a fun risk vs. reward system where you’re constantly strategizing about the best course of action. A flurry of boosted attacks may be enough to finish off a tough boss – but can you survive long enough to get there?

The game also introduces a limit breaker system known as Latent Powers, which once their bar is full, allows each character to inflict massive damage through a selection of powerful special moves. Some are more suited to crowd control while others are designed to be used on a single opponent. It was fun to test them out while exploring the world and to see how powerful they were when combined with the boosted attacks.

It’s this deep, often difficult, and strategic combat that really separates Octopath Traveler 2 from the JRPGs of old. There are so many ways to tackle each opponent and dungeon that we felt like even after 60 hours, we’ve only seen a small part of what the game has to offer. We’ve also not even mentioned the intricate job system yet or how some characters play alongside others. There’s even more to do in the endgame, including some ridiculously hard bosses that we’re still wondering how to take down. We’re confident we will, but we’re yet to find a strategy that works for us.

overview of town in octopath traveler 2
The game features a night-and-day system that changes the world around you.

Verdict 5/5

Octopath Traveler is ideal on the Nintendo Switch and lends itself well to bitesize, portable gaming. Although, it’s also a game that can be treated as a huge epic adventure when played on PlayStation or PC. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy retro-stylized JRPGs, like the older Final Fantasy games, or didn’t take to the original, then Octopath Traveler 2 is unlikely to win you over.

However, if you do, or fancy giving them a try, then this sequel represents the very pinnacle of the genre and reminded us why games like this are so celebrated and timeless. Octopath Traveler 2 is all about losing yourself in mini stories that connect to a wider, more epic tale – a little bit like The Lord of the Rings or a Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones in that regard. It’s also a game that lets you flex your strategic muscles as it plays on your nostalgia, all while delivering something new.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

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