OCTOPATH TRAVELER II
The best modern jRPG?
I have to admit that I was looking forward to the release of Octopath Traveler II with great anticipation, not because I grew up playing jRPGs (in my case the opposite is probably true) but because my experience with the first game left me with the feeling that Square Enix's title was very close to making history. As I wrote in the review above, my first few hours of engagement had left me with my mouth agape as I believed I was looking at the best modern jRPG. Unfortunately, along the way my excitement was tempered, mainly due to the fragmented way in which the main plot unfolded. The game ultimately turned out to be good but not so thoroughly complete as to earn the title of the best of the genre. So it's finally time to see if the sequel can step up to the podium!
Octopath Traveler II retains the same style and gameplay as its predecessor, so it's a turn-based jRPG with a style that directly references Square's historic 90s era and games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. As is customary in jRPGs, the sequel will follow the adventures of an entirely new cast of characters, each with their own reasons for exploring the two continents on the map. The campaign once again unfolds in four chapters for each of the eight available characters, which initially led me to believe that unfortunately the game would suffer from the same problem as the first, namely that the plot would resemble a collection of sidequests rather than a single story. However, I'm happy to report that while the structure remains the same and unchanged from Octopath Traveler I, the developers have taken care to add more links between characters, both through storytelling and by adding special quests that involve more than one character in your party.
I wouldn't say that these improvements fully succeed in providing the sense of cohesion that a more conventional campaign would have, so the problem I identified in the first game has not been 100% solved. However, I can say that the existence of crossed paths, the moments of travel banter (conversation between two characters) and especially the fact that the plot reveals much earlier the points where the characters' different stories intersect, help to make the team feel more cohesive and solid compared to the party in Octopath I. Also, I personally found the individual character stories much more interesting this time around, while both the voiceovers and the writing are generally of a high standard.
In terms of gameplay, the truth is that not much has changed. The open world of Octopath Traveler II is divided into multiple zones/levels which you are free to explore in any order you want, as long as you have the necessary level to avoid being wiped out by the enemies of the area. You can choose any of the eight available characters to main (which means they must always be present in the party) and, after gathering all of your party members, you can venture into the unknown to discover treasures, enemies, new abilities and of course the next chapter that will advance the plot. Interacting with all sorts of NPCs is not only done through dialogue or buying and selling in the various shops, but also with the path actions that return from the first Octopath: special actions to rob, recruit, hire or challenge NPCs! Path actions are very often the key to solving quests and sidequests so your party composition matters outside of combat as well, as you can only have four of the eight characters active at any given time. Unfortunately, as was the case in the previous game, the guidance given on sidequests is often lacking, so most of the time you'll find yourself solving them blindly, by not focusing on the actions required to solve them but simply talking to quest givers every time you enter a town in case you've already accidentally acquired the item they're looking for.
As for the combat system, it remains almost the same as in the first game. Its main innovation was the shield point system that enemies start the battle with, it's basically their defense that you have to break through by hitting them with the weapons and spells they have vulnerability to, otherwise your attacks will do significantly reduced damage. When this defense is broken the enemy is immobilized for the current turn and you have the ability to unleash your most powerful attacks without resistance until they recover on the next turn. The game features a wide variety of abilities and spells, and the composition of your party and the secondary classes of the characters are of great importance in order to be able to exploit the weaknesses of all enemies. Fighting against strong opponents takes a lot of strategy as you need to take advantage of openings for a lot of damage without skipping defense and healing where needed. What I would like to see added to an eventual Octopath III is the option to autoresolve battles in which the party is significantly overleveled. Octopath Traveler II has better pacing than the first game and the need for grinding has been significantly reduced but meaningless battles slow down the action for no real reason.
On the technical side of things I will say one thing and one thing only: Magic! If you read the review of the first Octopath you will know how impressed I was with the "2D-HD" style used in the series, which basically combines 2D characters and textures with 3D maps and modern effects. Octopath Traveler II is without exaggeration one of the most beautiful games I've seen, the graphics aesthetic is impeccable and the detail and variety in the maps makes exploration a real joy. The music also blends very well with the action, and the nice thing is that the PC version is quite well optimized with very good performance and stability. If you have a fondness for 2D graphics I'd say it's worth playing Octopath Traveler II just to see this wonderful graphical effect up close.
With Octopath Traveler II, the series takes another step towards establishing itself at the genre's hall of fame. The sequel improves on some of the weaknesses of its predecessor, provides dozens of hours of fun gameplay and dresses them up in a truly gorgeous graphical package. It goes without saying that it is fully recommended to fans of the genre, although success with a wider audience will require more improvements in campaign consistency and in cutting down on the time wasting that might put off the average gamer.
Thanks to CD Media for providing the review code.
RANKING - 85%
Another step forward for the series that now rightfully belongs to the highest eschelon of modern jRPGs.
Όχι open world με την έννοια π.χ. του Skyrim, ο κόσμος δεν είναι ενιαίος αλλά είναι τεμαχισμένος σε επιμέρους levels μεταξύ των οποίων μεσολαβούν loading screens. Μπορείς όμως να ταδιδέψεις ελεύθερα όπου θέλεις.
Με αυτά που διαβάζω, φαίνεται καλύτερο σε όλα.
Φαίνεται και ωραία στημένο για οθόνες αφής.
Ναι, είναι, αν και οι αλλαγές δεν είναι τόσο δραστικές που να καθιστούν περιττό το πρώτο παιχνίδι. Δηλαδή αν κάποιος παίξει το Octopath 2 και του αρέσει πολύ, μπορεί μετά να πάει στο 1 χωρίς να αισθάνεται ότι είναι μεγάλο πισωγύρισμα.