Octopath Traveler 2 starts the same way as the first: you choose from one of eight available characters and guide them through their story, running into several of their counterparts along the way. Each is bound to the world of Solista but driven by their own desires.
Some want to be world-famous entertainers, others to make money and end poverty. Still, some want to take revenge on those who ruined their lives. Others want to find freedom.
Octopath Traveler 2‘s demo, currently available on PC, PlayStation platforms, and Nintendo Switch ahead of the game’s launch on February 24, 2023, allows you to play for three hours. You can run through the first chapter of each character’s story (or the first two, in one character’s case) and do any side quests you find. It’s a compelling time this far in.
I chose Throné, an assassin thief working for a secret organization known as the Black Snakes. Her story opens in-medias-res, with Throné and her crew wounded and fleeing after a botched job. Somebody’s clearly given them up, but right now, they’re only worried about getting out of there. Throné’s story leans pretty heavily into tropes in the first chapter, but it’s well-written and well-acted enough to carry you through.
Visually, Octopath Traveler 2 is gorgeous. Like the original, it relies heavily on a combination of spritework (that looks straight off the SNES), high-definition effects, and 3D environments. And it all works.
The battle system from the original game is largely intact, too, but there are a few tweaks to be found within the layers. Like before, you can Break enemies by hitting them with a certain number of attacks they’re weak against, opening them up to enormous amounts of damage and removing them from the turn order.
Characters still build Boost each turn, allowing them to spend charges of Boost to add additional attacks to their basic moves or skills. Breaking your opponents — and figuring out what weaknesses you’ll need to expose to do so — before cashing out with huge amounts of damage is crucial, and it adds a nice layer of strategy to combat.
New to Octopath Traveler 2 are Latent Powers, which are similar to Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy. Once your character’s Latent Power gauge builds up, you can cash it in for your character’s unique ability. Throné’s allows her to perform two distinct actions. She can heal one turn and use a special ability during another, or just break an opponent one turn and finish them with Boosted attacks the next.
The other big addition to Octopath Traveler 2 is a day/night cycle that you can toggle at will. The time shifts substantially change environments. A black market store won’t be open during the day, nor will the city’s large gambling hall. Characters will be in different places and doing different things. Distinct, often more difficult, will roam about.
Characters also have access to different path actions depending on whether it’s day or night. Throné, for instance, can steal from NPCs during the day or ambush them and knock them out at night. There are benefits to both: stealing can get you some really nice items, while ambushing can remove characters from the field or open new paths by removing guards. But getting caught stealing too many times will lower your reputation, which can cause problems.
The day/night cycle also plays into side quests. Early on, I ran into a traveler who had his bag stolen and couldn’t continue his journey until he got it back. He warned me to be careful traveling the area at night. Taking the hint, I toggled day to night and went searching.
I found the thief a little ways up the road and retook the bag. Another side quest saw me help a concerned woman convince her gambling-obsessed husband that he was being cheated by a local gambling parlor, and it required me to explore the place both during the day and at night.
Octopath Traveler 2 isn’t going to reinvent Octopath‘s wheel, but its additions are welcome, and if Throné’s story is anything to go by, there are some compelling journeys to explore here. I can’t wait to see more of it when it releases.