Time has passed since the last one, the first chapter launched by Square Enix, able to gather quite lukewarm acclaim among the public and critics. From 2018 to today, five years have passed since the first Octopath Traveler, and we couldn’t be more curious to now get our hands on the preview, available for free on Nintendo eShop, of Octopus Traveler II. Waiting to elaborate on what the next one will come out February 24th, this new chapter found itself having to deal with a heavy legacy, in terms of structure, narrative and gameplay. While the fascination of the two-dimensional world and turn-based combat had been rediscovered, Octopath Traveler wasn’t a perfect title. Has something changed in this second act, with probable, presumable and above all desirable improvements and potential previously unexpressed and now finally brought to light? Let’s see what we tested in the free demo on Nintendo Switch!
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Octopath Traveler II, some signs of the past and attempts to rejuvenate
Downloaded the software in a short time, we launched into this demo, which gives us the very first moments of the new adventure proposed to us by Square Enix. In fact, this free version allows us to give a taste of the prologue of Octopath Traveler II and to do the knowledge of the 8 protagonists that go to animate this story. So let’s see briefly what we know so far about the plot underlying this new IP. Between some legacy of the past and (few) innovations.
We can reveal that the heroes of the story will be the prince of a country always at war, and who would like to restore peace to his subjects. We also have a particularly gifted apothecary, who realizes she has lost her memory, a brigand who makes a living by eliminating inconvenient individuals, and so on.
We anticipate it, we weren’t faced with any twists and turns from a narrative or character design point of view. The eight characters that we can choose from before embarking on our adventure present each of the traditional narrative premises of the JRPG genre. We are still at the beginning of the story, and this could only be an erroneous premonitory signal, although we don’t trust too much in more original developments, but we’ll see.
Unfortunately, history teaches us that the first Octopath Traveler was characterized by the presence of eight different campaigns, one for each protagonist. An aspect that turned out to be the cross and delight of the game itself, due to the lack of crossings and connections between the various plots, as well as having to go through the various chapters in the suggested order and jumping from one protagonist to another. Any changes in sight? In Octopath Traveler II it seems so, or at least in part. We could explore the game world without necessarily having to follow a mandatory path, but a handful of hours is not enough to confirm our impression.
A short test, and not too intense
The demo offers us only about three hours of gameplay overall, experienced by driving one of the eight characters available. Luckily for us, we will be able to transfer game progress data from demos to the final version. Judging by these first moments in Octopath Traveler II, it seems to us that the game world could be explored freely, as just said. Freedom that we have breathed less deeply into game settings, that we are going to modify before even accessing the actual gameplay.
In fact, here we can choose whether to listen to the voices of our protagonists in English or Japanese dub, while the subtitle language is localized in Italian. Little else to change, and that’s it. There are no further issues to deal with from the point of view of complexity in customization, except when we have to choose our hero to drive.
In that case, the only option we can choose concerns the moment of action of the same, during the day or at night. This will go to change the focus of his skills in a radical and interesting way. But nothing else that caught our attention, or that we found different from what we might experience in a classic JRPG. Especially if Square Enix is churning it out.
A few too many stereotypes and the tested novelties
As initially anticipated, what hasn’t convinced us too much is instead the characterization of the eight unpublished protagonists, which in our opinion are unfortunately quite stereotyped. We prefer not to go into too much detail, to avoid spoilers in view of our next review, but it is also true that we expect to find out how interesting the sub-strands of the narrative that are supposed to unfold will actually be.
In theory also, the individual stories in Octopath Traveler II they should converge towards a common end, due to the presence of a chapter that can be played only after completing all the individual storylines. The novelty of the sequel they also concern, as far as we have been able to ascertain, some aspects of combat, exploration, and interacting with NPCs. The turn-based combat system remained intact, as Octopath Traveler II inherited the mechanics from the first chapter, to maximize the damage inflicted on targets from what we tested.
We will then see in the final review how devastating the fights will be, an always interesting angle of analysis in the JRPGs of the Japanese software house, to also briefly focus on exploration. Acquire, the developer who participated in the project, has implemented a non-realtime day/night cycle, but which we can set ourselves. This impacts on our protagonists as mentioned, on enemies and even on cities and on the availability of some secondary missions.
For this reason, we are called to search each area at both times of the day, so as not to miss any optional activities. Bearing in mind that each character has two travel actions, for a total of sixteen, we will have to deal with several configurations to be studied to increase and differentiate the options related to the interaction. Which will also impact our reputation, although we can simply pay money to the tavern to restore it.
The proven Octopath Traveler II in pills
As far as we have been able to test in a few hours of play, Octopath Traveler II turns out to be really interesting in some complex mechanics. As much as it seems like the classic “more of the same” JRPG of its kind, generated above all by a publisher who loves to retrace his steps and re-embrace the classic titles of the past, this title may have some surprises in store for us. Certainly not in the characters, perhaps in the plot, almost certainly in the fighting and exploration. We will find out shortly, a matter of a few days. February 24 is not too late.