This Octopath Traveler II hands-on preview build gave us three hours to see how it will expand upon its predecessor. Three hours is not a lot of time to see what is in store for an epic JRPG, especially one with eight possible protagonists, so choosing one demands commitment, even if the progress will carry over.
For this preview, Throné Anguis the thief was chosen as the lead. Unlike the scrappy Therion in the first game, Throné is very leggy and has a sexy, breathy voice. Octopath Traveler II wastes no time in establishing her character and a lot of information is given at a brisk clip.
Throné is a beautiful woman who grew up with a hard life in a guild of thugs, killers, and burglars. Her talents with a knife are only matched by Father, a leading figure in the group of thieves she is a part of. Octopath Traveler II depicts a setting that is very harsh and seemingly inspired by the industrial revolution, around the 1800s.
The new setting and era are going to be features that will make Octopath Traveler II stand out from the first game because the gameplay has not changed much. The tone is also very dark; the opening town has morose townsfolk lamenting how the regular sight of dead children has made them numb.
Combat is still turn-based with a queue system for maximum strategic actions and planning. Just like in the last game, taking action builds a charge meter which can be used to power up attacks, techniques, or even items.
The easy-to-track weaknesses and the layout of information makes the battle screen and menus easy to read. There was not a lot that could have been improved from Octopath Traveler and this sequel does not try to fix what isn’t broken.
What Octopath Traveler II introduces is non-protagonist party members. Throné begins her story with a couple of brutish, rag-tag thugs who have their own characters and play an active role in the plot. It will be interesting to see how many party members will be in the final game and how they differ from the main cast.
Another new gameplay mechanic is “latent power”, which is tied to a gauge that builds from damage given to either the player or opponent. This changes the dynamic of battle because it means taking damage can become an advantage in the long term.
One of Throné’s party members came with an ability that leads to the party taking more damage or dealing more damage. This fosters the player into considering the way they can utilize latent power as an offensive strategy while in lengthy boss fights. It will be interesting to see how this will play out in more advanced battles further into the story.
Just like in the last entry, protagonists get exclusive “path actions”, which are non-battle abilities to use while exploring the world. Where Octopath Traveler II mixes things up, is with its day and night cycle and how it can affect path actions for each protagonist.
Throné can steal items out of the pockets of NPCs as Therion could. In Octopath Traveler II‘s nighttime, she can “ambush” NPCs, which renders them unconscious.
In the demo, this was primarily used to get past certain guards or to perform some kind of rescue. The application of ambushing seems like it could be used to allow Throné to access areas other characters can’t.
The HD-2D style has a timeless look to its visuals. The sprites are better drawn than they were in the first Octopath and there is more variety in the backgrounds too. Every area looks like a diorama or some kind of pixelated 3D pop-up book.
It is a very comfy-looking game with adorable characters. It is ironic that the premise and setting feature such heavy implications. Roaming around town there are instances of implied prostitution, corruption, and organized crime.
Throné’s story is only one of eight in Octopath Traveler II. The first game was a diamond in the rough and showed a lot of promise if the developers took the time to further flesh out its ideas. This sequel suggests that the developers are much more confident than they were the first time and the fresh setting also helps make it stand out from other RPGs too.