Back in 2018, I was excited to play Octopath Traveller on my Nintendo Switch. Outside of Sports games, I spend the most time playing RPGs. The game’s concept of playing through eight different stories sounded so incredible. But while I loved the combat system, the rest failed to keep me interested, and I gave up playing after about 20 hours played. Initially, I had no interest in playing its follow-up, Octopath Traveller II. However, after hearing such great things, I took the plunge and quickly got hooked. So far, it’s easily one of my favorite games of 2023.

Four characters walking around a town in Octopath Traveller II

Not too different from the first

For the most part, Octopath Traveller II doesn’t change too much from the previous game. You still have eight characters, each encompassing one of eight roles (the same eight from the first game). You’re still playing eight unique stories, but they’ve included new shared storylines where two characters progress through a scenario together. The combat hasn’t changed too much, with a few minor improvements and the introduction of Latent Powers to give you a brief boost in your attack.

The main new gameplay mechanic is the introduction of a day/night cycle that plays a huge role in multiple ways. For starters, it introduces enemies that attack at certain times of the day. The cast also has different in-world abilities that change if it’s the daytime versus the night. For example, a character might be able to steal from NPCs during the day, but at night, they can trigger an ambush battle to earn some necessary experience and potentially gain new skills.

This also means that certain events occur at certain times of the day. In one of the shared scenarios, you’ll need to move from day to night to advance the plot. Sure, it’s not a big thing, but it gives you the impression that time is moving forward in the story.

A daytime battle from Octopath Traveller II

Eight great stories so far

I’m not done with the game, having put in just over 26 hours at the time of this post. But, as it stands, all eight character’s stories have kept me engaged. Like the first game, each character has multiple chapters that go in some interesting directions. I still don’t see how the stories interconnect, but based on what I’ve read they do eventually.

None of the eight feel weak. I’m invested in all of their plots and am genuinely interested in seeing where they go. They are also wildly different, which is nice because it would get boring too quickly if that wasn’t the case. Additionally, I like that the character chapters are spread out nicely so you have the choice in how you proceed.

While you can do one character’s arc from start to finish, it’s more enjoyable to bounce around between them. The character level requirements for each chapter are such that you can jump around and gradually level up all eight while rotating between the group. That’s how I’ve been playing. I will complete one chapter with one character and move on to a completely different one, all while mixing up the other members of my party. This way, they are all leveling up at relatively the same rate, with the exception of your main protagonist who’s leveling up faster than the rest.

A dialogue conversation with Agnea from Octopath Traveller II

Strong pacing

At the same time, the chapters themselves aren’t overly long. I’m noticing that you can typically complete a character chapter in about an hour depending on how much leveling is required. Early on, I had some trouble with end-of-chapter bosses. So, I focused on making sure that all four of my characters were at that chapter’s recommended level before approaching it.

Also, because I’ve been slowly chipping away at the game, the chapters give me a sense of accomplishment. I’ll play for an hour, finish a chapter and feel like I’ve made meaningful progress. Considering each character has at least four chapters, we’re getting at least 32 hours’ worth of gameplay. Add in the shared scenarios, and you’ve got a really packed game.

Sure, that means that I won’t be done with the game for a while (I’ve already been playing for close to a month), but I’m fine with that. I want to enjoy Octopath Traveller II. I’m gradually exploring new areas of the game’s world, eager to see what I might discover next. This is a game that you don’t need to rush to complete. There are plenty of secrets to find if you take the time.

The eight characters from Octopath Traveller II at a campsite

It’s the little things

My only real gripe with the game thus far is something that I completely understand why it happens, I just wish it didn’t. Since each of the eight individual stories focuses solely on one character, the way the other three characters of your party fit into the story isn’t addressed. In cut-scenes, they don’t appear but they’re involved in all relevant battles. I wish there was a better way to handle this.

The shared scenarios work a bit better with this. Now you have two characters in the cut scenes, but it still doesn’t handle the addition of two other characters in the battle sequences. Of course, they can’t just tell the other travelers to wait on stand-by at the bar until they’re needed. But, there could have been a better way of highlighting their presence.

This was a problem in the first game, so it’s disappointing that they didn’t address it better here. Outside of the first character you pick, it’s not possible to play the entire game with only one character, so you’re always with at least one other character in your party. Perhaps they needed to keep all eight stories entirely separate until you hit a point where you involve the other seven? It’s not the ideal alternative, but I can’t think of a better way to handle it.

A nighttime battle from Octopath Traveller II

So far, this is my favorite game of 2023

Of the games I’ve played in 2023 to release this year, Octopath Traveller II is without question my favorite. I suspect I’m about halfway through the story, but I feel like there are another 30-40 hours remaining. In all honesty, I’m fine with taking this slowly and eventually hitting its finale. For those who were sour on the first, although this doesn’t drastically improve from it, the story has kept me invested. It also makes me want to play last year’s Live-A-Live, which has a similar concept and from what I’ve heard, a really great story.