I’ve had a tough go of it in Octopath Traveler II’s first few hours. As somebody who loves RPG events most after they really feel like actual items of mates and located household, Octopath’s anthology-like storytelling wasn’t doing it for me. Its eight playable characters felt like islands I needed to stroll to and from, somewhat than a bunch I may watch bond. Now that I’ve collected extra of those heroes and fashioned a celebration, I’m reflecting on the sport’s early hours and all my conflicting emotions. I’ve come round on its construction and the way it permits every member of its get together a definite origin, however am nonetheless looking for a collective which means that ties all of the characters collectively.
I began Octopath Traveler II—now accessible on Change, PlayStation, and Home windows—as Partitio, a service provider who helps construct up a neighborhood within the city of Orerush, the place miners have turned a plot of land right into a affluent dwelling. As time passes, nevertheless, it turns into sufferer to a scheme by a landowner to build up all of the wealth from what the folks have constructed. The story goes from Partitio wholeheartedly advocating for the perks of capitalism to turning into so disillusioned that he leaves his city to struggle in opposition to poverty. We like to see a person wake the fuck up and find out about how he has beforehand benefitted from a system that can solely really assist the fats cats on prime.
Every character will get their very own origin story, and it acts as an introduction to their place on the earth, why they select to depart their houses, and what skills make them stand out from the seven different heroes. Partitio has been my anchor as a result of I began the sport as him, however every character’s first chapter feels prefer it might be the start of a unique sport fully.
Whereas I began this sport in what felt like a western embroiled in anticapitalist commentary, Ochette’s opening delves into fantastical components like forming magical connections with speaking animals and exploring race relations between people and her fellow beastlings. Castti, in the meantime, is an amnesiac apothecary, and her first chapter appears like a medical drama as she tries to avoid wasting a city from a mysterious sickness. Whereas none of those characters begin their journeys collectively, and their interpersonal relationships really feel like an afterthought within the early hours, there’s one thing compelling to me about how this separation lets Octopath Traveler II delve into totally different sorts of themes and fiction genres.
Each character having their own original mechanics makes the distinct nature of each of these intro further apparent, such as Partitio being able to hire NPCs to help you in battle, or Castti being able to inquire with the locals for information. This keeps these early chapters fresh from a gameplay perspective, and has you thinking about each in ways you wouldn’t have thought about the others. With every new origin story, Octopath Traveler II completely subverted what I thought the game was about, eventually giving me eight characters to feel personally invested in. With each intro I played, I found a new center, even though I started my story as a merchant who learned being poor is bad.
My main point of friction for at least those first few hours was that the anthological structure meant that, despite journeying together, the cast of Octopath Traveler II didn’t actually seem to know about or care about each other. Each party member has their own disparate stories that I’ve been chipping away at, but those stories don’t involve the rest of the cast. It makes some sense, because you don’t have to recruit these characters when you meet them on your quests, and it’s just not reasonable to write around people who may or may not be present. But more than in other media, I go to RPGs in search of camaraderie and banter, and missing that has made it harder to feel invested in the game’s moment to moment, as I hardly feel like these eight travelers know each other even as I’m getting to know them myself.
Thankfully, Octopath Traveler II has some semblance of relationship building thanks to the “crossed paths” feature, which is new to the sequel. These are brief, playable mini stories that feature different pairings of party members, which, to their credit, are pretty great so far. They’re not quite the epic team-building exercises—along the lines of Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC—that I’d prefer, but the pairings feel purposeful in how their writing contrasts the characters’ colliding worldviews, building upon their charming and captivating main stories. Pairing the charming and bubbly Partitio with the broody Osvald leads to a lot of delightful banter and a compelling side story; I just wish this dynamic was evident throughout the whole game.
I’m still making my way through Octopath Traveler II and despite focusing on eight characters, it can sometimes feel a little lonely. The solitude gives the game opportunities to really paint different pictures of its world and cast, but I do wish there were more moments when all these travelers felt like a unit. In a way, the game feels analogous to something like The Canterbury Tales, with a caravan of people from different walks of life regaling each other with their stories. I just hope that as I delve further into these stories, I’ll find more opportunities for these characters to connect in ways beyond just combining attacks on the battlefield.