One of the most highly anticipated games of 2023 is Octopath Traveler 2. It was a surprise to me that they were releasing a demo of the game prior to its official release. Intrigued by the game’s popularity, I decided to give the demo a try to gain a better understanding of what the excitement was about.
The demo allows you to play for up to three hours and includes the prologue chapter, as well as free roam for the remainder of the time. After playing for approximately five hours, here are my impressions of the demo.
In Octopath Traveler II, you have the opportunity to play as eight different characters, each with their own unique story and goals. Some aspire to become world-famous entertainers, while others seek to earn money and eliminate poverty. Some seek revenge against those who have ruined their lives, and others strive for freedom.
As I had not played the first game, I was surprised to discover that I had the option to choose not just one, but eight protagonists to play as. After contemplating for five minutes, I decided to play as Throné Anguis.
Throné is a thief and a member of Blacksnakes, a notorious thieves’ guild that operates in the bustling city of Brightlands from the shadows. Their main job is to “steal…and clean.” Her story begins with a failed heist where her crew is injured, and it becomes apparent that someone has betrayed them. The head of the guild, whom everyone refers to as “father,” assigns her the task of identifying the traitor and bringing them to justice.
Throné’s goal is to gain her freedom from the guild, which she refers to as her “family.” To achieve this, she must obtain two keys: one from Father and another from the guild’s second-in-command, referred to by everyone as “mother,” in order to unlock the collar attached to her neck.
Her story was so well-written that it left me wanting to invest more in it and learn more about her character.
After completing Throné’s prologue chapter, I decided to play as another character. This time, I chose Hikari, who was actually my second choice.
Hikari Ku is the “half-blood” prince of the nation of Ku, located in the desert region of Hinoeuma, which is constantly at war.
After emerging victorious in the previous war, the nation finally achieved peace. Three years later, the king sought to name his successor and chose Hikari over his older brother, Mugen. Unlike Mugen, who wants to follow the old ideals of war, Hikari desires friends and allies, and seeks to create a world without conflict and bloodshed, which is precisely what the King had envisioned.
Mugen violently overthrows the king and labels Hikari a traitor, thereby branding him as an enemy of the state.
Hikari’s objective is to locate like-minded allies and reclaim the throne of his kingdom from his own brother.
Between the two protagonists, I found Hikari’s story to be slightly better than Throné’s. Though Throné’s story is also quite intriguing, when you compare the two, it is clear that Hikari’s story, which revolves around toppling his brother’s regime to reclaim the kingdom, is the more engaging one.
One of the reasons why I was excited to play this game was due to its turn-based combat system, which is incredibly well-designed.
In the game, all enemies have a “Break” mechanic, which works as a sort of shield. When an enemy is struck with a specific number of attacks that exploit their weakness, it leaves them open to receiving heavy damage.
At the top of the screen, the order of turns for both the player and enemy teams is displayed. This feature is incredibly helpful when trying to plan ahead. If the player manages to break the enemy, it removes them from the turn order as well.
On each turn, characters build up “Boost” or “Battle Points,” which allows them to add additional attacks to their moves and skills.
However, one problem I encountered with the game was that it did not display the enemies’ health bars. This made it challenging for me to plan ahead during battles. Moreover, since I was unable to see the turn order, it ended up being a significant issue.
It wasn’t until I completed Throné’s chapter that I discovered that the game does show the enemy’s health bar but in a subtle way. When the player selects the enemy after choosing their attack, the UI displays the enemy’s name, and the color represents their health. White indicates high health, green represents average health, and red means low health.
The main characters are able to choose two different weapons when they attack. Throné has a sword and dagger, while Hikari has a sword and polearm. Depending on the enemy’s weakness, you can choose which weapons to attack with.
They also have an ability referred to as Latent Power, which builds up over time and can be used for a unique ability. Throné’s ability, “Leave No Trace,” allows her to perform two distinct actions. In other words, you get a free turn, so I found this ability really useful. Hikari’s ability, “Shadow’s Hold,” unleashes the darkness within to gain access to special skills.
Visuals and Music
The world of Solisti looks stunning whether you’re fighting or just exploring. Even before playing the game, I knew about the unique and famous HD-2D graphics it used, but actually experiencing it in the game made me love it even more.
The more I played and discovered new places, the more amazed I became, especially since my expectations were initially low.
One example of this would be the lighting, where the sunlight in the game mimics real life by creating shadows and rays whenever a cloud blocks it. Another example is a cutscene that takes place on a balcony on a rainy night. You can see the raindrops and the moment they hit the ground, and the small puddles show reflections.
Another thing that caught my eye was how smooth the graphics are, as well as the transitions between scenes. For example, when Hikari goes inside a warehouse, it was a pleasant surprise to find that it didn’t trigger a cutscene but instead allowed you to enter the place seamlessly. The character models didn’t even change in size, which I found impressive.
Not only are the visuals great, but the music is also exceptional. The orchestral theme played in the main menu alone convinced me that the soundtrack in this game would be great, and it really was. Even the battle themes and the ones played when in towns and free roaming were enjoyable.
I was perfectly happy with the soundtrack until the end of the prologue chapter of Throné, when the theme played in the background represented Victorian/French style. I believe that Brightlands was modeled after those cultures.
It was at that moment where I started to judge the soundtrack very seriously. After playing Genshin Impact, I tend to judge any media that represents any culture very seriously, especially music.
One reason why I played Hikari’s chapter was to confirm a hunch I had while playing Throné. My hunch was indeed correct. Some of the themes played in Hikari’s chapter used instruments from Japan.
I chose to play the game in Japanese audio, and it wasn’t a shock that the voice acting was really good. All of the actors did a fine job voicing their own character based on different situations.
One of the reasons to play a demo is to learn more about a game, and a successful demo can convince you to buy the full game. Octopath Traveler II was a successful demo for me. The prologue chapter of Throné alone convinced me to get the full version of the game. The more I played Hikari’s chapter, the more I wanted to play the full game.
I’m really looking forward to learning about the stories of the other protagonists and exploring the land of Solistia, as well as experiencing the visuals and music.
Octopath Traveler II will be released on February 24th for PS4/5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.