In a lot of ways, Octopath Traveler II can feel like a pretty straightforward turn-based RPG, but when you take into account its eight characters’ original mechanics, its non-linear storytelling, and how unapologetic it can be about throwing you into the deep end, there’s a lot of complexity under the hood. Whether it’s prioritizing recruiting party members early or making the most out of certain systems, here are some tips to get you started in your Octopath Traveler II journey.
The first decision you’ll make in Octopath Traveler II is which of its eight playable characters you want to play first. This has a few consequences in that it will act as an anchor point for your introduction to its world, and will determine the first set of weapons, abilities, and special skills you’ll have at the beginning of the game. Each character has a story introduction that takes about an hour or so to complete, but the first one you play through does set a certain tone for the beginning of your journey. However, as you recruit the other seven characters across the game, you’ll have an opportunity to hear their origin stories as well. So while picking your first character is a big decision, don’t worry about missing out on any story content along the way.
There’s a lot of side content to do in Octopath Traveler II, but it’s probably a good idea to prioritize gathering the full party as early as you can. While some RPGs will ensure your party’s levels are about the same as you fight through the world, new characters in Octopath Traveler II will start out at level 1, regardless of what level the rest of your party is at. Because of this, it’s worth hearing every character’s origin story when you’re prompted to at first meeting, because it will give you both some context as to who this new party member is, and give you an opportunity to level them up a bit against enemies they’re scaled to fight. Luckily, if you make a point to recruit characters early, they will likely level up fairly quickly and catch up to characters you already have with minimal grinding.
When I first started Octopath Traveler II, I didn’t play through the origin stories when I recruited new party members, instead planning to play them by visiting a tavern and choosing to listen back to an old story later. I was busy and had tunnel vision on playing through Partitio’s story, who I chose when I started the game. However, when I finally got around to listening to new characters’ stories at the tavern, it was not only helpful to finally have investment in multiple stories, but it helped me contextualize how characters like Agnea and Castti’s original mechanics, such as inquiring for information from a local or charming them into helping us out, could be useful. So while you might not be immediately interested in a character upon first meeting, it’s still worth interrupting your quest to hear their story, as it will enrich your overall experience with both story context and knowledge of the game’s systems.
Man, more RPGs should let you do this. Because Octopath Traveler II focuses on eight anthology stories, it can be easy to lose track of threads as you’re playing and zigzagging through different characters’ chapters. Luckily, the game has a handy feature that can help you refresh yourself on big events, characters, and motivations: rewatching cutscenes. To do this, pause the game, go to the Journal tab, and find the character whose story you need a refresh on. Here you can read summaries of each chapter’s scenes, or rewatch them entirely. A lot of RPGs keep track of things through quest logs and codex entries, but Octopath Traveler II lets you just rewatch a whole storyline right from its pause menu, and given its structure, it’s a welcome addition worth taking advantage of as you come back to stories throughout the game.
Octopath Traveler II is a gorgeous game, but you won’t lose any of that visual flair by making its battles go by a little faster. During a fight, press the Start/Options/+ button and it will speed up the battle animations. This is especially helpful during stretches of grinding, as it will cut down on the time for each combat encounter, and since it still shows all of its gorgeous animation, you’re not really losing anything by flipping the switch.
When you’re picking your first character, it will not only set you on a specific path for the story, but it will also play a major role in what abilities and weapons you have in the early game. For example, if you choose to start as Agnea, your early fights are going to be with a dagger, and that’s the enemy weakness you’ll most easily exploit. But as is the case with every character, one party member can’t strike every weak point on their own. As you find new additions across the world, you’ll naturally find teammates who fill out those gaps, but some characters can help you make up for those deficiencies by bringing NPCs along for the ride for a limited time. Agnea and Partitio both have abilities that allow you to recruit NPCs you meet in your travels as temporary companions, complete with their own abilities and weapon sets. You can see these before you hire them, so you won’t be going in and using resources merely hoping a potential recruit can accommodate for your shortcomings. It’s a good strategic play to recognize what weapon weaknesses you can’t strike (or can maybe only strike with one character who could use some help covering your bases), and either starting with these characters or recruiting them early on will help you exploit weaknesses you otherwise wouldn’t be able to without party members you have yet to meet.
A lot of battles in Octopath Traveler II start with some guessing and prodding as you try to reveal enemy weaknesses across elemental damage and weapon damage. This can take up a few turns depending on which characters you have, and is a game of process of elimination. However, certain characters have abilities that can help you remove some of the mystery. Two characters in particular, Ochette and Osvald, have abilities that can reveal weaknesses early on so you can start using them to do extra damage, tearing down defenses, and stunning enemies. Ochette’s is more precise and a bit limited comparatively, but is still helpful. As a Hunter, Ochette is able to summon a companion that you’ll pick at the beginning of her story. Whether you choose the lājackal Akalā or her malamaowl Mahina, Ochette will have an ability that reveals weapon weaknesses or elemental weaknesses respectively. Osvald’s isn’t limited to either weapons or elements, because as a Scholar, he can use Analyze, which both reveals an enemy’s HP, as well as one weakness. Having at least one of these two on your team at all times will shorten battles because you won’t spend early turns trying to figure out what weak points to strike.
The core strategy in Octopath Traveler II’s battles is to attack weaknesses and take down an opponent’s defenses. These are called Breaks, which will stun an enemy for a turn, and cause any subsequent attacks to do additional damage. Each enemy has a certain defense level shown by a numbered shield icon, with the number showing how many more times you have to strike at a weakness before their defenses will break. On top of this, as each character reaches a new turn, they’ll receive one BP point that allows them to do one more attack in a turn per point used. As tempting as it might be to use several BP in one turn to break an enemy’s defenses, stunned enemies take more damage than enemies do regularly, so sometimes it’s worth it to spend more time using single attacks on a turn to slowly break down defenses and then use BP to unleash several stronger attacks while an opponent is stunned. Breaking defenses is one of the key parts of succeeding in battle in Octopath Traveler II, but doing a lot with the short amount of time it gives you is the difference between chipping away at an enemy’s health for long stretches of time and doing chunks of damage very quickly.