Best bits of 2023: The devil they call poverty in OCTOPATH TRAVELER II

We’re celebrating our favorite gaming moments of 2023. Today, we reveal how OCTOPATH TRAVELER II’s Partitio was forged by silver and desperation.
By Duncan Heaney

In this new series, the Square Enix Blog team looks at some of our favorite moments from throughout the year and why we think they’re great. To be clear, we’re not declaring them to be the pinnacle of the game, merely one of many moments that stand out. So, don’t get cross at us if you disagree, okay?

One of the many glorious things about OCTOPATH TRAVELER II is the sheer variety of tones it’s able to conjure. Each of the eight playable protagonists has their own stories to follow, and all have a very different feel.

To be honest, it’s difficult to define any one character’s story as a ‘best bit’ - they’re all exceptional. But one that stood out for me personally was the opening of Partitio’s tale - and the rise and fall of the town of Oresrush.

What happens Partitio’s Chapter 1?

Partitio is a gifted youth blessed with a silver tongue, and an innate understanding of commerce. But unlike some other merchants in the world, he’s also got a strong social conscience - rather than accrue wealth, he wants to use his skills to make the world a better place.

That rather noble outlook is forged in his very first chapter, in which he’s forced to face the reality of poverty head on. His story starts many years before the adventure proper, when he, his father and their business partner Roque take ownership of a silver deposit in the Wildlands.

Over time, thanks to their exceptional trade skills, the town of Oresrush is founded - a prosperous community thanks to the free-flowing silver coming from the mines. But nothing lasts forever, and the rise of new technology like Steam, means demand for silver drops fast.

Not long after, a new owner has raised taxes, forcing many of the townsfolk into poverty. Many have lost their jobs and are struggling to even survive - even Partitio’s father falls gravely ill due to exhaustion and overwork.

Despite the economic trouble, the owner still demands his tithe of tax, and he uses the local heavy Giff to squeeze what little money there is out of the residents. Partitio decides to head to Giff’s mansion, confront the thug and his underlings, and get him to lay off.

What he discovers rocks his world, and although it gives the town a sliver of hope for survival, it instils in him a desire to travel the world and eliminate that devil called poverty once and for all.

What’s so good about this section of the game?

Here are just a few of the reasons this section stands out for me:

You feel a connection to Oresrush

The structure of OCTOPATH TRAVELER II means that you visit many towns over the course of the adventure. For some characters or chapters, they’re backdrops to the wider adventure, rather than a focal point, but Oresrush is different. For Partitio, it’s absolutely central to his adventure - to the point where it’s almost a character in the story in its own right.

Because you see the town in its pioneer glory, it drives home how destitute it has become thanks to the machinations of corrupt businessmen. That sense of oppression and misery is brilliantly conveyed, and it adds real stakes to Partitio’s task.

It balances tones brilliantly

One of the great things about OCTOPATH TRAVELER II is how it contains so many different types of stories.

For example, if you want a dark and seedy tale of murder and betrayal, Throne’s attempts to break free from the criminal underworld gives you that. If you want an upbeat tale of people bettering the world through kindness, Agnea more than delivers. If you want a high fantasy story of rulers and kingdoms, Hikari provides. For a revenge thriller, you have Osvald, for thought-provoking adventures there’s Temenos and Ochette… well, Ochette’s just adorable.

Partitio’s tale fuses many of these different tones together expertly. Like Throne’s story, there’s oppression and suffering that the heroes long to break free from. Like Hikari, there’s a battle for control - the fare of the town lies in the balance. And like Agnea, Partitio is a delight - a proactively upbeat, optimistic presence who never lets things fall into darkness.

The music is majestic

OCTOPATH TRAVELER II has incredible music. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it has one of my favorite soundtracks since… well, the original OCTOPATH TRAVELER. Composer Yasunori Nishiki’s work shines throughout the game, and Partitio’s story serves as an excellent example of how well it supports the game’s story and themes.

The spaghetti western-inspired themes for Oresrush are instantly catchy and there’s a marked difference between the energetic rhythms of the town theme while it flourishes, and the downbeat guitar as it falls into disrepair.

And while I’m praising Nishiki-san, let’s take a moment to appreciate Partitio’s super saxy character theme. It’s amazing.

It has a great boss battle

Another of OCTOPATH TRAVELER II’s great strengths is its combat system. It was already impressive in the original game, but this sequel refines and deepens it further, with new abilities, Latent Powers and more.

One of the reasons it’s so good is that it’s not a game where you can turn your brain off and brute force your way through fights. You have to think strategically and plan ahead, taking advantage of weaknesses where possible and timing your boosted attacks wisely.

The battles you’ll face on your path to confront Giff will teach you the core concepts, and this boss is a great test of everything you’ve learned about Partitio’s skill set. You’ll have to manage multiple minions and prepare for Giff’s quite powerful attacks, while laying on the damage yourself. It’s quite the balancing act, and while it’s far from the most difficult boss in the game, it’s still a supremely satisfying battle.

Partitio is just one of eight amazing protagonists in the game, and every tale has moments like this one - memorable scenarios where story, visuals, sound, and gameplay come together in harmony.

OCTOPATH TRAVELER II is an all-round amazing RPG, and if you’re yet to dive in for yourself, then I urge you to do so. There’s even a free demo that lets you play through each character’s first chapter - so you can play Partitio’s opening discussed here for yourselves. And yes – progress does carry over to the main game!

The game is available now on PS5, PS4, Switch and PC via Steam:

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