If you heard the recent Conference Call, then you know Octopath Traveler II is currently very much my jam, but eight characters is a large and easily overwhelming cast. So, let's dig into how to make your initial foray as pleasurable and frictionless as possible.
Pieces of Eight
The first big decision you have to make in Octopath Traveler II is selecting your protagonist. This character will be a staple of your party for a majority—if not the entire—game, so it's important to choose a character you will enjoy from both a story perspective and a mechanics one. Fortunately, the storytelling is significantly improved over the previous game, and the VO artists are universally rocking their characters, so don't worry about having to hang around with any narrative clunkers. Instead, this choice is all about taste.
The general feel of the cast can be summed up geographically: characters who start on the eastern continent are typically an Edgelord or dealing with a bleaker and more fraught story, while those who begin on the western continent (or the tiny island to the south) are the plucky go-getters. To give you a clearer picture for each, here are some spoiler-free parallels to whet your interest.
- Temenos (Cleric)
- Character: David Suchet's Hercule Poirot with a dash of Tyrion Lannister (minus the drinking)
- Story: Seven, True Detective Season One
- Osvald (Scholar)
- Character: The Terminator meets Silent Bob
- Story: The Count of Monte Cristo, John Wick
- Throne (Thief)
- Character: Beatrix Kido with a little Furiosa and a dash of April Ludgate
- Story: Reservoir Dogs with a touch of the Warriors and Looper
- Partitio (Merchant)
- Character: Any character Jimmy Stewart has ever played mixed in with a touch of Poppy from the film Happy-Go-Lucky
- Story: The DS9 episode "Bar Association," On the Waterfront, and a smidge of Better Call Saul
- Ochette (Hunter)
- Character: Princess Mononoke with Denji's relationship to food and the moral compass of Kara Danvers (Supergirl)
- Story: Avatar, Princess Mononoke
- Castti (Apothecary)
- Character: Beverly Crusher with a little bit of Terra from FFVI
- Story: Bourne Identity meets Outbreak
- Hikari (Warrior)
- Character: Yoda meets Marcus Aurelius, wrapped in a Jon Snow
- Story: Mass Effect 2, Kingdom
- Agnea (Dancer)
- Character: Frances from Frances Ha, Lorelei from Gilmore Girls, Nancy from Stranger Things
- Story: Coyote Ugly, Showgirls (but entirely wholesome, somehow)
Agnea is probably the most wholesome character while Throne deals with some pretty mature content early (and often) in her questline. I've included some content warnings and light spoilers for Osvald's and Throne's stories in the spoiler:
The murder of Osvald's wife and daughter are the impetus for his story, putting it right in the fridging trope, even if the events occur before his story really "begins" in the game (the first moment of his chapter one is him in court being found guilty of their murder). His first chapter features some flashbacks where he interacts with his wife, but you don't see the wife or daughter die on screen.
Throne deals with threats of sexual violence and her questline has her interacting with some pretty vile people who engage in human trafficking.
More than one string to our bows
Each character can fill multiple roles through secondary jobs and filling skill-gaps with other party members, but generally speaking, they initially fall into the following classes:
Healer: Temenos, Castti
Support: Partitio, Agnea, Tenemos, Castti
DPS: Throne, Hikari, Ochette, Osvald
Tank: Hikari, Agnea
Hikari is well-positioned to deal melee damage and to be an ace tank. In the early game, he is particularly effective, and though he lacks the ability to do any elemental damage, his path ability power lets him sponge talents and techniques from NPCs and feels very "blue mage"-esque. It makes him a solid Swiss Army Knife.
Agnea can be both a tank and a support character, though her support is largely built around buffing. I found her less useful early on, but by the end of her second chapter, she can be quite mighty. Paired with a subclass like thief (which has a ton of debuffs) she can be a delightful pain in the ass for your foes.
Partitio is something of a jack of all trades but has some specific abilities that make him best suited to the support role. He really comes into his own once you give him a secondary job, and he's super useful for his ability to help catch up second-string characters through his experience and JP farming skills.
Osvald is all about magic and elemental damage and the closest thing to a glass cannon in the game. His role is a little less flexible than other characters, but he is very good at what he does—specifically, AoE and single target damage.
Temenos is easily the best healer in the early game, but he's also incredibly flexible in taking on other roles and has a latent talent that makes him very good at breaking enemy shields down. He can serve as a "magical tank" without much fuss. Pairing him with a warrior secondary job makes him functionally a paladin, while steering toward scholar makes him a classic red mage. He has the most innate SP (mana) of any of the characters and can refresh it without using a consumable.
Throne is a clear DPS character, but also a potential off-tank given how good her evasion stat gets. Her debuffing abilities also make her a good off-support character. She's less flexible as a DPS than Osvald or Ochette, but situationally, she can outshine both for single target damage, especially if she's going first in combat. There's a secret secondary job that is accessible early in the game that pairs well with her, providing more flexibility and general utility.
Ochette has some great single target, physical DPS skills and, like Ovald, is a bit of a glass canon (though she's more flexible in how you can build her out). She has a critical choice right off the bat, with an option of two different pets. The wolf/jackal pet is good at physical damage, while the owl will give her some elemental possibilities. The jackal synergizes with her innate abilities better and is probably the better choice, but given the rarity of elemental damage, the owl is worth considering if you don't plan on rotating Osvald in much (though elemental attack is also easy to account for with the scholar secondary job).
Castti is all about managing statuses, buffing, debuffing, and healing. Mechanically, she relies on having herbs and supplies available (though her latent talent makes that less of an issue at critical moments), so she is potentially the trickiest character to use out of the gate, but has a lot she can do well. Her innate abilities are best suited to "back of house" in combat rather than "front of house."
Breaking the Ice
Combat is built around "breaking" an enemy's shield, which causes them to miss their turn (or, if you break it before their current turn, they miss both the current and next rounds). Additionally, they will take extra damage. Enemies have a set amount of weaknesses to varying weapon and elemental types. So, if you see three blocks under the enemy name with question marks in them, that indicates the enemy has three "weaknesses" that you can exploit to break their shield.
Some of the weaknesses make thematic sense (lots of flying enemies are vulnerable to bows, for example), but others can be hard to grok. Fortunately, there's a consistent left to right order in how weaknesses are listed that will provide you with clues. Specifically, vulnerabilities are always listed in this order: Sword, Polearm, Dagger, Axe, Bow, Staff, Fire, Ice, Lightning, Wind, Light, Dark.
This means, if you spot an enemy that has vulnerability to Polearms and they have a mystery vulnerability slotted to the left of the Polearm icon, that's guaranteed to be Swords. If the right-most slot is fire, you can be sure that they have no other elemental weaknesses.
Osvald's Elemental Barrage and Hikari's Aggressive Slash powers are both useful for sussing out weaknesses in enemies or breaking them (pending their vulnerabilities). Temenos's latent power will also let him break an enemy with any attack.
Armed with this info, you should have a better idea of who you'll choose first. But remember, the core strength of Octopath Traveler II is how darned flexible the whole thing is to play. You get to control a lot of the circumstances and have options a-plenty for making the suboptimal into the functional. Sometimes not balancing your party can lead to some great teams that are super fun to play.
I'm happy to answer any other questions you might have, and as author Italo Calvino once said, "If on a winter's night, an Octopath Traveler."