Whenever I play a JRPG, the most important factor is how a character reacts to the world around it. Some of my favorites are Final Fantasy 9’s Zidane being a happy-go-lucky thief who silently deals with crippling depression, Persona 4’s Tohru Adachi and his simple yet complex motivations, or Edelgard’s unflinching radicalism in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. All of them boast very strong but differing perceptions of their character, so for this game, I was delighted to find many of the same and some who stick to stereotypes.
Octopath Traveler 2 follows the trend of its predecessor. It creates very likable and personal insights into a character’s mindset during textbook storylines which coalesce into one overarching story. The Octopath series has a unique charm in exploring the finer details and feelings in an otherwise melodramatic setting you’ve probably seen before.
I’ll be rating each party member’s opening chapter on how engaging it was and which character you may wish to choose as your protagonist in your opening decision.
A small-town dancer who wants to follow in the footsteps of her celebrity mother.
I wanted to analyze this early. Agnea’s opening chapter is weakly written. You spend your time watching her dance for patrons, reminiscing about her mother, and using her “talents” (The game dubs them that) to fleece townspeople of their money and belongings. All in the name of becoming a “star.” She charms her way into getting enough money to leave on a journey, either through dancing or, albeit rather, innocent coercion.
And then she fights a giant boar.
I wish I was joking. Clearly, a victim of the opening chapter formula: story > fight > story > boss. Agnea fights a monster who should rightfully wipe the floor with her: a small country town dancing prodigy. It’s strange how her fighting prowess is unexplained and seemingly appears out of thin air.
This chapter is a regrettable process of creating an unrelatable character. After dispatching the boar, she leaves her hometown to visit the big city. The saving grace of this is a foreboding warning from her father that her mother passed on from similar behavior.
However, If you don’t pick her as your starting character when you come to collect her, She drops the purse with her savings on the ground and almost leaves without it.
This is the justification for you meeting her in her hometown. And as you have to then play a chapter where she directly links the savings to her own value as a dancer in having gotten them, it feels like a slap in the face to think she could so easily misplace her funds.
Her interaction abilities are at least good.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Neutral good.
Agena Chapter 1: 2/10
A genius salesman who forsakes his talents to care for his unwell father and dying town.
Victims of an unwise business decision, Partitio, and his friends live in hard times, their money leeched on by an unknown and sinister landowner who deviously snatched their silver mine.
Partitio, the merchant type… gathers up his friends to beat them up and drive them out of town. This is a welcome sight for this type of character, going against normal stereotypes of bartering to solve problems.
Partitio is shown to be a man of the people, using money for others’ benefit while knowing exactly how to get it fairly. His ability to hire others plays into the story well, and his character is established as moral, heroic, and brave. It was one of my favorite opening stories.
Partitio then sets out to “End Poverty.” Possibly by force, but his grounded nature makes you believe he’ll do it in a noble fashion.
And his fighting move callouts are really catchy, too: Arrow of Fortune!
His Interaction abilities cost money; I’d say they’re more late-game than anything when you stock up masses of money from fighting.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Chaotic good.
Partitio Chapter 1: 9/10
A warrior of a war-torn country, Hikari is a gentle prince in a ruthless kingdom.
Do you guys like The Lion King? Or Hamlet? Hikari’s story is about a medieval Chinese aesthetic kingdom in the desert taking territory by force. Hikari’s brother is ruthless and believes in strength over all, and Hikari is a half-blood prince who believes in restraint.
Naturally, he is chosen to be ruler by his father, and the brother then stages a coup and takes over, killing his father.
Hikari is then exiled to go sing show tunes with a meerkat and a warthog. I mean, seek allies to take back his kingdom. Weirdly these allies are from his own kingdom and not your party of soon-to-be god-level RPG characters.
Hikari himself is hinted to have a powerful but dark ancient bloodline; his attitude towards others is benign despite his upbringing. So I can’t fault this story too much. This was the character I started with, and Hikari is a really good pick for battles.
His interaction ability duel is straight fire. You can 1 v 1 NPCs. Great stuff.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Lawful good.
Hikari Chapter 1: 6/10
I’m just going to keep on relating to Disney movies at this rate. Ochette may as well be inspired by The Jungle Book.
Ochette is a child beastkin who pairs up with a talking animal (You choose which) and a talking lion to honor the balance of the forest. And then things start going nuts. The humans arrive, demanding more land, and the lion then proclaims: “Oh no, old age is here to claim me. Please take over the village, 11-year-old child. Also, the apocalypse is coming with sludge monsters and giant abominations, and you have to stop it.”
All of this happens in the course of 1 day. So you’re sent to go capture the beasts of legend.
Ochettes chapter 1 is a really wild ride, her character? She gets hungry and seems to follow an honor code. She also feeds everyone because it’s her job. She’s naive but good-hearted. This chapter seemed far more of a setup for later chapters. Maybe her character growth comes later?
Her interaction abilities rely completely on caught monsters, which could be a pain if you’re not a monster collector.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: True neutral.
Ochette Chapter 1: 7/10
Octopath 1 had this problem of the cleric being the worst path in the game, with many calling out the writing as cheap and repetitive. It would seem Octopath 2 fixed this.
Temenos chapter 1 is, in no short terms, amazing. It opens with you playing as the fabled heroes of Octopath lore in a story told to children in a church. It’s clear this story will have massive implications for the game as a whole.
Temenos is shown to be suspiciously cynical about his own religion, making you feel he may be losing his faith, but then immediately uses holy magic to save himself from a hostage situation at the hands of heretics. His faith is apparently based on evidence, with his catchphrase of “Doubt is what I do.” He believes that the truth is something he must bring to light for everyone’s sake.
He then picks up a down-to-earth sacred knight companion, and they’re just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The game doesn’t try to hide it. It’s actually a really good homage.
But tragedy strikes, the fantasy Pope has been killed by a wild animal? Not so. Temenos engages his Batman-style detective vision and sleuths out that everything points to murder. He is the most unexpected cleric archetype I’ve ever seen, and I am here for it 100%.
This chapter is so good. The lore, the characters, the setup, the detective story inside a fantasy church hierarchy. It’s just divine. It’s the best starting chapter for me by far.
His interaction abilities are sadly mediocre. An Interrogation battle sequence and getting a follower.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Lawful Neutral.
Temenos Chapter 1: 9.5/10
I had a lot of trouble working out what I wanted to say about Throné. She’s another victim of played-out plot syndrome. You start with her in a massive criminal gang, and to work out the new gang leader, the higher-ups start to pit their thieves and assassins against each other.
You go through a number of uncomfortable moments ranging from being whipped, finding out you wear a collar that can’t come off, and finding that your father figure routinely tries to stab you for practice. It’s quite a terrible life she leads.
The chapter is about Throné deciding she’s had enough of killing and wants out of the gang by doing the only thing she was taught how to do, killing her bosses, getting the keys to her collar, and finally being free. It’s very much like the hunger games, and also the exact plot of the thief from the first game for some reason.
This upsets me because, playing later chapters, her story is probably one of the most emotionally engaging, but I realized if you play this chapter, then say you play any of the other opening chapters aside from Osvald’s, you are going to suffer the biggest narrative whiplash of your life. She’s a good character and a solid pick, but I can’t for the life of me recommend this one as your first introduction to the game.
The best interaction ability in the game steals a massive thumbs up from me. Steal is just so good. Definite main party main-stay.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Neutral Evil.
Throné Chapter 1: 5/10
You might be forgiven for wanting to skip this one. It’s like a sitcom episode where the character gets amnesia and has to go through remembering what happened and why they lost their memories.
They deduce that the town they washed ashore in is being poisoned by evil monsters in the sewer that we promptly hit with an axe that all medical staff keeps on them for some reason, maybe amputation?
There’s some talking with a mysterious woman who may know something about you and some stuff about you being part of an evil squad of healers that might make you evil too. It’s just not enough to go on to say whether the character is worth starting with. You never actually get any story meat with her till chapter 3.
She’s kind, self-sacrificing, and a party buffer for combat if you’re into that.
Her interaction abilities are pure garbage. She’s the character you’ll most forget about when organizing your party.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Come back when you’ve written your backstory, Darrel!
Castii Chapter 1: 3/10
Osvald’s opening chapter is actually 2 chapters, and I’ll be counting them both as his first chapter. It’s an incredibly intriguing tale of a man wrongfully imprisoned but actually should be in prison.
As a scholar, you would expect him to be a nerdy, studious type; however, he’s not averse to violence, detailed planning, using people, judging, and demeaning people all to get to his goal, eliminating the man who murdered his family.
Osvald is a stone-cold brutal, but deadly efficient type of man molded by 5 years of prison life and still sane enough to formulate detailed plans. These chapters document his escape from an Arctic prison island. The best opening chapter in the game in terms of story. Not my favorite, but the best simply due to the care and detail. It’s like a mini-movie. You may liken Osvald to the protagonist: Michael Schofield, from Prison Break.
Osvalds abilities are to mug and scrutinize people. Both are very useful.
If I was playing DnD, I would say: Chaotic neutral.
Osvald Chapter 1 & 2: 9/10
Upon finishing the game, my final thoughts are that almost every character is a good starting point except for Agnea, while she does boast the best final boss music in the game and an uplifting story.
I would recommend that you choose: Partitio, Temenos, or Osvald as your starting character. All three boast impressive abilities and highly satisfying stories. If you love dark stories or battle royale stories, pick Throné. Finally, if you just want to play and don’t care about the story, Pick Hikari. I hope you enjoy Octopath Traveler 2; I certainly did.