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The Best RPG of the Year Takes 80 Hours to Hit Its Stride

Or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the grind.

Octopath Traveler II key art
Square Enix
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I wasn’t in love with Octopath Traveler II when I reviewed it back in February. It was long, didn’t respect my time, and failed to make enough meaningful improvements upon its predecessor to feel like a step up. While there were some moments of greatness within my dozens of hours with the game, it left me wanting. But then something strange happened over the following months of 2023 — I kept coming back for more.

Now at the end of the year, I find myself looking back on my time with Octopath Traveler II and realizing how much I actually love this game. Hell, it might be my favorite RPG of the year.

So, how did this happen? It turns out my biggest problem wasn’t with the game at all. Rather, it was time.

Octopath Traveler II is a game that demands a lot of time. Like its predecessor, the game takes at least 60 hours, but on average takes roughly 80 hours to finish according to While reviewing Octopath Traveler II, I simply didn’t have the time the game needed from me.

You see, reviews are done on a very tight clock. It’s not uncommon that I receive a download code only a couple of days ahead of when the review can go out.

By comparison, I received Octopath Traveler II two weeks before its release, which is great — for most games. But this was a 60-hour RPG that I needed to get through as fast as possible in addition to playing other games, working, trying to sleep, and having time to actually write the review. So no, I did not finish Octopath Traveler II but I did put in roughly 50 hours before I hit publish on my review.

My initial reaction to the game was mixed. I felt frustrated by its opening eight-chapter section, which takes over 10 hours to finish. I grew annoyed at the combat which, despite being impeccably designed, kept throwing damage sponges of enemies at me and turning even the most mundane fight into a tiring affair. Mostly, I was disappointed the game’s main cast felt so similar to its predecessor without fixing the issue of these characters still feeling disconnected from each other.

Then, despite the seemingly never-ending influx of new games to keep up with this year, I returned to Octopath Traveler II in small bursts for the rest of the year. I would dip my toes in to finish a chapter or two over a weekend, or complete side quests while watching something on the TV. I’d even grind levels while in a bar with friends (I really did this).

The game clicked with me, finally, because I was able to play Octopath Traveler II at my own pace. On my own time. And what I found was that I loved this game.

Me listening to the Octopath Traveler II score. I can’t believe it was snubbed at The Game Awards.

Square Enix

I got over the frustration of the game’s spongey enemies, as I had more time to grind at my leisure. Without a looming deadline, the combat felt more strategically interesting. The world felt more inviting too, as I naturally meandered through its day and night cycles that painted every gorgeous pixel in new colors. All while the stunning score played in the background.

I also found that I’d grown to respect the new cast of characters. It turns out that after spending more time with the game, the writing felt remarkably better than its predecessor. In particular, I found more depth and complexity in each character as I took my time. This is a grand adventure after all, I just needed to treat it like one and take the long journey at a manageable pace.

The moment I realized I truly appreciated Octopath Traveler II’s greatness was while playing the other big retro-inspired RPG of 2023 — Sea of Stars. I found Sea of Stars' constant desire to be like its often-better influences tiring. Sea of Stars offered nothing new in its predictable story or its overly complicated yet constantly boring combat. I finished it and was left with the urge to pick up something that built upon the great RPGs of the past in meaningful ways, rather than seek to retread old ground. So, I played Octopath Traveler II.

Now, I have another confession to make: I still haven’t finished Octopath Traveler II. I’ve put roughly 30 more hours into it since the game’s release on February 24, but still have not faced the final boss. And I might never. There are still other games from 2023 I want to play and, before I know it, 2024 will be here with its own slate of must-play titles.

But I’ll leave Octopath Traveler II on my Switch, for those occasions I want to dive back in to challenge a difficult enemy, complete a remaining side quest, or just stand in the game’s world as its gorgeous score plays on. You should give it a try too.

Octopath Traveler II is available on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC for up to $59.99.

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