If you’re a fan of classic Final Fantasy games, chances are you’ll love Bravely Default II.
Sequel to the 3DS hit, Bravely Default II presents a land in turmoil. From one town to another, calamity has struck. As usual, it’s the poor folk just trying to make an honest living and survive that pay the highest price. Those above them, meanwhile, plot and scheme, hoping to gain power, fortune and glory. But is there some greater force operating behind the scenes? That’s for you to find out, and the adventure’s not going to be a walk in the park.
Despite being a sequel, you may be thankful to hear that Bravely Default II doesn’t require you to have any prior knowledge of the series for you to enjoy it. It features a brand new cast of characters in a whole new land, so you’re not going to miss out on anything if you haven’t played the original Bravely Default or its direct sequel that’s now been brushed aside, Bravely Second: End Layer. Those who have played its predecessors, however, will find that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Many things are new, but this is still a Bravely Default game alright.
The aforementioned calamities are a result of the misuse of the four elemental crystals that keep the land in balance. Like anything that has immense power or value, they’ve become coveted by unscrupulous types, and so it’s up to the four heroes of light to gather them and save the land from destruction. Bravely Default II‘s main protagonist, Seth (unless you decide to name him yourself), is your typical hero washed up ashore that quickly agrees to go on a grand adventure with a group of strangers without even a second thought. His companions comprise of Gloria, the princess of a kingdom that no longer exists, Elvis, a scholar who’s compelled to search the land for relics called Asterisks, and Adelle, a mercenary hired by Elvis to assist him on his travels.
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What follows is a fairly predictable tale, but one that still manages to grab your attention once it really hits its stride. It helps that the four heroes are so likeable, each being very strong personalities that complement each other well. And if you want to flesh out their personalities, you can enjoy optional skits if you like. It’s their voice acting that really brings them to life, though. The localisation job done on Bravely Default II is stellar. It’s just a shame that the villains are so… well, villainous. While it takes a while for some characters to show their true colours, you can tell many are nefarious from the moment you see them thanks to their pale skin, imposing armour and maniacal laughs. Shades of grey be damned.
When it comes to gameplay, Bravely Default II doesn’t stray from the old-fashioned RPG mould. There’s a world map to traverse, towns to visit and dungeons to explore. Each is presented a little bit differently; on the world map you can rotate camera around to get a better view, but it’s a shame you can draw the camera back so you can see more of your surroundings. In dungeons though, control of the camera is taken away from you, and that’s the case in towns, too. When it comes to towns, however, they have a brilliant painterly look, and if you want to quick glance of all the services that are available, you can press in the right stick for a panoramic view. It’s especially helpful for locating any side-quests that may be available. Most of them are little more than fetch quests, but some have more meat on their bones.
Where Bravely Default II really shines is its combat. The Brave and Default system at the heart of the game won’t be new to those that have played the first title, but for those who haven’t, it’ll be a revelation. Essentially, Brave Points are what power your actions, and the Default command is what you use if you want to defend on a characters current turn while also banking a Brave Point for later use. So, if you anticipate your adversary performing a powerful attack on their next turn, you can Default with a character, perhaps reducing the damage they receive, and then perform two actions with them on their next turn. If you want to be risky, you can borrow Brave Points too. Up to four Brave Points can be used in one character’s turn, but if they’re left in the negative, they’ll be a sitting duck until their balance becomes positive again.
Combined with a job system that lets you shape the development of each of your characters, Bravely Default II‘s Brave and Default system really gives the combat depth. With more jobs becoming available for your characters as you play through the game and acquire Asterisks, there’s a lot for you to consider. Do you have a balanced team, or do you go all-in on Berserkers just for the thrill of it? Each character can have a main job and a secondary job, basically granting access to two sets of special commands. There are lots of passive skills to unlock and equip too, giving them perks that often come in very useful. Ultimately, you might find yourself changing the jobs of your characters for specific areas or encounters, especially as each job lends itself well to certain equipment loadouts.
And this is where Bravely Default II will fall down for some: it requires a lot of grinding. Even on its easiest difficulty setting, Bravely Default II is challenging. Most random combat encounters are a breeze, quickly over and done with by simply borrowing Brave Points and going all-in. Every once in a while, however, you’ll get into one where that doesn’t work, and when things go wrong, you swiftly end up dead. There’s no retrying once you’ve fallen, either; it’s back to the title screen you go and time to reload a save. That’s not really an issue though, as you shouldn’t be complacent from one battle to the next. What is the problem, is that whenever you encounter a boss, you feel severely underpowered unless you’ve instigated battle with every enemy you’ve come across on your travels and then some.
Bravely Default II is a love-hate affair for me. I love adventuring from one town to another, discovering their problems before getting down to the business of sorting them out. I love the game’s visuals and soundtrack, the latter of which is truly sumptuous. And I love its combat, which is deeply tactical. But I really hate grinding. I don’t mind doing a bit of it if I believe myself to be under levelled, but in the case of Bravely Default II you just get the sense that the game is poorly balanced. It simply feels unfair at times. There shouldn’t be roadblocks when you’re playing a game on Casual difficulty, but it seemingly changes little. The game’s boss battles are, for want of a better word, ludicrous.
If you’re a fan of old-fashioned RPGs and aren’t turned off by the idea of grinding for hours on end in order to overcome the latest big bad, chances are you’ll quickly become besotted by Bravely Default II. And no one would blame you, as it really is a charming game with lots to offer. The grinding will be an issue for many though, occasionally bringing their adventure to a halt until they’ve gained more levels or totally retrained their characters in new jobs in order to be effective. The first couple of times it happens you’re likely to grit your teeth and work your way through it. But the sixth, eight, tenth? That’s when some players are likely to throw in the towel. And it’s a shame, because at its core, Bravely Default II has all the ingredients of a classic.
Bravely Default II Review: GameSpew’s Score