Bravely Default 2 Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Well, it's finally here. The much anticipated Bravely Default 2 is now available on the Nintendo Switch. The sequel to Bravely Default, originally released for the Nintendo DS in 2012, is a sequel in name only. Bravely Default 2 is actually the third game in the series and has an entirely new cast of characters and a fresh storyline. This is a good thing, in my opinion. I played the first game, but I am sure a lot of Switch players did not. It gives the series a fresh jump on point for anyone to get stuck into some JRPG goodness.
Bravely Default 2 tells the story of four plucky young heroes trying to wrestle back four elemental crystals and save Excillant from impending doom. I know, I know, more crystals and more doom. On the whole, I felt that while the story did have a few interesting twists, it was mostly very well-trodden, familiar territory. I did, however, like how each character had their own reasons for following you on your unrelenting quest. Whether it was Elvis’ magical book that becomes more readable the more asterisks you collect or trying to find out why someone tried to kill you at the beginning of the game, there are some interesting threads of narrative buried deep in this otherwise generic tale.
There were some nice moments between the characters when you're roaming the game's five main areas. Now and again, you have the option to listen to a little bit of conversation between the characters in your party. It's entirely optional and can be left for quieter moments in the game's many cities, but I enjoyed listening to the banter between your comrades. It also added a bit of depth to the characters between the endless swathes of adversaries you encounter. Even if their voice acting was sometimes quite grating. Is this what we British folk really sound like to the rest of the world?
A lot of the voice acting is quite abrupt, off-putting and sometimes took me out of the experience. I did get used to it eventually, but some of the voice work was draining in those first few hours. After the first chapter or so, though, I stopped noticing and just rolled with it. I marked it down as a quirk of the game, and it does not really bother me too much now; it just requires a bit of an adjustment period to get over how harsh some of the voice work can be. There are some good performances, but, on the whole, especially early on, it can take some of the player's immersion away.
Right, now I have got all the stuff that irked me out of the way; let’s talk good stuff. Gameplay, battle systems, job systems and role-playing shenanigans. It's all very juicy. Some of this stuff has carried over from the previous games, so bear with me if you already know some of this stuff. Anyone who has played a JRPG before will slip straight into this game's many systems; you traverse a world map, visit cities, take on quests and standoff in turn-based battles. However, the 'Brave' and 'Default' actions in these skirmishes set this series apart from the crowd.
When selecting your turn-based actions, when deciding whether to clobber your foes or unleash some spells on their behinds, you can select two unique options. 'Default' stores an extra action for future turns while blocking a lot of incoming damage. 'Brave' then allows you to use these built-up actions you have previously stored. It is a unique system that really does not show its teeth until the first boss. Before that, I was blindly swinging away and did not really see the benefits of this novel system.
When I fought the first boss, my damage could not outperform his healing, and then that is when the Brave/Default system started to make sense. I could Default, build-up actions, blocking in the meantime and then when I had built up the maximum of three stored actions, unleash them all together, including my current action for this turn. Each character could then severely punish the enemy and pile on the damage. There are other nuances and applications for the system, but it was at this point where the battle system starts to make sense, and it only got better as the game progressed.
This leads me nicely onto the game’s job system. Each character can have two jobs at once, a primary and a secondary. You start with basic jobs and throughout the game, and you must find and collect Asterisks to unlock more nuanced professions. Each job offers skills, bonuses, weapon alignments and features unique to its type, and it is how you blend your primary and secondary jobs to create unique archetypes that I found so entertaining. I was constantly shifting characters between jobs and testing them out in battle. It is all interesting, rewarding and entertaining. These jobs also have passive abilities to equip, too, which throws another layer of juiciness into the whole thing. Good stuff.
One of my favourite things about Bravely Default 2, which may sound a bit weird, is the sleep mode sailing mini-game. Hear me out; it is only a small part of the game, but I found it ingenious, and I do love shiny new things. At various stores in the game, you can set a boat out exploring and here's the catch; it carries on while your Nintendo Switch is in sleep mode. I loved setting it running overnight, waking up the next day and watching what unfolded while I went about my crystal finding business. The game overlays your expedition at the top of the screen while you carry on your jaunts, it's a brilliant idea, and more games should do this kind of stuff. I think it's actually happening right now while my Switch is in sleep mode; I wonder what I found? I wonder what happened? It is such an interesting and quirky system. It is like you are constantly playing, even when you are not.
On the presentation side, I had mixed feelings about how Bravely Default 2 looked. I played on the Nintendo Switch Lite, and even on the small screen, the characters and enemies look pretty sharp, especially when up close. I did, however, expect more from the environments. I was expecting something more akin to modern JRPGS, something like Octopath Traveller and the like. Unfortunately, a lot of the backdrops seem very low-resolution and suffer from a lack of clarity. They are not ugly by any means; I just expected something a smidge more impressive. That being said, Bravely Default 2 is not a bad looking game, and when you compare it to the DS original, it is actually a massive step up.
On the sound front, the music is everything you would expect, pan pipes, soothing fantasy tones and everything suited the game perfectly. The music amped up the emotion and tension when necessary, and I really appreciated it. Some dodgy voice work aside, I had no qualms with the sound design at all. It was just as I expected and was a nice accompaniment to this long quest. Performance-wise, as I expected, I did not have a single glitch, bug or any other software issue. I expect this with Nintendo games though, they are very strict on this front, and I was left to enjoy my many gameplay sessions without worrying about having issues while playing.
Bravely Default 2 is a long game with a lot of content for your money. I did find myself needing to grind enemies quite a lot, and staying on top of your gear, skills, and jobs are paramount to progression. I even, at one point, considered dropping the game to easy but struggled on through some of the tough fights I had. I still have much to do and much to discover; if you want to see everything Bravely Default 2 has to offer, you will be here for a while. While I enjoyed the experience, a few of the little niggles I mentioned keep it from being a top tier JRPG, in my eyes at least. Have fun, adventurers, be Brave and don't Default to defeat.