The next entry in the Bravely Default franchise is here soon, and we have already got a few hours under our belts, hunting XP, JP and new Asterisks.
You start the game as Seth, a shipwrecked sailor beached on an unknown shore. Nursed back to health, Seth realises that besides not knowing where he is, there isn’t any easy way out, as the seas are in turmoil, with unpassable waves turning the port into a ghost town. With no way to go home, Seth feels compelled to help those who saved his life. As fate would have it, Seth quickly finds himself embroiled in a tale of royalty and crystals, of warriors of light and preventing calamity.
A whole lot more screen
The first Bravely Default was a 3DS game, and the jump to the Switch has made for a lot more screen estate for the beautiful eye candy. Every city you visit is a marvellous vista, and the game lets you zoom out to enjoy the view with a button press. Being on a bigger system has allowed for more big spell effects and detailed scenes, but there are times, especially in docked mode, that the performance dips. This isn’t a deal breaker most of the time because the game doesn’t require any reflexes except for one important function: starting combat. Gone are the random encounters of the first game, replaced with monsters walking around the world. If they spot you, they will rush towards you, trying to initiate combat. If you swing your sword and hit them before they touch you, you will start the next fight with an advantage. Otherwise, the enemy gets the advantage, with an extra Brave point each.
Barring the performance dips, the game looks great. I wish I could zoom out a tiny bit when inside dungeons to look around (or have a map of the area), but other than that, I love walking around and looking at the scenery. A desert town has a heat haze in the day, with deep pools of water looking rather inviting. Character detail is much more intricate this time, with fine netting and textures on outfits adding to their appearances. The various jobs look great too, and I have a hard time balancing picking who uses a job for tactical reasons over who looks best in a certain outfit.
A lot of the charm of Bravely Default lay in how it played like JRPGs and the Final Fantasy games of old. Four heroes, out to get crystals. But what turned things around was the combat system, and its use of the Brave and Default commands. Bravely Default II continues with that system, with a few refinements. In the first game, you would enter in commands for your entire party, then watch as everyone took turns according to speed stats and other modifiers. Now you enter in commands when it is that character’s turn to act, seeing their attacks or spells go off immediately, before the next character’s turn starts. It changes the flow of combat quite a lot, and lets you react to any big changes quickly, like healing up a low party member, or finishing off a weakened foe that is about to act.
On the surface, the Brave and Default commands seem simple, but not taking full advantage of the system can lead to some tough fights. Sometimes going all out can finish a fight before it would kill you off, while other times it is good to play defensively if the enemy has banked Brave points, thus mitigating several big attacks.
I remember in Bravely Default that as the game wore on, boss fights got harder and harder and it feels like this starts off pretty quickly here. Even in chapter 1, there are bosses that require a pretty specific loadout to beat them, thanks to the various things they are able to counter. One fight comes to mind with a thief that would counter any time a buff was applied to an enemy, stealing Brave points to act again sooner. While I enjoy a good challenge and finding a way to beat a boss, Bravely Default II starts throwing unfair punches your way very early on, with enemies that will punish you every time you hit their weakness, or completely shut down an entire class. Some fights had me reload then change everyone’s jobs and accessories to succeed, which makes me a bit apprehensive about what lies ahead in later chapters. Hopefully as more jobs become available, there will be more options for dealing with fights.
If you are looking for a game with old school grind, big boss fights and flashy moves, then this is shaping up really well. It took me around four hours to hit the title screen, which gives you an idea of how long the prologue was. I now have a good selection of jobs and my team has settled into a pretty good synergy.
Bravely Default II launches on Nintendo Switch on February 26.