Bravely Default 2 review – A beautiful yet familiar JRPG
Despite featuring a unique battle system and deep customization options, Bravely Default 2 has a number of pitfalls that keep it from joining the rest of Square Enix’s JRPG giants.
Square Enix are certainly no strangers when it comes to creating some of the most iconic video games of all time – JRPG giants like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest are just a few of their ever-growing list of critically acclaimed hits. However, one of the latest games that’s vying for attention is Bravely Default 2.
Despite the first game releasing back in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS, it has finally made its jump to the big screen.
With the recent release of Bravely Default 2 on the Nintendo Switch, Square Enix is hoping to recapture what made the original game so special. While everything from its satisfying battle system, stunningly beautiful hand-painted graphics, and highly customizable class system has returned, it does struggle to set itself apart from other games of its ilk.
Bravely Default 2 – Key Details
- Copy: Bravely Default 2
- Price: £49.99 / $59.99
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release date: 26/02/2021
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Bravely Default 2 finally makes its way to the Switch.
An all too familiar tale
Bravely Default 2 ticks off all the generic JRPG character tropes and story beats. There’s the amnesiac main character, a princess of a befallen kingdom, a scholarly mage looking for answers, and a mischievous mercenary that is shrouded in mystery. This ragtag crew is thrown together in order to stop a great calamity from befalling the land of Excillant.
To do this, the Heroes of Light need to reclaim four Crystals that have been stolen from the princess’ kingdom. If this tale sounds extremely familiar, it’s because it is. While there are a few minor revelations to be uncovered during the game’s 60+ hour campaign, the story never truly deviates from the well-trodden path.
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Aside from the main adventure, there are hundreds of side quests to complete – the vast majority of which require fetching materials and killing a set number of monsters. While these generic quests can offer some powerful gear and items, they are completely forgettable.
If you’re going into Bravely Default 2 expecting an original story with a unique cast of characters, then you’ll likely come away disappointed. Most JRPG fans will have heard similar tales 1000 times before, but while it may not push any boundaries or win awards for its writing, Bravely Default 2 is an otherwise comfy nostalgia trip.
Beautiful towns bogged down by bland environments
The world of Excilliant is absolutely oozing with color – an area most notable when traveling to the game’s towns. From the sunbaked roofs of Savalon to the cozy treetops of Wiswald, Bravely Default’s towns are a real treat for the eyes. It’s here where the camera can be panned out, revealing points of interest and beckoning players to step into its beautiful watercolor backdrops.
The combination of hand-painted buildings and 3D modeled characters really help make each location jump to life. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Bravely Default 2’s overworld. Instead of featuring the same stunning painted art style throughout the game’s environments, Bravely Default 2 oddly strips it away completely.
Aside from groups of enemies that can be seen meandering through the overworld, there is a stark lack of detail. In fact, the game’s landscapes often devolve into lifeless plains that must be trekked across in order to get to the next town. It’s a real shame that the hand-painted backdrops take a backseat here, especially given how much love and care went into creating them.
Turn-based combat with a twist
The Bravely Default series has always prided itself on its unique turn-based combat system, which enables players to either be hyper-aggressive or methodical in their approach. Alongside the game’s traditional attacks, spells, and special abilities, each party member has access to two commands: Brave and Default.
The Brave option sees players spend all their Battle Points in order to gain more actions in a single turn. This is particularly useful when you wish to quickly melt through an enemy’s health bar or take out pesky mobs before they can even attack.
Meanwhile, Default enables a character to go on the defensive and bank up to three actions for future use. Not only does this enable characters to safely save BP for later use, but it can also enable them to get a good read on their opponent.
Interestingly, liberal use of the Brave option can quickly leave you with a BP deficit. This means you won’t be able to attack for a number of turns, forcing you to simply sponge all incoming attacks. Of course, this isn’t a problem if you can wipe out your target, but it can leave you high and dry against the game’s hardier foes.
Knowing when to use both techniques and capitalizing on an enemy’s weakness is incredibly important, particularly when facing the game’s brutal bosses. Not only do these mighty foes have sizable health bars, but they can deliver huge amounts of damage that can quickly whisk you straight back to the main menu screen.
These grueling gauntlets require decent amounts of strategy and reward those that are willing to get creative with the game’s Job system – another area that helps elevate Bravely Default 2 from other games of its ilk.
Countless customization options
Arguably the best part of Bravely Default 2 is the sheer amount of class customization options that are available to each party member. During the quest for the four crystals, players will come across Asterisks – magical artefacts that enable characters to access brand new jobs.
Bravely Default’s jobs are essentially the game’s version of the traditional RPG class system, with characters being able to take on roles like Berserker, Thief, Black Mage, Beastmaster, and Bard. Party members can have both a Main Job and a Sub Job, allowing you to mix and match moves and passive abilities.
For example, utilizing both the Black Mage as Main Job and White Mage as a Sub Job will grant the use of powerful elemental attacks, while also having the added bonus of healing and utility-based spells. Not only does this mechanic allow for tremendous amounts of versatility, but it also drastically shakes up the way each character plays during combat – a boon for any game with a particularly long campaign.
With more than 20 classes to unlock and find, there’s a truly dizzying amount of combinations that can be made. While this system may not be a new feature for the Bravely Default series, it is still as satisfying as it was back in 2012. After all, coming up with a killer combo and watching it wreak havoc makes for a rather cathartic experience.
Be prepared for a grind
If you don’t enjoy grinding, then you may be put off by Bravely Default 2. Whether it’s killing overworld mobs to complete side quests or duking it out in dungeons for character XP, you’ll need to be prepared to put in the hours slaying Excillant’s monsters. This is particularly true if you wish to get your hands on the best job skills or defeat a tough boss without any trouble.
Job Points are awarded after every fight and unlike normal experience, these points serve to increase your job level. The higher the job level, the better the skills you have access to. However, with over 20 jobs, leveling up each role can take a tremendous amount of time.
This tedium is somewhat alleviated by the Battle Speed modifier and offline Expedition feature, which can be used to speed up battles and even gain experience when offline. There’s also the added bonus of being able to take your level grinding anywhere you go, simply undock your Switch, and put on the latest Netflix drama.
While these areas certainly alleviate some of the tedium that comes with infamous JRPG level grinding, it still won’t make Bravely Default 2 palatable for those that enjoy jumping straight into the action.
Unfortunately, for many, Bravely Default 2 won’t offer anything new. Its overall reliance on past JRPG titles and the sheer amount of grinding can make it rather repetitive.
That said, if you can get past the familiar setting and don’t mind pouring hours into grinding, then you will be rewarded with deep class customization and a unique battle system that is as rewarding as it is satisfying.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch