Review: Bravely Default 2

Review: Bravely Default 2 (Nintendo Switch)

Bravely Default 2 sets off on a brand new adventure in a different universe featuring an entirely new cast of characters, but it still retains the essence of what made the original such a classic. It’s clear from the outset that much care and attention was put into preserving a lot of the series’ former glory whilst also injecting fresh ideas and improvements.

It wouldn’t be Bravely Default without the beloved Brave and Default system, which functions exactly as it did in the original. You’re able to Brave up to 3 times in a turn to perform 4 actions, or Default to store your turn and defend. Unlike the original however, Bravely Default 2 decided to disconnect each character’s turn. Now instead of choosing all four of your character’s actions and then executing them in sequence, each character acts independently. This seemingly small change significantly increases the usefulness of the speed stat, as your fastest character could easily perform three actions by the time your slowest performs one. It also means you have much more control over the flow of battle. The old system used to feel somewhat inconsistent at times so this is a marked improvement.

Asterisks also make a return, imparting unique jobs onto your characters and allowing for a fairly generous medley of team compositions. Especially given there are a whopping 24 jobs this time. Each character can choose a main job and a sub job, allowing you to use the main job’s unique special abilities as well as both job’s set of skills. From the get-go you’re able to further enhance each character by equipping passives earned by leveling each job. Such a variety of customization is quite fun, but of course it also makes balancing the game a bit of a nightmare. Combined with the fact you can no longer simply turn off experience gain to farm job points, anyone wishing to keep their new jobs maxed out will find themselves overleveled for a significant portion of the game.

Even on hard mode it wasn’t difficult to overwhelmingly decimate a majority of story bosses, most of which are asterisk users. Luckily, the game does sprinkle a good number of ‘rare’ monsters around the map which are incredibly strong monsters, typically with a fun type of gimmick to overcome. These fights were always fun and interesting, not to mention quite rewarding, often giving equipment that ended up further trivializing mandatory story content. Some balance exists for your gear, luckily, with the introduction of a weight system. Each piece of gear has a weight and the stronger it is, the more weight it has. This can mean great compromise to use that powerful new sword you got from a suspicious looking Mudkip-like monster on a beach.

Despite the balance issues, combat is still almost always fun and based on your team compositions, it’s very possible the game will throw a boss at you that requires much more effort than usual to overcome. You can choose to employ brute force, or even entirely change your team composition on a whim. Getting each job to the max level of 12 is surprisingly easy (in stark contrast to Bravely Default 1), though as I’ve said, keeping your jobs all leveled tends to rocket your character level well above story content until the last couple chapters depending on how you grind. Since JP gain was fairly consistent throughout the entire game, I chose to return to the same early game area for fast JP and low character experience gains. This actually put me behind in levels as I'd often avoid non-mandatory fights. And yet, I still obliterated most story bosses. The final chapter adds a significant amount of fun and challenging content, so despite the wafflings of the previous chapters, you can really let loose and find fun and effective builds to use at that point.

The rest of the game delivers a much more consistently solid experience with a fun narrative taking you from kingdom to kingdom in search of those darn elemental crystals. With plenty of twists and turns along the way, in typical Bravely Default fashion. Seth and company are all interesting characters with great dialogue and voice acting; each of them has a personality, a history and a conviction which comes out in both the main story as well as side-stories/quests. Elvis is an incredibly charming and hilarious character, and honestly compared to the Bravely Default 1 cast, they all definitely seem like an upgrade.

Side-quests in this game struggle a bit. Some offer charming and interesting dialogue or scenes, but most devolve into simple fetch quests, playing telephone, or killing x amount of monsters. As a result, I honestly couldn’t bring myself to continue doing them unless the reward was decent, and it rarely ever was. I also wish there was a fun mechanic like rebuilding Norende in Bravely Default 1, but alas, all we really get is a sailing mechanic to passively gain a small handful of supplies while your Switch system sleeps. Of which is made mostly irrelevant by being able to just forage indefinitely with all characters against a weak enemy to stockpile 99 of the majority of useful items.

Art and music and exactly what you’d expect from a prominent AAA jRPG, solid all around. Every character has a unique outfit for all of the 24 jobs, and they look fantastic in them. I genuinely built my team composition around how cool some of the characters looked in a costume. Adelle being the queen of outfits for sure--she looks good in everything.

The battle music will hype you up whilst cities and other areas will convey the mood appropriately with a catchy tune. All music direction in the game felt natural and blended perfectly into the background, as it should. Character models take some getting used to compared to the original, but after getting over that they too seem natural and nicely done. Cities in Bravely Default 2 are truly the highlight just as in Bravely Default 1, where they’re incredibly unique and absolutely gorgeous. I’m thankful you’re still able to zoom out and take in the entire scope of the city at once. It’s also useful for finding your way around thanks to the unobtrusive markers showing you where shops and sidequests are in town. My only real issue with the game is mostly Switch-related, in that some areas have nauseating FPS drops, combined with motion blur, which made me a bit motion sick. It’s unfortunate, but not unbearable, and only a few areas are a big issue.

Despite squabbles over inconsistent story difficulty, Bravely Default 2 is absolutely a worthy successor and offers a wonderful level of character customization to allow you to shape your team exactly how you want to. New Game + allows you to bring over what you choose to, making challenge runs fairly simple to set up. The final chapter adds an explosive injection of content to finish out the game and challenge a majority of players with fun and interesting fights. I have nothing but good things to say about this game and only fairly minor complaints. Though, I really wish they had added a way to save character/team compositions; it’s a pain in the butt re-working your passive tree from a thief build, to a leveling build, to a progression build, etc. I didn’t even bother changing my gear in most cases, solely because it was too much of a hassle. But again, these are only minor issues in a vast ocean of fun and interesting content. This was truly a journey worth Braving and I certainly wouldn’t Default on it if you have the chance to play.

What We Liked

  • Immense party customization options to allow for lots of fun playstyles
  • A well-done modernization of the iconic Bravely Default art style
  • Solid and diverse voice acting
  • A story that keeps you interested throughout the journey
  • Enjoyable soundtrack that always fits the mood
  • New Game + is very customizable for those interested in challenge runs

What We Didn't Like

  • The game is quite easy until the final chapter
  • No simple way to disable EXP, JP or Pg gain like the original games Really inconsistent framerate and motion blur in some areas

Bravely Default II offers plenty of beautiful backdrops, and the towns are especially gorgeous to look at. The soundtrack is on par with the original games. Each character has a unique variation for each and every asterisk obtained, and they all look extremely well done.

With an insane amount of jobs, each with a unique set of skills, specialties and passives you're able to fit your team to basically any sort of playstyle or strategy you wish. This does, unfortunately, lead to the game being easily broken at times, at least until the final chapter. Still it's a ton of fun playing and experimenting, especially when adding equipment and the new weight system into the mix.

Overall (not an average)
There is a ton to see and do in Bravely Default II, and it definitely lives up to the original games in all aspects. Things really open up in the final chapter and that's when the variety really shines brightest. Without a doubt, fans of jRPGs will find plenty to enjoy. Performance issues will pop up now and again, in both handheld and docked, however they're not glaringly prohibitive due to the turn-based nature of the game. More a minor annoyance on the eyes. Still the pros far outweigh the cons to create a genuinely fun overall experience suitable for a great range of people.

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