Bravely Default II has suffered some development delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Claytechworks and Square Enix’s latest adventure is finally here on the Switch after a six year wait since the last entry in the series.
The original Bravely Default game was often considered as a spin off or spiritual successor to the Nintendo 3DS classic Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. There were many similarities between the two titles, but Bravely Default has managed to stand on its own with a huge cult following after the first two games. While the first Bravely Default and its direct sequel Bravely Second: End Layer share the same cast and story, Bravely Default II is a stand alone title which means newcomers to the series can jump right in.
Bravely Default II’s story begins with the main character Seth washing up onto the shores of Halcyonia, where he encounters Gloria the Princess from the lost kingdom of Musa. After learning about the history of the four elemental crystals and a few run-ins with some villains, Seth alongside Gloria teams up with Elvis the scholar and Adelle his mercenary companion to locate the crystals and restore balance to the continent of Excillant.
Initially after playing through the prologue and first chapter I had mixed views because the story felt really similar to other JRPGs, but after a few dark twists and turns I was hooked. The plot really transcends from its cute demeanour with cut throat situations and grim storytelling. The writing is superb even in the skits, with the plot tackling dark themes that you rarely see in JRPGs, putting you on a rollercoaster of emotion. Bravely Default II story is top notch with great character development, just make sure you don’t skip the cutscenes.
Visually Bravely Default II is a mixed bag with certain aspects not being to everyone’s liking. Each city looks amazing filled with vibrant hues that make the hand painted structures really leap off the screen. The watercolour art style may not be as dreamlike as games like Octopath Traveller but Bravely Default II is certainly a beautiful game. One striking feature is the character models which look like pint sized clay puppets, clearly they are homage to the original games but do look rather offbeat and may not be to everyone’s taste.
However what does look cool is the designs for each Job’s outfit, every option has been carefully tailored to feel original with each character looking vastly different. A lot of work has gone into the design of the enemies who all feel fresh and unique, with careful details such as shimmering scales or oozing slime. While it is clear a lot of effort has been put into making characters look great on the Nintendo Switch there are some drawbacks with backgrounds in battles looking flat and dungeons feeling a bit bland at the start. The overworld can get repetitive but its sheer scale and interactivity make up for that. These aren’t major deal breakers as overall Bravely Default II is one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Switch.
If you are a fan of the Bravely Default series then the name Revo will mean a lot as his work on the first Bravely Default game was superb and helped the game to stand out. The music in Bravely Default II is always shifting to match the situation or location you are in, from big orchestral pieces to nice calm folk style music, it is always a pleasure to listen to.
Bravely Default II comes with voice acting that can be changed at any point which is a good thing as the English dub is somewhat disastrous with the different accents just not sounding right or fitting with certain characters. Players will feel right at home with the Japanese dub which does not feel awkward and really bring characters to life.
Exploring the vast continent of Excillant is a demanding task indeed with an abundance of monsters, side quests and treasure to find. The world map is full of enemies at every corner and players may think that having visible monsters will make it easier to dodge them, think again. From the very beginning of the adventure monsters will attack you at every corner and ones that deem you weaker than themselves will chase you.
Time shifts from night and day with tougher baddies coming out during the evenings. There are even the fearsome rare monsters which serve as mini bosses from the get go. Bravely Default II is a difficult game from the start with enemies ranging from tough and tougher even in the casual setting, this can be annoying as players will have to grind to level up to stand a chance of progressing through some areas.
However I saw this as a chance to work on my battle strategies and figure out which jobs suited me the most, so there’s pro and cons to this level of difficulty. Players will have to be prepared to face bosses more than once because their otherworldly stats are beyond belief and very difficult to to defeat. But most JRPG fans will be happy to grind as this way your characters will become stronger and learn better abilities as you progress.
The world map is full of treasure and items, players will also be able to hack down grass to find more goodies. There are NPCs who offer great advice during your quest. Items like tents and Ward Light are a must if you want to heal your life and stop enemies approaching you. The camera is very responsive allowing to have full control of your surroundings.
The NPCs in each town offer numerous side quests with a rating of how difficult they are, they mainly range from defeating baddies to collecting items, a cool feature is that new side quests will be available at night.
Probably one of the best features in Bravely Default II is the Exploration mode which allows players to send Seth to explore the seas on his boat. While the Nintendo Switch is in sleep mode Seth will travel the high seas and collect stat boosting items, money and orbs to help level up your job. This is a great feature that takes the pressure off level grinding allowing your adventure to progress outside of the main story while you sleep or are away.
The Job system determines the way your character will develop, players will be able to gain jobs by defeating Asterisk Holders and through other story elements. Players will be able to assign a main job and a sub job allowing your character to learn abilities as they level up and don the outfit for that job. Each job comes with its own list of abilities that players can see before they acquire them.
This is a good feature as players can decide if that is the way they want to build their character as opposed to levelling up and hating that build. Jobs also come with passive abilities that can be used in overworld to help find more items or increase certain stats or attacks. The job system is complex but the rewards from grinding are superb allowing for very unique character builds.
Character customisation isn’t just limited to the Job system but actually paying attention to stats is important as they greatly affect battle. Players will have the ability to use countless weapons and wear all sorts of defensive armour, I found that the option to choose what weapon you hold in each hand an amazing feature. However you won’t be able to just equip two long swords as the weight of each item greatly affects your movement in battle and order in which they attack, so being overloaded won’t do you any good.
This pushes players to further think about how they build each character to maximise efficiently in battle. I feel the customisation is great because it allows players to really take control of their characters development.
Bravely Default II has an addictive turn based battle system based on risk and reward that really pushes players to think of their strategy. Players will have a team consisting of the four main characters but from time to time a computer controlled character will join the team. While I did think that these extra characters were slightly overpowered it did make the levelling up process a lot more easier.
The Brave command will allow players to attack multiple times depending on how many Brave Points they have stored up allowing for chain attacks that can pile the pressure during crucial moments. The Default command is essentially a defensive move that will allow players to build up their Brave Points. The main point of this system is knowing how you use and save your brave points for the right time making sure your characters does not end up with minus points
Each character will come with abilities that they can use in battle, they also will have an Special attack that can be activated after fulfilling certain requirements. As there are loads of enemies to battle, players will be able to crack the speed up and even copy and paste attacks to be used next round, this just helps to speed everything up making the grind less gruelling. Combat is seriously exhilarating and rewarding for those who put effort into their strategies and character builds. The system may seem like it might get repetitive from the start but the diverse strategies from the enemies, mainly bosses make the whole experience constantly exciting.
Bravely Default II to its core is what fans should expect from a well devised JRPG, with the depth of customisation and a stellar battle system combining for an enthralling experience. Only to be matched by its engaging script and blissful music making this a must have for Nintendo Switch owners. Saying that newcomers to the series or JRPGs in general may find Bravely Default II a bit too difficult and demanding, especially with the bosses dishing out defeats left, right and centre.
Bravely Default II is out now on the Nintendo Switch for £49.99