It’s only been a couple of weeks since the release of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury and here we are again with another huge Nintendo Switch release – that makes two for February! Bravely Default II is finally here, but is it as good as the first? And is it worth so much of your time? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you.
Bravely Default II has been on many people’s minds since it was announced just over a year ago, with that anticipation growing higher due to the game’s demo that dropped and gave a brief look at the characters and gameplay. A turn-based JRPG with a lot of hype to live up to, the game stands alone from its predecessors on the Nintendo 3DS, and features a story that can entice new players as well as returning players alike. But, of course, keeping the mechanics that players loved, allowing it to still feel familiar.
The story begins in true JRPG fashion, with a young sailor named Seth washing up ashore, unaware of what has happened to him. Rescued by Princess Gloria and her loyal retainer, Sir Sloan, Seth decides to join them on their quest to recover the missing crystals and restore order to the world of Excillant. Quickly they’re joined by the final two pieces of the adventuring puzzle, Elvis and Adelle, and this is where your journey really begins.
The Kingdom of Halcyonia is where you start out, and it will become clear as soon as you lay eyes on it just how beautiful this game is. Featuring a watercolour 3D art-style, Bravely Default II also has unique diorama-esque kingdoms that you can pan in and out of as you please. I mentioned in my preview that it has a story-book feel surrounding it, and it’s wonderful.
It took me a while to realise you can actually enter the majority of the buildings you see. They blend in so well that I often mistook them for part of the decor. Shops can easily be missed because of this, however. Upon leaving each kingdom, you’ll be thrust into the game’s world map: a giant, green-filled playground. This is the gateway to all other kingdoms, but there are many things to see and explore as you progress; dungeons, towns, even chests to collect. You never get lost, as there will always be a marker directing you to your tracked quests.
It’s not all sunshine and daisies, though, and the game’s world map is filled with enemies that aren’t afraid to show they’re stronger than you. If a monster is more powerful, or around a similar level to your party, they will start to chase you as soon as they lock-on sight. They’re mostly easy to outrun if you want to avoid a battle, but if they catch you unaware, the enemy will have an advantage in battle, gaining some special bonuses. If you sneak up to an enemy and attack first, on the other hand, you will gain the advantage. If you encounter an enemy that you overpower quite significantly, they will try to flee altogether.
Combat in Bravely Default II is smooth and exhilarating, but tough. One thing I noticed pretty early on is that the game doesn’t go easy on you, so you’re going to want to engage in a lot of battles at the start to get your level up. Oh, and be sure to load up on potions. Each character and enemy will take turns (determined by a turn bar) to use their BP – Brave Points. Each person accumulates BP during battles, which can then be used to perform actions such as attacking, using items or using special abilities. Use them all up and you’ll have to wait for them to recharge.
This is where the ‘Brave’ and ‘Default’ systems come into place, a mechanic that featured in both original games. Players can select to use ‘Default’, which acts as a defensive stance but allows you to instantly regain a Brave Point, or ‘Brave’, which will allow you to use numerous BP in one go – you’re allowed three BP either way. So, if you stock up on BP you can have a maximum of three, and if you want to launch a flurry of attacks in one, you can go to minus three. Be careful though, as this will leave you at risk until you gain those back. It’s definitely a mechanic that requires some strategy.
I did notice throughout my playthrough that the combat can sometimes feel unfair. I would often encounter battles where each enemy would deal 500+ damage to me in a single attack, meaning a team of four could easily wipe out my team with just a few hits. Whereas I would do 80+ damage, at most. A big part of Bravely Default II‘s combat is finding what your enemies are weak to and what they’re strong against, but situations like this made that almost impossible. Then I’d suddenly find that the next enemy I encountered in the same area was significantly easier to defeat. It could sometimes be a little frustrating.
The game features an intricate job system, allowing players to have more control over their characters, and so you’ll be on the hunt for Asterisks, magical artefacts that grant access to new jobs. These are usually obtained by defeating a boss of some sort. Each character can be assigned both a main job and a sub-job role, and this will determine what kind of abilities and attacks your character will possess as they level up.
There are many jobs to unlock, but the ones you’ll see straight away are Black Mage, White Mage, Monk, Freelancer and Vanguard. It’s best to experiment with all the job roles and choose the ones that suit your playstyle. As you progress, you’ll also unlock various pieces of equipment to choose from, providing bonuses in and out of battle. Weapons, Armour and Accessories can be equipped for any of your characters and although they don’t necessarily change their look, they certainly help. These items can be bought from shops across the kingdoms you visit, or found in chests throughout the world.
The way in which the characters interact in Bravely Default II is really interesting. They all have their own personalities that shine through perfectly. As you’re adventuring, you’ll receive ‘Party Chat’ prompts that provide a little conversation between your party while on the go, providing a little more back story for your characters. These little chats are completely optional. All characters are completely voiced, which is nice, and I did also notice that every character has a different accent, so there is a variety here.
My favourite feature added to Bravely Default II, which was completely unexpected, is the implementation of Expeditions: A mode that allows you to take out a boat and soar the open seas while your Nintendo Switch is in sleep mode. Yes, you read that correctly – this is a way to earn items and EXP while you’re not playing, for a maximum of twelve hours. If your Switch is connected online, it will even allow you to meet up with others on voyages to gain more rewards. When you return to the game, you’re given a rundown of your adventure – like a text-based RPG.
It’s not all serious quests in Bravely Default II, either. If you encounter a character with a card above their head, you can start a game of B ‘n’ D, a card/board game that sees you select cards to fill up a 5×5 board. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, and a welcome break from the endless battles you encounter. Defeating opponents in B ‘n’ D allows you to claim some of their cards, which you can collect and use to fill your very own binder. It’s like collecting Pokémon cards all over again!
Bravely Default II offers players hours upon hours of fun-yet-challenging battles, likeable characters, and an interesting story, with many side quests to embark on along the way. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a game with as many mechanics as this one, but it makes sure to give players all the information they need without holding their hand. It can be a steep learning curve, but it will most certainly be a rewarding one. JRPGs (and RPGs in general) seem to have found a home in the Nintendo Switch, and I can only hope that titles as good as this one continue to appear. Bravely Default II is absolutely a must-play.
Bravely Default II £49.99
A reboot of the series that still stays true to its roots, Bravely Default II is most certainly worth the half-decade we waited for it. This is a must-have for fans of the series and JRPG fans in general.