Bravely Default 2 is a callback to classic JRPGs with a four person party, the tried and true classes and packed with cliche story beats. While nothing groundbreaking comes from this standalone sequel to the original 3DS series, the switch brings a solid upgrade in almost every aspect. With a young fisherman castaway, a kingdomless princess, a travelling scholar and his hired mercenary, roam from country to country to recover the four crystals of Musa in hopes to prevent a world-ending cataclysm.

Gameplay

The main feature of the series is the Brave and Default mechanic where you have Brave Points which allow you to take up to three additional actions in a turn. You can build up Brave Points by taking the Default action, putting you in a defensive action with a maximum tally of three points. On the other side of the same coin, you can actually go into a Brave Point deficit of up to minus three which causes you to waste future turns, thus leaving yourself wide open to your enemies’ attacks. The benefit of this is to quickly beat a random encounter while trying to grind out some additional levels and job levels.

Combat is turn-based and yet unlike its predecessors, Bravely Default 2 has a turn timer for each character that is affected by several aspects. A new thought process now goes into choosing equipment instead of just going for the gear with the highest numbers. Weight limit also affects another additional stat which is the Chance to Target, meaning that the higher it is, the more likely the party member is to be targeted comparatively to the rest. This provides an additional layer of strategic thought to the combat, especially when setting up an effective tank for the team.

One factor to take into account when entering a battle is the time of day as monsters will be more numerous at night, providing a more difficult challenge but with the bonus of higher Experience Points (EXP), Job Points (JP) and money (PG). Each enemy has their own weaknesses to different weapon types and magic elements and you can swap weapons with no penalty in the items menu during combat if you want to capitalise on those weaknesses. Consecutive battles return to multiply your JP rate depending on how many battles you complete in a row. In the sequel, you need to simultaneously herd enemies as close together as possible and face off in consecutive battles.

There’s a new feature added with the sleep mode functionality in lieu of the 3DS’s Streetpass. Here, your character leaves on a ship, exploring the world while encountering other players’ characters. They’ll find treasures and EXP/JP orbs, providing a way to grind out levels while not playing the game. That being said, all of this is completed via an exploration log which caps out at 12 hour time limits so you can’t just leave the game on sleep mode for several days and expect huge rewards. This is such a handy feature, especially for those who aren’t as time rich as others.

The job system is robust, providing a plethora of classes for your party to specialise in. Each job has 12 levels, giving you class features varying from attacks and buffs/debuffs (depending on the job). There are a total of five slots per character with the majority of abilities costing only one, however some will cost two for a more powerful effect. This variety provides a lot of depth to the customisation of your party.

The Gambler is an optional job that brings with it a completely optional but slightly addicting card game. The mini-game is easy to learn but difficult to master thanks to the many different options from cards you can unlock. To unlock the job, you are required to win at least three games, with the final one being a battle against the asterisk holder herself before turning into a traditional fight.

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For the first home console iteration, roaming enemies now appear freely in the overworld and dungeons. This comes with both pros and cons, with the main con being it’s slightly more difficult to grind. I do enjoy the ability to choose at least one of the enemies that will be in the battle, which makes it easier to complete the bestiary, and now you can attempt to strike first to gain the advantage. You can also cut grass in the overworld and in dungeons, you can find money, items or even weapons which can sometimes be more valuable than what is in a chest next to it. I once found 1300pg in grass next to a chest holding only 400pg; safe to say, chests feel almost useless sometimes.

The side quests vary in quality, from fetch quests to completing entirely optional dungeons. Some allow you to see the party in a whole new light compared to the main quest’s subject matter, such as learning that Adelle will go to almost any measure to try some delicious sounding food or Elvis doing the same for some mandarin tea – you also get to see the return and redemption of two past villains. However, the side quests aren't always the clearest to be found with some only being available at night and if they’re inside a building that you have to load into, there are no indications to it.

World / Level Design

The world of Bravely Default 2 has a solid footing in the fantasy genre that so many RPGs take inspiration from. It’s separated into six distinct countries for you to explore, with each chapter (and the prologue) having a focus on the corresponding nation and solving their problems. During chapter one, you explore the desert-plagued nation of Savalon who has recently come across issues of flooding. Each city shares a few common locations, such as inns, shops and the game’s sleep mode feature but each is designed to fit the theme of the country.

Each dungeon is relatively distinct and, in some cases, quite large. While some of them share similar base designs, they are different enough visually in their layout. However due to the lack of a map, you can very easily get lost if you are just trying to find all the treasure chests. This is somewhat mitigated by having a main quest pointer, however it’s still frustrating running around like lost sheep trying to find that last chest.

Story / Personality

Arguably, the most important aspect of any RPG is a compelling story to drive you through the lengthy gameplay because otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re just grinding your way through the motions. Bravely Default 2 has a tried and true RPG story of collecting the four elemental crystals and saving the world from the conquering human, before facing the true, god-level evil. However, the finer details of the story are what separate them from one another and there are some darker story beats in Bravely Default 2 that actually made my heart hurt, while some villains made some really compelling arguments for their actions.

I don't want to say too much about the story to avoid spoilers but I genuinely enjoyed where I was taken, even though there were a lot of predictable moments throughout the overarching story. There is a lore section in the menu however it acts more as a simple bestiary and a gallery for cutscenes, which is slightly disappointing because I wanted to learn more about the world.

Your journey begins in the city of Halcyonia where Seth (the protagonist with an optional name) has been rescued after being washed up on the beach. Your saviors are princess Gloria from a ruined kingdom and her knightly companion; events transpire and you eventually meet up with a travelling mage Elvis and his mercenary friend Adelle. Seth and Gloria are very reminiscent of Tiz and Agnes from Bravely Default, but they have further developed personalities that make them more unique. Elvis is on an adventure to unlock the mysteries of his missing mentor's book that only reveals more information in the proximity of an asterisk. He is genuinely my favourite character and is a lot of fun to follow around as he goes around doing favours for a pint. Adelle is a mercenary protecting Elvis while he goes around on his journey while she is on the lookout for her missing sister. Rounding out the team with an upbeat personality that plays off Elvis in a cheeky way, these two bring the heart to most scenes. Outside of the main party, there are a wide variety of characters, some being cliche and cheesy while others make valid points for their acts of villainy.

Graphics / Art Direction

A visually striking game from the ground up is at the core of Bravely Default 2 with incredible character designs that have improved upon the lessons learnt from its predecessors and Octopath Traveller. Just a google search of the art gives you an idea of the stellar hand drawn artwork, especially when looking at the design pieces they've released. While the game obviously looks different to these detailed pieces, it still holds a striking presence when exploring around the game's various areas and yet when the cutscenes occur, that is when the game truly shows off the animation team’s effort by even factoring in the parties outfit of their jobs.

Music / Sound Design

Bravely Default 2 features an epic soundtrack that ebbs and flows with the plot. Take the standard battle music, for example; it starts off as a stock-standard battle theme and yet after a certain point in the story, the theme ends up becoming more enthusiastic with a wider range of instruments. The overworld section of the game also has its own theme that will slightly change depending on which country you’re in in order to match the feel of their respective cities.

The special moves for each character return from Bravely Default/Second, with each character having their own theme. These themes help convey the respective character’s personality a bit more. I enjoyed the soundtrack so much that I left the game open instead of in sleep mode just to jam out a bit longer.

In regards to the voice acting, a common grievance is Elvis’s Scottish accent. Personally, as I found out that the voice actor is actually scottish, I found his performance to be quite authentic. Some of the voice talent was very impressive, with my personal favourite being the final boss of chapter one as the performance ranging from placid to maniacal.

Final Score: 88%

Bravely Default 2 is a spectacular RPG entry and one of the best for the switch so far, however it’s not without its shortcomings and doesn’t add much new to the genre. However, it does successfully achieve the franchise’s goal of reliving classic SquareSoft RPGs with a slightly more modern touch. With a stellar soundtrack, breathtaking art and a compelling story, if not a little predictable at times, I really enjoyed my time with Bravely Default 2 and would love to see this series continue with more entries by expanding on the lore of the world.

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