Bravely Default II is a turn-based JRPG published by Nintendo and developed by Square Enix and Claytechworks Co. Ltd. Four intrepid adventures set out on a quest to recover four elemental gems that will restore the balance of their world. Many perils and dangers lie before them. It’s gonna take a lot of work to conquer the obstacles that lie ahead, at least if the demo is any indication.
As the demo opens, it informs me that the play experience I’m about to have is separate from the final game. A sort of side adventure. It also tells me that the challenge in this demo experience is a bit higher than in the normal game. This is done to help me fully experience combat mechanics. While it did certainly force me to utilize the various mechanics to overcome the numerous enemies, it also made me feel like this game is going to be a grind fest that is 100% not for me. But the question is, will the game be like that, or was it just the demo? This is the conundrum I find myself in. To explain my mixed feelings, let’s actually talk about the game.
After a brief cinematic that explains the overarching story of Bravely Default II to me, I find my party arriving at a little desert port. After a few quick chats, I discovered the town was slowly being flooded. Believing this to be the work of the water gem, my team rushes into the wilderness to acquire the stone. Before I’m thrown into combat, I am given a brief tutorial on how the mechanics of combat work in Bravely Default II. As this is my first experience with the series, I found the mechanics quite interesting. For the most part, combat follows the flow of most turn-based RPGs. The big stand-out exception is the bravely and default commands.
Default works as a way to save up actions. It also puts characters on the defensive. By using the brave command, characters can spend extra action points to do multiple attacks. This can allow a flurry of damage or huge amounts of healing to take place in a single action. Characters can even spend action points they don’t have and go into a sort of action point debt. However, for every point they go into debt, they lose a turn.
This system gives combat a feeling of explosiveness that is often lacking in turn-based games. A player can gamble several turns in a single throw in hopes of knocking an enemy out quickly. However, enemies also possess the ability to spend extra action points during their turns. So, the counter is true as well. A crushing defeat can come swiftly if the wrong characters get nailed early by a multi-attack action. This forced me to grind more than usual. Otherwise, I would risk death to an unlucky combo.
After a couple of hours of this grind and a visit to the local item shop to trick out the party, I was finally strong enough to enter the dungeon. That was my objective. The battles getting through it were still challenging but manageable. At least until I reached the final boss. As the blows started getting exchanged, I quickly realized I was in for a long battle. With my best hits doing only a couple of hundred damage each and the enemy’s starting hit points being just over 20,000, I settled in for a classic JRPG slugfest. That was at least till, after several rounds of combat, he unleashed a special attack that healed him completely back to full. So now, while I was strong enough to survive his attacks, I could never kill him. I would have to do more level grinding to actually be able to beat him.
And here is my conundrum. Is this how Bravely Default II is going to structure its gameplay? Drop me in a city and make me grind random encounters until I can face off against a boss, or will there be more exploration to the final game? Where I’ll get most of the leveling done through a more fluid progression. Because if this is how the game will be set up, count me out. And I dearly hope this isn’t the case. Because I really enjoy the combat in this game. There is also an intricate job system that provides a lot of cool abilities to tinker with and combine. I just knew how the overarching play experience was going to stack up with the final product.
While I was left with uncertainty over its gameplay structure, the visual elements of Bravely Default II are much easier to come to a conclusion on. They are undeniably cute. Projecting warmth and cuteness similar to games like Dragon Quest, I found the visuals a treat. Monster is more humorous than intimidating, and the party members are adorable, no matter what job you put them in.
So Bravely Default II’s demo leaves me in an odd place. It leaves me with an ardent desire to get to dig deeper into its superb combat mechanics while giving me pause as to how the actual story and greater game flow will play out. Having just gotten to play a superb setup demo recently, it disappoints me that this one has left such mixed feelings for me. I will have to wait till further information comes out to see if my best hopes, or greatest fears, come true.
Bravely Default II is available now on Nintendo Switch.