Bravely Default 2 Hands-on Preview – Bravely Standard
There is a lot to love about Bravely Default 2. To begin with, like so many other JRPGs, it has a sort of warmth to it. The characters are all heroes: friendly, selfless, and often funny too. The world is, despite a worsening calamity and the constant hoard of monsters, charming and sweet. And the look of the game is just plain gorgeous. But behind the sweetness, this team turn based game doesn’t really offer much you haven’t seen before. Having played through the early section of the game, I think Bravely Default 2 might perhaps be taking its name too seriously and is bravely defying the players' expectations of doing much new.
The brave system is a fun risk-reward payoff. In the game's turn-based combat, you can opt to take several of your turns ahead of time. This allows you to chain devastating attacks, incredible support, or a bit of both. But if the enemies survive the onslaught, you’ll have to skip your next several goes to repay the turns taken earlier.
This system also means that when you find yourself in a fight you are far to powerful for, you can end it in seconds, rather than waiting for each character and animation to trigger. But it's not all positive. The early stages of the game are relatively easy, and you’ll get into the swing of defeating all your encounters will a series of frantic bursts. But when you get to your first boss, you more or less have to turn the whole system out the window. When fighting someone with a lot more health, spending all your turns at once goes from a gamble to a completely dumb strategy, since bosses are likely to heal, or otherwise decimate your lines while you’re recovering your turns.
Outside of that system, Bravely Default 2’s combat is almost the definition of default. You acquire classes fairly slowly, but you’ll have several archetypes within the first few hours, white mage, black mage, freelancer, vanguard and your characters can swap between them as you want. But while that can be interesting, it feels more or less like a system ripped straight from Final Fantasy IX.
Exploration is done through an overworld where enemies crawl through the grass and sand to be attacked or avoided as necessary. You’ll spot chests like beacons in the night as you explore, but frustratingly the game has a fairly linear opening that means you’ll be stopped from reaching some of the obvious chests by invisible barriers.
There is nothing wrong with Bravely Default 2, there is no huge issue that prevents you from enjoying the game, there just isn’t much that really feels inspired about it. I absolutely loved the opening town. It's only about three roads large, but its hill fort design is quaint and reminds me of some of the small castle towns dotted around me in real life. It is a beautiful interpretation, but there just isn’t much to do there, besides shop. There are countless NPCs standing around, revealing a snapshot of the lives of this fantastical place. But it doesn’t quite feel alive, it doesn’t have that same energy that other RPGs have worked so hard to create within their living spaces. It feels like a snapshot.
And as I said earlier the characters are great, they are whimsical, friendly, and the voice acting is superb. Extra points however have to be awarded to the character that talks like a Shakespearian knight in a world where everyone else speaks pretty plainly. And the Australian, he gets bonus points too. Besides that, at any rate, they are all still your typical affair without exception. Lovely rogues, stalwart knights, selfless princesses. Even the main character has some form of amnesia or has otherwise been thrust into a new world he doesn’t know, as if that hasn’t been done a thousand times before in JRPGs.
The challenge that Bravely Default 2 will have to overcome, the challenge that a lot of JRPGs are currently facing off against, is to find a way to feel fresh in a genre so old and so revered. It's not an easy challenge to overcome when there have been so many stories told this way, so many characters walking down this road, but nevertheless, it must happen. Bravely Default 2 is a good game that feels uninspired. It feels like a title happy to walk along a tried and tested path, rather than make one for itself. Default cannot be the default.
The game is out soon, anyway, scheduled as it is to be available on February 26th exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.