In my last post I wrote about my experiences in the zombie-filled social experiment that is DayZ. For part two in this series, I’m going to talk all about Bravely Default! This is especially timely if you happen to live in America, where the game was just released. So if you’re on the fence when it comes to giving Square Enix money after recent crimes against humanity, read on.
Bravely Default is a solid game in two areas. First is gameplay. At its core the game is a massive nod in the direction of pre PSX era Final Fantasies — mainly Final Fantasy 5. This means it’s all about jobs. Your characters assume a job (White Mage, Black Mage, and Monk are some early jobs), hop into battle, and earn EXP to level up and JP to unlock skills unique to their current job. With a certain level of mastery, you can combine jobs creating effective hybrids. For instance, my Ringabel is a Thief who steals like a mo-fo, but he also has access to Time Magery. He can speed up allies, or slow down enemies before they can even act. I never tire of coming up with new combinations and trying them out in battle.
But Bravely Default builds on this tried and true system by introducing the Brave/Default system. The Brave side of the coin lets you act multiple times on a character’s turn at the expense of not being able to act next turn (or a number of turns equal to how many extra actions you take). Likewise, Defaulting means choosing to not act, allowing you to bank actions for later.
I found that when faced with a number of enemies, Braving well into the red allowed my Ringabel to rob everyone blind, my mages to hit elemental weaknesses, and my melee units to finish off any survivors. Effective Braving could end battles quickly, often without ever even being touched by an enemy. Miscalculating, and leaving any surviving enemies after exhausting by actions meant taking a few turns of uninterrupted punishment. This is the tradeoff, and where strategy comes into play.
The second area where Bravely Default shines is the game’s appearance. Backgrounds are lush with a fantasy, handpainted vibe about them. Each of the game’s 4 characters have unique outfits for every job that are both cute and stylish (but free of excess zippers and belts). Weapons have unique appearances, which is always a plus for me. Even the menu is easy to navigate and clean. All in all Bravely Default is a pleasant sensory experience. Hell, even the 3D isn’t bad.
Now for the complaints *cracks knuckles*. The game doesn’t go out of its way to avoid classic JRPG tropes — you’ve got your character who lost their memories, the destroyed hometown, and enough mysterious and magical pendants/artifacts to choke a donkey. Most dialog is not engaging, and most events predictable. The two main characters (Tiz and Agnes) especially suffer from a lack of, well… character. Tiz is your safe hero, with a sense of right and wrong, a dash of bravery and not much else. Agnes is the selfless devotee of the crystals who doesn’t want anyone anyone to suffer as a result of her journey. The only times I perked up to listen was when Ringabel talked about his deep love for women or when Edea got mad. Luckily these two things happen quite regularly. Dungeon design is uninspired with few twists and turns and only the occasional unlockable shortcut or hidden chest.
Let’s get positive after all that complaining. I like world maps, and Bravely Default has a great one. It’s big and there are different terrain like mountains, snow and islands — it’s just plain fun to explore. Early on in the game I found an island far to the north where I did battle with some high level enemies who quickly wiped out my party. I dig this kind of thing in games: a difficulty wall that says “fuck you, you shoudn’t go here yet.” I dig them because I like to say “fuck you, it’s my hot body I’ll do what I want.” And so I figured out how to beat those enemies by increasing my team’s speed across the board and Braving to the max. These kinds of rewards for exploring speckled throughout the world breath life into what is otherwise just a means of getting from point A to B.
Bravely Default combines the fun of customizing your characters via the Final Fantasy job system with modernizations that save time and encourage strategy. The game is beautiful, and the world map is top notch. All this was more than enough to drag me through boring dungeons and yawn-inducing dialog. Throw in some frequent Ringabel innuendo and you’ve got yourself a modern JRPG for the ages.