I really do think that the Nintendo Switch is perfect for RPGs. I’ve found that I’ve played less and less titles in the genre over the years due to the sheer size of them and a lack of proper ‘TV time’, but being able to play them on the go at any given moment or in bed at night whilst relaxed has seen me squeeze through a whole bunch of epic adventures as of late. It helps that the Nintendo Switch just so happens to have a brilliant selection of RPGs to play through too, with Bravely Default II the latest release in the genre to add to the top-quality list.
Bravely Default II puts players in the role of a sailor named Seth, the princess Gloria, the scholar Elvis, and the mercenary Adelle, as they travel across the continent of Excillant to recover the crystals of elements. An RPG where four heroes must recover special crystals? Now where I have heard that one before…
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that and you can expect the heroes’ journey to take a lot of twists-and-turns throughout the lengthy tale, so there’s plenty to keep players invested in the narrative. Admittedly, a lot of these ‘twists’ could be a little bit predictable as far as RPGs are concerned, but there were also plenty of genuinely intriguing moments that caught me off-guard.
There’s a lot to uncover in Bravely Default II’s world and it certainly has a rich history, but it’s the protagonists that I found myself most interested in. Whilst they are slightly guilty of following some typical RPG tropes as far as heroes are concerned, they were a genuinely likeable bunch to adventure with. One nice addition to the game comes with the optional interactions that they occasionally share with one another during the adventure, with each giving an additional outlook on what’s going on in the story and what the characters are thinking. They reminded me of the skits found in the ‘Tales Of’ series, which is something I was always fond of when it came to fleshing out characters’ personalities and giving the player the chance to learn more about them – it certainly helped me feel more attached to my adventuring quartet.
At its core, Bravely Default II feels like a typical traditional JRPG. You’ll explore a vast world and uncover an array of intriguing towns and locales, you’ll traverse dungeons and unravel their secrets, you’ll battle enemies in turn-based showdowns, whilst there’s also a meaty job system in place that will allow you to level up your characters and fine-tune their abilities. There’s a giant world map to travel across that offers enough direction to ensure you’ll never stray too far away from your goals, whilst the many side quests you undertake will often send you to all corners of the world (and back again… bloody fetch quests).
Enjoy a good card game in your RPGs? Well, Bravely Default II has you covered there too, with B n’ D allowing you to compete with rival players in-game and build up your own collection of cards in the process. I’ve been a massive sucker for mini-games like this in RPGs ever since I got ADDICTED to Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII, so yeah, I got hooked in good and proper here. It’s a fun little endeavour with a diverse ruleset, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself addicted too…
Bravely Default II’s world is genuinely wonderful to explore and I loved discovering everything it had to offer, but it’s in the combat that the game REALLY shines. If you’ve played the Bravely Default series before, you’ll know what to expect when it comes to game’s turn-based battling. Each party member has a set amount of Brave Points which are used to perform actions, though how they decide to use them can be affected by one of two commands: ‘Brave’ and ‘Default’.
If a player utilises the ‘Brave’ system, they’ll be able to perform multiple actions at once and use up multiple Brave Points (or even leave themselves in a negative count). Of course, Brave Points are required to take a turn in game, so if you do leave yourself in a deficit, you’ll have to skip through turns and HOPE the enemy doesn’t take advantage of your inactivity. This is where ‘Default’ comes into play, with players instead focusing on defending themselves and skipping their turn but gaining a Brave Point in the process.
These systems lend themselves well to plenty of different elements of strategy, with players having to decide if they want to play offensively, defensively, or balance out their actions to preserve Brave Points. There’s also an air of unpredictability with the actions of your enemies, with no real turn order displayed in-game to warn you which enemies you should be wary of or if you’re going to be the one that gets to attack next. It might sound a little daunting, but it adds a real aura of excitement to just about every showdown in the game where you really have to think your actions through carefully if you’re going to survive.
It’s pretty brilliant and ensures that battles against standard enemy parties can take a turn for the worst if you’re not too careful. You’ve got to be especially wary with the boss encounters though, especially since they’re able to unleash an unpredictable counterattack upon you if you perform certain actions. It makes the game all the more challenging (and admittedly a little unfair in places), but I found that it also brought an extra layer of satisfyingly strategic volatility to battles that will keep players on their toes.
Players will get a rough idea of the sort of challenge they can expect from each encounter thanks to the fact that you’ll see enemy parties roaming around as opposed to just fighting them in random battles. There’s an indicator in place that’ll show how powerful they might be too, though be warned: if they see you as weaker prey, they’ll be fast to pursue you. It’ll give players the chance to evade baddies that they might not quite be ready for though, which is something that’s particularly useful when exploring the world or heading on a fetch quest.
Oh, and there’s also a feature in place that lets you speed up battles, which is nice when you’re throwing a few hours into grinding. I hope you like grinding too, because it’s something you might do a lot of – not only to ensure you’re strong enough to beat some of Bravely Default II’s tougher battles, but also when fine-tuning each party member’s skillsets with the job system.
Bravely Default II’s job system operates like any other you’d have seen in an RPG, with players able to assign each of their party members with a specific job that brings with it a different appearance, stats, and abilities. Each of these jobs are levelled up individually too, so you’ll have to invest yourself in each one and spend plenty of time swapping jobs if you want to fully embrace their full potential.
In fairness, the game offers a TON of different jobs to try out, with plenty unlocking as you progress through the story; you’ll start off with a basic bunch such as freelancer, black mage, white mage, and so on though, so it’s easy to pinpoint the exact role that each job can play in battle when you begin your journey. You’ll always want to have someone that can heal for example, whilst it’s also handy to have someone who can unleash deadly spells to exploit enemy weaknesses.
What happens when you need a bit more versatility, though? This is where the sub-jobs come into play, with each character able to equip an additional job that doesn’t bring with it varied stats, but allows you to use any abilities you previously unlocked within it. It really allows players to fine-tune each character’s role in battle and allows them to make each character as unorthodox as they please. Want a DPS that can also heal itself? Go for it. Or do you want a tank that can dish out some spells here and there? You can do that too. Of course, there are some job combinations that work better together, but that’s where experimentation (and plenty of grinding) come in. It’s just a really flexible system that doesn’t only emphasise player freedom but also compliments the game’s battling.
Between the narrative, the exploration, and the battling, Bravely Default II really has a LOT going for it. Want to know one of my favourite (and what I consider one of the most useful) features of all? The ‘Boat Exploration’ system. No, I’m not talking about travelling in a boat, but rather the expeditions you can set up when you’re not playing the game. If you set up an expedition before you stop playing for the night (and leave your Nintendo Switch in ‘sleep mode’), when you come back to the game the expedition would have finished and you’ll unlock some goodies and experience points. How cool is that? Even when you’re not playing, you’re able to progress in the game.
It only works for a maximum of twelve-hours at a time and you can’t cheat the system by changing your console clock (not that I tried…), but it adds a clever means to continue to progressing through Bravely Default II’s meaty adventure even when you’re NOT playing the game. More RPGs need to do stuff like this…
Visually, Bravely Default II is a really attractive game and runs well, especially in handheld mode (where I admittedly spent 95% of my time playing). The world itself is packed full of character and the visual style feels modern whilst also embracing the nostalgic charm of the classic RPGs of yesteryear. Add to that an outstanding soundtrack that captures the emotions of just about every moment of the game perfectly and it’s clear to see that this is one heck of a well-presented adventure.
Bravely Default II’s epic adventure will keep you glued to your Nintendo Switch thanks to its satisfyingly strategic combat, its beautiful world, and its deep job system. There’s simply so much to invest yourself in within the land of Excillant, and honestly, it was a joy from start to end.
Sure, it does have some frustrating moments here and there (especially with the unpredictability of some boss encounters) and the narrative can be guilty of overusing typical RPG tropes in places, but there’s more than enough enjoyment in every other element of the game to make that easy to look past. Bravely Default II is simply another brilliant RPG to add to the Nintendo Switch’s ever-growing collection.
Publisher: Nintendo, Square Enix
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
You can check the game out on the Nintendo eShop through this link.