Like its predecessors, Bravely Default 2 captures the charm of old-fashioned JRPGs all while painting it with a modern look and feel. Core gameplay mechanics play strings of nostalgia as you battle through turn-based combat against various monsters and enemies. While the story doesn’t hit quite as hard as the original, Bravely Default 2 is a modernized classic that draws upon the best and worst of JRPGs.
If you looked at Bravely Default 2 and said, “man, that looks a lot like the old JRPGs I used to play as a kid.” then you’d hit the nail on the head. Bravely Default 2 is unabashedly old-school, building off the turn-based combat that made the JRPGs of yesteryear so addicting. There’s a lot of good here—and some bad—but overall, developers Claytechworks have done an exceptional job capturing the magic of what drew me to RPGs like Dragon Quest, many of which helped shape how I viewed video games as a whole.
As a storyteller, there’s nothing more important to me than a game’s plot. I don’t care if the game has the worst gameplay ever, if the story is engrossing, I can easily forget the annoying mechanics. Luckily, that isn’t the case with Bravely Default 2, which leans heavily into its story, throwing hours upon hours of dialogue into player’s faces—including some optional dialogue that further helps you dig deeper into the world and the characters that you control.
A real star of the game is the graphics. Despite relying on modernized visuals for the character models and animations, the background towns that you visit all feature hand-drawn artwork that looks absolutely stunning as you move through it. It helps every location feel unique and alive, and the way that the modernized graphics mesh with the hand-drawn aspects is a fantastic way of molding the two together.
It is all really well done, and despite some predictable moments, it tells a solid story throughout much of the main game. The various side quests you come across are also entertaining, though they definitely fall more into the typical grindy fetch-quests that JRPGs have become famous for over the years.
Completely unrelated to the past entries in the series, Bravely Default 2's story follows a sailor named Seth who washes ashore in a land that he doesn't know. He quickly meets Gloria, Adelle, and Elvis, three companions who will accompany him on his journey. Despite not knowing the land, Seth is quickly engrained in an intriguing plot to regain control of four crystals that can control the elements of the world. These crystals appear to have fallen into the hands of the wrong people, as calamities like the storm that left Seth stranded in this new land have been cropping up around the different kingdoms that you'll visit throughout the game. It has major Final Fantasy vibes, which isn't surprising considering the series' roots.
Despite my love for JRPGs, there’s one thing that can help kill a story-driven game quicker than anything else—being overly grindy. Of course, being a JRPG, you’d expect Bravely Default 2 to have some type of grind. The unfortunate truth here is there are times where the entire game feels like it comes to a halt as you're forced to grind in between major plot points.
The story—while not always the most surprising—is still really strong and as someone who enjoys stories and digging into them, I always want to be pushing towards that final conclusion to see how things end. Sadly, Bravely Default 2 hides a lot of the story behind grindy dungeons with difficult boss battles that make you feel like you need to take hours grinding the various enemies of each dungeon to prepare for them.
Tap on the time that it takes to return to town, or even set up a Tent to rest up and the grind becomes even more apparent. Having grown up quite a bit since first getting into JRPGs, I have less time than ever to dig deep into these games and having to grind through a lot of content for the story is less appealing than it might have been 10 years ago. Still, if you can stand the grind, the story that’s told here—and the turn-based combat is all really solid and a great representation of what makes this series especially so enjoyable.
Jobs are a vital part of the experience in Bravely Default 2, and anyone who has played an JRPG will recognize the basic classes that each Job seems to line up with. Being able to select between multiple Jobs on different characters was always one of my favorite parts of the Bravely Default games, and Bravely Default 2 gives you plenty of options as you defeat bosses and progress through the game. The ability to set up a main and sub Job is also really handy, allowing you to take advantage of the benefits of two different classes without having to stick with it.
Combat is also a really high point in the game, with the series’ unique Brave and Default system playing a very large part throughout the game. Like previous entries, players can choose to be Brave or to Default during battle. This basically allows them to save up or spend extra attacks/actions. If you choose to Default, your character will defend themselves, saving up an extra action that you can unleash at a later time in the battle. You can only save up to three at a time, but if you succeed at timing enemy attacks, you can defend against them and then lay into the enemy on your next turn with the Brave functionality, possibly ending the battle quickly.
The payoff is great, but the risk is also substantial. If you choose to be Brave and spend up Brave Points you don’t have, your character will find themselves unable to attack, leaving them defenseless against enemy attacks. Because of this, knowing how powerful your fighters are and how likely you are to wipe the enemy party is important and all plays into the tactical nature of the game’s combat.
The magic lives on
The magic of JRPGs isn’t dead, though a few updates to the grind would be appreciated it. Bravely Default 2 offers a lot for JRPG lovers to dig into. The story is strong—though a bit predictable at times. The grind can be rough, making it a slog to progress through at times. If you’re someone who has plenty of time to devote to large games that require a lot of time sunk into them, then Bravely Default 2 is a perfect addition to your Switch library.
If you only have a few hours to play each day, then you might find yourself struggling to push forward and stay motivated to continue. You can always change the difficulty of the game between three different settings—you can even change it at any point, so if things feel too easy or hard, then you can always swap to a different difficulty—but that doesn’t get rid of the grindy feeling that’s deep within the game’s core existence. Thankfully, the rest of the game more than makes up for the negatives.
This review is based on a digital code provided by the publisher. Bravely Default 2 will release exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on February 26, 2021.
Bravely Default 2
- Solid storytelling
- Beautiful vistas and hand-drawn artwork mixes well with mode mordernized graphics
- Fantastic turn-based combat system
- Job system allows you to mix and max class abilities for more tactical gameplay
- Can feel really grindy at times
- Many side quests feel like fetch quests
Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Bravely Default 2 review: Modernly old-fashioned