Monday, March 30, 2020

Bravely Default 2 Impressions

As someone who is a massive fan of Final Fantasy 5, its successor series, Bravely Default, has been recommended to me countless times. However, every time a game in this series is brought up, there's always some kind of caveat like "This game is great, but that second act is a doozy!" or "That game improves on some aspects of the original, but downgrades in other areas." As a result, I've been waiting for an ideal jumping-on point for this franchise for a while. When I saw in the recent Nintendo Direct that a demo for the newest game in the series, Bravely Default 2, was available, I figured that the time had finally come to get on board.

Bravely Default 2 is a turn-based RPG in the style of classic Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. One of the game's defining features is a job system that lets each character mix and match skills from a variety of classes. The demo features four classes: White Mage, Black Mage, Vanguard (knight), and Monk. The other major feature is the "Brave" and "Default" system that allows you to take extra actions in one turn at the expense of subsequent turns; which creates a risk-reward dynamic to the battle strategy. Despite its somewhat misleading name, Bravely Default 2 is actually the third game in the series and begins a new story with different characters than the previous games.

  • I found the game's graphics appealing, both in terms of art style and use of textures. The very detailed textures on somewhat simple-looking stylized character models made the gameplay and cutscenes look they were being enacted by dolls being posed in a playset. I thought it was kind of a neat look.
  • The game has nice battle animations that are distinct for each character and enemy. It's impressive considering how many types of monsters you're likely to encounter.  For example, I like the way defeated enemies slump over and collapse; in most games of this type, they would just fade away.
  • On the topic of the doll-like quality of the game's graphics, I had a lot of fun playing dress-up with my characters; each character has a special costume for each class. I spent several minutes in the Job menu cycling through the classes for each character just to admire the costume designs.
  • No two characters in the main party speak with the same type of accent. I like this voice casting decision because it conveys that the characters come from a multicultural world.
  • The FF5-like job system has the potential to be a lot of fun, especially later on once more than four classes are available. 
  • The music in the demo features pieces influenced by classical music, traditional Middle Eastern music, and rock. It was effective in giving the impression that the final game will have a great score.

  • The game's user interface can be a little unclear or inconsistent in layout. I sometimes felt like it was hard to display the info I needed both in menus and during battles.
  • Bravely Default 2 eschews traditional random battles for having enemies visible on-screen. The problem is that the enemies respawn too quickly; after defeating an enemy, all I would have to do is walk a short distance and then turn back to find that same enemy was alive and well again. Usually, the nice thing about having on-screen enemies is the ability to clear a room and explore freely; this demo did not allow me to do that, which I found frustrating. 
  • After coming out of a battle, other enemies in the area can engage you immediately. I had many situations where I had to fight multiple groups of enemies consecutively without a break, making the effective frequency of combat higher than what it would have been with random encounters.
  • By far the biggest issue with this demo was its extremely imbalanced difficulty level. Just to make a modicum of progress into the dungeon in the demo's quest, I had to grind for a considerable amount of time. After playing for several hours, I managed to make it to the dungeon boss only to find that I could barely deal any damage to him; I would likely have to grind for several more hours just to be able to finish this demo, which just didn't seem worth it to me.
Ultimately, this demo had the opposite effect than what was intended; it made me feel less inclined to pick up the full version. Why would I pre-order the full game when the demo was so discouraging to play? Since there seemed to be potential in the game from an artistic and mechanical standpoint, I'll probably give it a second look if reviews indicate that the final game has been drastically rebalanced to offer a less grinding-focused experience.

The demo warns you that the difficulty has been turned up "a little higher", but to me this seemed extreme.

I found the dialog in the demo to be fairly entertaining.

Be prepared to spend a lot of time staring at the battle screen if you decide to play this demo.

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