Bravely Default II, analysis: The magic of synergies

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We break down one of the most anticipated JRPGs of this year, Square Enix’s Bravely Default II, which arrives on February 26 on Nintendo’s hybrid console
One of the most acclaimed Japanese RPGs on Nintendo 3DS is Bravely Default. Its innovative shift management system was one of the main reasons for its success, in addition to the origin of the saga’s name. Seven years after its arrival in Europe we can enjoy its third installment, Bravely Default II, on the hybrid console of the Japanese company. Because, although the name leaves room for confusion, after Bravely Default (which scored an 85 on Metacritic), players could enjoy its direct sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer. For both fans of the franchise and those looking to immerse themselves in a title true to the roots of the genre, Claytechworks’ work is a golden opportunity to embark on a new fantastic adventure.

A familiar aftertaste

Although its departure was scheduled for 2020, we have not been able to enjoy the work of Claytechworks until February 2021, as a result of the pandemic caused by COVID-19. After the last Nintendo Direct, players were able to enjoy the final trailer of the title before its final launch. We have had the opportunity to play it in depth and we are preparing to delve into all aspects of one of the most anticipated titles this year for Nintendo’s hybrid console. Without getting spoiled, we can say that it inherits from its predecessors the late motive of the search for the four crystals of water, wind, fire and earth, as well as its characteristic combat system in which we will delve later and some other work, although it also includes several unpublished items. For the rest, we are facing some characters and a totally new story, so we can enjoy the title without having to have lived the previous ones.

While it is true that this installment of the saga is narratively independent from the previous ones, we cannot ignore the fact that it is not the first time that we enter a world full of monsters with the mission of recovering some elemental crystals. Bravely Default II’s premise is cliché, as is most of its story arc. Although certain characters end up getting a certain affection and some script twists can be surprising, much of the story we star in is very predictable. We accompany the group of heroes on their journey through different cities, all of them ravaged by a great natural disaster that has its origin in the presence of an elemental crystal. Of course, a few hours later the pace of our journey will change, but the structure will remain the same: we will go to a location to complete their respective dungeons and take down a few final bosses.

Despite its flaws, with the passing of time it ends up becoming an enjoyable work, especially because its strong point does not reside in its narrative aspect but in the playable one. The first thing that stands out when putting them at the controls of this JRPG in turns are the bravely and default modes that characterize the saga and that allow us to borrow or accumulate actions to execute several in a row when it suits us, which adds a layer of depth and Difficulty in strategy in the face of the most complicated fights that suit the title especially well. In addition, the number of jobs that we unlock as we progress through the story and that we can assign to the members of our team in a totally personalized way to the strategy we want to follow shine. Each of these jobs, in addition, unlocks both active and passive skills, and the latter can be equipped without the need to be using the job in question. That is, there are endless possibilities when it comes to planning a strategy, and many of the final bosses will cause us to have to rethink it over and over again.

Another highlight within the combat mechanics are the turn bars. The opportunity to act of each of our characters will be influenced by several factors: the weight that our equipment causes, the altered states, the speed statistic of the character in question … All this influences the turn bar that is below the lives of each of the team members, and that we will have to take into account to get out of the toughest battles. That the turns are not cyclical is a factor that will greatly influence the development of the combat and that we will have to keep in mind when deciding if we want a character to enter default mode or attack with all his power.

It is essential to play smart and pay close attention to the synergies between skills and jobs, since we will run into powerful enemies on a continuous basis. Within the wide roster of final bosses we find some much more memorable than others, but all share the characteristic of being very tough to crack. If it is not because they heal continuously, it is because they counterattack all our movements with forceful blows, and if it is not because they have a kilometer life bar; one challenge after another. Therefore, the title forces us to be very flexible within our own strategy and continually test combinations of new weapons and abilities. Undoubtedly, the variety of jobs and all the customization possibilities that it opens up to each player is one of the strongest points of the game.

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Bravely Default II: a JRPG true to its roots

Unfortunately, the tactical range available does not free the title from one of the most characteristic ballasts of the genre: cyclical farming. On many occasions we will have to entertain ourselves by killing a good handful of enemies to have a better chance of defeating the final boss mass that awaits us later. In parallel we find several secondary missions in each city, but the vast majority are mere errands that will make us strengthen the twins by walking from one end of the map to the other. Of course, both aspects are typical within JRPGs and add hours to the game’s timer, but rarely do they add anything meaningful to the plot beyond some secret dungeon or boss.

What does lighten up, although somewhat anecdotally, farming is the option of exploring by boat. Thanks to this function, if we leave the console at rest with the title open, our characters will embark on an adventure of up to twelve hours in which they will collect experience orbs, work points and the odd object. As we said, it doesn’t break the progression curve of the story, but it is nice to have the need to level up a character a couple of levels and discover that we have a few experience orbs in inventory. If it is the case that we do not have accumulated orbs we can always resort to a fairly agile farming method based on consuming food that attracts a type of enemy with the end of linking chain battles, which will multiply the final counter of experience acquired .

In addition to the points mentioned above, there are other ways to improve our group’s statistics. Both in the different stores that we will cross and defeating different enemies and opening chests in the dungeons we will get weapons and armor of all kinds and for all tastes. There is an option to self-equip for those who do not want to break their heads with the amount of supply available, which will assign the ideal set to each character according to their work. Of course, it is advisable to do it manually, especially for some final bosses. No matter how strong an earth ax is, using it against an enemy immune to this elemental power is not the best idea we can have.

A somewhat fair technical section

Although the artistic section of Bravely Default II is one of its strengths, especially when we talk about the design of cities and their landscapes, the technical section weighs it down in several aspects. The resolution, both in laptop and desktop mode, is not the most optimal, and we can constantly see saw teeth that contrast with how beautiful the game is. There are some cutscenes that bring freshness to the story, but we did miss that certain characters have a little more expressiveness at the height of the plot. We have also experienced frame drops, the most notable when starting a group conversation or changing floors in a dungeon. On the other hand, the loading times are not excessively long, and the time it takes to get back to our old ways after being defeated is anecdotal, which greatly speeds up the experience and reduces the frustration that we could feel.

In combat everything is quite fluid. The animations of the attacks work well, and being able to see each weapon that we equip in action is appreciated. Of course, the clothes that our characters wear will be defined based on their jobs and not on the armor that we have assigned them in the equipment menu. The sound effects in combat are also satisfying, and the specific music tied to the ultimate ability of each team member is unmistakable. In this sense, the only setback we have encountered is that everything is progressing very slowly. For this reason, we appreciate that there is the option of having everything (except the animations of the definitive skills) advance to fast motion, being able to choose in a range that covers from x1 to x4 speed.

On the other hand, Revo has come back to shine with the soundtrack of Bravely Default II. With themes that perfectly accompany each moment of this magical adventure and that vary in certain scenes to suit their tone, another of the positive points to highlight is that of the Claytechworks JRPG. The incredible soundtrack is complemented by remarkable sound effects, texts fully translated into Spanish, and dubbing in both English and Japanese, making the gaming experience very satisfying.

An addictive experience

As predictable as its story arc is, Bravely Default II turns out to be an addictive game. Its strong point is, without a doubt, in its battles, the strategic possibilities it offers and in the perspective of plunging us into an epic world with an exquisite soundtrack. In short, it is a recommended game for any lover of the genre who wants to live an adventure faithful to its roots and have the time required by the title. All those JRPG fans will find in Bravely Default II a magical world, an epic adventure in which strategy will be the key to saving the entire human race. The new Claytechworks title will land on Nintendo Switch on February 26, but for weeks now we can enjoy the free demo available in the eShop.

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