While Bravely Default 2 looks gorgeous on the Switch and has some inventive tweaks on the JRPG formula, it's terrible pacing makes for a game that's great to start but a chore to continue playing. While it can be a satisfying and enjoyable experience, some kind of balance adjustment is desperately needed for this game to compete with the classics of the genre it's trying to emulate.
You’d think that despite it’s strange name Bravely Default 2 would have something at least vaguely original about it, yet that simply isn’t the case. Let me clarify though, because that sounds incredibly harsh. This a game that knows it’s not bringing anything new to the fold and is completely okay with that. Instead, it focuses on taking the systems and genre conventions so often seen in traditional Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) and doing them well. For the most part it succeeds, existing as both an excellent homage to the past and a… decent modern JRPG.
Let’s start with what the game does right, beginning with how it looks. We’re convinced that this has to be one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Switch and it runs like an absolute dream. Throughout the game’s varied environments we barely spotted a hint of slow-down which only reared it’s ugly head during some of the more intense segments of the game. Fights that involved a great deal of magic use did chug the system along on occasion, but never to a point that weakened the experience. It plays well and looks gorgeous for something running on lower end hardware.
Easily the best part of Bravely Default 2 is how… comfortable everything is. So much of the game’s formula and structure feels familiar because it’s acting as a throwback. Your party of four heroes will embark on a journey across the world to collect four magic crystals that can save the world from some awful entity. Along the way, you’ll stumble across towns and villages, each acting as a micro-story to the main narrative, while levelling your characters, unlocking new abilities and finding new equipment to ensure they’re ready for the next tricky boss fight.
It’s just about the furthest from innovative as possible but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a game that’s easy to sink into because you already know what to expect so the only thing to really do is enjoy the ride. Perhaps the most unique aspects of Bravely Default 2 are the tweaks made to the combat system. While the majority of the combat consists of that tried-and-tested turn-based system you’ll find in everything from older Final Fantasy games and the Dragon Quest franchise, the addition of the “Brave” and “Default” actions add another layer to the whole thing.
Characters can “Default” to block incoming damage and bank an action point. You can store up a maximum of three “Brave” points which can then be spent in a single turn to unleash some disgusting amounts of damage or dole out all the healing you could possibly need. It adds a fun extra dimension to what is otherwise a very standard combat system.
Yet while that core combat loop is engaging in a global sense, it features what is inarguably Bravely Default 2‘s biggest sin: Pacing. This is a game that can be unbearably slow at times in nearly every facet possible. The story has many moments when all you want to do is mash the A button to skip minutes of characters talking to one another about fantasy mumbo-jumbo; while most of the game’s characters have fun little quirks that at least lend some fun angles to the game’s narrative, they’re not engaging enough to really carry cutscenes so long my Switch almost went into sleep mode.
That’s annoying in and of itself but where the game’s pacing issues become more frustrating than boring is within combat scenarios in later parts of the game. Initially, combat encounters play out at a reasonable pace but the more powerful you get, the more the game expects you to grind for XP. At some point in your playthrough, enemy power levels will spike significantly. This means you need to run around and kill loads of weaker enemies just for the XP (which is hardly engaging) or be locked into a fight with basic, filler enemies for ten minutes or longer.
Many enemies will be invulnerable to all kinds of attacks bar one specific move from a single party member, so half the fight won’t even be dealing damage; you’ll be pouring ethers down a character’s gullet just to ensure you can actually end the fight with the XP you were promised. This is a problem that’s mitigated somewhat by the fact that enemies appear on the overworld and can be engaged by the player at will but even then, I still need to waste all that time on a pointless enemy just to make sure the next boss doesn’t one-shot me at the very start of the fight.
It’s a pity that the pacing for Bravely Default 2 becomes so unbearable becomes it’s a generally fulfilling and satisfying game. There’s a reason this formula for JRPGs has withstood the test of time and that’s because it’s fun to see those numbers get bigger and your characters get stronger. Yet when all the fluff around it feels like such a waste of time, it can turn into a loathsome experience.
Bravely Default 2 Verdict
While Bravely Default 2 looks gorgeous on the Switch and has some inventive tweaks on the JRPG formula, it’s terrible pacing makes for a game that’s great to start but a chore to continue playing. While it can be a satisfying and enjoyable experience, some kind of balance adjustment is desperately needed for this game to compete with the classics of the genre it’s trying to emulate.