GVN Review: Bravely Default

Bravely Default was a game that I just happened to come across some time ago. A Square Enix game with a new IP supposedly based on the Final Fantasy 3 job system. Needless to say I had to take a look.

The first thing I really took note of was not the graphics, not the class system, and not the characters. I noticed the size of the world, or in this case the lack thereof. In terms of scale the continents were very small compared to some other games in the genre I have played. I also started noticing that the dungeons were rather short. After brainstorming for a while and consulting my experience as a programmer I came to the conclusion that this was simply because of the limitations of the system. From what I could tell, all of the dungeons were generated for the most part as one single image, as opposed to the puzzle of set pieces that older versions of this genre used. Due to this, the dungeons would take up more space on file as opposed to a set of smaller images which could be repurposed across the dungeon.

Note how all of the wall tiles look the same.
 Compare to this.

That said, a smaller dungeon is not necessarily a bad thing. The systems that were added to the game altered the way that random encounters were handled and I think that doing so changed the dynamic of the gameplay quite a bit. Specifically, I tended to find myself grinding for hours outside of a town to get to my desired level before simply turning encounters off and then heading into the dungeon. The fact that grinding was pretty painless was also a bonus. With the implementation of auto-battle and accelerated animation the individual battles took very little time. The only thing I wish they would have added was the ability to skip the result screen, as it tended to break the flow of combat. Otherwise grinding was vastly improved and I could avoid the constant flow breaking shift to random encounters should I feel like doing so.

In terms of the combat itself, it seems like the game encourages having a team that combos well. Specifically against some of the end game bosses that will destroy you unless your team is using a broken combo (I was using haste world and stillness, you literally take no damage). The class design overall was fairly interesting, but some of the kits seemed to lack focus. The ninja kit in particular was a bit over-diverse. Taunting moves, evasion tanking buffs, priority, hit count increases. Individually they would be useful, but when you combine them all into one class you simply end up taking the class once and end up using one of its abilities most of the time. A waste of potential in my opinion.

The enemies in the game can produce similar combos, but I guess that the developers didn't want the battles to be too hard. Because of that they left out a lot of the more broken combos, but the bosses would still routinely instant kill party members if you didn't have a defensive buff of some sort on. If you're used to min-maxing then this game shouldn't be too hard for you because by the time that the enemies actually start trying you can have a full build going relatively easily.

Plot is sort of interesting, but it's easy to overlook. A lot of dialogue is optional and if you were to skip all the mid to late game subquests you would miss out on a lot of character development. My biggest issue is that the plot ends up getting too routine in the middle. Although, I could chalk part of that up to trying to give the player time to solve the mystery, having the same progression 5 times in a game gets old pretty fast. I do have to say that they managed to switch things up late by starting to group the bosses. But I think they should have done that earlier and started giving us some sort of new area to explore. I guess the main reason that they ended up recycling so much was due to limited space.

In terms of actual characters, most of the boss characters end up fleshed out fairly well. But in the party, it only feels like Ringabel and Edea have any real depth. Tiz is sort of the typical protagonist type, and as such he ends up very flat. I wil also say flat out that Agnes is an idiot, a lot of the decisions that she makes have no sense behind them.

I have to give the team specific kudos for the overall concept though. They manage to take a very typical formula for an RPG and turn the plot on its head. As I've said before, it's the little things that make the game. So, minor inclusions like changing the title screen after you've progressed to a certain point definitely improve the game as a whole. And the little details that they added to Airy's design to aid the plot were quite genius if I were to say so.

All of that said, I am very much looking forward to the next game in the series. I am already liking the character they introduced in the trailer you unlock for beating the game and in terms of implementation the series should only improve from here.

+Class system is built for maximizing
+Major break from typical RPG plot
+Grinding is rather painless
-Some classes end up being unfocused
-Small overall world
-It's easy to accidentally skip plot

Overall grade: B+

If you like turn based RPGs, you will probably enjoy this game. However keep in mind that it can get a little repetitive. The sequel will probably be much better.

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