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Bravely Default 2 in the test: mechanically masterful, but heartless

Bravely Default 2 has partially hand-drawn backgrounds, in front of which characters are placed that look almost like plastic figures

What defines a JRPG – Japanese RPG? Usually it’s a long game, a turn-based combat system, and juggling numbers and stats to get the most out of your characters.

If all of this is in place, the basic JRPG framework is in place. And when the game is also from publisher Square Enix, you can hope for a great gaming experience. All of this applies to Bravely Default 2 (Nintendo Switch, 60 euros at Amazon) – but not much more is added.

Generic story

It starts with the first moments of the game: A plot in a medieval fantasy world couldn’t be much more generic. You wake up as a stranded sailor with amnesia. With a princess on a mission to find 4 crystals, a magician and a mercenary traveling, the group that accompanies you for the next 60 hours is complete.

The Claytechworks game studio seems to find that funny too. Because in the first few minutes of the game you will also be spoiled: “You will encounter betrayal on your adventure”. Great. Thank you for eliminating this bit of potential surprise right from the start.

Otherwise, the game does quite a bit to take the surprise away. If a character wears a noticeably different robe in a cutscene / dialogue, you already know that you will fight him or her in order to appropriate their asterisk (no, not the cartoon Gaul with a spelling mistake).

Comprehensive job system

These asterisks unlock jobs such as thief, hunter, red mage, white mage, etc. Instead of exchanging group members as in other role-playing games, you assign them 2 new jobs in Bravely Default.

Each character can take on a full and part-time job. The main job is the one that increases in level when battles are won and determines the basic values ​​and skills of the character. The part-time job also grants the active and passive skills of this job, provided they have been activated beforehand.

There are over 20 jobs. And if each of the 4 characters can take on 2 of them, either as a main or part-time job, that results in a whole bunch of possible combinations. There are actually no limits to the imagination. If you feel like it, you can make a healing barbarian, a stealing shield-bearer or an arrow-shooting phantom.

Any combination is also a time waster. Because the job level depends on the character. So if you want to equip your black magician with the best earth and wind attacks of the red magician, you have to hire the red magician as your main job and level up through many many many many battles. If another character is to become a combination of monk and red mage, you have to use this character to bring the red mage back up from level 1. Every now and then you will find “job balls” that accelerate this, but with over 20 jobs and 4 characters this is a drop in the ocean.

Brave or Default

The combat system is the reason the game gets its name. It is based on rounds, but also has the options Brave and Default. With Brave you add another train. Up to 4 moves can be made at once. Default lets the character go into defense mode and saves the move for later.

The exciting thing about it is: You don’t have to save with Default first to be able to spend several moves with the character at once. With Brave you can also spend more moves right from the start, but then come into the red. This means that the character then pauses until his lap counter is back to 0.

That gives a lot of possibilities. Do you sacrifice a character’s turns to do as much damage as possible from the start? Should you rather set the healer’s default and save a round in case someone urgently needs to be healed or resuscitated later? Or do I let my shield bearer provoke all opponents with Brave after I put a protective spell on him by a mage so that my 3 other characters are not attacked in the next rounds?

Fascinating juggling

What seems manageable at the beginning takes on more and more complex dimensions as the game progresses. Because the enemies also rule the brave-and-default system. In addition, different opponents have different passive properties. So they take more damage with some types of weapons, with others they are immune.

There are also counterattacks. If an opponent has a counterattack to physical attacks, you shouldn’t try to hit them with the black mage’s stick. Some counterattacks are so strong that they can kill a character with low base health and armor instantly.

It is precisely this juggling with the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents, the equipment, the jobs of the characters, the brave and default system and then various consumables (and waves with several opponents as a bonus) that makes the combat system and the game so attractive .

Tough bosses

But this fascination sometimes turns into bewilderment during boss fights. Even at the lowest level of difficulty, the discrepancy between normal battles against monsters and the next boss is huge.

Since you don’t know what to expect before the fight, you can often only make it with noise, or at least need a second attempt and some time to think about it to come up with a strategy. If you have already leveled up many different jobs here, it will be easier to find a suitable combination to defeat the boss.

The heartless all around

And if you don’t have that, you have to grind – defeat monsters to level. Grinding is rarely fun. With Bravely Default 2 it is all the more tedious because the gaming world around does not offer much. The semi-retro graphic wears off quickly, as the surroundings usually appear lifeless.

The hand-drawn cities have a little more charm, but the NPCs you meet here and their side tasks are unexciting. Either it is: go there and collect something, go there and talk to someone or go there and kill monsters.

If there was at least more to discover … But in the wild there are only treasure chests that stand around and trees and bushes to cut to pieces, which occasionally makes objects appear. There are no secret passages, Easter eggs or chance encounters.

This makes Bravely Default 2 look very generic. The fact that you already know the menus, names for the objects and jobs from the usual Square Enix JRPGs should actually encourage the feeling of nostalgia. But here it contributes to the feeling that you have played this game a few times.

Conclusion

Bravely Default 2 is perfect for JRPGs fans who prefer numbers to stories and grinding more than feelings. With a good 60 hours of play time and plenty of job combinations for the group, which have to be adapted to the opponents and bosses again and again, there is enough to do.

If you want to be entertained by a game instead of just being occupied, it is better to look for another game.

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