IMPRESSIONS: Bravely Default II Demo

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

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As one of the few writers at oprainfall that’s a fan of both Bravely Default and Bravely Second, I took it upon myself to try out the newly announced Bravely Default II demo. After all, I often find demos can convince me to buy a game I’m not sure about, though honestly I was pretty certain going in that I’d like this latest Bravely game. I really wasn’t expecting a new game in the Bravely series, developed by Silicon Studio and published by SQUARE ENIX (I’m guessing that Clay Tech Works is a rebranding effort by the team which got absorbed into the larger SQUARE ENIX umbrella.)

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First things first, and most importantly about Bravely Default II’s demo – this game is HARD. It warns you from the get go, but even so I was caught somewhat by surprise. I went wandering into the desert to fight foes and got my ass handed to me by pretty much any group larger than 3. That probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise, since the team that did Default II also did games like Octopath Traveler, which is no cakewalk. And as far as I can remember, the demos for both other Bravely games were also pretty challenging. Regardless, if you think you will breeze through the demo in an hour or less, you’re dead wrong. My final playtime was 4 something hours with a level 20 team, and most of those hours involved grinding.

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Much like the other games in the series, this one starts with an introduction that talks about magical elemental crystals and a group of four heroes out to fix things. The only major city in the demo is the desert town of Savalon, which has inexplicably been flooded thanks to Crystal magic gone berserk. After wandering around town and talking to citizens, it becomes apparent a source of the problem may be a mysterious gem in abandoned ruins close by. You’re free to just run straight to them, but again, that won’t end well. A better use of your time is to first take on various side quests, indicated by blue clouds, and get rewarded with items for fulfilling them. Along the way you’ll get stronger, leveling up your base stats and primary job, of which there are 5 in the demo – Black Mage, White Mage, Monk, Vanguard and Freelancer. The level cap here is 7 for any of these jobs, and leveling up is how you’ll learn new active and passive abilities.

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I appreciated having a few jobs to tinker with, but I quickly discovered that the only ones that really mattered are Black Mage, White Mage and Monk. The other two have some useful abilities, such as increased EXP yield, increased critical hit chance and examining enemy stats, but otherwise Vanguard and Freelancer aren’t worth keeping as primary. The final party I used to defeat the boss consisted of two Monk / Freelancers, one Black / White Mage, and a Monk / Vanguard. Mostly cause Monks can do massive physical damage, and the mages are good at dealing and healing damage to groups.

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If you’ve played any other games in the series, you know exactly what you’re getting into here. By using the Default command, you defend and accumulate BP, and you can go Brave and expend BP for extra attacks during your turn. When you’re in the red, you can’t do anything until your BP is refreshed, one turn at a time. It’s wise to play conservatively and never go too far into the negative BP, since you’ll be less able to respond to the enemy when they go nuts. And trust me, even one foe in the demo going Brave can wipe out your entire party, even something basic like a snake or a wasp. You can also get special bonuses for fulfilling conditions for each job, but only for main character Seth. Thankfully the demo does confirm that every party member will have access to these in the full game.

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It’s fun to mix and match skills and jobs in battle, and the demo does illustrate some of the complexity that will be on display in the final game. What’s new to the experience, at least as far as I recall, is the Weight system. Every piece of equipment you have on a character has a weight value, and if you get too heavy, your stats will suffer as a result. I appreciate the added strategy, though I’m not sure how much I liked this new system. Other than that, combat in Bravely Default II plays pretty much like fans will expect.

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Visually this is a beautiful game, and seems to be a bit more polished and fancy than the other ones. Which is to be expected on a console, but it’s still nice. Everything is more fluid and shiny looking, reminiscent of the visual face lift in the recent Link’s Awakening. There seems to also be more draw distance, which can be seen clearly while running around Savalon. You can bring up the mini map as you wander, and even enlarge that window, showing things like chest placement. At least in the town. When on the world map, chests are inexplicably not displayed on the map. Another oddity which I hope is cleaned up is how in cutscenes, there’s a weird blurring effect, making characters less distinct.

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One of my favorite visual effects is how enemies start panicking and sweating when you’re sufficiently overpowered, and run screaming from you. But even the basic stuff is nice looking in Bravely Default II. It’s fun just to wander, watch day turn to night, water pleasantly lap at shores and the like. And even for a demo, there’s nice variety of enemies that all look and act distinctly. Wolves howl, snakes slither and orcs jiggle. If this is just a snapshot of what’s to come, I’m gonna really love Bravely Default II’s presentation. Oh and the music is no slouch either, with some catchy earworms and good voice acting for the characters.

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I’d love to say I 100% beat the Bravely Default II demo, but I missed a few chests hidden on the world map and apparently one side quest involving a worm. Even then, I enjoyed what’s on display here, and find it’s more of the same, just prettier and sharper. While I doubt the demo will convince those dead set against enjoying it, hardcore RPG fans and those who appreciate nods to old school have a lot to be excited about. I know I personally can’t wait for a release date!

Default II | Finale

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.