Disclaimer: While I don’t get into major spoilers, there will be some discussion about the first two chapters. If you’re sensitive about that (I’m looking at you Tim), then you may not want to read this post.
I’ve spent a little time with Bravely Second this weekend (read 13 hours) and wanted to write something about my first impressions. 13 hours might be a little more than “first impressions”, but considering how huge Bravely Default was regarding hours of gameplay, 13 is just scratching the surface. In any case, I’ve had enough time with it to make some observations about Bravely Second in comparison to its older brother. While it’s true that Bravely Second is a sequel, as I’ve played the game I’ve found that for all the bits and pieces that are new to the Bravely Default universe, most of it is the same experience that so many of us fell in love with. Some might argue that the quality suffers because of a significant amount of rehashing that occurs in certain parts of the game, but I find that the little tweaks that have been made for the sequel are plenty to bring something new to us in Bravely Second.
A More Light-Hearted Affair… So Far
The story of Bravely Default was a more traditional JRPG tale akin to its Final Fantasy cousin, with the world surrounded by darkness and the very land itself suffering due to the corrupted crystals. Bravely Second, on the other hand, has proven to be a far less somber affair in the first two chapters. Even with Agnes’ kidnapping and our heroes new plight to rescue her, the whole premise is approached with little in the way of grim atmosphere. That said, Bravely Second is still subject to the time old tropes we expect from the genre: eager heroes, betrayal, villains obsessed with cats, and yet another “evil empire.” In fact, so much of Bravely Second’s story is a textbook case of JRPGs that there hasn’t been much that I’ve been surprised by. I expect the title to get more serious in later chapters, but right now I’m not expecting it for a good while. Only time will tell if we’ll see a twist akin to the first title, but I get the impression that I won’t be surprised by that either. That’s not to say that all of this is bad, in fact, I view Bravely Second as comfort food with its use of tried and true JRPG tropes.
Trim the Fat on Combat and Customization
Hands down the best part of Bravely Default was the outstanding combat system, from which the game gets its name. Bravely Second uses the same system but brings several shortcuts and optimizations to make the experience of combat even more enjoyable than before. For example, if you want just to brave the same action four times, you just hit a trigger button and it will automatically allocate all your brave points to that one action. Another example is the tweaked way you get bonus experience. If you win a battle in your first turn, rather than start a streak and then having to search for another fight, you can choose to go immediately into another fight to get extra rewards. It’s changes like these which allow combat to be even more efficient and not feel like a chore when you need to grind for EXP.
In the same vein are the adjustments to the equally outstanding job system. Bravely Second has most of the classes from the first game, in addition to several new ones that add even more depth to the already mind-boggling amount of combinations your party can use in battle. The new Wizard class in particular with its Spellcraft ability, the ability to add additional effects to spells, is game changing. With that said, while the number of potential combinations is incredible, accessing them all isn’t as straightforward as last time. Without going into too many details, any old class from the last game will be earned by choosing between two of them. This is presented by as a moral choice between two classes in a side quest. Whichever class you don’t pick you can’t use in that playthrough. Now supposedly you should be able to get access to them all in the late game (no idea how that works but that’s what I’ve read), but this gameplay mechanic is hands down my least favourite aspect of Bravely Second so far. Again without getting into spoilers, I’ve had to make these decisions based not on the characters and my own feelings but based on wanting to play a particular class. I’ve had to make some choices I’m not very fond of. Not all of them are bad, but it’s not a position I like being in.
Don’t Make Music Like They Used To
While the old job acquisition mechanic may be my least favourite aspect of the game so far, the music would be a close second. The music isn’t bad, but in comparison to the masterpieces of the first game, Bravely Second’s soundtrack is mediocre. However, there are some tracks that show it’s not a complete loss. The boss track and the menu theme are examples of pieces that in some ways are just as good as the music of the previous entry in the series. Also, some tracks are reused from the first game which shows that the series is committed to maintaining some degree of continuity. Here’s hoping that if there’s a Bravely Third that it will once again be composed by Sound Horizon.
Just Scratching the Surface
There’s a lot more of Bravely Second that I haven’t even explored yet. The Ba’als that the new character Magnolia fights (or busts as she puts it) are the new optional bosses that tie into the rebuilding the moon mini-game. I have yet to face one outside of the introductory fight, but they still have that beautiful design aesthetic of demonic arts and crafts. Plus, the fantastic Ba’al boss theme from Bravely Default is used for these fights in the sequel, which makes sense considering it was composed for the sequel.
I look forward to playing even more of this game over the coming weeks and depending on how I feel once I’ve finished I might write another post about it. Until then, I have to go bust some Ba’als.