Bravely Default 2’s demo launched during the surprise Nintendo Mini-Direct, and I was pretty eager to get started. Bravely Default and Bravely Second stand among my favorite 3DS games, and the sneak peek of Bravely 2 we got during last year’s Game Awards was enough to put it close to the top of my 2020 most-anticipated games list.
After playing the demo, I’m still as excited to see what Silicon Studios and the Bravely team have in store, but not without some new and unwelcome reservations getting in the way.
The Bravely Default 2 demo is first and foremost designed to acquaint you with the game’s combat and job systems. You don’t really get a grasp of the story, and you aren’t supposed to. That’s sort of a bummer, because what we do see is rather too close to the original Bravely Default. Crystals went haywire and are now causing elemental chaos across the land’s five kingdoms.
Given BD was an intentional throwback to early Final Fantasy plots, this isn’t too surprising. It would have been nice to get a hint at what new surprises might be in store, but I’m sure — I hope — Bravely 2 will probably have plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting along the way.
You start off with all four party members: Seth, Gloria, Elvis, and Adelle. It’s tough to get a reading on any of them in the short amount of dialogue present, but they seem like a decent mix of tropes and over-the-top fun.
Much as I hate to criticize voice acting because of the work that goes into it, BD2’s voice cast didn’t grow on me. They’re either borderline overdone or seem completely detached from what’s going on. But, it’s just a demo, so that’s also subject to change.
After you get through all the opening bits, you’re plunked into the desert town of Salvalon and presented with some brief tutorials about what to do. The first thing you’ll notice is how good Bravely Default 2 looks. The pre-rendered backgrounds are even more gorgeous than in the original game. Colors pop, models are smoother, and everything is just better defined overall.
All this applies to other locations as well, including the world map. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the Link’s Awakening remake art style, only smoother. Naturally, that means the water looks fantastic, too.
The soundtrack is superb, even better than you’d expect. It’s sweeping and grand at the right moments, and the battle theme is a strong contender among the top RPG battle themes. Bravely is synonymous with an excellent soundtrack, and BD2 doesn’t disappoint so far.
Unfortunately, the similarities with Link’s Awakening include occasional stuttering, too, and the world map assets don’t always load immediately when you exit the town. It’s not as bad as Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but I hope it gets fixed anyway.
The other thing you’ll immediately realize after exiting Salvalon is random encounters are gone. That’s actually a mixed blessing right now, even though the idea is great on paper. You can see enemies and avoid them if you want. Hooray!
Except it’s not so good when they run faster than you, sometimes target you from all the way across the map, zero in, and murder you before you can do anything about it. It’s definitely something that needs tweaking before release, especially if Bravely Default 2 doesn’t include an option to toggle encounters off like the original does. A wonky camera obscuring enemies at times doesn’t help either. (Should we still be fighting against cameras in 2020?)
The other thing that absolutely has to be fixed between now and release is the interface. The overall design is great, with tons more character and style than the other two Bravely games or Octopath Traveler — when you can see it.
Any time you highlight a skill, piece of equipment, or battle option, the automatic speech bubble explaining what it is covers a chunk of the screen. It’s annoying in combat when you can’t see all your skills and needlessly frustrating when equipment explanations cover the character stats you need to see.
Yes, Bravely Default and Second were on the 3DS and could put descriptions on the other screen. But there’s plenty of room at the bottom of the screen for a small strip containing the information, just like the other Bravely games use.
Combat is always at the core of Bravely, and it’s instantly recognizable in Bravely Default 2. Just know you will die many, many times unless you grind a lot. The tutorial saying it’s a touch harder than the final product isn’t lying. In fact, it’s probably laughing at us all because the enemy AI in BD2 is absolutely vicious.
The system was always a strong one, and it doesn’t need any huge changes. That said, it is a trifle disappointing the demo doesn’t treat us to anything new. It’s the same basic starter jobs, the Brave and Default system works the same (oddly, there’s no fast option to Default, though), and most of the job skills are the same — even if they have different names.
From a personal perspective, I’m fine with that. I love Bravely’s combat and job system, and I’m still hugely excited about Bravely Default 2 even with the demo’s share of unnecessary issues. From a critical perspective, there should have been some kind of new or enticing feature here. Pushing the same basic formulas for the third time with no changes at all would be a missed opportunity, given the development team’s obvious talent and ambition.
The final game will probably have plenty of new things or intriguing twists on established formulas. It just makes me wonder why the demo didn’t tease us with any of it.
Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more on Bravely Default 2.