Friday, 3 April 2015

Bravely Default

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 8.2

(+) Pros: - Traditional turn based battle system with a few good tweaks, - Plenty of environmental and enemy variety make most battles feel fresh, - Challenging enough to constantly keep you on your toes, - Amazing boss fights, - Clever use of brave and default mechanics, - Multitude of different classes give you plenty of options to tackle battles, - Overall feels like the old "Final Fantasy" games that we all know and love, - Journal is filled with substantial information, more so than most in-game encyclopedias.

(-) Cons: - Story becomes lazy after the first half of the game, - Hilariously repetitive for the last 30% of the game.

Gameplay time: 40-50 Hours+

Ever wanted the OLD "Final Fantasy" styled games that we never really got in recent years (I believe the last one we got was "The Warriors Of Light", which came out quite a few years back)? Ever thought that the old "Square Enix" would go back to their roots with their RPGs? All of those who have had your doubt, fear not, for "Square" has finally decided not to f**k around any more with their now ever so popular "Bravely Default". Bringing players back to the past and helping us relive what it meant to enjoy "Final Fantasy" in the first place, "Bravely Default" is shocking faithful to the "Final Fantasy" games of old. It gives us a wonderful RPG experience that both gamers in the older and younger generation can enjoy. Sure, the game has its flaws for sure, but look past them and you get a stellar RPG experience that serves as a reminder: traditional JRPGs aren't quite done, not quite yet. Not as long as "Bravely Default" sticks around.

The story revolves around 4, fate bound individuals with very different backgrounds. Agnes, the vestal of wind, who is destined with guarding the wind crystal, one of the 4 elemental crystals in the world, which contain the power to retain balance in the world. Ringabel is a wandering amnesiac pretty playboy who wants to woo every possible woman in the world, while following a diary he has with him that predicts the prophecy of the world. Edea is the daughter of the grand Marshall of the anti-crystalism movement, who sets out to accomplish her father's dream and bring glory to her family name. Tiz is a regular farm boy, whose entire village got swallowed up in a massive chasm that appeared out of nowhere. Among those who were swallowed, was his brother. Tiz awakes in the local city inn, where he eventually meets Agnes, who says that by awakening all the crystals, the chasm will close and Tiz's village can return. Tiz, with nothing left in his life, devotes himself to Agnes's journey. Along the way they pick up Ringabel and Edea, the 4 will come to be known as the heroes who will save the world.

The king of Ancheim sure is one whiny old man.

"Bravely Default" plays super similarly to "Final Fantasy" games of old. Roam the world, explore the various continents, awaken the 4 crystals to stop the calamity that would befall the world. In your way stand monsters and dastardly villains alike, that want to stop your plans for their own profits or other purposes. You fight plenty of battles with the old school, turn based style, but with some tweaks to make it more modern. You also walk the world in a very traditional style world map, where you walk over to icons representing cities or dungeons, while flying around in your trusty blimp or sailing on your ship. It all reminds you of the old days, and its sure fun as well exploring the world Luxendarc when you do things the hard way.

Before we touch on the battle system and new mechanics, let's talk about the world itself. Like many of the old school "Final Fantasy" titles, the game is filled with many nostalgic areas that you'd find in an old game. Forests, caves, deserts, volcanoes, icy plains and many more are included in your list of tourist hot spots in "Bravely Default". In each of these areas are monster inhabitants, which come in many various shapes and sizes, as well as some repeat pallet swaps here and there (you can't escape from the lazy JRPG copy paste traditions, not even here). Enemies attack in various ways, some trying to overpower you with brute strength, some burning you with powerful magic, others resorting to status ailments or cheap tactics like cloning themselves or calling for help. Its enough to keep you on your toes, and also enough to keep you interested to see what enemies inhabit new areas that you visit, because normal encounters in this game CAN kill you.

Alright, I kid, who the hell dies to a slime and kobold?

I'm not joking, while the early game seems substantially easy, the game becomes quite tough, fast. With the lack of classes in the early segments, most enemies will seem to be needlessly tough, having tons of health and with you dealing almost no damage. Even later on, when you start dealing more damage, the enemies start hitting you with attacks that either do ridiculous damage, enough to one hit you, or have entire attacks dedicated to one hit kills themselves. Even normal encounters, monsters can hit you for half your health, some can do good AOE damage or inflict deadly status ailments like confusion. Encounter a horde of these guys in a surprise attack and suddenly you are dead, no questions asked (I'm looking at you, you book burning lantern bitches). While the auto save function might not fit old school hardcore JRPG veterans, its a life saver for most, and I appreciate it being in the game.

The bosses in this game are GENIUS. Throughout the game you'll be fighting plenty of big, boss monsters. While these guys are plenty strong (wtf that early game turtle boss was uncalled for, Square) and require some strategy to beat, its the asterisk holder boss fights that strike me as phenomenal. You'll be getting tons of job asterisks in this game, and these serve as the entry point for your characters getting new classes. To get a new class, you must first beat a villain who holds that class asterisk, meaning that to get a ninja class, you need to beat the boss holding the ninja asterisk. These guys are a blast to fight, most giving you a taste of what their class can do before conceding the asterisk to you after defeating them. They play around different strategies revolving around their class, and its going to be hard to see what's coming every time you fight a new boss. Most of them are great, and for sure, every battle is a new experience, that counts for a lot (I f**king hate battling against Kamiizumi and Derossa though, those guys suck balls).

Behold, over world exploration!

Now, let's talk about why this game calls itself "Bravely Default". While the game incorporates old school turn by turn based combat, it includes two new mechanics of its own, Brave, and Default. While individually on their own, these aren't revolutionary, they change how you take on the different battles in this game in many different ways. In this game, to act, you need BP. One action demands 1 BP, and at the end of every turn, each character gains 1 BP, so in the end, moving once a turn resets the BP counter to 0. Braving allows you to consume more than one BP per turn, up to 4 in a single turn, to act multiple times. Default is the game's standard guard option, and while it lets your character do nothing for a single turn and take reduced damage, you also save BP for future brave bursts. Its a simple system that's used correctly, and encourages some strategic play especially since most bosses play around the brave and default quite well too, meaning that YOU need to manage your BP well, or things go to shit really quickly.

Another thing that makes "Bravely Default" enjoyable: its class system. Sure, this is present in old "Final Fantasy" games, but its done SO well here. Defeating asterisk holders grant you their specific job, and you'll be raking these in throughout the game's rather long play through. There are only 4 characters, and over 20 classes in the game, meaning that you'll need to pick wisely, and see which class/class combination can go well with your team. There are A TON of possibilities, and while most of these don't matter too much in the early-late game, it makes a massive difference later on. Some classes are meant for supporting, some for offensive, some for utility, so on and so forth. A knight helps soak damage for the back line, a black mage uses elemental magic on his/her foes, a pirate deals out massive amounts of physical damage, while a sword master plays defensively and looks for openings to counter enemies.

Pick your poison, this THE most important decision before entering a boss fight.

With so many to choose from, you'll be spoiled for choice. Also, since this game is HARD, this really works well. After running a class combination and losing to a boss badly, your only options is to switch classes and try different strategies. Trial and error, certain combinations work better than others in certain fights, and looking for this insanely powerful combinations makes discovering the class system so wonderful. Late game you'll probably get to the point where you can exploit some of the insanely powerful class/subclass combinations to make your team of unholy badasses (freelance + dancer for infinite BP, Pirate/Black Mage/Time Mage + Blademaster for free lunch abuse, Dark Knight + Spell fencer for infinite drain dark bane), and by that point, you'll be using that team for the whole game, but until you reach that point, trust me, you'll have fun experimenting.

The game also packs a content heavy encyclopedia known as the D journal, which contains all the information that you've came across in the game, be it item or monster information. There's a lot of back story here, and while the game elaborates plenty on the back stories on some of its characters, the D Journal packs some of the most in depth text based EXTRA story content I've ever seen. Before beating the game, I spent almost a good 30-45 minutes reading through Ringabel's back story, and hell, it was so absorbing, like a mini storybook. It also notes down everything you need to know about the characters and their encounters, but you already knew that. Oh yeah, also, it lets you review cut scenes, once again, not anything special, but still worth noting.

Yes Edea, beat those whores down!

The gripes I have about this game are about the same as everyone else. I mean, the story is pretty decent for the most part. Straightforward, sure, but decent. Things just go downhill from the second half of the game, where the story feels like a gigantic roundabout, and writing just gets SO lazy, especially during the world revisits. It just goes into a complete sleeper until the final arc, where it steps up for a little bit for the finale. Also, yeah, the revisits. The game becomes super repetitive at its 70% mark, where you just do the same thing over and over....for god knows how long. I take it as separate arcs for you to build on your other jobs and explore opportunities, but some people absolutely loathe those chapters. Don't get me wrong, its definitely a con, but to me, its not so horrendously bad that I'd slander it so horribly.

"Bravely Default" sets up a wonderful first step in this new IP/franchise that "Square" is willing to take. Honestly, I'm glad they are expanding on this. I loved the game, and I felt that my time on "Bravely Default" was overall well spent. While this first game was great, I can't wait to see what else "Square" has in store for us in "Bravely Second". "Bravely Default" is truly a comeback calling for JRPG fans of old, and also acts as a shining beacon for newcomers, showcasing that this genre is not yet dead.

Happy Gaming!