I was pretty excited about the announcement of Bravely Default II. The first game in the (loose) series would technically be Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes Of Light on DS, which was a spin-off thing that served as a sort of spiritual sequel to Final Fantasy V. In a time when modern FF games were going off the rails with emo haircuts and flashy 3D visuals and action elements, The 4 Heroes Of Light was a conscious throwback to the SNES days of turn based gameplay and DEEP systems meant to be broken.
Following that was Bravely Default, and then Bravely Second - both on 3DS which furthered this experience. And then there was Octopath Traveler, which doesn't seem to really be part of this series at all. But if you've played it, and you've witnessed the battle system, then you know it could have easily been released as Bravely Octopath.
In my mind, the Bravely series is kind of up there with the Xenoblade series. They're modern RPGs with a very old school mindset. They're meant for people who want to dive deeply into the mechanics; for people who are okay with playing an RPG for dozens of hours before they really even understand how things fully work.
I ended up pre-ordering Bravely II, because frankly I thought my daughter (under 2 yrs old) would like to play with the free coasters. I was right. She's already chewed one of them up pretty good.
I'm about 4-5 hours into the game now, and to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it.
On the one hand, it's exactly what I'd expect from the previous Bravely (proper) games. The systems are DEEP and fun to play with. Take the job system for example. I've only unlocked like five or six jobs to choose from so far, and they're a blast to play with and mix and match. The battle system where you can Brave (advance turns) or Default (defer turns) remains just as compelling as ever. The system where you can send out a boat to "adventure" for you (IE: earn you free loot) while you're not playing is a fine addition.
There are cons. Chief among them is the story, which I just can't seem to care about. I mean let's be real, the Bravely games are inherently old school, which general means cliches. Right out the gate, The 4 Heroes Of Light was in itself sort of a cliche based on the original Final Fantasy. And that's fine. But the last JRPG I got heavily sucked into was Dragon Quest XI over the winter, and going from a game that has some of the finest writing and story beats I've ever played to this is kind of jarring.
But whatever. I can skip whatever dialogue I want, so that's no biggie. The problem I'm really having is the intense unbalance of difficulty. The developers HAVE made it pretty transparent when you've grinded "enough" given that enemies will run away from you when you're overpowered. But that said, I'll find myself cruising along a dungeon only to find that the end-boss is WAY above my level and can crush me in just a few turns. It doesn't feel organic to me as you're never REALLY sure when you're ready to go for it.
The boss I'm at now is one that plays all these musical spells to buff his minions and he's just completely wrecking me and I have no idea how to counter most of it. It's to a point where it feels like the game halted to a stop and said "okay, time to stop being fun." Which is a bummer.
There's a lot to like about this game, but I feel like these curveballs are pretty damning. Take Octopath Traveler as a comparison. That game had some of the same issues, but somehow felt a little more balanced. Probably because the game did kind of scale with you, as you were free to tackle things in a different order and with different characters.
I don't know that I want to call it quits here yet, though. I mean I really did have high hopes for this one. High high hopes. That and there's two things I've heard about that I've yet to see...
1. There's apparently a card game you can unlock, and it sounds fun to me.
2. There's a Gambler job class that sounds to me like it could completely break the game in interesting ways, much like the "dances" that Octopath did.
...I'd really like to mess with both of those things, so hopefully I can pull it together long enough and see if this game can really redeem itself for me. Maybe it's just that this early patch of the game has bosses more difficult than they need to be.
I went ahead and grinded around that same dungeon for about an hour. I still wasn't sure I was ready to take on Orpheus, but I figured it was now or never, Bravely II. I WAS able to beat him, and... no real fanfare. Just, alright, now the game can continue.
The amount of time I needed to spend grinding to get through this section has definitely turned me off a bit. And I had kind of sworn to myself that if I didn't beat Orpheus last night, then that was it - I was done. So I guess the game is getting the pass, and I'll continue on.
It's a very weird feeling when I get to play this one. Let me use two completely different examples... Back when Shining Resonance came out on Switch, there were very few new RPGs to choose from, so I was pretty excited to get that one. I ended up playing it for quite a while, but it was a pretty BAD game. It wasn't especially fun or interesting. I knew this, but I played on because I really wanted to be playing a new JRPG on my new Switch. Jump ahead, and when I think of playing Dragon Quest XI, by this point there were tons of RPGs to choose from. But, my goodness, it was one of the GREATEST I'd played in a long, long time. I was thrilled to play. I looked forward to jumping back in whenever I had spare time all through my winter vacation.
Bravely II falls firmly between these two extremes. All of its systems make for a very compelling experience. However, the story is blah and the actual momentum of the game is poorly executed. After six hours I'm still in the first chapter of the game - and this is all while avoiding most side quests. Apparently there are six chapters, so I'm still very early in the game after six hours. I think that the two things that really interested me here (the card game, and the Gambler job) are both HOURS away from me still. It's tough for me to know that I may well need to play another 10-20 hours before even seeing the stuff I want to mess with.
We will see how this goes, but as of right now, Bravely II is pretty steadily losing my favor. That's always a bummer when you've been looking forward to a game for a year.