on February 13, 2014
I am thirty-three years old. I've been playing video games since I was five. I've tried almost every Final Fantasy game and abandoned all of them after a few days. However, Bravely Default is quickly becoming one of my favorite games.
I've never been able to get into Japanese RPGs. I love D&D and Pathfinder, but Final Fantasy - possibly the quintessential JRPG - always bored me. I got sick of random encounters, some of the dialogue scenes were too long for my tastes, battles got repetitive after a while.
Bravely Default (an awkward name if you ask me... I blame it on a loss of translation) by Square Enix is similar to Final Fantasy in mechanics and art style, but there are differences that transcend plot alone. The new battle system which this title is named after allows you to get past frustrating enemies that heal themselves frequently. If you use the "default" move, you can defend yourself and collect "brave points" which you can spend to unleash a few moves in one turn. If you have a group of four and most of them have initiative (D&D term... sorry) higher than the enemy, they'll pummel the enemy and hopefully knock its HP down way faster than it can heal. That's just one way the new system is helpful.
The things that make this game better for me than Final Fantasy (FOR ME... that's an opinion) is the option to adjust the frequency and difficulty of encounters in-game, and the ability to change characters' job/profession/class whenever you want without suffering too much loss to stats.
*Encounter Frequency and Difficulty*
Within the character view screen, there's a "tactics" selection. Under that is "config", and then "difficulty". From there, you'll find "encounter rate" which will present a slider that can be set to +100%, +50%, +-0%, -50%, -100%. The highest setting will throw you into encounters every few seconds, while the lowest will let you wander around freely (but it'll warn you that you'll have a tough time leveling up).
This is great for me. For instance, when I'm trying to find a hidden chest and I'm getting really annoyed with the random encounters interrupting my search, I can simply turn them off, find the chest, and then them turn all the way up and set the difficulty to "easy" so they happen every few steps but don't completely destroy my characters. This way, I can sort of make up for the potential loss of XP. Once I get tired of battling every few seconds (and feeling like I'm cheating) I can set the frequency and difficulty back to a normal levels and continue the game as intended. Basically, you can adjust the frequency to suit your needs at any moment. Random encounters are important for leveling your characters, but they can get irritating at times.
Rather than have set classes, Bravely Default offers jobs which you acquire as the game progresses. Characters have slight variations in base stats, but the jobs you choose increase and decrease relevant stats, while the weapons and equipment they hold helps with their abilities. This way, you can play a characters as a monk for a few weeks and change it to a mage or knight if you want without worrying too much about them not performing efficiently.
Like I said, there are slight variations, but they're not so extreme that jobs can't be changed. Agnes has higher base mana points (MP) than Tiz (these names will have meaning when you play the game). At first I set Agnes as the mage and Tiz as the monk based on that stat alone. I wanted Agnes to be the monk (despite her in-game personality, I like strong female leads and it made sense to me for Tiz to want to heal her and keep her alive... but that's just me). I played a few encounters and then switched their jobs and equipment. Agnes performed just fine as a monk and Tiz has kept everyone alive and well thus far. Additionally, you can set each character with a secondary job ability and have a knight who can heal in a pinch, or a ninja who can use fire spells.
Here's a short summary of relevant stats between Tiz and Agnes to illustrate my point:
As a monk:
Agnes - 68 MP, 14 Strength, 8 Intelligence, 11 Mind
Tiz - 58 MP, 16 Strength, 7 Intelligence, 10 Mind
As a white mage:
Agnes - 126 MP, 7 Strength, 16 Intelligence, 18 Mind
Tiz - 110 MP, 9 Strength, 14 Intelligence, 17 Mind
(There are more stats, like dexterity, agility and others, but these seem to be the most relevant for their jobs. I assume - for example - dexterity and agility will be higher for a ninja.)
The only significant difference, as you can see, is between mana points. The other stats differ by one or two points, which isn't enough for me to lock either character into a job. Sure, ten MP seems like a lot, but I've only run out of mana once in the beginning.
With my love for RPGs like D&D, Pathfinder, Pokemon (card and video game), and even Magic the Gathering, I wanted to like Final Fantasy. I tried so many times over the last 25+ years, but I just couldn't get into them. Bravely Default is the JRPG I've been craving. It's everything Final Fantasy was/is and more. The annoyances that made Final Fantasy feel tedious and uninspiring for me have been rectified.
I've played this game for about a week and I only know of one mini game. I don't want to tell you what it is because it would be a major spoiler. It functions similarly to all of those farming and city building games in that you can set tasks that are completed in the background over time.
Try the demo, but don't rely on that alone. It'll give you a few jobs to switch between, you can try out the new battle system and the difficulty settings, but it sort of throws you into difficult situations.
Overall, Bravely Default is receiving a lot of hype and it is totally deserved... even if the name isn't too inspiring.