25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Bravely Default, Gravely Grinding
, 11 April 2014
This review is from: Bravely Default (3DS) (Video Game)
Minor spoilers may follow; no specific plot details are revealed.
Bravely Default is a love letter to the JRPG titles of old. With crystals, mages and Phoenix Downs abound, four unlikely heroes set off on an adventure that spans their entire world. Friendships are formed, conflicts are caused and old men make creepy sexual advances on pre-teen girls in this 35 hour adventure.
For the most part, Bravely Default does what it does very well. It's unique combat system, based on withdrawing turns in order to gain defense bonuses/additional attacks later makes strategy a key part of every major fight. The incredibly diverse job system enables you to combine an all manner of spells and abilities. Ever wanted to be a black mage vampire? A knight pirate? Let it be so, as the game lets you take on two job roles at once. And it welcomes your experimentation, too. In fact, it encourages it with its varied boss fights, where your enemies also have access to the Brave/Default system.
Except for, of course, Chapters 5-8, which is home to some of the laziest game design I have ever seen. These chapters have you essentially repeating what you spent the first 30 hours completing, albeit at a somewhat faster rate. You repeat this not once but four additional times.
Four times must you do the same arbitrary, convoluted and wholly unnecessary sequences again with no alterations, and many will argue that it is for the "sake of the story". There are so many better ways that this could have been handled, in my opinion.
Better still, Silcon Studio even enabled a way to let you skip all of this repetitive content and head straight to a final boss which, however, does not net you the "true ending". That didn't bother me, though. I skipped the laborious grinding, beat the "fake" boss and watched the real ending on YouTube. I wish I didn't have to do that, but I am not going to grind my way through identical content four more times just to obtain closure on the storyline.
This is a huge focus of this review because we are in the year 2014 now. Games have evolved beyond the simple grind mechanics of the 90's, this is no longer acceptable. The JRPG must eschew many of its previous conventions and take on new, modern practices. Bravely does do this to some extent, such as allowing you to adjust the difficulty and alter the random encounter rate in very specific increments. However, these are additions to archaic mechanics; a desperate attempt to modernise something that simply needs to be removed.
Bravely Default does so much right with its unique take on turn-based warfare and its brilliant job system. Its music, too, is breathtaking and fitting at every turn. Revo did a great job there. The visuals are crisp and monsters are beautifully animated and detailed. A great welcome back for the classic turn based RPG. Everything before the endgame content would be an easy 4 stars.
However, for everything it does well, it takes another two steps back by throwing in the typical JRPG trope of an endless grind for the sake of padding out the adventure. Nintendo's "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" (2011) was guilty of a similar crime, too, having you walk back and forth collecting items for no real rhyme or reason. The option is there for you to either embrace this "content" or skip it entirely, but this does not change the fact that it never should have been included in the first place.
Bravely Second will be out soon. Let's hope that they continue to push this genre forwards, not backwards.
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