If a giant chasm opened up underneath my hometown of Porirua and swallowed it whole, I would probably consider it to be a net positive. Bravely Default starts with this scenario happening to our hero Tiz, except he’s actually left quite distraught by the event, probably because of the death of his entire family and community or something like that.
Bravely Default is a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes Of Light, and follows Tiz and 3 other heroes who act in opposition to the darkness that threatens the land. Tiz is joined by a womanizer without a memory called Ringabel, a traitor to the dubious Sky Knights called Edea, and a vestal of the crystalist faith called Agnès, whose name is pronounced in the most pretentious way you can think of. Together they must awaken the four elemental crystals to thwart the darkness and fix the chasm that swallowed Tiz’s village, or so they are led to believe…
Since the game is essentially a Final Fantasy spin-off, you can expect a lot of things that you’d find in Final Fantasy RPG. The combat is your pretty standard random encounter turn based combat, but with a bit of a twist in that the combat turns are very fluid. For example you can choose to skip a party member’s turn, giving them two turns that can be taken next round – or save up even more to a maximum of 4 turns. Likewise you can choose to spend your next few turns early, but in doing so you leave that party member vulnerable for up to 4 turns of being wailed on by enemies. This adds a whole new level to your battle strategy, as well as the potential for some bold gambles that will either win or lose a whole fight.
Despite the fact that it all starts out sounding a bit cliché, Bravely Default is driven by a very strong plot, which almost reminds me of the Legend of Zelda games in the sense that it gives you an overarching goal that when achieved, turns out to not be the end of the game but simply the start of the next plot point. The characters themselves are also really well fleshed out and have vivid personalities, however this at the price of the game being quite heavy on dialogue. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind that, the dialogue isn’t really that much of a chore to go through, as it is usually either important for the plot, or just the party characters having so much banter that they might as well be having a cheeky Nandos.
The best part for me was the class system, I find it hard to commit to a single class/playstyle because it tends to get stale and boring after a while. Luckily Bravely Default shares my class commitment problem, and as such you can change your party’s classes at will, and even mix and match them. They way it works is that while your character has an experience level, they also have a job level. Upon equipping a class, or ‘job’ as they are called, you can level up that job, learning new skills and passive abilities. Let’s say you get sick of a character’s playstyle though, any time you’re not in battle or a cutscene, you can change the character’s job, but add the abilities from another known job. So for example you get tired of your character being a healing mage, so instead you make them a knight, but you choose to give them the abilities of the healing mage that they have already learned, essentially creating your own home brew paladin class.
While the big features are all well implemented, it’s the fine details that really make Bravely Default as great as it is. Firstly, the dungeons aren’t huge, but they aren’t small either. They tend to be just big enough considering the default encounter rate. I say default because you can change your random encounter rate at any time, either increasing it for extra enemies to grind or decreasing it/disabling it completely for those times where your party is hanging on to life by a thread and you don’t want their lives to be snuffed out by a particularly ornery woodland creature. That being said, the default encounter rate is usually worth enough experience to keep your party at an acceptable level if you trot along with the story, so the majority of the game is fairly light on grinding unless there’s something you specifically want to grind for, like the poached eggs ability on a character’s chef job for example.
Bravely Default is easily one of the most refreshing RPG experiences I’ve had to date. One of the core ideas seems to be that you can play the game any way you like, customizing your experience to suit yourself. When paired with such an engaging class/battle system, and a story that’s lengthy enough to have It’s own Peter Jackson trilogy, you’ll find it to be a hard game to get sick of at worst, and one of the best games you can buy for your 3DS at best.