Bravely Default II Reviewed

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Bravely Default II Reviewed

Posted by Chanel Ferguson

24 Mar, 2021


Bravely Default II follows the first game and Bravely Second: End Layer as a loose sequel. Newcomers won’t have problems jumping into this as their first Bravely Default title, making this a great entry to get started with. Just like the Final Fantasy games from fellow developer Square Enix, Bravely Default II stands on its own despite the number next to the title. This is fitting because the Bravely Default series has always essentially been Final Fantasy in everything but name. This latest installment continues that tradition, featuring a brand-new cast of unlikely friends banding together to save their homes and kingdoms from an evil empire. The heroes must collect four crystals to protect their world from an encroaching darkness, all as a faithful nod to the plots from the original Final Fantasy games. Bravely Default II captures the essence of those earlier experiences—with some degree of success.


Bravely Default II carries over the job system from the Final Fantasy series, letting players choose from a wide variety of classes. Black mage, white mage, monk, thief, bard, beastmaster and several other familiar names show up throughout, along with some new surprises. Any character can play any job, setting one as their primary and another as their sub job, giving access to skills and spells for both classes. With the turn-based battle system, you have a lot of freedom to experiment with job setups, finding the best combinations of main jobs and sub jobs to basically break the game with. It’s a steep grind to level up each job and unlock everything, but once you get there, the rewards make up for all the effort. Breezing through powerful bosses with an overpowered setup you discovered all on your own is nothing new for JRPGs, but Bravely Default II lets you make the most of it. 

Aside from the job system, Bravely Default II gets its name from a few other battle mechanics. During a fight your standard “defend” option is instead called Default, where you skip your turn to guard against an incoming attack. By Defaulting, you gain Brave points, which you can spend to double up on your turns. You may also use the Brave ability to take up to three extra turns in a row, hammering against an enemy all at once. If you don’t have enough Brave points for your attacks, this will leave you with negative points, where your character automatically skips his or her turn until you’re back to zero. Strategizing with your Brave points is the key to victory, and it can make the difference between a quick fight and a long, drawn-out battle. Weighing those risks and rewards keeps the turn-based grind engaging throughout the journey.

If you’re not a fan of that grind, then Bravely Default II might not be for you. There’s no escaping the constant battles, the need to level up and the difficulty spikes from time to time. Whenever you run into those spikes, the best solution is usually to grind some more levels before pressing on. Bravely Default II practically encourages you to find those game-breaking setups with the job system. The game also wants you to take those risks with your Brave points; otherwise, battles can really drag on. Playing conservatively and hoping for the best isn’t always feasible. Ironically, it feels like the game is balanced around those unbalanced possibilities with your job combinations, leading to a mere illusion of choice.


Bravely Default II’s story pulls a lot from older Final Fantasy games. Four heroes journey the world to collect powerful crystals to protect the land from a dark cataclysmic event. During their search, the heroes protect various kingdoms from an evil empire, whose leaders are also after the crystals. There’s supposed to be some political intrigue going on, as one of your party members is a princess on the run. But the actual intrigue just isn’t there for a number of reasons. The main protagonists are mostly forgettable, suffering from a lack of meaningful character development. The antagonists are worse off, often portrayed as one-dimensional villains twirling their mustaches or laughing maniacally in any given scene. The overarching plot is also terribly predictable and full of tropes, especially for anyone who’s familiar with classic JRPGs. 

The story tries to make up for its lack of character development in some ways. Out in the field, there are optional conversations, with the protagonists bantering together: joking around, getting to know each other or reminiscing about the past. But these conversations are text-only, and they’re usually not about anything important. This problem compounds with the predictable plot. One section of the story borrows heavily from Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, the MMORPG expansion lauded for its stellar writing and characters. Bravely Default II’s version pales in comparison despite an earnest effort. There’s a real message behind the themes of the overall plot, such as the power of perseverance through uncertainty, but the stale storytelling and unremarkable characters take away too much from the meaning.

Graphics and Visuals

Bravely Default II’s environments are incredibly charming. A picturesque kingdom by the seaside welcomes the main protagonist at the start of the game. The dungeons and overworld locations brim with color and stylized detail, with monsters of all shapes and sizes roaming around freely. Each town feels like a living, breathing painting that the characters run through, as if adventuring through oil on canvas. There’s a calm and cozy feeling in the atmosphere, almost welcoming you home each time you play. This feeling adds to the game’s strong sense of nostalgia, making Bravely Default II a pleasant all-around experience, even with its shortcomings elsewhere. 

Unfortunately, the character models and cutscenes don’t match with the rest of the visuals. Everyone looks like an oddly realistic chibi character, somewhere between cartoonish cuteness and photorealism. During cutscenes, the characters stand in the center of the screen, talking and emoting at each other, with the environments blurred out in the background. This puts an extra burden on the characters to carry the story and dialogue because there’s no fancy camerawork or effects to distract from the scenes. Unfortunately, Bravely Default II’s visual format doesn’t do the storytelling any favors.

Music and Sound

Fitting with the gorgeous environments, the game’s soundtrack is equally pleasant and enjoyable. The battle music sounds just like the retro Final Fantasy equivalents, down to the little ramp-up jingle at the beginning. Tracks for each town do a good job of setting the mood for each location, and journeying the world feels easy and comfortable, thanks to the music. For the most part, the voice acting is effective and believable, with some unique accents here and there. Not all of the accents work; some of the antagonists sound downright bizarre, as if they’re just caricatures of evil villains. But overall, the dialogue is great to listen to, which shores up a few weaknesses in the actual story and writing.


Bravely Default II spends a lot of time trying to be an old-school Final Fantasy game instead of trying to be its own thing. The turn-based combat has plenty of depth, and the art direction is filled with unique, charming detail. Not much else that stands out on its own since Bravely Default II isn’t particularly new or innovative. As a series, Bravely Default isn’t shy about paying homage to what came before, even to the point of outright borrowing familiar tropes and plot points from its sister Final Fantasy franchise. But if you enjoy traditional JRPGs, and you’re craving that old-school nostalgia with a modern polish, you’ll feel right at home with this game.


About Author

Chanel Ferguson

Chanel Ferguson is a novelist who loves gaming. She grew up with role-playing games such as Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in philosophy, she spent her free time writing fiction novels, crafting unique worlds and characters inspired by video games.

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