Rekindle your love for the JRPG and strike your sword into the heart of the enemies in Luxendarc as you fight alongside Tiz, Ringabel, Agnès and Edea. Even with the core elements of a Final Fantasy game, Bravely Default sets itself apart with a high-spirited and, at times, risqué story in spite of its monster-ridden world.
Square Enix and Silicon Studio together delivers Bravely Default – a brand new IP set in the world of Luxendarc. Taking a hefty amount of inspiration from the Final Fantasy series and Dragon Quest, Bravely Default is an RPG player’s dream. After a brief cutscene with the Wind Vestal Agnès and her plea for help, the player is introduced to Tiz – a 19-year-old man whose simple life in Norende has been torn apart by the events of the Great Chasm.
As the sole survivor of the great catastrophe, Tiz meets Agnès when investigating the ruins of his village, becoming her well-travelled guide. But when Eternian soldiers attack the Wind Vestal, Tiz is adamant that he should fight by her side as her protector and, later, her friend. When travelling together, the two meet both Edea – a former duchy supporter – and the flirtatious Ringabel, who suffers from amnesia. Seeking to recover the ancient crystals from dark and monstrous beings, the group helps Agnès on her long quest to rid Luxendarc of the ominous, potent evil.
At first glance, Bravely Default’s design can appear flat and lacking in aesthetic merits. The Kingdom of Caldisla and, more specifically, the palace looks akin to a cardboard cut-out rather than the lustrous and gorgeous detail of hand-drawn art. However, once accustomed to the playfulness of the storyline, the flat-pack designs begin to unfold as a theatre set, casting a warm glow around the player as a pseudo director. Much like design, though, the stereoscopic 3D is not utilised to its full capacity until entering Florem with brightly-coloured flowers, and later Hartschild with its fiery lava background, which are both visually stunning.
The game’s combat system is fairly simple and grounded in the traditional RPG formula. Turn-based attacks from enemies are varied by using the Brave and Default commands, which can be used to players’ advantage. Choosing to default for a number of turns will help your characters stock up on BP, in order to unleash a series of attacks on the enemy for an ostentatious victory. For tougher enemies, though, strategic planning pays off much more than a frontal assault, so you’ll have to choose wisely when determining which job command to give your characters, as well as when to let loose those special moves. Sleep points are also not necessary to beating the game, but allows those who are stuck on a particular boss fight to use an extra move in dire consequences.
Some enemy battles in dungeons and random encounters on terrain, however, can become stagnant, particularly when levelling up for an all-powerful and malicious boss. Lacklustre battle design tends to detract from the heartfelt and gripping story, becoming monotonous far too quickly. Changing job commands helps to diversify the otherwise sluggish battles in dungeons and on land, so are often prime areas to level up a character as a ranger, time mage or swordmaster to name but a few.
For RPGs, the music must reflect the poignancy of the story, or the gripping tones of a battle to work in harmony with the game – and Bravely Default does just that. With some enthralling tracks, boss battles can be an exhilarating experience, and together with the in-game voice acting, they satiate the players’ needs. Yet though the music is wonderful, a problem with pitching soon becomes apparent. Emotional cutscenes between characters – particularly death scenes – can be thrown from their beautiful reverie by a blast of spine-chilling music, offsetting the mood and pace entirely.
Bravely Default’s storyline is delightfully well-paced, with well-rounded and distinct characters. But flaws in its design and the execution of the game’s music can detract from the overall experience. Nevertheless, Bravely Default is a must for RPG players with its witty, daring subplots and powerful tale.