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Bravely Default II - Flying February 2021

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I was not impressed by the demo at all. Hopefully they release another demo after making tweaks?
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Uh oh - what was bad about the demo? For whatever reason I never get around to playing RPG demos...
It was nothing they couldn't address in the final game. It only 2 things: I didn't like how the combat numbers were balanced because it felt like you either got steamrolled or were doing the steamrolling; the other was just that the on-map controls to attack a monster felt pretty bad and inconsistent.

However, according to the mini-direct released today there's going to be a video from SE talking about how they addressed feedback from the demo, so I'm really interested to see that.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
I didn’t think combining a more complex turn system with the brave/default system added anything other than unnessessary complexity.

All my other gripes with the demo were small and could be fixed easily.

But I’d play this for the soundtrack alone, anyway.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Didn't the previous BD games make significant tweaks for the better after their initial demos? Seems likely they'll iron at least some of it out.

I loved and played the first game to death, but got distracted not terribly far into End Layer, perhaps because there just wasn't enough spark to differentiate it and I'd got a bit burned out after doing all the optional content in Flying Fairy. It's been quite a while now, so definitely keeping an eye on this one, though I'm not sure when my game backlog would allow it. As far as I'm concerned they can delay it all they like, heh.
 

4-So

Spicy
Yeah, I'll be picking this one up. The first one had one of the best videogame OSTs of the past decade, so as long as they can keep that train rolling, I'm in. I can forgive a lot if the music grabs me, not that I found much to forgive. Solid games.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
However, according to the mini-direct released today there's going to be a video from SE talking about how they addressed feedback from the demo, so I'm really interested to see that.

Here it is:

Pretty okay changes. The highlights for me include:
  • Added difficulty selections
  • Reduced monster movement speed and made swinging the sword faster and longer range
  • Added turn gauges to party members and exclamation indicators to enemies that will get a turn soon

The difficulty stuff I'm not sure will actually address my issues with the demo because it depends on how they balanced stats and the damage formula on Hard, but we'll have to see. I think that video made me confident enough to probably pick this up in February.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
That at least attempts to address all my issues, so yeah. I'm in.

Edit: But 3 difficulty options ? Damn it, BD ha the best system in the industry for this years ago, I need my sliders.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Hey check it out, they fixed literally every complaint I registered in the survey.
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)

New demo is out
 
Does playing it unlock anything in the full game? Says it’s just a slice of the actual first chapter, unlike past series demos. (including for this game?) I think I played first the demo for this before not just touching but fully completing the other entries... COVID furlough...

Anyway, 30 seconds in and you can properly play dress up with the characters this time, which I think is a change. I’ll probably just wait until the release.
 

falz

(He/Him)
Yeah. I'll pass on this one seeing as I'm very probably gonna pick the game up when it comes out.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
It's out. I'm playing it.

Bravely Default to me is one of the worst-written video games stories ever conceived and executed upon, and rather than lay out all its offenses I'll just rely on the associated pedigree to illustrate the point: the primary writer on it was one Naotaka Hayashi, author of several 5pb.-developed visual novels such as Steins;Gate, a top runner in peak misogyny in the medium. That voice and tone defines Bravely Default consistently and suffocatingly, so much so that whatever opinions I held about it as a set of RPG rules and mechanical interactions had no bearing on the reality of it at all; I simply had to give it up at some point because it wore me down to exhaustion and beyond. For Second, I knew the writing staff changed, potentially alleviating those issues, but it was also deeply entwined with its predecessor in a way that made approaching it difficult on blank slate basis. Fortunately, Bravely Default II appeared to allow me that chance for a fresh start, hoping for something better, which is why I'm engaging with it now.

Default II is positioned to as a "return to form" for the series, as despite whatever grievances I personally hold against the first game, it was a major deal in its day and helped usher in the current resuscitation of original RPG projects specifically informed by past glories from Square Enix's rich history and catalogue. I also cannot deny how much other people really loved it, and that's why the title is what it is despite being a third game in the series, and why the return of composer collective Revo has been much publicized (I'm indifferent to their work). The hope is that some actually meaningful changes to the formula or the way it's conveyed are present next to the nostalgic bluster, and from the opening hours, I think it's earned at least the benefit of the doubt on that front.

First off, I love how it looks. The developer has chosen the moniker Claytechworks for themselves, and that is about as apt a summary of the appeal here as any for the visuals: it's redolent of a kind of hyper-real, plasticine artificiality that exists in the work not because every visual element is working in cohesion to one unified vision, but because the gaps in the fidelity are there and are so distinct; the paradoxicality and juxtaposition makes the look, oddly enough. Beyond the raw materials, how they're used is also improved from my recollection: cinematics with direction and framing exist outside of the conversational void that interactions most often are told through, and even those have plenty of unique character model animations and interplay to suit the particulars of the scene. It's not earth-shattering stuff, but more comfortable in its narrative format and willing to extend outside of it at times.

The central four party members are also important to how these kinds of games come off since it's in their company so much of it is spent and fortunately there too I find the premises of the characters, or their specific dynamics more novel or confidently shaded than most. There hasn't been any of the browbeating harassment by the men, and the women haven't been portrayed as noble to a fault or "humorously" irritable. Instead these characters are almost low-key in how they come off, and their interactions reflect that, with very little of the kind of exaggerated double-takes and ribbing that dominate many stories like this; instead you get a princess who's less youthfully naive than driven and determined beyond her years; or a couple of adults on a quest of their own for personal reasons that intersect on a professional level and leads to their chummy but pragmatic dynamic of employee and bodyguard, where again it's the woman guarding the scholarly man. I would not find these somewhat thinly characterized (it is still pretty early, I acknowledge) people nearly as compelling as I do if it weren't for the specific nature of the English script and voicework and casting, which to me has elevated all steps of the process. If you love varied and diverse accents and casting outside of the video game industry's common players, this might be a game for you. The speech patterns do a lot for every major, supporting and bit character, often because they aren't always obvious; I cannot regionally place many of them, and that's a lot going for something that's usually used as an acting shorthand and cultural stereotype. Here it just conveys a world that feels larger than is seen, and who knows, maybe it will go on to show a lot of that over time.

Beyond those happy observations, I've just liked the experience of existing in this world that has a scale that communicates vastness and compact readability both, and the little details that turn up in exploring it. Cutting grass is such a weirdly prominent habit that this game instills in the player that it will likely end up as a meme of some notoriety, and the great thing about it is that it mixes absurd mundanity with actual, tactile rewards for doing it; before the first battle in the game had occurred, I'd significantly upgraded the equipment load-out available to me, just because I had the curiosity to mow down some weeds. That kind of obscure generosity continues if one persists in pursuing the pasttime, and I've rarely ever been more endeared to a video game frivolity as quickly and as decisively. Other things to be remarked upon may be just atmospheric, like how the lead character will light a lantern to light their way as day turns to night, or when entering a darkened space.

For a series that set itself up fundamentally as a return to the charm of earlier RPGs and that I found charmless because of its infractions, this time around I may actually be as charmed by a Bravely game as they've always wanted me to be. I hope it maintains its efforts.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I echo these sentiments. It's been rather nice so far and the toy aesthetic is a charmer. I'm finding the game to be extremely well written on a sentence by sentence ground level. A significant step above the average for sure. Whether that will translate to good writing on the story/characters/pacing level or if it will retain the worst of BD1's animerisms isn't evident yet. I'm expecting the inevitable Ringabell character to show up at any moment. At least in the Ringabell slot is a charming scot. For now anyway. His vice appears to be alcoholism and that threatens to swerve into sex pest, I'm dreading it.

On the other hand I like how the main character's freelancer job is Pirate Lad.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Well, if this stays out of misogyny town, I might be picking it up sooner than I thought...
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I hate cutting grass. Just absolutely hate it and wish it wasn't in the game, or rather made more... better than how it works now. But easy to not do it, so, that's what I'll be choosing to do the rest of the game!
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
Is there any reason not to sell the monster bits that don’t do anything? Not like I’m hurting for pg yet, I guess...

Putting NMs on the field will hopefully work better than the multiplayer super-bosses in the first game you could never really fight at the right level, but it’ll depend on how easy is is to get around later (and how varied their levels actuslly are).
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
If there's a use for "collectible items," I haven't found it yet, but I'm going to hang onto them until I really need money.

With the extreme abundance of side quests, it feels like this game really suits my preferred style of playing JRPGs: as slowly as possible.

The party members feel a bit more subdued than in the last two, but not without some tantalizing layers, and I find myself liking them a lot, even "just some guy" Seth.

There've been a fair number of Switch games recently where I felt either like handheld play was too compromised to enjoy fully, or docked play was overkill, but it feels like this is one where I'm very comfortable actually switching. So that's good.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I love that time of day affects monster group formation density: in the day you're likelier to run into groups of 1 to 3 enemies, while at night it's closer to 4 to 6 on the regular. Whether the intent is there or not, I'm choosing to read the former as a callback to the Final Fantasy III remake's smaller enemy parties, while the nightly encounters stand in for the more common scale. It's just on my mind because if one is to really wind back the clock to the genesis of this throwback RPG line, it's the work Matrix did with that remake that really established a lot of the conventions going forward.

That brings me to another aspect that's been a consistent in these games since Akihiko Yoshida's days as the lead character designer and that I'm less fond of, and which has been maintained under Naoki Ikushima (who is designer here as well as in the upcoming Project Triangle Strategy): these games exclusively feature white people as the protagonists to what is a really limited sense of what a "traditional RPG" cast is and the connotations invoked in that context aren't the best. The games these new-old games ostensibly take after weren't always as narrowly portrayed, and it's as big of a blemish on the designs as the body politics and lack of any kind diversity on that front as well.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I'm into chapter one proper and I think I like this game. The battle system is v engaging. It feels nice and crunchy and in many small ways like a refinement in a way that maybe justifies calling this 2 and not 3.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Oh, I see. It's a cross between Reversi and Triple Triad.

I can see where some would find it annoying, but I kind of like the extent to which the bosses just have a ton of counterattacks. If you come to the fight at a low level, it's something you can prepare for with a smart loadout on your second attempt, and if you come to the fight at a high level, it sort of acts on a check on how much more efficient your superior numbers can make you. You have to fight smart. But I hope they're not all like that.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
I think I'm starting to get a real impression here.

The biggest tell that this game was made by a different team is that the UI is a step back in most respects. It's not just little annoyances like inconsistent buttons for displaying more details. There's nothing to see damage calculations with. The battle details screen reveals discovered weaknesses, but not resistances or immunities. Most damningly, however, it's really easy to overlook sidequests, because there's no way to see the numbered list (that I've seen), and when you're in town you have to check each subscreen, not just the main exterior area.

Sidequest discoverability in particular is a serious concern, because doing the major sidequests seems to be a necessary source of EXP and unique gear if you want to keep up with the difficulty curve. How many people completely overlooked that you should go back to talk to the King of Halcyonia in chapter 1? He'll send you to a whole 'nother dungeon with one of the best accessories in the game, and you'll end up with a much gentler time through the Savalon area.

The UI in Bravely Default and Bravely Second was kind of a masterpiece, insofar as all the information needed to make sense of a highly abstract game was close at hand. It's harder to dig down into the details in Default 2, and there's less to find there. In some cases that simply changes the texture of the game: whereas before you could fully theorycraft your loadout, now you have to actually try things to figure out what's efficient. But the sidequest thing is insidious, because it looks like the zoom-out button is a convenient way to get all the information, but it has non-obvious limitations that might lead you to overlook things.
 
Ended a cutscene prematurely for the first time when Adelle was talking to some innkeeper about a fish. Did that a lot in the first game, too, although the vibe here is very different. So far, I find the cast dull (feel bad, sorry) as opposed to despicable, (Bravely Default) but Bravely Second had a pretty likeable cast. (returning characters much improved) Only just begun so there's plenty of writing/performance left that could charm me, hopefully.

First order of business is casting everyone against type. (I'm sure later everyone will show off every type of class, nevertheless) I think this made the first boss battle more annoying than it needed to be because Black Mage's special is a group ice attack that didn't hit anyone's weakness or do as much damage as the freelancer's single target thing would have. I don't think you could actually die (on Normal) it was just... time-consuming waiting until the guest took the opportunity to attack Selene as opposed to Dag and for her not to heal too much immediately.

Provisional endorsement of grass cutting, as long as it remains a pointless but intermittently diverting bit of enrichment, like I prefer jumping in video games to be.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
At least the cutscene viewer is still in. That fish cutscene (or its follow-up, at least) is one of the first signs that there's more going on than first impressions. I find the main characters are more subdued than Bravely Second, but they're showing hints of energy and pathos, which I'm waiting expectantly to pay off later. None of them are a patch on Edea, but then, who is?
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I'm thinking next play session I will turn up the difficulty to Hard for random battles and then back down to Normal on boss fights. The bosses seem too complicated to handle on Hard without some foreknowledge (and I don't necessarily want to fight every boss twice), but random battles are mostly a rote exercise in blowing all my BP/MP to cut down the monster group in 1 turn.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
The more I play of this game the more I like it. It's very crunchy, and I think that, in a way, the encounter design and pace of battle might be in conversation with Final Fantasy 1. So many elements of this game seem to be directly commenting on that game from musical reference to dungeon flow. The battles feel in-step with that.
 
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