Review: Bravely Second: End Layer
If many loyal followers of the JRPG genre revered Bravely Default as the vestige of a discipline that has been long lost by developers, some criticized the redundancy of its script that never ends ended, as almost pushing to justify a sequel. Released finally by Nintendo in the West, does Bravely Second: End Layer brings the change needed to this young IP or was it just another sequel that couldn’t get on par to its predecessors?
Before I begin – and although I haven’t reviewed the original Bravely Default on this site – it is highly recommended to those who have not tried or finished Bravely Default to stop reading this instance. Indeed, the introduction scene of Bravely Second meticulously summarizes the major events and ending of the first game, though in rather vague way, even incomprehensible to the uninitiated because of their multi-dimensional story ramifications.
Now i’m going to begin with a short introduction just intended to refresh memories to those that played the first game back in 2013-2014 (depending on where you were in the world). Since Bravely Second retains many elements of its predecessor that I will not fully go in depth through these lines, so if you want to know more about it, I recommend reading this great review before from Eurogamer’s Simon Parkins. Incidentally, the demo currently available for free on the Nintendo Store can also help to assimilate and learn the original combat mechanics (which is key to why I love this game), while developing the story of the Three Musketeers Of The Crystal Orthodoxy. This brotherhood of musketeers alas quickly becomes secondary in the full Bravely Second story, as their origin is two and half years after the epilogue of Bravely Default.
Agnes Oblige, now Pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, helped end the ageless conflict between the orthodoxy and the Duchy of Eternia. But this peace treaty ceremony was abruptly disturbed by the intrusion of Kaiser Oblivion, assisted by a dark fairy with a familiar face. This mysterious Emperor kidnaps Agnes, despite her devoted servant Yew Généolgia brave attempt to stop this. Barely recovering on his feet, our hero departs to the rescue of “His Holiness” which can communicate through a fragment of her pendant, inheriting the role of the fairy Airy in Bravely Default, becoming a “tutorial” or personal guide.
This quest leads him to meet Edea and Tiz, two of the main protagonists of Bravely Default, plus Magnolia, a newcomer to the series, native to the moon (apparently all along event if it was never mention in the first game) and in constant attack by monsters known as Ba’als. And thus the moon becomes what Norende was in Bravely Default, a side meta-game which will ask you to assigne villagers to help rebuild parts of it, and thus unlock various tools and upgrades for your characters, hourly freebies, as well as enhance spacecraft to weaken these Ba’als replacing the once Nemeses (obtained via street-pass). Inexorably, with all the above, a déjà-vu feeling emerges if you played the previous game, as I begin to venture and roam the lands of Luxendarc.
If the melancholy atmosphere of the pilgrim grove reminds probably deliberately the ghost forest of Final Fantasy VI – and the distant relationship between the two games at the same time – many of the places have already been visited in Bravely Default, and they have not changed (what do you expect? It’s only been two years, but still). Fortunately, two new cities were added, with a very different scenery, and the beauty of these decorations highlight the subtle enhancement of Silicon Studio’s graphic engine, thanks to their dizzying architecture, but also by their exotic touches.
But what really got me with Bravely Second is that our four adventurers seemed to have been more interested in talking about the culinary specialties and other tourist occupations than in the fate of this world. There’s so many cutscenes in this game, and while it’s great to see heroes have the luxury of debating food taste, making them feel more human, it’s just a little bit to much.
Quests also feel a bit rehashed, especially the sidequests, serving as a pretext to return to the identical Bravely Default dungeons. Of course, this is practical recycling for developers (and cost-effective for the publisher) and could be justified even from a narrative point of view, since it helps exploring this universe and lore even more, such as with the new cities that were absent on the map in the first episode. Same goes for the protagonists, since, beyond revealing two new faces, and a new side of their personality, the story seems primarily dedicated to tell the story straight up to the player.
Now since we already established that so much of the game is the same, by what strange quirk of fate your paths with side-characters will cross again in this adventure? Finding these old acquaintances obviously can help you get their different jobs by defeating these asterisks carriers, but now they are paired, and you’ll need to settle on a choice for one or the other, at least initially until the reach the last chapters. In the tradition of its predecessor last four chapters, Bravely Second tends to recurrence, but it clearly shows it is better built into the action of the journey almost reminding me what only the masterpieces of the genre such as Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross did. The additional jobs are also part of the same philosophy even behind their humorous nature, between the charioteer who never ceases to fight, the ventriloquist witch is responsible for hs unfortunate resurrection and a pastry maker and seducer of ladies.
If some are similar to versions of existing jobs, like the Catmancer (pretty much resemble the Vampire job in Bravely Default), others are really unique such as the Astrologer. And all further extend the versatility of skills, including time management from the Exorcist, to go back to the status, health or even MP range you were at in the previous turns. What emerges is really more degenerate combinations, thanks to the complementary and synergy effects between these skills, with combining great combos and almost instinctively destroying a whole team of enemies. I almost believed that the combat system of Bravely Default was perfect, but Bravely Second dared to sharpen more through complexity of combos, as well as bonuses offered with sets of two or three consecutive battle (if you win in the first round). This part of the game strengthens the notion of risk, because if every win just multiply the reward, your health, battle and magic points are not regenerated between rounds, leaving your next enemy very capable to knock you out.
This formula also reduces the redundant side of the random encounters, which led to launch almost a mechanical offensive by abusing a quadruple Brave with the team which could easily dominate the adversity. Now a hint of reflection is required for each opponents, so you don’t rely too much on the option of automated tactics. Similarly, the thirst for XP encourages excessive eradication of enemies in a row to boost the multiplier, and a potentially vicious circle of trying to overpower your warriors will be established on its own, despite the indication of the level theoretically required for each dungeons.
Bravely Second: End Layer was reviewed using a Nintendo 3DS copy of the game provided by Nintendo. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The playfulness of the story.
• The beauty of the new destinations.
• Some of the new jobs add so many great tactical possibilities.
• There are now a total of 30 jobs and over 300 abilities
• The combat system is now even more tactical.
• The small improvement to the general interface.
• Great lifespan (over 60 hours to finish the base game)
• 3D looks amazing especially on the New Nintendo 3DS
• Some of these cutscene are just plain too long and painful
• Numerous sidequests as a pretexts to reuse the old dungeons
• Some much recycling in this game
• Less animated cutscenes