Last week’s Nintendo Direct Mini brought with it a handful of news on various projects like Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and the Pokemon Sword & Shield’s Expansion Pass. It also more or less served as the full reveal for the hotly anticipated Bravely Default II that was shown off at the Game Awards in a teaser trailer.
While its segment showed how this is a brand new world with brand new characters completely separate from the first two games on 3DS, there wasn’t much to go on what would be mechanically different in this numbered entry. The titular Brave & Default system is back along with jobs you can mix and match, but those are things anyone who has played either of the previous games is already familiar with.
Fortunately, a demo was also dropped the same day and playing it reveals a few key changes and additions that may not mean much on their own, but add up to create a sufficient crinkle in the formula fans of the series have grown accustomed to.
No More Random Encounters
This is something that was technically shown in the Mini Direct but not actually explained. The random encounters of the previous two games are a thing of the past, now replaced with the typical symbol encounters you see in many modern JRPG’s. By attacking an enemy symbol from behind you’ll start the battle with an advantage in turn order and BP count, something that was previously randomized.
This should mean that you have more control over what and when you decide to fight in Bravely Default II, but that’s not necessarily the case in the demo. Enemy symbols often move fast and there are many narrow corridors both on the world map and in the dungeon available that makes avoiding encounters practically impossible in many instances.
Whereas in the previous games you could knock the encounter rate all the way to zero if you found yourself in a tight spot and had to retreat to safer ground, there’s no such safeguard in Bravely Default II’s demo. This made for some particularly hairy situations while I was grinding in the early goings. It takes a little bit of the customizability away that the first two games are known for, and it’s difficult to say if that’s a good or bad thing at this point.
Turn Order is Executed Differently
In Bravely Default and Bravely Second, turns in battle were carried out by selecting commands for all four of your party members at once then executing them together. Not the case in Bravely Default II; instead, actions are selected on a per-character basis. You select the actions for one party member and then those orders are immediately carried out. After that’s complete either an enemy will get their turn or you’ll be able to command your next party member.
This is a change that will ultimately give the player more control over their strategies in battle. No longer will there be instances of queuing a healing or support spell only for the recipient to die before it could be cast. That said, it would be nice if there was some sort of indicator that tracked turn order so you could more appropriately plan for things to come. The lack of such a feature is in line with Bravely Default’s classic Final Fantasy vibe, though, so it’s not all too surprising it’s absent.
Voiced Battle Lines
Another change to battles is that they aren’t totally silent anymore! Newcomers Seth, Gloria, Elvis, and Adelle will all liven up the battlefield with quips and comments as they fight tooth and nail. Hearing the heavily accented Elvis jeer, “Ooh, right in the soft bits!” when hitting an enemy’s weak spot was always a delight.
Battle lines are certainly nothing new or revolutionary, but they go a long way in bringing some pep to encounters as well giving your party members some extra characterization where none had existed before. There’s always the risk that battle lines become redundant and overused, but that didn’t become an issue in the demo at least. Hopefully that remains the case in the full game.
New Stats for Equipment
This is probably the most significant change that is apparent in the demo alone. Two new stats have been added to equipment — weight and chance of being targeted — and they pretty drastically change how you think about outfitting your party.
Every member of your party now has an equipment weight limit that is dictated by their stats and current job settings; going over that weight limit results in a severe cut to all stats. That means no more decking out your White Mage in full plate armor or the like. Sticking to traditional job archetypes works well within the bounds of this new system but there’s also already inklings of how Bravely Default II will encourage playful experimentation with weight even in this demo. The Freelancer job, a jack of all trades, has the Bodyslam ability that deals more damage the more weighted down your character is. It’s entirely possible later jobs down the line will play with this notion of acceptable weight.
The other new stat is rather self-explanatory. The more your chance of being targeted increases, the more your… chance of being targeted increases. This adds a new consideration for choosing what piece of equipment to use as those with better stats typically also have higher targeting chance values.
There’s a risk vs. reward aspect that’s always being evaluated. Do I equip this robe to Elvis that boosts his magic power at the expense of drawing more attention to the squishy mage, or settle for the safer lower-tier item? Or I can outfit Seth to draw so much aggro with his gear that even if the other members see an uptick in their’s, it’s a drop in the bucket. This stat brings with it brand new considerations to make and depending on the circumstances can be either beneficial or detrimental.
Relatedly, armor proficiencies outside of shields have been completely done away with, probably because these two new stats bring plenty to the table on their own to take into account.
Special Attacks Specific to Job Instead of Weapon
In the previous Bravely games, the special attacks for each character were dictated by the current weapon type they had equipped which also determined the conditions to activate that attack. Now in Bravely Default II those are determined by the primary job of the character instead. The conditions for triggering them have also been streamlined, moving away from things like “Use Items 10 Times” to simply using the abilities of your currently equipped job a certain number of times.
This change better aligns special moves with their jobs and their intended purpose, allowing for some more unorthodox weapon/job combinations that just weren’t viable in previous games. You can easily slap an axe on your White Mage if you’ve come up with some hackneyed idea of a battle cleric without worrying about them losing there recovery special that used to be exclusive to staves.
Outside of that, specials still function the same, kicking in a thunderous victory ballad that grants benefits to your whole party for the duration of the song. Only Seth’s special was available in the demo, but it’s safe to assume the chaining of specials will also make a return in the full game.