Bravely Se­cond: End Layer

3DS

EDGE - - GAMES -

Bravely De­fault may have been a cum­ber­some ti­tle, but it was an apt one for a Ja­panese role­play­ing game that spent as much time fall­ing back on es­tab­lished ideas as it did at­tempt­ing to stream­line and re­fine the sys­tems that had, in part, caused the genre to fall out of favour in the west. In most re­gards, this fol­low-up isn’t nearly so bold, feel­ing more like an ex­pan­sion than a se­quel. And yet it con­tin­ues the orig­i­nal’s fine work with a raft of sub­tle but mean­ing­ful im­prove­ments that trim the grind still fur­ther, while em­pow­er­ing the player to set their own pace. Ef­fi­ciency is rarely the first thing we look for in a JRPG, but Bravely Se­cond’s mor­eish­ness speaks much for the shrewd­ness of its de­signs.

Like its pre­de­ces­sor, the game ac­cepts that ran­dom en­coun­ters can grow tire­some over time. Once an op­ti­mal setup is found, sim­ply re­peat­ing it over and over is enough to progress un­til you reach a new re­gion and higher-level op­po­nents, or face a guardian, where more ad­vanced tac­tics are re­quired. Here, you’re pos­i­tively en­cour­aged to find the most po­tent mix of jobs, skills, buffs and perks, be­fore set­ting them to be au­to­mat­i­cally de­ployed when­ever your party stum­bles across an en­emy. This time, you can save three pre­set move lists, which should be suf­fi­cient to take you through the world map to the next dun­geon, while you’re also able to nom­i­nate favourite job set­ups for your party, com­pletely chang­ing its dy­namic with­out the oner­ous process of re­al­lo­cat­ing sec­ondary abil­i­ties and re-equip­ping weapons and gear.

Chain bat­tles of­fer an­other op­por­tu­nity to ac­cel­er­ate your progress. De­feat your

op­po­nents within a sin­gle turn, and you’ll be of­fered the chance to fight an­other group, al­beit with the not-in­signif­i­cant hand­i­cap of a debit to your brave points from the pre­vi­ous skir­mish. But with the chance to mul­ti­ply ex­pe­ri­ence, cash and job points, it’s hard to re­sist stay­ing in the fight un­til you’ve more than dou­bled your prize.

If you’re merely try­ing to boost a char­ac­ter’s job level, you can turn off the XP and cash boosts, head to an area with lowlevel en­e­mies, in­crease the en­counter rate by 100 per cent and barely lift a fin­ger for the next half-hour. In­deed, ad­just­ments to the in­ter­face mean it can now be played en­tirely one-handed, with the D-pad and left shoul­der used to se­lect menu op­tions. In­di­vid­u­ally, th­ese changes may not seem like much, but the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect makes Bravely Se­cond one of the most ac­ces­si­ble and mal­leable games of its kind.

There are new jobs, of course, along­side plenty of the old ones. Wizards cast el­e­men­tal spells that can be crafted into dif­fer­ent forms to suit the type of bat­tle, though such power comes at a cost, dou­bling your BP spend and greed­ily chew­ing through your MP gauge. Fencers adopt bes­tial stances to boost speed, at­tack and de­fence, while Char­i­o­teers can equip a third weapon to the head slot. Soon af­ter, you’ll be de­ploy­ing cats, cakes and cow­boys, though ‘soon’ is rel­a­tive: the prologue chap­ter took us five hours to fin­ish, and there are six more, some of them sub­stan­tially longer.

Sid­e­quests, mean­while, reac­quaint you with char­ac­ters such as Kami­izumi and Mephilia, and take the form of ide­o­log­i­cal dilem­mas. In the first, re­formed ban­dit Jackal wants to pil­fer a spe­cial gem to pro­vide wa­ter for thirsty desert dwellers, while Red Mage DeRosa is seek­ing to har­ness its en­ergy for a risky ex­per­i­ment de­signed to cre­ate an equal so­ci­ety for all. In the­ory, you’re in­vited to side with the char­ac­ter of­fer­ing the more per­sua­sive case, but with the other as­ter­isk be­ing locked out un­til New Game+, you’re far more likely to fight the one whose job would ben­e­fit you most in bat­tle.

Still, th­ese sto­ries are adeptly sketched, and af­forded a deeper sig­nif­i­cance than a dozen iden­tikit fetch quests. And if it’s dis­ap­point­ing that the main nar­ra­tive should re­nege on the early prom­ise of an all-new cast for this De­fault fol­low-up, there’s a fresh dy­namic to your party of four that will al­low most to for­give the sur­feit of pop-cul­ture nods and winks. Two chap­ters in, it’s a close se­cond to its pre­de­ces­sor – a lit­tle too close, in truth – but those sim­ply rel­ish­ing the chance to tin­ker with one of the finest turn-based com­bat sys­tems around will be happy to see it re­vert to type.

It’s hard to re­sist stay­ing in the fight un­til you’ve more than dou­bled your prize

Teenage knight Yew is a like­able but ar­che­typal lead. He’s head­strong yet naive, with an ap­par­ent gravy ob­ses­sion – a lo­cal­i­sa­tion quirk seem­ingly de­signed to gen­er­ate a meme

ABOVE There’s a nar­ra­tive jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for your abil­ity to ad­just the en­counter rate: a reawak­ened Tiz can now ma­nip­u­late the weak-minded. A cer­tain sem­i­nal space opera is ref­er­enced in the di­a­logue

TOP LEFT Though you’ll visit a few old stomp­ing grounds, the dun­geon de­sign is a marked im­prove­ment over the unin­spir­ing labyrinths of the orig­i­nal game.

ABOVE Bravely De­fault’s midgame twist sug­gested you should be wary of who to trust, but the se­quel isn’t hang­ing about, re­veal­ing a shock­ing be­trayal be­fore the game has prop­erly be­gun

You can now set the trig­ger con­di­tions for spe­cial moves, tai­lor­ing them ac­cord­ing to your cur­rent job and pre­ferred bat­tle strate­gies

Self-pro­claimed ‘Ba’al buster’ Magnolia Arch is the se­cond new party mem­ber, ar­riv­ing on a clan­des­tine beast-killing mis­sion, prompt­ing a re­turn of the orig­i­nal’s town-build­ing aside – though, on this oc­ca­sion, home is the Moon

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