For a while there it seemed like Square Enix was done with Bravely Default. The first game was a minor hit on the 3DS, showing developers there was still a healthy space for turn-based, “old school” JRPGs. A sequel soon followed and… it just didn’t hit the same way. Whatever the reason, we have managed to arrive with a third game with a two in its title, because why not? I really wanted to love Bravely Default II. Then, I really wanted to like Bravely Default II. At the end of the day, I couldn’t.

I’ve already more or less detailed my biggest problem with Bravely Default II in an earlier feature we published, about the game’s combat situation. But to sum it up here, Bravely Default II jumps on the popular alternative to random battles (enemies appearing on the map), and effectively ruins half of what made the earlier games so appealing. Thus, while many of the changes or additions elsewhere are nice to have, they’re cut off at the pass by such a drastic, fundamental problem.

Related: Hot Take: Bravely Default Needs Random Battles

But just because the pacing is off compared to its older siblings, a game like Bravely Default II can still easily work around that with an interesting story to tell, or even the series’ lovely art style. Unfortunately here you only get half of one of those. Bravely Default II has some amazing backdrops, with so much minute detail, color and life that it casts a more powerful damning light on the characters.

Related: Bravely Default II Tips and Tricks

I tried to get used to it, I thought perhaps it would be an acquired taste. I even came to think some of the enemies looked cool. But the human characters, the major players in the story and your own party, blegh. The previous games’ more fantastical, brush-like colors and details have been replaced with shiny, blocky polygons that look like dolls. But not in an interesting way, in a “these characters look like ugly Funko keychains” kind of way. The weird Unreal Engine-y motion blur is also in full force here, with no attempts to hide it. Considering Bravely Default has always been an exaggerated, cartoon sort of experience, it’s really odd to feel an uncanny valley sensation when looking at this one. But it’s there and never left.

Not only do the characters look like plastic dolls, they act like them too. Nobody in this game seems to care about what’s happening around them, nor does the game itself. The plot just sort of progresses, with enemies entering the picture out of nowhere and the main cast just sort of going, “oh okay” when something happens. Elvis is the only one with any sort of color to his cadence, and that’s just because he has a hokey Irish accent and likes to drink. He’s the Ringabel, but he isn’t The Ringabell, that’s for sure.

The story just doesn’t go anywhere for hours and hours. You chase down the crystals (natch), and usually there’s a mean person wearing a funny costume you have to beat. There is some higher concept stuff, but it’s so far into an otherwise painfully boring narrative there’s no impact. Both the previous games, faults and all, had so much more personality and creativity. Even the whole elemental crystals thing had interesting twists. Here? It just is.

All this consternation arrives at one point. Bravely Default II is disappointing. I’m the kind of person who goes berserk over a Job System, and there’s very little that’ll get in my way. But when the thing getting in the way is “everything else,” it’s a different story. Every time I made myself play further I just thought about the 3DS titles, and how much more compelling they are. This is obviously a game the people making it cared a lot about, don’t get me wrong. But where Bravely Default and Bravely Second were truly “brave” in many ways despite their archaic aesthetic, Bravely Default II plays more to the “default” part.


 

Pros:

  • Gorgeous environments
  • Tons of character customization
  • Brave/Default combat gimmick still rules

Cons:

  • Axing random battles kills the pace
  • Ugly character models
  • Frustratingly dull storytelling

Score: 6 

A copy of this game was provided by the customer for review