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Bravely Default Roundtable Discussion Hands On Preview

Take these jobs and... discuss them.

A downloadable demo for the highly anticipated 3DS RPG, Bravely Default, hit the eShop last week and Travis, JD, and Julian put some hours into it before convening to discuss what they thought. Find out how we felt about the demo and what we now expect out of the full game in our roundtable discussion.

Travis:  There is certainly a lot of excitement from the community about Bravely Default. Did you have a lot of anticipation for this game before trying the demo? 

JD:  When I saw that there was a demo coming out, I definitely did get a bit excited to try it out. My 3DS has been getting a ton of use lately and I totally didn't mind another excuse to use it. Not to mention, I was getting a huge classic Final Fantasy vibe from the gameplay I've already seen, which is another plus. When Nintendo announced that the demo would have exclusive quests that carry over to the full game, I was sold.

Julian:  I'm not sure why I was interested in this game. I abhor the name (at least it's not still Bravely Default: Flying Fairy), and the character designs are identical to the DS version of Final Fantasy III, where everyone seems to have a little potbelly and no feet. But I had listened to people raving about the Japanese release on podcasts, and a recent trailer made me think that this was a classic Final Fantasy game in disguise. That was enough to get me to pre-order it, as I've been itching for a traditional RPG for quite some time.

Travis: Personally, I was a little foggy on the game’s development, but had heard lots of fan chatter here and there. When I realized it was a "spiritual successor" to Final Fantasy 4 Heroes of Light, I started paying attention. The clips when Nintendo announced the demo were graphically impressive and the battle system intrigued me. Those two things combined had me almost pre-ordering, but I figured I'd hold off and try the demo.

What do you think of the demo? Are you getting a good vibe from the battle system so far?

Julian:  That's a heavy thing to ask. I don't think the demo makes a good first impression. It doesn't have a difficulty curve so much as a difficulty wall followed by a steep cliff. The demo is GAF (Grindy As F---), and that's not what I'm looking for. Now, before people stop to tell me that I'm hypocritical for craving a traditional RPG and not wanting a grindfest, I would say that I have needed to grind in very few RPGs in my life. As long as you don't run from battles constantly most games run at a smooth clip. Grinding for me has usually been a choice, not a necessity. The demo REQUIRES you to grind from the outset, as enemies hit hard, have tons of stacking status ailment attacks (that nearly always hit), and deal a lot of punishment. 

The demo is very uneven, with a first boss that will one-shot party members with a tier 3 spell even though most players will likely still be using tier 1 spells at that point. However, after that initial wall, the game became a cakewalk for me. I do enjoy that the tougher monsters require actual tactics. Who would have thought that the third boss would be so weak to poison? How many games actually have an effective poison spell, for that matter?

JD:  Initially, I was pretty turned off by the battle system. I didn't quite pick up on the Brave and Default systems right away. Not to mention, as Julian stated, the demo requires some grinding right from the get go, which scared me off. I messed around with the classes for my characters a bit before settling on Swordmaster, Black Mage, Knight, and White Mage. I eventually got the hang of combat, and once I did it was a pretty smooth ride from then on for a few quests. Currently I am stuck on a boss that takes very little damage and deals out massive, one hit kill attacks that I have absolutely no clue how to defeat.

Travis:  There does seem to be a good use of tactics, and a real need to futz with your jobs and abilities constantly. But that also means you've got to grind like you're saying to have lots of useful abilities available. My only real issue with the tactics is the core concept of acquiring BP and spending them to stack actions. I can see how this is an evolution from 4 Heroes of Light, but I don't think I'm getting it. My biggest successes come from burning through BP right at the start of a battle with everyone's final turn being the best defensive move they've got in case we haven't mopped the floor. So, I'm just pushing buttons like mad to set everything up at the start of a battle, and I was getting a little sick of it. I'm still using planning and having to think about what I'm doing, but you're right that after a little leveling up, everything but the bosses became easy pretty quickly.

Is the BP system really going to give us battles that will keep us engaged through an entire RPG? What am I missing?

Julian:  I think the BP system can be largely ignored in regular battles, but it’s crucial in boss fights. You can play it like a traditional turn-based RPG normally, and I feel like this could be the best Final Fantasy game since IX. I realize it's not part of the franchise, but I think including it under the FF umbrella could really strengthen the brand. 

As far as how I've used the Brave and Default options, I will spend the first couple of turns during a boss fight building BP. My main team was Knight, Ninja, Black Mage, and White Mage. Since the bosses hit so hard I found it to my advantage to spend time Defaulting and having my White Mage use protect on everyone. I'd go into brave mode to have my Knight attack twice, and my Ninja to cast Utsusemi (which can link into a devastating counter move if it activates) and attack. A great example of the tactics I used were with the second boss, who was weak to ice magic, but frequently casts reflect on itself. I'd have my Black Mage Default for every turn that the boss had reflect on, but when it would wear off I'd spend all my Brave Points to unleash three Blizzara spells in one turn, doing massive damage. 

I think a lot of the trick to Bravely Default will be to make great use of BP to set up chains of defensive and offensive job abilities. So far my biggest concern stems from the Farmville-esque mini game where you rebuild the town. It seems like a lot of crucial equipment is locked away in that area, and since I have no friends playing the demo and no one to street pass with, building up the town to get those items has been a lengthy slog.

Travis:  Yeah, the BP system made a lot more sense in the boss battles and the first few tough encounters. It just seemed like so many of the other encounters didn't require any sort of finesse. I'm not all negative on it, though. Every time I had to plan out how to accrue and spend BP I was really digging it. That just didn't happen much in the demo.

I'm with you completely on the town building. Once you can make "friends" online in the real game, it should get better, but things like Tiny Tower where I have to check in all the time are a big turnoff for me. Hopefully it will grab me in this, though.

JD:  BP does seem like a huge thing but at the end of the day, it’s not. From my experience, the BP system simply handles how you want to manage turns. It can impact how long a fight lasts if you have the right strategy beforehand. Using it correctly, fights can end pretty quickly but a miss-use could lead to some wasted turns. I feel like the big thing is team building, and class/ability management. There seems to be a lot to the job skills and secondary skills that you can equip. It seems like utilizing that will lead to combinations that will really help out in battle. I'd give my White Mage an Examine skill that belongs on another class. That way, she can continue to be my dedicated healer, while being able to identify enemy weaknesses. I definitely still have much to figure out, but I dig the amount of depth that is there. For the demo it’s quite impressive, yet overwhelming at times.

Travis:  Do you guys see yourself working to level up lots of jobs to have a big slate of options, or max what works and plow ahead? I'm having trouble imagining how many talents I really need. I'm not seeing too much to encourage me out of black and white mages, a damage dealer, and a tank. I'm trying to get creative, but the obvious thing still seems like the most effective.

JD:  For me, the talent options seem really daunting. I can see that there's a lot of potential if I knew what I was doing, but at the moment I'm constantly worried about if I'm leveling my characters properly. There’s a lot of guessing and accepting going on and seeing how I haven't figured out how to get past this Turtle boss that’s been giving me problems, I'm guessing I’m doing something wrong. That said, it does seem like a problem that I could fix with a little more research and effort. The challenge is exciting in a way.

Julian:  That's been my one issue with the Square job system. While FF Tactics had enough party members to let me try out new jobs, a four party system doesn't leave much room for experimentation in my opinion, because you usually need that combination of tank, damage dealer, nuker, and healer. Where I could see myself mixing things up is with the support abilities. For example, I leveled Tiz as a Knight, but switched him over to Swordmaster when I maxed out his main job. I went back to Knight for the last two bosses, but the Bushido abilities came in super handy. One of the passive abilities allows him to attack a second time on occasion. One of the active abilities makes him do a high-damage counter attack when he gets attacked. Combining these abilities with the high defense of the Knight (and the high offense from the two-handed ability) made Tiz a real powerhouse. 

I'll have to wait and see what other jobs are in there. I'm crossing my fingers for Dark Knight and Monk, my all-time favorite classes. I could also see how leveling someone as a White Mage could help with a Paladin class if it's in there. Oh, and I love the look of the job classes. The roses on the Red Mage are a nice departure from the classic pimp hat.

Travis:  Oh yes, the aesthetics are really charming to me. Every time I head back to town I'm in awe that I'm looking at my 3DS. What the Final Fantasy III engine on DS tried to accomplish is finally being realized here. The environment is highly detailed and the 3D implementation is really strong. This isn't just a simple layering of background, characters, and menus. It looks great!

Overall, I've come away cautiously optimistic. I'm intrigued by all of those empty class slots and want to see how crazy things can get without the low job-level max. I’m hoping that all of my issues with the jobs and BP are simply caused by cramming an RPG into a short snippet, and that seems pretty likely.

Julian:  Yeah, this game is gorgeous, especially with the 3D turned on, which is something I rarely do. I also really dig the soundtrack. As far as I'm concerned, as long as the full game can give me a smoother progression and the story isn't completely disposable, Bravely Default could very well be the RPG I've been craving.

JD:  I've really enjoyed classic style Final Fantasy games like IV and VI. This game definitely has the spirit of those, but puts enough of a twist on the formula in terms of combat to keep me interested. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, which has me a bit hazy about what I think because while the struggle is interesting, it usually creates a huge roadblock for me personally. I've been lazy about returning to defeat the boss that has been giving me issues, but I still feel the pull to play the game regardless. I think that anyone who enjoys a classic style RPG will find something to like with Bravely Default. I'm certainly interested in seeing what the final product has to offer.

Travis:  Well, guys, I think we’ve prattled on enough about the demo and are all ready to try out the real deal when it comes out. I know the PixlBit community is pretty passionate about RPGs, and they’ll let us know if we’re way off base.




01/11/2014 at 05:25 PM

Definitely on my must play list. I'll have to drag my 3DS out of retirement when this game hits. Usually, Best Buy has the cheapest game prices on the first week of release, then they raise it to MSRP. Hopefully, I'll get a deal on it.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

01/11/2014 at 06:37 PM

I'm definitely going digital with this one. No deals for me. :(  



01/12/2014 at 05:01 AM

I say this game deserves an extra special podcast of its own when the game comes out.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

01/14/2014 at 05:48 PM

Hmmmm... Interesting idea... Laughing

No promises though!


01/12/2014 at 07:35 AM

I absolutely agree that the demo is GAF; and also, the town mini game is a bit annoying, given the fact that street passing in my area is pretty minimal (and unable to add friends via internet as of yet, although that will be included in the full game)....

... Needless to say, I've got the LE preordered and I'm excited for the full game, just agree that the demo doesn't really do it justice.


01/12/2014 at 04:00 PM

I downloaded the demo. I'll find a moment to play it after all these comparisons to Final Fantasy games. I have 'til Feb. 7 to decide on the full game.


01/13/2014 at 10:28 AM

I liked what I played of the demo, hopefully the full game is a little more of the same with a little extra to make it memorable.


01/13/2014 at 11:32 AM

As I've blogged, I put over 14 hours into the demo and I'm really looking forward to playing the full game. Compared to the beginning of 4 Heroes of Light BD was a walk in the proverbial park.

I would have loved to max out all the shops in the restoration mini game but I didn't have enough men on the job to make it feasible. I wound up with 2 people from streetpass so I couldn't bring the restoration time down far enough. Plus there was no real point in upgrading the weapons store after having killed the "real" final boss.

I found it funny that you could hit a boss with it's elemental weakness and only take of 15 HP when physical attacks took off 100+


01/13/2014 at 04:07 PM

AGREED on that last part about elemental weaknesses and attacking, haha...


03/10/2014 at 01:06 AM

agreed with name DOES suck.

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