Friday, September 23, 2016

[REVIEW] Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS)

Bravely Second: End Layer
Played on: 3DS
Genre: Strategy RPG
Developer: Intelligent Systems / Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

A few years ago, Square Enix released Bravely Default, a little masterpiece of an RPG that got sadly dragged down towards the end by an insane amount of grinding and repetition. For the sequel, I was hoping they'd avoid this sort of thing. Instead, we get what amounts to a few dozen extra hours of, well, repetition.

Good things first: the game still looks and sounds great, while the job wheel got expanded and is as fun as ever to slowly discover. The turn-based combat also inherits the excellence of the previous title, with options to take extra turns, save turns for later, and even new additions such as the ability to chain battle sequences and gain more experience. All of this makes battles a lot more dynamic than usual for similar titles.

What begins to pull the whole thing apart is the world map choice. Basically, it's the same as the first game, with the addition of a few scattered new explorable sites. This means we get much of the same towns as Bravely Default, and (gasp) even some of the exact same dungeons. This is especially frustrating after the aforementioned grind that was the first game's ending; I already explored these same locations five or six times there, so chances are giving me more of the same here wouldn't really be a good idea.

The story, sadly, is also much weaker here. Bravely Default's late-game grind was at least justifiable story-wise, and you got to feel that pleasant sting of realization when you figured out just what was going on all along. Bravely Second's tale, by contrast, feels largely soulless, with some atrocious dialogue sections and inexplicably lame catchphrases ("for the gravy", really?). Even the reveal of the subtitle secret, one of the coolest moments in the first game, falls completely flat by virtue of just how forced it is.

I truly feel Square Enix has the makings of another classic RPG franchise with the Bravely series. Bravely Second, however, is a step backwards by pretty much every metric. If we ever get a third game, let's hope they finally decide to move on to greener pastures instead of trying to retread the same content over and over and over again.

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