Friday, May 9, 2014

BravelyDefault, First Impressions

So I picked up Bravely Default a few weeks back, and it has taken me until now to get far enough into the game to feel like I have a good grasp of all the mechanics.

Overall, it is a pretty straightforward J-RPG. If you don't like that genre, you probably won't like this game. Personally, I love me some J-RPGs.

The intro was gorgeous. Oddly, you trigger it with an AR-card that is printed on the back of the info booklet provided with the game. You can also download the initial one and some others from the Bravely Default website. I opted to watch the intro with the 3D on. This is the Right Way to start a tale. The narrator fairy (*cough*Navi clone*cough*) jumps out of the AR-card and starts begging you to rescue her friend and partner the Vestal of the Wind. The animation was extremely well done, smooth, and when you moved the 3DS around, you could see different portions of the character who was talking. It really gave the feeling of looking through a window into a different world where faries can just come hurtling at you, begging for help.

The overworld map and overall gameplay feel like an updated Golden Sun, which is enough to endear this game to me, as GS is one of my all time favorite games.

Core gameplay consists of selecting if you are going to attack or defend each turn.

Defending is called "Default." This builds up BP (Brave Points) which will allow you to attack up to 4 times in a single turn. When you select Default, you also take less damage from enemy attacks.

When you attack you have two options, "Brave" or normal attack. An attack uses one BP. You can go into "debt" by up to 4 BP. This is the opposite of storing BP with Default, although the effect of waiting 4 turns before your next move is the same.

So battles are a balance of do you think you can beat the baddie quickly or do you need to be cautious? I've found that I tend toward aggressive (going into BP debt) with my DPS characters, and conservative (storing BP with Default) with my healers.

Add to all of this an astoundingly complex class system called "Jobs" that allows any character to be any class, and you have a recipe for a game that is guaranteed to suck you in for hours at a time.

The last battle mechanic is called SP (Sleep Points) that are earned one of two ways:
You leave the game running for 8 hours in sleep mode (game launched but 3DS is closed)
Pay SquareEnix real money

Yes. You read that right. A full-price full-length 3DS game with goddamned micro-transactions. Not with PlayCoins, not in-game currency, real money.

You can only have 3 SP at any given time, so if you are like me, and leave the game you are currently playing running all the time in your GameBoy, it's easy to not pay. However, what I have not yet figured out is how to turn off the option to buy SP in-game. I hope it's just buried in one of the menus somewhere, where I haven't seen it yet. So any of you with childrens running around, turning off the micro-transactions is a feature you are going to need to dig for.

And what, you may be asking, makes SP so special that it costs real money? Well, it lets you attack with a single member of your party out of turn, even if they are in BP debt. That's it. That is the feature that is so special that they added micro-transactions to this game. Like so many micro-transaction options before it, if you use the SP, the game becomes several degrees easier. It's not quite pay-to-win, since all the SP in the world won't let you beat a boss if you are too low level, but it's close.

The final aspect that makes this game stand out from its peers is the use of StreetPass to help rebuild a city that was destroyed in the intro. People with StreetPass turn into members of the city, which you can then task to help rebuild different shops. This appears  to be the way to access many of the more powerful weapons and armor in the game. Again, we have a downside. Not all StreetPass tags count. Only those from people who are also playing BravelyDefault. So give the game a year or two, and new players who don't pick games up when they are still expensive will have a very hard time rebuilding their town, which kind of sucks, given how integral to the game this mechanic seems to be.

As of this writing, I have just completed the Wind temple so I reckon I'm somewhere around the quarter way mark.

I'm not going to brief on story, as I'm not yet far enough in to be able to give a good synopsis without risk of spoilers. Suffice to say, I'm very curious how everything will turn out.

To sum up: if you enjoy games like Golden Sun or the Tales series, you should probably pick this one up sooner rather than later to get the full experience. If turn-based games annoy you, or if you don't make use of features like StreetPass, I would recommend skipping this one.

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