What JRPGs can Learn from Bravely Second

I am a huge JRPG fan. When I was a kid I started with titles like the original Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. I went from turn-based to active time battles, from random encounters to avoiding enemies on the overworld map, from level-ups to sphere grids to everything in between. The JRPG genre is steeped in tradition but has also dared to experiment. After all, if literally every game played like Final Fantasy 1 then we’d certainly be tired of role playing games by now. Some of these experiments are positive, others lead to developments that we would just as soon see go by the wayside. When it comes to modern-day RPGs, I think that no one does it better than Square Enix and Bravely Second.

I played and enjoyed Bravely Default when it came out. At the time, I was particularly excited about the job system, which shared many characteristics of the job system from Final Fantasy 5 (which I absolutely loved). I quickly came to enjoy a number of new mechanics that the game introduced, particularly those dealing with encounter rates and difficulty. Bravely Default was held back by other factors – namely, absolutely terrible pacing due to the repetitive nature of the game’s last few chapters – but mechanically the game was sound.

Stop It!.png
My (and my cartoon son’s) reaction to the whole parallel worlds timeline loop thing in Bravely Default.

Fast forward to Bravely Second. Many features of Bravely Default that worked well have now been honed and refined even more. Specifically, I want to look at a few points: the ability to adjust Encounters, the ability to turn off specific rewards for combat, the suggested levels for each dungeon, and the way to get reward multipliers for fighting multiple battles in a row.

This feature was present in Bravely Default and works just as well in Bravely Second. Battles take the form of random encounters, a random encounter meaning that one moment you’re walking through the overworld and the next moment a battle begins, no warning. At a certain point in the game (early on), you gain the ability to adjust the encounter rate. The rate starts out at 100% (or +0%), where you randomly encounter enemies fairly often but not with every step. There are four other settings available: +50%, +100%, -50%, and -100%. At +100%, you’re getting attacked pretty much every step you take. At -100%, there are no random encounters, period.

Tiz is the one who turns away enemies

This is a great feature because it enables you to control the pacing of the game based on your current mood, the challenge you’re facing in that moment, and your needs as far as EXP (what you need to raise your stats), JP (what you need to learn new skills), and PG (money). Trying to solve a puzzle? Turn encounters down so you can think. Trying to grind for resources? Turn encounters up so you keep getting into battles. Personally, I like to keep encounters off when I am exploring a new area so I can search for treasure and reveal all the parts of the map. Then I’ll fight the local monsters to get my levels where they need to be.

Oftentimes in an RPG you’ll end up in a situation where you need to “grind,” or repetitively fight enemies in order to gain a certain resource. In Bravely Second, there are three main resources you gain in battle. Experience (EXP) helps you level up and increase your stats. Job points (JP) increase your job levels so you can learn new abilities. And PG (pronounced “peeg,” the name of money in Luxendarc) is the currency you use to buy supplies and equipment. At any time, you might find yourself needing one of these resources. The thing is, since battles give all three, you could potentially find yourself in a situation where you’re trying to gain one resource, but not another.

Being overleveled makes me want to say “MRGRGR!”

I’ve personally encountered this situation with EXP. The dungeons in this game have recommended levels for playing them. This includes a minimum level and a maximum level. Above the maximum level, the dungeon is probably going to end up being too easy. So while I found myself in situations where I needed PG to buy weapons and armor, or JP to learn a specific job ability that a character needed, I didn’t want to keep gaining EXP and level up to the point where the missions would be too easy. This feature of the game allowed me to turn off EXP rewards for battles, so I could focus on what I wanted to achieve without unintentionally making the game easier for myself.

In a lot of JRPGs I have played – particularly in older titles – you don’t really get a warning when it comes to venturing into an area beyond your skills. You can be out exploring the wilds and wander across an invisible line that marks the difference between level 2 and level 20 encounters. That’s certainly no fun, as it often results in the party getting wiped out – costing you precious saved data or EXP and money. I’ve also had the opposite problem, where going to areas out of order resulted in my party being too strong and easily defeating every monster around.

Busting Ba’als since 2016!

In Bravely Second, when you enter a new dungeon or similarly dangerous area (like a forest or swamp or something) you are given a minimum and maximum level for that area. Go in beneath the minimum level and you’re very likely to struggle – go in above the maximum and it’s likely to be too easy. This allows you to prepare for the level of challenge you want to have, making the experience easier for yourself or more difficult by managing which recommended level you are closer to. Breezing through to experience the story and experiencing challenging, tactical battles are both possible with this setup.

In Bravely Default, there were different ways to get multipliers for your various combat rewards. EXP was multiplied by taking no damage; JP was multiplied by finishing things in one turn; and PG was multiplied by defeating all enemies at once in one blow. The more battles you did this in a row, the bigger the multiplier would get. This was a pretty solid idea, but it definitely had some flaws. The multipliers became very uneven – I would often find myself getting the EXP and JP multipliers but never getting the PG multiplier, making it a lot harder to grind for money than for levels. This also made it frustrating when a fluke such as the enemy getting the first strike interrupted your streak, sending your hard-earned multipliers back down to x1.

I’ll leave the math to Yew. Haha, get it? I could be saying “you!” Ha! Ahh.

Bravely Second changed things up in two main ways. First, all the combat rewards are tied to the same multiplier. This ensures that you’re always going to be gaining EXP, JP, and PG at the same rate. No more worrying about getting overleveled because you can barely make money each battle! The second change is that everything is also tied to one multiplier condition. Whenever you win a battle in one turn, you get the option to immediately fight a fresh set of enemies. Each time you finish things up in one turn, you can choose to fight again, and each time you’re not only earning more rewards from each enemy you defeat, but the multiplier for those rewards is growing. After three or four battles, the bonuses you get are pretty impressive. But it isn’t easy – your BP (currency that you use to take actions) stays the same between battles, so if someone already used all their turns in the first match, that character will still be exhausted in the next battle. Eventually, no one in your party may be able to take action, at which point choosing to stay and fight could be pretty devastating to your health. This makes fighting for those multipliers riskier than it used to be, but the rewards are more worth it now as well.

All of these factors on their own are great additions to an RPG, and they make the game feel fresh and modern. But when you add all of them together you really start to see something amazing – these features let you define the game you want to play.

Some things are even greater than just the sum of their parts.

Maybe you’re really interested in the story of Bravely Second, and you just want to have some casual, fun gameplay to enjoy while moving from plotline to plotline. If that’s the case, take advantage of multipliers, reach the maximum level for each dungeon, never turn off rewards, and you’ll breeze right through with no worries.

Maybe you want to experience a difficult JRPG experience with strategic battles that you narrowly survive through careful planning. If that’s your style, Bravely Second can be that kind of game too – play on maximum difficulty, only reach the minimum level for each dungeon, and turn off whatever rewards you don’t need just to LIVE. Then watch the world burn and your characters struggle.

Bravely Second’s game mechanics aren’t just great because they are fun – they’re great because they allow each player to define their own experience. Whether you’re fully casual, fully hardcore, or fall anywhere in between on the spectrum, you can design the experience to meet your own gaming needs. And that is an awesome ability to have when enjoying an RPG. I know it’s one that I personally have wanted in more games than just this one.

Well, adventurers, that’s all I have for today. Thanks for taking the time to read! If you missed the 2017 update, you may find it helpful to know that (for the time being) Adventure Rules is going to be posting once a week on Sundays, at least for the length of January. If you like what you see here and you’re interested in more content throughout the week, consider following the blog on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Links to all three can be found on the “About Me” or “About This Blog” pages, so be sure to follow on your favorite site so that you don’t miss any Adventure Rules content!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: