As a huge fan of traditional JRPGs, I loved Bravely Default and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this sequel. The question is; does it live up to the original? It certainly has some big shoes to fill.
Bravely Second: End Layer is a turn-based JRPG that follows the journey of Yew Geneolgia as he tries to rescue the pope (Agnès Oblige from Bravely Default) from the treacherous hands of Kaiser Oblivion. He soon meets up with some friends from the first game (Tiz Arrior and Edea Lee) as well as a newcomer to the party; the delightfully quirky Magnolia. She apparently crash landed from the moon where she was a full time "Ba'al Buster". Ba'als are basically large monsters that are mentioned throughout the game, including the story of one that destroyed Magnolia's hometown. Throughout most of the game, the party communicates with the kidnapped Pope Agnès through a pendant that they use like a rudimentary FaceTime app. Agnès is held in a floating ship named Skyhold that travels over the lands, and she gives clues to the party as to where she thinks she's being taken to next. This is an interesting premise that gives a good reason for exploring the entire map which I quite enjoyed, especially when I unlocked a small raft, a larger boat and finally, the ability to fly. This method of unlocking new areas to explore is found in many JRPGs and it never fails to get me excited when I know I can now access previously unreachable areas.
Bravely Second looks similar to the first game but with an added layer of detail. There are more towns to explore and each one looks beautifully painted from up close and afar. The world map is actually the same one from Bravely Default, but with new towns and dungeons to explore. You'll traverse the typical desert wastelands, green hills and mountainous peaks as well as active battlefields. It would have been nice to see a new map for at least part of the adventure, but the way that they used the existing world is actually pretty neat. All of the side quests bring you to towns and dungeons from Bravely Default which is a great way to expand on the gameplay and provide fond memories for fans. The main quest takes you to new towns that have their own stories to tell, and the new dungeons are beautifully crafted, even though they can be a little short.
The main attraction of Bravely Second for me is the job system. There are 30 jobs to unlock, each with its own set of battle and support abilities. The jobs are a mix of classes from Bravely Default with some removed and some added. One new job, Wizard, actually changes how you use spells learned from other jobs by allowing you to change its effect by doing such things as concentrating it on certain enemies or spreading its effect out over multiple turns. Most of the jobs are found in side quests that involve characters from the past. You'll typically make your way through some dialog then enter a dungeon where you'll find a boss known as an asterisk holder at the end. Gaining an asterisk unlocks the relevant job for your party. There is a bit of a twist introduced here, though. You'll be faced with two asterisk holders and you'll have to fight the one that you want to steal the job from. You may feel bad about siding with the boss who has the more selfish argument, but if you really want that job then you'll have to pretend to agree with them.
The wide variety of jobs makes the battle system even more engaging. It's structured like your typical JRPG where you pick moves from a menu and take turns pummeling your enemies. However, the moves that are available to you all depend on which two jobs you currently have equipped. Combining jobs to get that perfect permutation is an engrossing endeavor that I spent many hours pursuing. You also equip support abilities learned from previously equipped jobs that can change whether you survive or perish in any given battle. A newly introduced mechanism is the ability to keep fighting waves of enemies if you can defeat the last wave in one turn. Each wave that you take down multiplies your winnings, so it can help a ton towards grinding.
I don't have much bad to say about Bravely Second. I was very impressed with Bravely Default and I think that this sequel is a better game than the first, even just for the fact that it includes a lot of the first game and expands on it to make the universe more grand-scale. One small gripe is that it doesn't do much to prevent you from exploiting gold and experience grinding methods easily. There are multiple websites out there that talk about the specific techniques, but if the series wants to remain a challenge that harkens back to the dawn of JRPGs, it should try to avoid allowing players to exploit the systems like this.
Bravely Second: End Layer is definitely near the top of my list of favourite games of all time. It brings back the traditional JRPG in a beautiful way with a battle and job system that keeps me hooked. If you're a fan of JRPGs in any way, you must pick this up.
- + Refined classic JRPG gameplay at its best
- + Thirty jobs that are incredibly rewarding to unlock, combine, and master
- + Lovely and familiar presentation
- - Level up system is easily exploitable
- - Although it's fun to explore, the world map is basically the same as the first game