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Should have never bought this
Believe me, I was pumped when I first got Bravely Default. I thought I'd be getting a great throwback to oldschool Square RP Gs where the belts-per-person ratio is low and the writing is simple but not stupid. The prologue rocked for me, but before long the glamor of the writing began to decline with Chapter 2's stupidity over a fashion show and contacting Olivia that it lost me. For a genre that's long-since generally hammered out gameplay, story is what keeps you invested and Bravely Default's is just a massive middle finger.

What really turns me off though is how clever the game thought it was being and how it kept shoving its alleged cleverness in your face. The sidequests drop hints about the grander plot, and some of them (such as the Vampire quest) all but spell everything out. But because they're optional sidequests, they have no real impact on the actual overall narrative and nobody bothers discussing them at all. I've played old and more recent jRPGs with better writing than this. Final Fantasy 1 had better writing than this drivel. At least that game kept its space-time tomfoolery in line.

Mechanically, it's sound... although boss difficulty is all over the place in and near the endgame. The dynamic with the Jobmasters was fine too and I rather liked Edea's interactions and relationships with them. Honestly I'd rather the game have just been about that with Edea as the focus; a simple but fun story. She's the most well-rounded and interesting of the heroes. But Square couldn't have that. Instead they had a game that disregards all sense of pacing in the second half for tedious busywork and congratulating itself over making an RPG with one of the worst stories I've ever seen. All this buildup, all the obnoxious false-starts about getting the plot into high gear, and you get a final boss without a hint of originality and whose archtype has been done better in pretty much every medium of fiction.

With only a 400 word limit for this review, I can't get into everything right here, but I'll be willing to take this to the comments if anyone has questions or want to discuss anything. But I leave you with this: supposedly the title means to "Bravely go against what's expected of you". Take that as the hint and don't buy this garbage. Play a good RPG instead, old or new. There's plenty out there.
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Lots of potential wasted - mild spoilers ahead
Bravely Default is a return to the old school JRPG days of turn-based strategies, grinding, and job systems. Even "Awakening the Crystals to save the world" is back. The good news is that this game plays homage to its roots while also subverting some pretty common old Final Fantasy tropes. You're still awakening crystals but... is it really a good thing?

Unfortunately, the deeper you get into the game the more frustrating the above gets. Once you awaken all the crystals you're not treated to a brand new area to explore with brand new challenges - you're brought back to the same place to do the exact same quests all over again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

At this point most of the sidequests and battles become optional but really, that's not a compliment. The story grinds to a halt and the characters spend most of the time wandering about their strange new (old) world until the same character gives them a shocking new piece of information they themselves had touched on before.

And this is where the game really struggles. The four main characters rarely question anything that goes against their already-presumed beliefs and yet seem to be aware that something is wrong. But none of the four question it, or try anything different, they just awaken more crystals. The plot runs on everyone holding onto the Idiot Ball as tightly as possible. The shocking twist has already been dangled so many times that it's not a relief when all is explained - it's just frustration that it took so long to get there. So much of the plot could have been avoided if the main antagonists had actually had a conversation with the main four so naturally, no one tries to hold a conversation and instead go for an all-out battle.

Good points: - Job abilities and classes give a lot of customization room - Grinding is simplified via auto-battle - Gorgeous game with fitting music - First four chapters are a welcome play on already-established Final Fantasy tropes - Many bosses are puzzles as opposed to straight brawls - You can adjust the difficulty and encounter rate

Bad points: - Plot relies on forced drama and the characters remaining unaware - Post-Ch 4 is exceedingly tedious - Most background information has to be read in notes an D's journal - No real optional sidequests or hidden areas
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