Roughly two and a half years have passed since the events of Bravely Default. In the meantime, a lot has changed, but tensions between the rival world powers have still not subsided. Agnès has now risen to being the ruler of the Crystal Orthodoxy and has found a powerful ally in Eternia. But immediately before of all their efforts eventually work out, the mysterious Emperor Verheer foils their plans and kidnaps the young woman.
Only a knight called Yew survives the massive attack, but he is severely wounded. Nevertheless he decides to liberate Agnès from the clutches of their enemy. So an adventure begins during which we will see a lot of familiar faces, but we'll also meet some new characters. Among them is Magnolia, one of the last survivors of a foreign nation. We meet her quite unexpectedly, but she stays at our side from then onwards. She has a special charm, and curses in the loveliest French, even though that means we can hardly understand a word.
Bravely Second: End Layer is a turn-based role-playing game that comes with a dollop of strategy, a deep skill system, and adorable presentation. No character has a predetermined role. Clever interplay between the advantages and disadvantages of different class abilities will lead to success during the tricky battles. In combat it's all about mastering the turn-based mechanics of the game if you're to act effectively. This combat system is taken directly from its predecessor, with a few light alterations to be found in terms of controls and the input of command chains.
Modified more strongly are the fights themselves. Previously in Bravely Default there was the ability to automatically order a sequence of commands into a chain. This feature is primarily for the automation of combat during the random encounters, so we can farm money, work and experience points. Bravely Second: End Layer also relies on this system, but it also enhances it. Now up to four of these chains of command can be automatically stored. A useful addition that will save players time.
Despite the cutesy appearance, many characters have matured. Developer Silicon Studio has given them some depth, which reduces the reliance on classic stereotypes. Despite the detailed, playful presentation the world is actually more complicated. Residents of Luxendarc endure constant wars. Among their enemies there are some real nasties, but then again not everything is what it seems at first glance. Bravely Second: End Layer feels somewhat more grown up than its predecessor, and sometimes the decisions that must be made that are not at all easy.
Bravely Second: End Layer will also build on the strategic front, offering even more depth. Specifically there will be twelve fresh jobs and various newly introduced talents to master. There is a patissier (a baker of sorts), who attacks opponents with pastries, and a cat evocator, a class that learns mad attacks with wild creatures. The new job specialisations provide even more scope and variation in the combat system, and they allow for some devastating and at times entertaining attack combinations.
To master the many professions, a new feature is being introduced: defeat your opponents in the first round of an encounter and another fight can start, with greater rewards waiting because it's also more difficult. Failure will, however, lead to everything that you've gained being lost. If a fight is tight, you can ask friends or StreetPass strangers to help with attack or support skills. With the "Attack Send" command we can even help other players with their troubles. The mini-game that has us building our own base is also still in place. StreetPass encounters and online connectivity also helps to find more workers for our little village.
The visual style of Bravely Second: End Layer is still incredibly pretty, even if it does remain basically unchanged. Anyone who has seen the original knows that this is not a bad thing at all. The hand-drawn backgrounds achieve the most beautiful 3D effect on the 3DS. Even the music makes this a game for connoisseurs. The version we played has us wanting more, even though this is shaping up to be, in essence, simply more Bravely Default, that's also something that gets in the way of the great first impression: we got a strong feeling of familiarity during the first hours of play. Word on the street is that there is a wide range of locations and characters that have been lifted directly from the first Bravely Default. Of course there will also be new areas and characters, but the first few chapters certainly felt recognisable.