Why You Shouldn't Worry About Bravely Default's Microtransactions and Social Features

Don't let apparent and unwelcome feature creep from mobile games put you off one of the best RPGs in years; Square Enix shows us how to handle these things correctly.

Preview by Pete Davison, .

I won't lie; I was a little bewildered by how Reggie Fils-Aime chose to present Bravely Default in the Nintendo Direct just before Christmas.

For those who missed it, Fils-Aime opened not with an exploration of the game in general or a focus on its intriguing story, deep job system and excellent music, but with an explanation of "Sleep Points." These form the backbone of a mechanic called Bravely Second whereby for every eight hours you leave your 3DS in Sleep mode with Bravely Default running, you earn one "Sleep Point" which can subsequently be used during the turn-based battles to sneak in an extra action when you wouldn't normally be able to have one.

Controversially, Fils-Aime also introduced another means of acquiring Sleep Points: microtransactions. Yes, you can purchase a "potion" from the eShop that immediately refills your Sleep Points up to their maximum of three at any point, and by "purchase" I do indeed mean "with real money."

We'd known about the fact that Bravely Default had microtransactions prior to this explicit explanation and demonstration, but it was interesting to see it placed front-and-center like this, even before any discussion of the game itself or the now-available demo -- which is, incidentally, well worth a play if you haven't tried it already, since it doesn't spoil anything from the main game.

Sleep Points are there as an "in case of emergency" option, but they're not a game-breaking pay-to-win button.

Your adventure will take you to some weird, wonderfully imaginative locales.

Given the controversy over the amount of microtransactions in a number of next-gen console titles -- particularly those on Xbox One -- a number of prospective Bravely Default purchasers found themselves feeling somewhat more cautious about the new game now they knew it had the option to effectively buy your way out of trouble. And ordinarily I would be right there with them -- I loathe microtransactions in games, and would much rather be able to play something safe in the knowledge that I've paid for it once and can consequently play it forever without any further charges.

But this time around, they're thankfully wrong to worry. I've spent about 20 hours with Bravely Default to date, you see, and in that time I've used Sleep Points precisely twice. In both instances, I'd been carrying around a full stock of three Sleep Points at all times thanks to leaving my 3DS in Sleep mode with the game running as suggested, and in both instances if I had handled the battle in question a little better I would probably not have got myself into the situation where I'd need to use a Sleep Point.

The biggest worry that people (including myself) have with microtransactions in general is the fear that the game content has somehow been rebalanced or skewed to subtly -- or, in some cases, not-so-subtly -- nudge players in the direction of the various payment options. But in Bravely Default's case I can say with some confidence this absolutely isn't the case. The Sleep Points are there as an "in case of emergency" option, but I'm confident that the game can be beaten without using them at all if you so desire. And they're not a game-breaking "pay to win" button, either, as I discovered to my cost last night: if an enemy is in the middle of a lengthy Summon spell animation -- yes, all reports you have heard of this being a PS1-era Final Fantasy in all but name are absolutely true -- then using a Sleep Point isn't going to do anything until the animation is over, by which point your party may well already be wiped out. Besides, with a maximum of three Sleep Points on hand at any one time -- that's just three extra actions -- you're probably not going to win a fight using Sleep Points alone.

What I'm most pleased about with the Sleep Points system, however, is that they're not obtrusive. After the game has introduced them to you once, you never hear about them ever again. It never once nags or badgers you into spending extra money, and the on-screen display of how many you have available during battle is subtle and easy to ignore. The game's business model never once intrudes on the core game experience, in other words, and that's something which should be celebrated.

The game's business model never once intrudes on the core game experience, and that's something which should be celebrated.

Get a load of that world map. When was the last time you saw one of these in an RPG?

With that in mind, let's also talk about the game's social features, because these, too, are somewhat interesting.

Bravely Default is a single-player traditional JRPG at its core, but through the use of Internet connectivity and StreetPass you can involve other people in various ways. For the uninitiated, here's how it works.

Once per day, you can upload your save file to the Internet and receive a number of "Net friend invites" from people who have done likewise in return. Your uploaded file includes your characters' stats and equipped jobs along with a single move that you've chosen in battle specifically to send to other players. This can be anything from a basic attack to the Limit Break-esque "Special Move" abilities, and can be used by other players with the "Summon Friend" option from their battle menu. If you're friends with high-level players, this can effectively become something of an "instant win" button, but there are limitations on how often you can summon each person to prevent abuse.

Alongside this, 3DS friends playing the game or people you StreetPass with can be added to your in-game friends list. These players have all the benefits of your "net friend invites" but you can also perform an action called "Abililink" with them, which allows you to make use of job skills from any jobs they have at a higher level than you. Each friend may only be Abililinked with one of your four party members, though, so to get the most out of this you'll need at least four friends, each of whom has levelled at least one job higher than you have.

Are these features necessary? No, of course not; Bravely Default would be a top-notch old-school JRPG without them. But fear not; this game has its priorities straight.

Bravely Default's connectivity allows you, among other things, to briefly share characters and moves with other players.

The core of the social features, though, comes in the form of a minigame where protagonist Tiz is soliciting the help of everyone he can find to help rebuild his village, which is wiped out during the game's introduction. Every player you "net friend invite" or StreetPass with is added to the village's population, and can then be assigned to unlock or level up various structures in the village, with each task taking a certain amount of real time to complete which may be reduced by assigning more than one person to the job. Eventually, through unlocking and upgrading buildings, you'll be able to purchase helpful equipment and items at any save point in the main game, and you'll also unlock new special abilities for the characters.

The interesting thing I find about the village-rebuilding minigame in Bravely Default is that there are mobile and social game developers out there who would put out that minigame by itself and call it a complete product. In the case of Bravely Default, however, it is much more sensibly used as a means of supporting a rock-solid core game experience rather than being the focal point. Like the microtransactions, it's unobtrusive and easily ignored if you so desire -- but at the same time it's also so easy to gather population for your village through net friend invites (four or five of which you'll receive per day) that you may as well engage with it at least a little and enjoy the spoils. There's no obligation to actually interact with other players and not even any obligation to send them a good battle action to get them out of a pinch -- but it can be strangely satisfying to know that somewhere, someone else in the world is also playing Bravely Default and enjoying the witty custom one-liners you assigned to your characters' special abilities.

Are these features necessary? No, of course not; Bravely Default would be a top-notch old-school JRPG without them, and it's debatable how much they actually add to the experience as a whole. But if you were worried that they might actively detract from the experience, then fear not; this game has its priorities straight. More than anything else, Bravely Default is a loving homage to the PS1-era JRPGs of the late '90s and early '00s -- and in that respect, it succeeds admirably. But that, I feel, is a story for another day; watch out for our full review nearer to the game's North American release on February 7.

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Comments 15

  • Avatar for Stealth20k #1 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    Them being optional helps
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #2 cscaskie 4 years ago
    This is a statement that rarely comes out of me, so be prepared - I'm actually looking forward to the social features in the game. I've really enjoyed the village building mechanic in my time with the demo. I like to set up a new facility to fix, then sleep my system as I go to work or bed, then return with new items ready to go. It's fun. Additionally, I think I actually have friends who will play this game, which is something I can rarely say about games I like with such social features. Pete, I think you and I are 3DS friends - I hope the US and Pal versions don't discriminate so that we can link up.

    If anyone else wants to add me to their friends list, feel free!
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  • Avatar for The-Fool #3 The-Fool 4 years ago
    I never once had to use 'Bravely Second' during my 60 hour stay in Luxendarc.

    As Pete said, once the tutorial is out of the way, you are never bothered again.

    I did enjoy the town-building as a nice little distraction on occasion, too.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #4 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    @cscaskie Sure, I'll add you. My FC is 5112-3577-8556
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  • Avatar for Waterfiend #5 Waterfiend 4 years ago
    "More than anything else, Bravely Default is a loving homage to the PS1-era JRPGs of the late '90s and early '00s -- and in that respect, it succeeds admirably."

    Cannot wait to play this.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #6 SatelliteOfLove 4 years ago
    On the one hand, the in-battle comments this Fee to Play was implemented via was as bad as DA:O's camp hanger-on was oh so many years ago, but on the other hand, you bet your ass this wouldn't have left Japan without this in it.
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  • Avatar for Zero-Crescent #7 Zero-Crescent 4 years ago
    The good thing is that the two concepts are never intertwined. Norende Village is its own thing, and the only microtransaction is the SP Drink. Heck, the addition of SP provided another passive incentive to keep your 3DS in Sleep Mode with the game running.

    The Norende Village background side-quest (the original version's incentive to keep your 3DS in sleep mode) has all the trappings of a social game, like the tasks tied to timers that are reduced by recruiting more villagers, but it never comes across as scummy. You get more villagers through Streetpass, and even if you get no Streetpasses, you still get 4 new villagers each day, so you technically don't even need to Streetpass. Those are the only ways to cut the village's work times: Streetpassing and waiting for more villagers to arrive each day. There are no shortcuts; no way to pay to bypass the timers or instantly increase your villager count. And it is this very fact that allows the village to retain its integrity as a gameplay feature.

    Side note: Oh, just in case anyone is worrying about the difficulty of the demo, keep in mind that the difficulty curve of the full game is supposed to be much smoother. You probably won't run into any roadblocks on Normal difficulty. The full game is even supposed has a much more detailed tutorial, meted out via optional quests in the appropriate menu.
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  • Avatar for Critical_Hit #8 Critical_Hit 4 years ago
    "Square Enix shows us how to handle these things correctly" -- Oh Pete. Don't be naive.

    You should change that headline to, "Silicon Studios & Tomoya Asano show us how to handle these things correctly". Tomoya Asano being the producer for the series, and also the guy who worked on the Matrix-developed Final Fantasy games like the FF3 & FF4 3D remakes, and Four Heroes of Light. One of the only people at Square, apparently, who see the value in FF 1 thru 6 and FFIX.

    This isn't Square, in general, doing a good job. They're still the same company that did All the Bravest, after all. Just this particular project is the one to do it right. Don't give the whole company credit for this one, relatively small, chunk of it.
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  • Avatar for Daryoon #9 Daryoon 4 years ago
    "More than anything else, Bravely Default is a loving homage to the PS1-era JRPGs of the late '90s and early '00s -- and in that respect, it succeeds admirably."

    Not in the slightest. It's a NES game with a lick of PS1 paint. And this is coming from someone who mostly enjoyed it! Until the second half, anyhow, which is an outright travesty of game design.

    Really, people shouldn't go into this expecting FF9. Or FF5. It's far from either.
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  • Avatar for phatcorns #10 phatcorns 4 years ago
    The demo was excellent. Really can't wait to play this. The battle system was the first I've played in a long while that wasn't "Attack, attack, attack." With the brave system and job system there are a lot more interesting things you can and usually need to do.
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #11 Mad-Mage 4 years ago
    Pete, I can't wait to play the game but one thing you said does worry me. You said you rarely felt the need to use sleep points. Does that mean this game is much less difficult than the demo?

    I like needing to grind just a bit in RPGs because it makes leveling up and getting new items feel like they matter.
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  • Avatar for The-Fool #12 The-Fool 4 years ago

    You can adjust the difficulty and encounter rate at any time.

    You can switch between easy, normal and hard.

    ... and so, if you don't want to run into any enemies, you can. If you want to run into double the enemies, you can as well.

    So, grind to your hearts content!Edited January 2014 by The-Fool
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #13 Mad-Mage 4 years ago
  • Avatar for pjedavison #14 pjedavison 4 years ago
    @Mad Mage No, not at all. The sidequests to get the extra jobs in particular are quite challenging, and I found myself wondering if I was fighting a few bosses too soon in the early game. It certainly offers a respectable challenge, and as@Duskblayde noted you can tweak the way the game behaves to your liking.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #15 Thusian 4 years ago
    Played the demo and fell absolutely in love, and thanks to my buddies I am starting with 20 villagers already. Got my Collectors edition all lined up with Amazon.
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