Bravely Default is a role-playing game (RPG) which features a party of four characters navigating the fantasy world of Luxendarc. Navigation in towns, dungeons, and the world map environments are presented in an angled, third-person overhead view: the character remains still, the camera zooms out to a distant view. These environments are displayed on the top screen of the Nintendo 3DS system, while the bottom screen displays maps of environments, party stats and other information such as item menus. On the world map, a day-night cycle alters the types of enemies present, and after a certain point in the story an airship can be used to speed up travel and access previously inaccessible areas. In towns, players can interact with non-playable characters (NPCs), purchase items or magic at specialized shops, buy or sell weapons and equipment at an armory, or rest at an inn to restore health points (HP) and magic points (MP). In all environments, the party can find chests containing items, weapons or equipment. During certain points, a Party Chat option appears, giving players the option of initiating conversations between the party members. During exploration, standard enemies appear through random encounters: outside battle, the encounter rate can be adjusted from high to nothing. The game features multiple difficulty levels, which can be adjusted freely outside battle.
Bravely Default's sidequests have been revamped; players encounter two Eternian asterisk holders in an argument about an ethical dilemma, and the player must resolve the conflict with the reward being the loser's asterisk. This locks out the other asterisk until much further progress has been made. A similar feature to the first game's reconstruction of Norende also appears, but this time involves rebuilding Magnolia's homeland on the moon.