To say that Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a highly anticipated title is an understatement. Since its announcement in the distant memory that is 2016, the belief by fans that Cygames would deliver something special kept its flame alive even amidst multiple delays.
For that, it’s hard to describe how excited I was to dive into the full game and see for myself the fruit of almost a decade of work by its development team. But is Granblue Fantasy: Relink everything we hoped it would be, or did its tumultuous developing process affect the end product?
Welcome to Zegagrande
Set in the Zegagrande Skydom, Granblue Fantasy: Relink follows the crew of the Grandcypher —composed of The Captain, Lyria, Vyrn, Katalina, Rosetta, Io, Eugen, and Rackam — as they become the Sky’s only hope against the Church of Avia, an organization whose roots seem to sprout throughout the clouds.
Looking at it objectively, the game’s plot is extremely self-contained and feels similar to that of semi-canon movies featured within the universe of popular franchises. But that in no way harms its quality, as although predictable at certain times, the plot successfully highlights the charisma and depth of both the known and new faces of its cast while also delivering some emotional critical hits. The story beats only become more poignant when paired with the game’s excellent soundtrack and beautiful presentation, the latter of which managed to flawlessly bring the franchises’ characteristic style and impeccable character designs into the 3D realm.
If you are unfamiliar with the main cast of Granblue Fantasy, don’t worry, as Relink offers a brief introduction to the crew’s main goal and how The Captain crossed paths with Lyria in its prologue. You can also watch Fate Episodes for each playable character. Among the Fate Episodes, the first ones will always feature an overview of their stories, as well as what led them to join the crew.
The game also features a fairly comprehensive Glossary, which can be used during multiple cutscenes. If that’s not enough for you, it is also possible to check out more details regarding both the world and all of the characters featured in the game — no matter if they are friends or foes — by heading to Field Notes under Lyria’s Journal.
When it comes to exploration, Granblue Fantasy: Relink works similarly to games like Valkyrie Elysium by only allowing you to fully explore areas outside the game’s main hubs while in set story chapters. However, you will only be given the option to replay chapters to either hunt for missed items or complete combat challenges after completing the main campaign and reaching the post-game. Time-wise, I managed to complete the game’s main storyline and start digging into the post-game content in around 18 and a half hours while periodically doing quests, farming materials, and upgrading my main party accordingly.
Apart from the main crew, the game also allows you to take a wide array of non-main-story-related characters to the field, including fan favorites like Ferry, Cagliostro, and Percival. To add to that, all of them have story-related lines while exploring and facing certain bosses. That helps in keeping the feeling of immersion alive and gives the main story an extra replayability factor. I found myself replaying certain chapters multiple times just to see what my favorite characters had to say.
If you were wondering, all of the game’s cutscenes have variants for both the male and female versions of The Captain (Grand and Djeeta), so no favorites here. You can also freely switch between them during your campaign, as well as change their names.
Questing is the Name of The Game
Apart from its main storyline, the main focus of Relink lies undeniably in completing quests, as they are the main way in which you will earn EXP and get access to upgrade materials for both your weapons and sigils. The game features a massive amount of quests, which are divided into two types — the side quests found within the hubs and the quests available at the Quest Counter. While the side quests will, in most cases, task you with gathering set items, the Counter Quests can vary from survival-focused ones to boss battles against some of the game’s mightiest foes.
Although I’m a firm believer of the more-the-merrier philosophy when it comes to side quests, the large number of them also ended up highlighting how they lack that personal touch we would expect of a game as grand as Granblue Fantasy Relink’s scope. That, when paired with how all non-story-related or mechanic-oriented NPCs are unable to interact with the party, adds up to the side quests feeling more like a means to an end than anything else.
As advertised during the game’s promotional campaign, you can also face all of the quests available at the quest counter with up to three other players, each using their character of choice. Honestly, I had a blast, as being in perfect sync with your party does elevate the experience, especially in battles that require each player to fill a specific role. The game’s ranking system, which grades your team’s performance after each quest, also pushes you to reattempt them for a chance to improve your score and get all of the available rewards.
If you plan on playing mostly solo, the AI for the companions in Granblue Fantasy Relink was a massive surprise to me and an absolute highlight. Given their abilities to spam perfect dodges and stay mostly well-placed when in boss battles, they made me repeatedly feel like the worst member of my party when the subjects were facing multi-hit attacks or AoE sure-to-kill moves.
Let’s Talk Combat and Progression
In true Action RPG fashion, Granblue Fantasy Relink features a highly responsive, fun, and rewarding combat system rooted in staying quick on your feet and mastering your character of choice. In it, each of the members of your party can perform multiple character-exclusive combos, as well as use up to four exclusive Skills and four different recovery items while on the field. You can unlock new skills, increase each character’s stats, and add passives to them by unlocking Mastery nodes.
You can also add different passives to your characters by equipping them with set Sigils and Weapons, all of which can be enhanced for a greater effect and add even more to the game’s already great range of possible builds.
All characters in the field can also perform devastating Skybound Arts during battles. After different characters perform their Skybound Arts in sequence, they will then automatically perform either a Chain or a Full Burst Attack, the latter of which deals devastating damage. Lastly, the ability to stun enemies can be seen as the main cornerstone of the Relink combat experience, as doing so allows you and your companions to fill the party’s Link Gauge by performing highly damaging Link Attacks and eventually trigger Link Time for an opportunity to deal massive damage.
Although I was disappointed to learn that you cannot direct CPU party members like you can in games like Tales of Arise, you can set them to only use Skybound Arts against certain targets, as well as choose to either let them use the attacks freely or only after you perform yours for a guaranteed Full Burst.
Looking at the game’s bosses, even if some may argue that they lack in variety (which they indeed do), many of them surprised me by offering truly unique — and above all else exciting — experiences where changing your game plan mid-battle is vital to your success. On a bittersweet note, I feel that it was a missed opportunity not to include some of the franchises’ biggest foes as optional bosses at release.
Although the lack of an open world may disappoint those who were hoping to explore the many islands part of Zegagrande freely, Granblue Fantasy: Relink delivers an extremely polished experience featuring beautiful visuals, an exhilarating combat system, an intricate character progression system, a solid single-player campaign, an inviting multiplayer, and a wide array of both quests and different playable characters sure to keep you around even after completing its storyline.