More

    Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review – Reach for the Skies

    A journey with faults, but one worth taking.

    Granblue Fantasy is one of the most popular gacha franchises in the world. Known for its sophisticated & beautiful character designs, Granblue features a vast world and follows the main character and Lyria, whose lives are intertwined with one shared life force. The series has seen anime adaptations, fighting games, and unthinkable collaborations with iconic video games. It’s the perfect franchise to expand into a fully-fledged RPG, which has finally arrived six years after its announcement.

    Granblue Fantasy: Relink marks Cygames’ first step into the console market with the Granblue IP. Originally co-developed with PlayinumGames, Relink is an RPG with a heavy emphasis on action. Familiar faces from the hit mobile game return for this entry, with a sizeable story mode and over 100 quests available to tackle. With so many years since its announcement, it’s hard to believe that the game is finally here. Cygames has made a clear statement with this release – it understands the complexities of crafting an action RPG. Most of all, its Granblue Fantasy series has reached new heights with Relink, despite its shortcomings.

    Welcome (And A Quick Goodbye) to the Zegagrande Skydom

    Granblue Fantasy: Relink offers a twenty-hour story with ten chapters filled with cutscenes, battles, and plenty more you’d expect from an RPG. You’re immediately thrown into a new Skydom with Gran, Lyria, and the rest of the crew. This is the Zegagrande Skydom, home to the Church of Avia and all kinds of travelers, islands, and more. Many of the islands are home to Primal Beasts, beings created by the Astrals. For some unknown reason, these beasts begin to wake from their slumber. The story truly begins when, early on, Lyria gets kidnapped by an unknown organization, and it’s up to the crew of the Grancypher to get her back. Unfortunately, the story didn’t quite live up to the hopes I had for it. There are numerous reasons as to why that is the case, but the main fault lies in both the approach of the story and its pacing.

    It’s important to understand how Relink approaches its story. The narrative is “instanced”; it’s treated as something that occurs after certain events of the main story in Granblue Fantasy. This isn’t the beginning of the Granblue story, so if you’re unfamiliar with the series, it can be easy to get confused with the character dynamics and history. The party has already formed and journeyed through dozens of adventures together. With no direct explanation in the main story of how the party got together or forged bonds, it’s tough to become invested in the narrative. It’s understandable, as the party formation is borderline essential for so much character development in numerous RPGs. 

    Relink does offer a dive into the background of each character through Fate Episodes. These are voiced monologue sequences condensed down to share details about each character’s past. While it was appreciated to learn about the main party and additional characters this way, I do wish development was better incorporated into the main story. Each character has one prologue, nine episodes, and one epilogue for a total of 11 sequences. A few of these Fate Episodes throw you into an actual quest to depict a small mission with party banter, which is appreciated. Most of the cast is fun to watch, with unique personalities and a wonderful voice cast. True development through story events could have made things even better, though.

    While there’s a solid story here that you’re bound to find some enjoyment in, it’s easy to lose interest due to a very slow start. I didn’t find myself invested in the story until the latter half, for one reason or another. For one, the fights and bosses are infinitely better in the back half. Additionally, the missions only began to gain substance and urgency around Chapter 5. The narrative struggles early on to cement a hook on the player. Through the first handful of chapters, I found myself mindlessly completing quests and watching cutscenes with no drive or attachment at all. Undoubtedly, part of this is due to the structure of the story and the lack of character development. The other major player here is pacing. 

    At times, the narrative of Granblue Fantasy: Relink feels like pressing play on a greatest hits album and listening all the way through. The story really is that fast, and each area is so different. Each chapter takes you to a different island entirely with a whole new biome of sorts to explore. There’s no transition; you’re immediately thrown from an ice biome to a volcano biome, for example. While that’s not inherently bad, it only contributes to the feeling that the main story comes and goes a bit too quickly.

    A story that just barely gets the job done.

    Plot points also suffer from the pacing. New ideas are thrown around constantly, all strung together just barely. I can recall multiple plot points that I wish Cygames would have delved into deeper and connected together better. It can feel like patchwork at times with some of the more intricate ideas, especially in the later chapters with bigger reveals.

    Even though the game throws so many things at you, it’s easy to learn what everything means thanks to an incredibly handy feature called the Glossary. You can navigate here at any time in the main menu through Lyria’s Journal, where you’ll find hundreds of records detailing what certain terms mean. Similar to Final Fantasy XVI, you can access this feature during cutscenes, and it will display whatever terms are on screen. As someone who hasn’t played through much of the Granblue Fantasy story, I was elated to have the ability to quickly learn and pick up on terms with the press of a button. Once again, this is an amazing feature I hope developers continue to push for.

    Overall, the narrative of Granblue Fantasy: Relink sits as an experience that’s ultimately just good enough for me. It’s not great, and it disappoints me that it isn’t. In the end, I’m satisfied, but that’s largely thanks to the grand second half of the story. If we’re to get DLC or a sequel to Relink, I hope the team focuses on crafting a narrative that is engaging from the beginning with strong character development. On the other hand, one area the team has nearly perfected is combat.

    A Polished & Exceptional Combat System

    The real meat of Granblue Fantasy: Relink is its delectable combat system. While the combat isn’t nearly as deep as other action entries in the genre (as expected), there’s still lots of fun to be had with almost twenty different characters. Each character has a basic progression of light attacks you can utilize by pressing Square repeatedly. To rack up damage and begin combos, you’ll spam this alongside Triangle for unique attacks. Some characters have the ability to charge their unique attack, which can be used to deal massive amounts of damage with flashy effects.

    Those are just the basics. Relink requires you to be actively aware of your surroundings and precisely dodge when attacks are inbound. You can dodge three times in a row before a cooldown hits. After a third continuous dodge, your character will be slow to regain mobility, so you’re open to attacks from enemies.

    Unique to all playable characters are Skills, which you can customize to your liking. You can equip up to four at once for each character, with Skills recharging via a cooldown after use. Both offensive and defensive abilities are in play here. To power up your character’s stats, you can use the Masteries trees. These are essentially three different skill trees: Offensive, Defensive, and Collection. MSP, the currency used to purchase items on each tree, is shared between all characters, so you have to be strategic about how much you allocate to each character. Sometimes dumping everything into one character can work out, but that leaves your party members significantly weaker than that character. By pouring MSP into these different trees, you can unlock new Skills to slot into each character’s arsenal in addition to stat buffs.

    Combat is satisfying, flashy, and crisp. I didn’t once get tired of trying out the different playable characters throughout my time with the game. Each is relatively easy to start using and learning, despite having wildly different movesets and skills. You can level up each character up to a max of Level 100, which will take long hours and the completion of dozens of quests. Additionally, new weapons can be forged, and existing weapons can be extensively upgraded. There’s a grind to be had, and I appreciate that as an offering to return for more.

    Quests are the heart of Granblue Fantasy: Relink and where your combat skills will go to use. Alongside the main story quest line, there are a large amount of standard quests you can undertake at the Quest Counter. These each take place across the different islands you unlock throughout the story and feature different objectives. Six different quest types are available: Boss, Horde, Conquest, Survival, Defend, and Explore. Each offers a different high drop rate for certain materials, like weapon-uncapping materials to further level up maxed-out weapons.

    By far, the boss battles were my favorite type of quest available in Relink, as each was so different and massive in scale. Some might compare these to those found in Monster Hunter, but overall, they feel much closer to standard action RPGs and MMOs. Boss battles are epic and present a real challenge, especially at higher levels. Almost all of the bosses have a second phase, or at the very least, an Overdrive phase, where they deal more damage and move at an accelerated pace. To touch more on the second half of the narrative I spoke of earlier, the boss battles in the later chapters are incredible. It might not be anything we haven’t seen before, yet I found myself enthralled with the scale of the fights overall. You’ll fight a massive primeval god named Excavallion, who towers what seems like 10,000 feet above you and the party. There are so many more surprises within the story mode and available quests, so I encourage you to progress through the story to fight them. 

    Shifting gears, the best feature of the questing system is, arguably, the ability to play with friends online. At any time, you can go online and invite friends to your party to tackle quests together. I was impressed with how seamless the process was. When fighting bosses with all sorts of particle effects and movement, every player in my party looked as if we were playing locally. I couldn’t tell the difference between online and offline, which is amazing to say. It’s important to note that you can also tackle the entire game offline; no connection is required. So, if you’d rather play alone, you’ll have that option for all content offered in Relink

    As you navigate the linear levels to complete your task, you might notice that there isn’t a mini-map. Strangely enough, there is no map you can use in the game. This applies both to the main story quests and standard quests, which is puzzling. Instead, Vyrn guides you through the areas acting as a beacon for you to follow. Navigation isn’t tricky, but I would’ve liked to see an accessible map to see if I missed exploring any areas. Since the levels overall are very linear, you won’t find too many areas begging to be explored thoroughly outside of towns.

    Looking forward, I’m slightly interested in seeing the number of new quests Cygames will add after launch. While there’s a good amount to play through, there are different categories, and some are much less lengthy than others. Future support will be imperative to players returning for more after beating the initial batch of quests.

    A Living Painting

    Relink is absolutely beautiful. There’s not much else you can say about the game’s incredible visuals and art style. I’ve always thought the Granblue Fantasy art style was one of the best the gacha genre had to offer, and it’s translated effortlessly into Relink with the 3D models and environments. Between Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising and this title, Cygames has a seat atop the genre in terms of art style and visual fidelity. Simply put, it’s truly like strutting through a beautiful, living watercolor painting. Each environment is expertly crafted to offer gorgeous sights that complement the art style and characters. 

    These environments are accompanied by a mix of both atmospheric and battle music that dynamically changes depending on whether or not you’re attacking enemies. Small details like this make a huge difference in immersion, even if you don’t notice them at first. The main theme is littered throughout tracks with leitmotifs, giving the soundtrack a connecting feel as you progress through the game. Ultimately, the presentation was clearly a focus, and it has paid dividends to the experience of Granblue titles and the interest behind them.

    Overall, I enjoyed my time with Granblue Fantasy: Relink. It’s a title that I believe says a lot about the future of Cygames both in the console gaming space and entertainment overall. While the story mode was disappointing, I loved the dozens of hours I’ve spent grinding out the available quests with friends. There are so many different upgrades and abilities to unlock between the 20 characters that it’s easy to shuffle things and have a new experience whenever you’d like. I think Granblue Fantasy: Relink is an excellent entry point for newcomers, despite its narrative shortcomings. A title like this is exactly what you need to “link” players to the series, and I believe Relink will do that and so much more for the future of Granblue

    Cygames provided Final Weapon with a PlayStation 5 copy of Granblue Fantasy: Relink for review purposes.

    SUMMARY

    Granblue Fantasy: Relink is an excellent first step into console RPGs for the series. The story doesn't quite live up to expectations with poor pacing and an overall lack of character development, but the second half features epic fights and a streamlined narrative. Additionally, the gameplay is a thrill to experiment with, and it is a blast to play with friends online. Combined with its jaw-dropping mosaic-like visuals and beautiful soundtrack, it's safe to say that the six-year wait has paid off for Cygames & Granblue with a solid first entry into the world of RPGs.
    Noah Hunter
    Noah Hunter
    Noah is Final Weapon’s Editor-in-Chief. He co-founded the website in June 2019 and has been writing for it ever since. In total, he has over five years of writing experience across many publications, including IGN Entertainment. His favorite series include Xeno and Final Fantasy.

    Latest articles

    Related articles

    Granblue Fantasy: Relink is an excellent first step into console RPGs for the series. The story doesn't quite live up to expectations with poor pacing and an overall lack of character development, but the second half features epic fights and a streamlined narrative. Additionally, the gameplay is a thrill to experiment with, and it is a blast to play with friends online. Combined with its jaw-dropping mosaic-like visuals and beautiful soundtrack, it's safe to say that the six-year wait has paid off for Cygames & Granblue with a solid first entry into the world of RPGs.Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review - Reach for the Skies