Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review
The road to Granblue Fantasy: Relink?has been a notoriously long one. The action RPG is part of a trans-media series that originated with the original Granblue Fantasy mobile game in 2014, followed by a two-season anime beginning in 2017, a manga, and even a fighting game series. First announced in 2016 and surviving some apparent development difficulties, Relink has been near the top of mind for many of us coming into a very crowded 2024. Offering a stacked roster of playable characters, intuitive multiplayer action combat, and a bombastic single-player story quest, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a resounding success, and sets quite a bar for other RPGs in 2024.
Relink immediately drops players in the middle of the action, with our crew of wayfarers aboard the airship, Grancypher. From the onset, it is clear that the relationships and general rapport between characters have already been established. Though the game does an admirable job of letting newcomers know the who’s who of the ensemble, it may feel like something is missing if you aren’t somewhat familiar with the overall universe. The game’s story doesn’t take place during a particular point in the series’ disjointed timeline - it is not a sequel to the anime, manga, or other games - but if you are new to the story there is just enough to clue you in.?
The story has players first assume the role of Gran, the ship’s captain, traveling with his companion Lyria, with whom he shares a special link. Utilizing the link between them, Lyria is able to summon Primal beasts to aid them, including Bahamut. During an early encounter with a mysterious foe hailing from the Church of Avia, Lyria is kidnapped and her powers neutralized. This propels Gran and the rest of the crew to travel through the islands to get her back, while also finding out why her powers are sought to be utilized in the first place. The story moves at a brisk pace, with instances of tension and danger well balanced with humor and moments of respite. Strong character writing and excellent performances kept me entertained throughout.?
Relink is structured into chapters, with Folca and other lively towns serving as hub locations located within the Zegagrande Skydom. These hubs serve as places where Gran and company can visit vendors, read up on world lore, and more.?
Once finished with upgrading weapons and unlocking new abilities in town, players can move forward with the next story chapter, each sending the crew off into the next available stage consisting of connected, linear zones which typically ends with a spectacular boss encounter. Each stage is well-timed and includes plenty of enemies, puzzles to solve, and items to collect.?
Combat in Relink is energetic and dazzling, with players controlling one of nearly two dozen total characters, each with their own dedicated weapons and skillset. It allows gamers to explore different play styles amongst melee, ranged, and magic fighters. There truly is something for every kind of player, whether you want to focus on mastering a single playstyle or changing it up regularly while progressing through the game.?
The general goal is to break the enemy’s defenses, leaving them stunned and prone to spectacular damage through skillful combo execution. Players can execute combos with normal attacks before deploying skills, all while raising their special attack meter. When the meter reaches 100%, a character can deploy their special attack, and if all four party members are able to unleash their attack within a quick window, a final group chain burst attack is launched.?
Combat is simple enough to grasp, while also nuanced enough for players at higher skill levels who seek a challenge. It helps the game does a great job of introducing each character and their particular quirks in combat. It’s flashy, fun, and never overstays its welcome - even during the more difficult post-game content. Outside of combat, players can manage the party’s weapon levels and expend master points to teach new abilities and earn stat boosts. One of the game’s most interesting gambits is the use of Sigils, accessories that players can equip and level up. These items provide new abilities, stat buffs, and more, allowing another layer of customization. While the game starts with a handful of characters, it also doles out cards during story scenes or as rewards for particularly challenging quests, the use of which allows players to continue to recruit additional party members.
A couple of wrinkles to Relink’s progression systems include Fate Episodes and a detailed weapon management system. The Fate Episodes are typically short text-only vignettes providing backstory for characters, sometimes coupled with combat sequences. In addition to providing some supplemental backstory, completing these provides stat or other bonuses to the subject character of the episode.?
Weapon management is nearly as involved as the character’s themselves, as weapons have their own level which can increase by expending materials earned throughout the game. Once a weapon hits a cap, players can unlock higher levels, as well as forge new weapons, and begin again to access the strongest, most refined weapons.?
Both the Fate episodes and expansive weapons system certainly remind of its gacha forefather, except in this instance it requires elbow grease and knowledge of the game’s mechanics to master, rather than being able to pay your way through.
Overall, Relink’s main story is briskly paced with a tale that starts mid-action, ending within 20 hours as it prepares players for hours of post-game challenges rewards and multiplayer co-op. It may feel short, but the game is positively stuffed with dozens of hours of content in the form of replayable missions, boss fights, and rewards. Players can be as involved with the game’s post-game content as they would like, providing extensive replay value for those willing to dig their heels in.
The localization is sharp, with plenty of punny one-liners, cute mission titles, and some very clever ability names. Tying it together is the excellent sound and graphical design which makes Relink an irresistible co-op action RPG. The development team has clearly put forth a lot of effort into bringing the series to life on console, and it shows. It boasts a striking visual style lifted from the anime, with brightly drawn characters and a broad range of sharply designed enemies. The environments are varied, expansive, and well-developed which complement its visual aesthetic. Enemies can be charming or cute, but never cheesy, while some other enemies are downright scary. It looks great on the PlayStation 5 with no slowdown or frame rate issues, even during explosive combat set pieces.?
The game’s music is inspired, featuring excellent battle and exploration themes. The excellent arrangement from Tsutomu Narita includes rousing boss fight and multiplayer mission themes, with lively tracks composed for the town themes. This sound design is supported by the excellent performances from the voice cast, including the always stellar Erica Lindbeck’s exceptional turn as the valorous Katarina and Kyle Hebert as the playful, wisecracking Rackem. Our fully voiced hero is also a lively plus, fostering a sense of agency and urgency in the proceedings.
The game is, if nothing else, consistent, which greatly contributes to a strong sense of cohesion. Everything flows and feels organic - from the single-player missions to end-game content and the multiplayer components. Not only that, but each of the game’s systems and character skills are easily manageable even for beginners.? There are difficulty options and even assistance options making it easier for players of all skill levels to enjoy the story and varied combat styles, with options for assist and full assist mode, where some or all actions during battle are performed automatically.?
It’s been a long road for players eager to get their hands on Relink since it was announced nearly eight years ago. In that time, Cygames has managed to craft solid single and multiplayer experiences based on the long-running mobile game while borrowing some of the best elements of the gacha game, particularly an expansive roster of playable characters and bonanza of multiplayer content. The main story quest is appetizing and gives way to a robust, whimsical, and flashy multiplayer component that can entertain for hours. After a delayed development, Granblue Fantasy: Relink finally arrives, and it simply sings.