Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, PS4, PC
Release date: February 1, 2024
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is finally here, and regardless of whether you’re familiar with the franchise or not, it’s been worth the wait for what is ultimately an unmissable experience for action role-playing game (RPG) fans.
Relink’s flow is fast and energetic - something that you’ll feel throughout every aspect of the title. That goes for story progression, combat, side quests, and even cutscenes. The action RPG rarely feels like it’s dragging its heels, and this is accentuated by a compact 15-20 hour campaign that’s delightfully eager to get you to endgame content as soon as possible.
Even if you’re only staying for the story, you’ll still get an excellent slice of well-told narrative and blisteringly-paced combat that only gets better as you upgrade your favorite characters and weapons. However, you’ll likely find you want to stay with Granblue Fantasy: Relink for the long haul, as the base game has an exceptional amount of content before we’ve even had a whiff of post-launch extras or downloadable content (DLC).
Granblue Fantasy: Relink takes the series’ protagonist (Gran or Djeeta, who you’re freely able to switch between) and their crew to the Zegagrande Skydom - a mass of floating islands in the sky - in their continued search for the fabled land of Estalucia, said to be a utopia among the clouds. It’s a tale that carries on the events of the original mobile game’s story. And while having some prior knowledge here is nice, it’s far from essential outside of understanding the occasional reference.
That’s because Granblue Fantasy: Relink boasts a newcomer-friendly narrative that’s still plenty entertaining. Plus, a fully-featured glossary will get you up to speed on any concepts or terminologies that may be foreign if you haven’t engaged with the series to date. Unsure as to what a ‘skydom’ even is, or want to learn more about the races that inhabit them? The glossary’s got your back. The pre-established lore can be daunting, but the game supports you entirely when it comes to learning about the wider franchise.
Regardless, Granblue Fantasy: Relink’s story is simple but effective. It’s primarily concerned with hopping the player from place to place and keeping a brisk pace while doing so. This focus means that its cutscenes and writing, while excellent on their own, don’t overshadow the best part of Granblue Fantasy: Relink; its phenomenal combat.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink sees you taking a squad of four characters into its various missions, but you’ll only be controlling whoever’s in the lead slot. In single-player, your other party members are AI-controlled. This feature isn’t as much of a hindrance as it may sound, though, as you’re able to swap other characters into the lead slot any time during a mission. And you may want to, as the AI can often forget they have access to crucial buffs and skills and, occasionally, stand directly in front of oncoming attacks without even attempting to evade them which did lead to the occasional frustrating death.
Most characters have a suite of bread-and-butter combos, which are usually a string of basic attacks followed by a strong attack input. This attack style is universal across the cast, but each character also has their own traits and powerful skills to set them apart. The protagonist’s main gimmick, for example, is that their skills become stronger (up to four levels) as you dish out combos.
Most others on the cast are just as unique and interesting. Narmaya can swap between two unique stances for what is essentially two different move sets, similar to how she plays in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. Vaseraga, on the other hand, is a juggernaut who can land charged attacks to build up a gauge that lets him access even more potent abilities.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink’s story boss fights are the highlight here. Often towering in scope, each brings forward unique mechanics that make learning every encounter feel satisfying and rewarding.
The main takeaway here is that Granblue Fantasy: Relink simply feels excellent to play. I had a blast playing with the immensely varied roster of characters and working out how their playstyles could best synergize with a party of four. There’s so much experimentation here that allows you to shape an ideal group. You can have dedicated healers and support characters among your ranks. Or if you’re feeling bold, go all-out offensive with powerhouse characters to rinse bosses quicker at the expense of the team being more vulnerable.
Completing quests and objectives affords you mastery points, which can be spent on every character's exhaustive skill tree, each of which is split into offensive and defensive skills and stat boosts. On top of that, characters’ weapons can be forged, leveled up, and affixed with items that add more stat modifiers. Then there’s sigils, which are essentially equippable motes that offer further stat upgrades. And these are essential for shaping character builds to your liking.
That said, Relink isn’t solely a numbers game. Stats help, of course, and beefier characters are required for more challenging quests. But evasive options like dodges, guards, and parries mean that skilled players are rewarded for getting right in a boss’ grill without backing down.
It certainly can be a lot to take in, though, especially as you begin unlocking new characters. It can take time to figure out where to invest your mastery points and upgrade materials best. Thankfully, Relink does a solid job of introducing all these systems over time. And quest rewards are typically plentiful, meaning you’ll be doing very little grinding even in the early stages of its endgame.
A picture worth a thousand words
Granblue Fantasy: Relink provides an excellent entry point for series newcomers, and presents slick combat with a moreish progression loop. To top it all off, the RPG is incredibly beautiful. Despite being fully 3D, Relink nails the painterly look of the mobile game.
Characters feature detailed cel-shading with hand-drawn touches like armor and weapon wear, and they’re brought to life by fantastic motion capture during cutscenes and superb voice acting across the board in both Japanese and English. The voice cast is also retained from the mobile game and Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising, so if you’ve gelled with these characters for a while, you’ll feel like you’re being reintroduced to old pals in Relink.
Environments look similarly exceptional, with breathtaking vistas and skyboxes that offer an immense sense of scale, despite most maps being relatively small. It’s a wonderfully colorful game, too, really popping with HDR enabled, and bound to shine on any of the best gaming TVs.
There aren’t any dedicated accessibility options for Granblue Fantasy: Relink at launch. However, the game does feature a combat assist mode that helps more demanding combos and playstyles feel much more surmountable for those who need or prefer a more streamlined approach.
Performance is a big winner here, too. On PlayStation 5, there are options for fidelity (4K at 30fps) and performance (1080p at 60fps) modes. I primarily played with the latter and never once encountered noticeable frame drops. Even split-second performance dips are quite rare against the game’s most monumental boss fights.
Overall, Granblue Fantasy: Relink adds another quality product to the franchise that’s been steadily growing in popularity in the West. It puts forward a confidently fast-paced combat system with layers upon layers of customization and depth. Its extensive endgame will keep you coming back for more, long after you’ve rolled credits, with no shortage of challenging boss encounters. If you’re a series veteran or simply an enjoyer of action RPGs, Granblue Fantasy: Relink makes for essential play.