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Granblue Fantasy: Relink review – an early contender for action RPG of the year
6:00 pm | January 31, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review information

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). 

Skies unknown

Granblue Fantasy: Relink

(Image credit: XSEED Games)

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. 

Steel resolve

Granblue Fantasy: Relink

(Image credit: XSEED Games)

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.

Best bit

Granblue Fantasy: Relink

(Image credit: XSEED Games)

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

(Image credit: XSEED Games)

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.


Granblue Fantasy Relink accessibility

(Image credit: XSEED Games)

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. 

Looking to build up your gaming library? Be sure to check out our guides to the best RPGs and the best PS5 games for more titles like Granblue Fantasy: Relink.

Sea of Stars review – a traditional RPG with modern wit
5:33 pm | August 28, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off
Review Information

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC
Release date: August 29, 2023

As the heroes of Sea of Stars, Valere, and Zale, squared up to do battle against a giant worm, a tense beat began to play, before slowly opening into a dramatic score. The way the game’s first boss fight played out followed suit, in a way, with Sea of Stars’ first giant enemy (an enormous worm) smashing the sides of the arena all while the encounter continually escalated. After a fierce back and forth with more than a few close calls, the worm perished in a dramatic and cathartic animation. The battle was won, and I felt great. 

This is the magic at the heart of Sea of Stars. This indie RPG from Sabotage Studio faithfully recreates the thrill of classic turn-based battles that define the best JRPGs while elevating itself through the use of modern genre-blending design principles.

Sea of Stars is all about adventure, offering stunning pixel art visuals, diverse locales, and a simple yet engaging plot. However, Sabotage’s latest RPG is more than just an homage to the classic, early installations of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. With Sea of Stars, Sabotage has taken a holistic approach to design, making the game world feel broad, grounded, and cohesive.

Sea of Stars’ writing has a cheeky irreverence reminiscent of indie classic Undertale

Background NPCs have dialogue that makes sense and is consistent with the world, while even small towns have areas you can explore if you’re inclined to go searching for hidden treasure. NPCs also have custom animations to help underscore their quirks, reinforced by character ‘voices’, which are captured by contrasting text sounds for different speakers. There’s even a fishing minigame. These little details add up to give Sea of Stars a depth that exceeds the sum of its parts. 

What’s more, Sea of Stars’ writing has a modern twist, with some cheeky irreverence reminiscent of indie classic Undertale sprinkled in. Characters might make little nods to the tropes that bind the world together, or, in the case of one particular pirate, almost break the fourth wall entirely. This sense of self-awareness keeps the game fresh, offering Sea of Stars a momentum that carries it through its weaker moments. 

A matter of timing

Zale, Valere and Garl battle The Elder Mist

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Beneath its pixelated veneer, Sea of Stars is a surprisingly innovative title, daring to conflate genres in its attempt to build something novel. Though combat is turn-based, the game rewards you for some good timing whenever your character attacks or receives damage. Time a button press right, and you’ll get an offensive or defensive bonus. This little quirk adds an element of tension and excitement to even the most routine of battles.

Character skills also follow suit, requiring you to press buttons when prompted, or hold down buttons and release them at the right moment. In isolation, they amount to very simple mini-games, but, in the context of the game’s battles, they enable you to learn and grow alongside the characters. So, as Valere levels up, so too does your ability to get the timing right on her Moonerang attack. 

Best bit

The party move through the overworld past an immense sleeping dragon

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Our heroes descended into a valley, passing a giant dragon called ‘The Sleeper”. Seeing the dozy titan up close brought me into the world of Sea of Stars in a big way, hinting at a whole universe of myth and potential - all while proving that sprites can be just as awe-inspiring as polygons. 

Combat in Sea of Stars offers a satisfying depth that is made apparent by the game’s approach to regular attacks. Hit someone with a normal attack and you’ll not only recover MP, your spellcasting resource, but you’ll also generate Live Mana, which can be used to Boost characters when they use skills and attacks in battle. Reminiscent of the excellent action economy in Octopath Traveller 2, boosting makes your character more effective, while also imbuing their basic attacks with the character’s signature element.

This latter is vital for dealing with 'Locks', a system whereby powerful attacks from enemies can be weakened or even prevented by hitting them with the right combination of damage types in a given time window. Sea of Stars transparently counts down to every foe’s next move, allowing you to spend your turn wisely and plan accordingly. In keeping with the best traditions of the turn-based RPG, Sea of Stars’ battles feel like dramatic, fast-paced puzzles, challenging players to find efficient solutions to increasingly complex threats.  

That said, a lack of character customization is conspicuous. When characters level up, you can select which stats to increase, but the choice of skills and abilities available to each party member is determined by story beats, rather than player decisions. Though this grants each character a more distinctive set of actions that reinforces their role in the story, it does detract from player agency in a way that had me missing Bravely Default 2’s job system.  

Will it blend? 

the party look out over a cliffisde

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Every other facet of Sea of Stars attempts to blur genre divides, borrowing techniques from across the rich tapestry of modern games to create something novel and refreshing. 

Not only does Sea of Stars place a greater emphasis on traversal than most JRPGs, but the game’s dungeons also borrow from the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom by allowing the player to acquire items that let them interact with the world in new and interesting ways. A grappling hook you find in a necromancer’s lair is a particular gem: it not only allows you to solve the dungeon’s own puzzles but also gives you a tool with which to gain the upper hand over enemies in combat.

The story, too, borrows from outside of the established JRPG toolbox. While the narrative’s bare bones follow the traditional “chosen heroes go off to defeat a great evil” mold, Sea of Stars offers twists that alter the flavor just enough to keep it interesting. Early on in the story, serious and superpowered Solstice Warriors Valere and Zale are joined by Garl, a wholesome young man who loves cooking, meeting new people, and looking out for his friends. 

Having a non-magical party member early on helps place the epic struggle of the Solstice Warriors in a wider context

Seemingly transplanted from Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing: New Horizons Garl’s wholesomeness adds a much-needed counterbalance to Valere and Zale’s stoic determination. Having a non-magical party member early on helps place the epic struggle of the Solstice Warriors in a wider context by allowing us to view their quests through the eyes of an average Joe, all while humanizing the whole affair with Garl’s good-natured gentleness.  

A pirate troupe perform for an inn that's fallen on hard times in Sea of Stars

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Much like Undertale, Sea of Stars isn’t afraid to draw on tropes when needed, skillfully discarding them once they lose their luster. For instance, at one point in the tale, you encounter a group of charming, fourth-wall-breaking pirates. Though initially presented as a comedic interlude, they swiftly gain depth as they’re transplanted from a wholesome trading port to a tavern on a haunted island. In this new context, their irreverent comedy takes a whole new tone, as they take to the stage to lift the locals’ spirits. What was once played for laughs is now used to make a comparatively serious point about hope in dark places. The grief-ridden patrons of the tavern are distracted from their woes, if only for a moment, by these zany pirates. Sea of Stars is full of these moments of theatrical contrast and is all the stronger for it. 

This sense of theater is consistent across the entirety of Sea of Stars. Every story beat is tinged with JRPG melodrama but never feels imprisoned by it, allowing the game to occasionally blur genres and move beyond the established JRPG formula. Though the relatively flat main protagonists and lack of customization options do stifle the game’s flair, Sea of Stars remains an enchanting adventure that will please old-school RPG fans as well as those looking for a cozy adventure.  


Sea of Stars accessibility relics menu

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Though Sea of Stars doesn’t offer support for colorblind players or those with other visual impairments, the title does offer numerous ways of tweaking the core game experience to make its combat accessible to a range of players. Much like Final Fantasy 16, Sea of Stars offers players Relics which allows them to customize elements of the game difficulty. Some soften or even remove quick-time elements, while others heal the party between engagements, allowing players to tailor their experience to better suit their preferences. 

How we reviewed Sea of Stars 

I played 10 hours of Sea of Stars making my way through a range of boss encounters, dungeons, puzzles, and a sizable chunk of the story. I played the game on PC with a Dualsense PS5 controller, which handled smoothly.

During my time with the game, I sampled the fishing mini-game as well as Wheels, an in-universe strategy game reminiscent of Gwent or Triple Triad. I also spent time experimenting with different party compositions and battle strategies.  

Looking for more great games? Our list of the best PS5 games and our round-ups of the best Xbox Series X games and best Nintendo Switch games will tell you exactly which titles offer the most bang for your buck.