Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review - Smooth Sky Sailing

  • First Released Jan 29, 2024
  • PC
Jason Fanelli on Google+

Great action sequences and a lean story highlight an RPG adventure that doesn't overstay its welcome.

Cygames has been building the Granblue Fantasy series for a decade, first with a mobile gacha-style action-RPG, then with spin-offs ranging from an anime series to a pair of 2D fighting games. Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a return to those RPG roots that attempts to retell the original story to a new audience. For the most part, the game succeeds by trimming the tale into a lean, roughly 20-hour experience, but the transition is not without its stumbles.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink follows The Captain--either Gran (male) or Djeeta (female), depending on your choice--who is the leader of a group of skybound adventurers looking for the island of Estalucia. Captain is linked via life force to Lyria, a girl with the ability to commune with Primal Beasts, who are essentially the gods of the world.

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The two travel with a band of warriors, each with backstories that can be explored throughout the game. There are five constant companions: Katalina is Lyria's sworn protector, Io is the resident mage, Rackam helms the Grandcypher airship, Eugen is a former mercenary turned good guy, and Rosetta is the mysterious femme fatale. You can add more members to the party, but while they can spice up battle plans through new party compositions, they don't have as much impact on the overall story as the core group.

One major strength of Relink is its incredible aesthetic design. This series has always featured beautiful illustrations, and here it looks like those 2D drawings have been painstakingly recreated in full 3D. Battles pop with vibrant colors, as flashes of light and energy from sword slashes and magic spells fill the screen. Each character's personality shines through when they're on-screen too thanks to clear facial expressions and the tone of their voice. The orchestral soundtrack--composed by a staff which includes names like Nobuo Uematsu and Tsutomu Narita--mixes soaring symphonies fit for sailing with intense battle themes that keep the adrenaline pumping. The game is a sight to behold and a delight to hear, and its presentation immediately pulls you in.

The game doesn't overstay its welcome, at least not for a game in the action-RPG genre. The main story of Granblue Fantasy: Relink will require 15-20 hours to complete, or even fewer if you plan to roll through it on a lesser difficulty. The story isn't groundbreaking--you'll attempt to save a kidnapped girl and defeat her oppressors. It's standard fantasy stuff but there are a few moments that keep it from being too generic. In one scene, after solving a puzzle to "find a treasure," the party is greeted by a Shadow Of The Colossus-sized automaton, in a neat subversion of my expectations. There's also a few twists toward the end, one that I saw coming, but another that took me by complete surprise. Though the overall narrative isn't breaking any new ground, there are still some neat story beats on offer here.

Playing through each chapter feels fast-paced as well, thanks to the action-focused combat system. The hack-and-slash nature gives off Kingdom Hearts vibes, with furious button-mashing mixed in with the occasional strategically activated ability. Link Attacks are cool, as they offer a sudden and powerful attack through a team-up with a member of your squad. Sometimes the partner is right next to you, but other times your character leaps across the screen, which adds an extra bit of flair.

As a battle progresses, certain actions will fill a Link Meter. Should all four characters activate a Link attack at once when the meter is at 100%, it will activate Link Time, which slows every enemy down to a crawl and lets the team cut loose. Timing the activation of Link Time can be tricky, as you're dependent on three AI characters activating the move with you, but it's worth it; I was able to turn the tide of battle many times with this mechanic, and it quickly proved to be a valuable part of battle plans.

Another set of big moves in the party's arsenal is Skybound Arts, or SBA. These are flashy super attacks that can be activated after a certain character's SBA gauge reaches 100%. However, their real impact is in letting the party chain them together whenever everyone hits 100% on their SBA Gauge; once everyone has performed their individual SBA, a massive Chain Burst attack provides an instant follow-up for huge damage. The Chain Burst attack also borrows the element of whichever character started the chain; if Gran starts things off, for example, the final attack is a massive Wind-based burst called Galestorm. The button-mashing combat can feel mindless at times, but with things like Link Attacks and the SBA system, Relink's battle system offers enough strategic considerations to break up the monotony when needed and keep players engaged.

Each chapter of the adventure follows a strict formula: Speak with the party about the next objective, travel to said objective, complete it, and return home for the next chapter. It's a noticeable shift from recent action-RPGs, but it's not a detrimental one. I appreciated the matter-of-fact approach to this game, as it gave me clear tasks to complete and pointed me in the right direction every time. These missions, despite the narrative structure, don't all play out the same way either; some will follow a straight path to the major enemy, while others will give you a larger area to explore. One chapter requires you to activate three sensors on a circular map, and each of the sensors is protected by a boss-level enemy. The brevity of the chapters allows you to pick up and play one or two per session, but there's enough variety that they don't all feel like the same thing over and over again.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink
Granblue Fantasy: Relink

However, Granblue Fantasy: Relink's core story mode lacks any meaningful difficulty, even on higher difficulty levels. Healing items are plentiful in battle, and, should your character lose all of their health, you can button mash them back to life. The other party members are battle-savvy, as the AI controls them without needing to constantly monitor their health. In fact, I don't recall a single companion requiring me to revive them until the final series of battles, and it was nice to have a competent team working alongside me.

Even when intentionally seeking out a more difficult experience, I still would come out on top--I mistakenly fought one boss in Chapter 4 with a single party member, and yet I never saw the Game Over screen. I mashed myself back to health when downed and used a dodge/counterattack strategy to win. The battle did take a good 15 minutes, though I wonder how quickly it would have gone if I had a full party of four.

That's not to say the game is easy across the board, as Relink does offer some side activities in town that prove difficult. Some of them are the sort of fetch quests assigned by random townspeople that RPGs have seen for years, while others are challenge-based missions called Quests that offer ranks and scaling rewards based on how you perform. I like these missions a lot, as chasing the three-star S rank is a great challenge and serves as a gauge for how strong your party has become. Quests carry over into the post-story experience as well, with some of them serving as the best parts of the entire game.

A notable aspect of Relink is the Fate Episodes feature. Each character has a set of 11 episodes that fill in their backstories, motivations, relationships, and more. Most of them are told with text flashing on the screen against a piece of the character's artwork--for example, if you choose Gran, only two of his episodes feature actual combat--so they don't add much in terms of gameplay. However, they're well-written and do a good job of filling in the blanks for those not familiar with Granblue Fantasy's world. Furthermore, the episodes that do feature combat offer a tremendous challenge, as you'll go into battle with only the character whose story you're playing--no AI teammates allowed. Each challenge--story or combat--will boost the character's stats after completion, so even Granblue experts have reason to brush up on the story.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink bundles a lot of familiar elements together into one abridged RPG experience, with varying results. The combat is fast and furious, but it can sometimes feel monotonous, especially in longer battles. The story is a great catch-up tale for non-Granblue fans, but it doesn't do anything to stand out from its RPG counterparts. The looks and sounds of the world are wonderful though, with Granblue's signature style bursting to life with vibrant color. It doesn't revolutionize Granblue Fantasy, but Relink serves as a solid refresh for the former gacha game.

Jason Fanelli on Google+
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The Good

  • Shorter, more succinct adventure compared to other action-RPGs
  • Fast-paced combat with cool team-based features
  • Fate Stories are a cool way to teach background info about the characters
  • Beautiful graphics and music

The Bad

  • Combat can get monotonous at times
  • Will not pose much of a challenge to RPG fans

About the Author

Jason Fanelli soared through the skies of Granblue Fantasy: Relink in 19 hours, completing the main story and taking on a few Quests and Fate Stories along the way. He is a big Vyrn fan and wishes more games had small and sassy dragon characters.