If you asked me what Granblue Fantasy was before December of last year, I wouldn't be able to tell you anything. It was after the release of the stellar Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising that I realized I was missing out on a series full of creative characters bursting with personality, and a world that begs to be explored. As of this review, I've become something of a Granblue Fantasy fanatic.
If you're even the least bit interested in the world, lore, and characters of Granblue Fantasy, look no further than the latest title in the hit game series, Relink. With no official US release to speak of for the main mobile game, you can still get engrossed in the world with this standalone, action-oriented title. And boy, let me tell you, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is Brilliantly Fun
I won't claim to know the full details of Granblue Fantasy: Relink's development history, but as I understand it, it was announced in 2016. Platinum Games was involved with the project up until 2019, and you can't see a hint of the studio's branding on the final product -- nonetheless, I can still feel some of the studio’s influence in Granblue Fantasy: Relink.
The gameplay loop for Granblue Fantasy: Relink is pretty straightforward -- players embark on story quests and follow the narrative of your Captain and their crew. Often, you're placed in larger areas that can be explored for treasure and other secrets; throughout, there are plenty of enemies and bosses to tackle, as well.
One thing Granblue: Fantasy Relink does exceptionally well is creating wonderful spectacles, not unlike 2023's Final Fantasy XVI. Big, bombastic, action-packed moments keep you engaged throughout the campaign as you explore and fight your way through a plethora of enemies.
Just to keep your expectations in check, it doesn't quite reach the same highs as Final Fantasy XVI's insane boss battles, but many story scenarios elicit the same feelings of excitement. One boss, in particular, has you fighting an ancient colossus the size of a skyscraper. Seeing the scale of such a battle is nothing short of exhilarating. The same can be said for many other moments in the game.
In terms of combat, which has that Platinum flair to it, there are smaller monsters to fight, but the most exciting parts of Granblue Fantasy: Relink’s combat come alive with bosses. Boss battles play akin to Monster Hunter with various targetable parts and attack patterns. Different phases and AOEs elicit feelings of an MMORPG boss, too, which makes said battles much more engaging than fighting a meat shield.
Using Link Attacks and Chain Bursts opens up the opportunity for other characters in your party to attack. The former allows all four members to attack in cohesion and sometimes slows down time to dish out even more damage. Think of the latter as your "ultimates" -- huge attacks unleashed after all members of the party unleash Skybound Arts (SBA) from filling their SBA gauge.
Not to get too nitty gritty into the details, but as you can see there's some depth to the gameplay. And yet, the system is so cohesive and simple to understand once you get your hands on it. It's an accessible game, and the word "combo" shouldn't scare you away. In Granblue Fantasy: Relink, you're capable of greatness.
However, the combat would be even better were it not for the lock-on system, which can be annoying to grapple with. Enemies themselves can be quite mobile and will therefore jerk the camera around. Overall, locking on doesn't feel like an advantage, so I'd encourage anyone to play without relying on this feature too much.
Get Engaged with a Large Cast in Granblue Fantasy: Relink
As a character-based action game, you'll have a choice of crewmates to add to your party of four. Each has their own skill trees, abilities, and combos, so not a single character feels the same. Indeed, Cygames did a wonderful job creating a diverse cast of characters, and through this diversity, you'll find that each combat encounter is fresh.
Take Vane, for example. His giant axe is a perfect complement to his vivacious personality and attack patterns. His large, sweeping moves can take out packs of enemies, and he’s a great tank, to boot. Some of his attacks naturally parry moves, which helps him stay in the fight longer.
Ferry, on the other hand, is a ghostly girl who can use her spectral pets to swarm and attack enemies. Her sweeping whip charges up and summons her companions – the more you summon, the more powerful her combo finisher becomes. But she also has great buffing and healing capabilities, not to mention her whip has a very long reach.
While I loved the spectacle of the main story's battles, Granblue Fantasy: Relink wouldn't be as engaging as it is without these 20-or-so characters to choose from. As I mentioned, each character is quite unique, so I'd find myself theorizing about who would work best as an addition to my crew.
You run a party of four characters, so creating teams and finding ways for abilities to complement each other is half the fun. In my case, Vane was my bruiser that soaks up damage, while Ferry focused on AOE damage and keeping the team alive with her support skills. The other two -- Cagliostro and Percival -- acted as DPS and specialized in "stunning" enemies.
With a plethora of points to spend on skill trees, weapons to upgrade, and more, progression is extensive in Granblue Fantasy: Relink. The way it's designed has me coming back for more and more, and the drive to upgrade and maximize my characters' abilities is strong. You're not given every single character from the start, so I was constantly looking forward to adding a new crewmate to my roster.
Each character is given a few basic, two-button combos not unlike a musou game. It's encouraged to learn about these combos as they'll vary across different characters, and their combo finishers will help players get optimal damage. In between these combos, you're given four slots to use different skills, which adds even more diversity to your arsenal.
Characters can really fill a certain niche with these skills, as some skills simply deal out huge amounts of damage, while others are meant to buff or heal yourself and your teammates. My preference was characters that could do large amounts of AOE damage and exploit enemy weaknesses, but almost every character felt fun to use.
There is a caveat to unlocking characters, though. Though Granblue Fantasy: Relink is generous in granting skill points for your party to use on their tree, this resource is shared party-wide. Some characters will inevitably be more ahead than others.
With that in mind, newly unlocked crewmates scale to the level of your party, and they'll be given an in-progress skill tree to catch up with the rest of your crew. It turns out, they’d have a significant – perhaps even unfair -- edge over my current crewmates due to the way I allocated points to my current party.
The end result is, that you're given powerful characters you probably don't care to use because they're the last ones you picked. I preferred to choose the characters I found most appealing first, yet they always felt a bit behind the pack as opposed to unlocking a brand new, scaled-up character.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review | Final Thoughts
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a game that doesn't outstay its welcome, with a concise and satisfying campaign fans of the series will absolutely adore. Seeing all the character interactions come to life with stunning, high-quality visuals is a dream come true. However, Granblue Fantasy: Relink does contain an extensive endgame for those who want to keep playing.
The endgame for Granblue Fantasy: Relink is massive, giving players more quests to embark on and even more ways to progress their characters. The only complaint I'd have is that there might be a few too many different currencies to get new materials and such to upgrade weapons and other essential items, so it can feel a bit overwhelming.
In a year where we're spoiled for choice for action-packed hack-and-slashes and RPGs, don't overlook Granblue Fantasy: Relink. The years of effort put forth by Cygames culminated in a cohesive and satisfying package. Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a joy to play from start to finish. With more content slated to release throughout the year, I can't wait to see what Cygames has waiting for us.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by the publisher over roughly 30 hours of gameplay. All screenshots in this review were taken by the reviewer during gameplay.
- Big Setpieces and Plenty of Fun Action
- Plenty of Different Characters and Skills, Lots of Variety
- Fantastic Art Style, Graphics, Soundtrack
- Endgame Content Keeps You Engaged
- Locking Onto Enemies is Iffy
- Catch-up System in Place for Unlocking Characters
- Endgame Currency and Items Can Feel Overwhelming