Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review – A Grand Grind Endlessly Enjoyable

Granblue Fantasy is one of those huge gaming franchises that you might’ve never even heard of. The reason for that is pretty simple: it’s originally a mobile gacha game from Japan that was never released in the West. And if you have heard of Granblue Fantasy, it’s more likely due to the fighting game Granblue Fantasy: Versus (2020) from Arc System Works that was released a couple years ago. I was faintly aware of the franchise but didn’t pay much attention to it until Granblue Fantasy: Relink appeared in front of my eyes. Originally developed by Platinum Games before it was taken over by Cygames, the original studio behind the franchise, who continued development themselves, the game was seemingly stuck in development hell for a while. But this year, the Japanese action RPG was finally released, and it was well worth the wait.

Let me take your fear of any gacha or pay-to-win shenanigans right away. While Granblue Fantasy Relink might be based on a mobile game featuring all of those elements, nothing of the sort has followed the franchise into this newest entry. There are still a number of different characters you can play as, all of which have unique playstyles and cool designs, but you can very easily unlock them through coupons that you get as a reward from certain quests. There are no shady business practices here. And in terms of gameplay, Granblue Fantasy: Relink doesn’t have much in common with its mobile game predecessor either; instead, imagine something more along the lines of Monster Hunter but with the skin of a more classic JRPG layered on top of it. 

Your protagonist, cute animal companion, and plot device girlfriend

In talking about Granblue Fantasy: Relink, I have to make a distinction between the campaign and post-game content, because, as far as I’m concerned, post-game is where the meat of the game is. Which isn’t to say that the campaign is bad, but we’re talking about a 10 to 15-hour campaign here with post-game content that’s 50+ hours on top. It’s a game that you can grind endlessly to level up your characters, upgrade their gear and skills, and find the perfect build for you. Finishing the campaign is just the first little step into the full adventure. Nevertheless, let’s talk about it.

When you start the campaign, you might be a little confused at first. You jump right into the middle of an adventure, and at no point are characters introduced properly. So you might spend the first couple chapters trying to catch up with what’s happening and who everyone is. For better or for worse—better because it makes it easier to grasp everything without introduction, worse because… well, it’s just not good in any other way—the characters aren’t exactly the most complicated individuals you will ever come across, and the story is a very straightforward, basic JRPG story. A group of adventurers need to stop an evil order from unleashing a godlike creature that would tear the world apart. It’s not bad storytelling; it’s perfectly serviceable, but I won’t pretend there was much investment into the story as I was playing through it, and I can’t say there was a single story beat that surprised me.

A giant dragon in the very first mission, what more could want?

Despite the mediocre storytelling, there’s something that keeps the campaign fun and worth experiencing from beginning to end. You see, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a game that’s all about combat; it’s what you do for probably 95% of your playtime. And while the campaign might not have much to offer in the writing department, what it does do is set the stage for some incredible boss encounters. Because you’re tracking down these entities, which are essentially the elemental gods of this world, the boss fights that ensue are plenty worthy of a battle against gods. And they only get crazier as you progress, making for what are guaranteed to be some of the best bosses of 2024. And it’s not just the bosses; even the smaller action set pieces are immensely memorable, as they keep things fresh and constantly reinvent themselves, as well as simply being fun to play and pretty epic in scope.

Since Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a game that entirely revolves around combat, let’s talk about that for a bit. The short version of it is this: remember how I mentioned at the beginning that this was at one point developed by Platinum Games? You can tell. I think it would be fair to put Granblue Fantasy: Relink into the category of character action games. The combat is very fast and super stylish, as your squad of four characters fights against giant enemies. Fighting as a team is vital. You can link your own attack onto the end of an allies attack, combo special moves of all four team members to create a fifth extra strong special move, or you can create a state of slow motion for a couple seconds in which you can hack into the enemy without worrying by maximizing the synergy of all four units within a combat, etc. Granblue Fantasy: Relink isn’t a game where you can just 1v1 a giant beast; it’s built on teamplay and enforces that. If you don’t want to play with other players—or, in the case of the campaign, can’t play with other players—you will fill your party with NPCs instead.

Just dodge the tornado, kid

What’s most remarkable about the combat system, though, is how all 20 playable characters that currently exist in the game have an entirely unique playstyle. Of course, there are simple distinctions: some of them are melee damage dealers, some are long-range sorcerers, some are more supportive, etc. But beyond that, there are often entire systems that are unique to characters. The character I chose to play the main character, Lancelot, wields dual blades and can combo his normal attacks and special moves together seemlessly. Some other characters have special meters that they need to play around with, which might activate a second form or overheat your weapon if filled. Some have pets or stationary turrets that they play around with. Every character feels truly unique here, and as such, you can pick whoever fits your own style and run with it. As a result, though, you won’t be able to endlessly switch the character you want to play. Both because of the resources you’re investing in your main and the fact that you have to learn entire new play patterns. Instead, focus on mastering your main. At least at first.

Even more individuality in playstyle comes with the build variety. It’s not just that every character plays differently, but every character also has plenty of different abilities, of which you can only equip four at a time, as well as several different weapons that each come with their own modifiers. Equipping different abilities and weapons can change how you play, even while sticking with the same characters. And then, on top of that, there are the sigils. At first, it might seem simple and low-impact, but it makes all the difference as you reach the endgame. They all have specific attributes that impact your stats and certain bonus effects you may apply with your weapon or help you avoid combat statuses, etc. Finding the perfect ones to slot into your build is what makes all the difference at the highest levels of difficulty. If you’ve played a Monster Hunter game before, just think of the amulets in those games.

I will always love icy areas in game

All of that only becomes relevant once you reach the end of the campaign and can start doing the endgame content, aka “the real game.” Here is where Granblue Fantasy: Relink genuinely just turns into a Monster Hunter game, and that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned. You’re given a number of quests to pick up on the questboard; if you do the designated ones, you will increase in rank and get more quests. Most of the time, those quests just involve fighting some huge monster, which will give you materials that you can use to upgrade your gear and then fight stronger monsters. It’s a simple gameplay loop, but a rather ingenious one, if you ask me. I love the Monster Hunter games, and this absolutely scratches the same itch. Just endlessly grinding my way to the biggest and baddest monsters this world has seen and becoming the ultimate hunter.

And that’s really what you should be picking the game up for. Yes, there’s a 10-15 hour JRPG campaign in here, and you could just buy it for that alone if you wanted, but it’s really all about that endless endgame grind that I will be participating in for many more hours, assuming there will be consistent content updates for many more months and maybe even years. And all of that is presented with an absolutely gorgeous art style and beautiful accompanying music. The world of Granblue is one of steampunk fantasy and islands that hang within the skies. Making for a really cool mix of rustic machinery and luscious nature. Boats that sail through the skies with the sheer power of technology and elemental magic that’s given to us by the gods. A beautiful contrast that comes together as a piece seemlessly.

Why can I not live here?

The music further highlights this harmony. The world of Granblue is one that’s mostly at peace, and the beauty of the wind rustling through the endless green fields is captured in the soundtrack. The art style also emphasizes beauty with its ocean of beautiful light blues filling the sky and deep greens filling the ground beneath it. And the other kind of island you might visit—one frozen over with ice or the scorching depths of a volcano—all are similarly captured with beauty and saturated colors to make everything pop. The music adjusting accordingly as well.

While the writing of the campaign might be a bit lackluster, pretty much everything else is outstanding and deserves the highest praise. And quite frankly, with a game like Granblue Fantasy: Relink, the story is not the focus anyway. The exciting combat, unique lineup of characters and individuality they bring to the gameplay, and stunning artistic rendition of every landscape, monster, or person, put Granblue Fantasy: Relink up there with the very best of what you can find in this genre.

Nairon reviewed Granblue Fantasy: Relink on PC with a purchased copy.

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