Game Review: Smooth Sky Sailing in Granblue Fantasy: Relink

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


Jason Fanelli

on February 7, 2024 at 1:00PM PST

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 of action-RPG, Granblue Fantasy: Relink, is rather efficient, finishing the main story requires only 15-20 hours. The narrative is pretty standard – a daring rescue of a kidnapped girl and defeating the evildoers. Nevertheless, there are some surprises that set it apart. An example of this is an unusual encounter with a gigantic automaton after solving a treasure puzzle. The story also throws a few unexpected plot twists here and there along the way.

The fast pace of the game keeps you engaged, and the action-oriented combat system gives it a thrilling dimension. The gameplay has an element of strategy to it, with intense button bashing interspersed with the occasional usage of specific abilities. Link Attacks are a fun feature – a sudden, powerful attack in collaboration with your team member. At times you are side by side, and on occasion, you might find your character leaping across the screen to add an extra touch of excitement.

The progress of the battle allows certain actions to fill a Link Meter, with a full meter leading to Link Time. When all four characters activate a Link attack at full meter, it slows all enemy moves and gives the team a chance to let loose. Timing the activation of Link Time involves dependency on the AI characters to make the move with you. However, it’s worth the effort as it has often proven to help turn the battle outcome in my favor.

Skybound Arts or SBA are additional large scale moves at the party’s disposal. These are dramatic super-attacks that can potentially create a real impact. They become active when a character’s SBA gauge is filled to 100%. The true potential of these attacks is displayed when the party chains them together. After every character has exercised their SBA, a massive Chain Burst attack is released, causing significant damage. This Chain Burst attack channelizes the character’s element who initiated the chain. For instance, if Gran initiates it, the concluding attack is a gigantic wind-based burst named Galestorm. The battle system of Relink, with features like Link Attacks and SBA, offers strategic diversions to keep players involved despite the button bashing combat at other times.

Every chapter of the journey adheres to a rigid structure: discuss the next mission with the crew, go to the mission location, accomplish it, and return for the subsequent chapter. This stark change from earlier action-RPGs is not necessarily bad. I enjoyed this game’s straightforwardness, which provided clear tasks and always indicated the right way. The tasks, while having the same narrative framework, don’t all proceed in the same way. Some guide you directly to the key enemy, whereas others offer a broader exploration area. One chapter involves activating three sensors on a circular map, each guarded by a boss. The chapters are short enough to play one or two per session, but there is enough variety to prevent repetition.

On the other hand, the main story mode of Granblue Fantasy: Relink lacks significant challenge, even at higher difficulties. There are plenty of healing supplies in a battle, and if your character’s health depletes, you can revive them by spamming buttons. Your other teammates are battle-smart, as the AI operates them without constant health check-ups. I can’t remember having to revive a teammate until the ultimate series of battles, and it was great to have capable allies.

Even if I intentionally looked for a tougher challenge, victory was usually in my favour – I once challenged a boss in Chapter 4 with just one team member, but I never saw the Game Over screen. When I was about to lose, I regained my health by button mashing, and used a strategy of dodging and counterattacking to win. The battle took a decent 15 minutes, yet I wonder how quick it would have been if I had a full four-member party.

This doesn’t mean that the game is generally easy, as Relink does have some tougher side tasks in the town. Some of these are classic fetch quests given by random townsfolk that we’ve seen in RPGs for years, whereas some others are task-based missions known as Quests, which offer incrementally increased rewards based on your performance. I particularly enjoy these tasks as getting the three-star S rank is an exciting challenge and a good indicator of your team’s strength. The Quest feature continues even after the story ends, with some of the best parts of the entire game coming from them.

A major highlight of Relink is the incorporation of the Fate Episodes feature. This feature provides each character with a unique series of 11 episodes, each detailing elements of their backstory, motivations, and relationships. The majority of these episodes are text-based narratives, accompanied by character artwork. Gran, for example, only has two episodes which involve actual combat, minimal impact on the gameplay experience. That said, the episodes are well written and perfectly fill in the gaps for those new to the Granblue Fantasy universe. Where combat is involved within an episode, it offers an immense challenge, only permitting the use of the character central to the episode – no assistance from AI partners. Whether based on a narrative or combat, each accomplished challenge results in the boost of the relevant character’s stats, giving Granblue veterans a reason to revisit the story.

Granblue Fantasy: Rellink effectively merges multiple familiar elements into a single condensed RPG experience, resulting in mixed outcomes. While the combat is dynamic and intense, it can sometimes come across as repetitive, particularly during lengthy battles. The storyline is an excellent medium for those not familiar with Granblue, although it doesn’t particularly stand out from other RPGs. The visual and auditory representation of the Granblue universe is stunningly brought to life, filled with vibrant colors and its signature style. While Relink doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to Granblue Fantasy, it does provide a stable and effective refresh for the old gacha game.

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