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Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review

Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review

Did anyone think this day would finally come? Announced way back in 2016, Granblue Fantasy: Relink has had its fair share of troubles over the years. From PlatinumGames dropping out of the project to numerous delays, it seemed that this gorgeous-looking Action RPG would never see the light of day. Thankfully, developer Cygames stuck with it, and we potentially have a special RPG set within the Granblue universe! Will this be a must-own RPG in a time period when some major players are about to be released? Or would Relink have been better off stuck in development hell?

In a world consisting of islands floating in the sky, you’ll take control of either Gran or Djeeta, the captain of a ragtag cast of sky-fairing adventurers. Things don’t start off positively for our heroes, as the opening section sees us squaring off against — and subsequently losing to — a rather nasty dragon whilst onboard their airship. Gran/Djeeta must roam the forest they've crash-landed in and search for their scattered crew. This was a good way of introducing each character after the initial prologue section had everyone fighting to talk over one another, as well as guiding the player through the game's mechanics.

Once reunited with your team, you’ll travel across Sky Realm, taking on various quests and optional missions, either online or with a co-op team of up to three other players. Whilst journeying across varied locations always had me looking forward to what would come next, the roughly 30-hour main quest never truly gripped me. It's paced reasonably well, at least, and some of the narrative beats were enjoyable. A mysterious organisation up to no good always makes for a fun mystery! Primal Beasts turning feral and going on a rampage (complete with some brilliant boss battles) are tense sections, and the likeable group of heroes engaging with one another make for some great and occasionally emotional moments, but I wasn't hooked on the overarching plot, which is a shame because there are a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes to sit through.

Don’t worry if this is your first foray into the world of Granblue, though, as Relink is very accessible to those new to the franchise. There are many familiar faces for those of you who have played Versus or Versus: Rising, watched the anime, read the manga, or delved into the incredibly fleshed-out gacha game Granblue Fantasy. I’ve only played the fighting games, and Relink does a good enough job of detailing each character's history and relationships with one another. You don’t even need to play those if you’d rather jump straight into this latest title — although they are rather good — as the Fate Episodes that retell the stories of each of your crewmates do more than enough to provide meaningful narratives for each character.

Almost everything about Relink is absolutely stunning to look at. Although some environments suffer from being fairly generic and lacking detail, characters and monsters are both superbly designed and well-animated. Combat scenarios in particular are full of colour, with magic spells and gravity-defying skill attacks filling the screen with dazzling particle effects. With so much going on, I was grateful to see the game run smoothly 100% of the time, and with no texture pop-in or screen-tearing of any kind, the overall performance was flawless!

I really enjoyed the transition of these already three-dimensional characters going from the 2D arenas of the fighting games to fully explorable 3D environments. While your surroundings may not be the most breathtaking vistas seen in an RPG, Cygames has managed to capture the spirit of this unique world and its denizens.

Everything is fully voiced, too! With a cast of actors that really put the effort into making these characters come alive. Relink may be stuffed to bursting with dialogue and cutscenes, but at least you can just put down the controller and listen to what everyone has to say, even if some voices can be a little grating (I’m looking at you, Vyrn). I was also impressed by the musical scores featured throughout; from the various town’s relaxed pieces to the fast-paced battle theme, it’s a very well-put-together soundtrack that always matches the tone of whatever’s happening on-screen.

Gameplay in Relink is essentially split into two parts: wandering around a small hub town upgrading gear, obtaining new quests and so on, and venturing through a variety of linear, enemy-filled dungeons in order to reach your next objective. It’s a basic formula, but that doesn’t mean it’s a slog to play (at least, most of the time) due to the charming world and action-packed combat.

Areas outside of towns are very linear, with very few optional paths to explore for hidden loot. It just feels like running from one battle to the next, with some chatter amongst party members in between fights. As someone who loved FINAL FANTASY XIII, I didn’t find this too tedious, as it’s never too long until you’re beating the heck out of some monsters. During combat, you’ll mostly be mashing one face button to carry out basic attacks, but there’s a plethora of skills and abilities that it becomes much more than just attacking and dodging (and blocking, if you can time it right!). A separate face button is then used for a stronger attack, unique to each character. For example, Katalina can use this button to build up a gauge that will summon the beast Ares to aid her in combat. Each member also has Skills that can be equipped — one per face button — that range from stronger attacks to healing spells and status effect-inducing manoeuvres. Beat on a foe long enough and their Stun Gauge will increase, leading to a Link Attack, where you and another member of the group will deal big damage to one unfortunate opponent.

Then, there are the Skybound Arts, which can be activated once the gauge has reached 100% (filled by taking or dealing damage), causing enemy health bars to disintegrate to your flurry of offence. But wait, there’s more! Have one or more of your party with available Skybound Arts, and you’ll chain them together, unleashing a Chain Burst or Full Burst if all four Arts are used one after another.

There is a lot to like about Relink’s combat system, with each playable character feeling different enough that it was always fun to switch up who I was playing as. It isn’t perfect, though, and there’s barely a moment to breathe during combat, with your three teammates constantly zipping around the battlefield, firing off spells and skills, agile enemies that will have you sprinting to keep up, and the slightly obtrusive UI that gets a bit cluttered. It’s chaotic fun, for sure, but with so much to take notice of on the HUD, I frequently found myself not realising I had a Link Attack available or that a certain skill was ready and waiting to be unleashed. The main issue I had was that the camera — particularly when locked on to an enemy — often struggles to keep up with the constantly moving action, and although you can realign it with a flick of the right stick when not locked on, it has a tendency to quickly find its way back to an awkward position, often zooming in way too close or at an unhelpful angle.

If you want to take a break from the main story content, then there are plenty of bite-sized quests to sink your teeth into. These reminded me of how Monster Hunter plays out: Select a mission, arm yourself, and jump in with up to three other players! With a decent variety of quest types and a robust roster of recruitable playable characters, there’s enough content here to keep you busy long after the story has wrapped up.

Although I was left slightly underwhelmed by the main plot, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is nevertheless a hugely enjoyable fantasy Action RPG. That isn’t to say it’s a completely forgettable tale (in fact, there is so much lore here you’ll be skimming through Lyria’s journal fairly often) as some of the more dramatic scenes are engaging, but there’s a lot of downtime between them. Thankfully, the combat was always engaging and ever-evolving thanks to the large amount of skills and passive bonuses each character can learn, and I was constantly switching up whom I played as because of how fun they all were to play as. Was it worth the almost eight-year wait? I’d say absolutely, and this is certainly an RPG that both fans of the franchise and newcomers will love. Now, time to start watching Granblue Fantasy: The Animation!

8.50/10 8½

Granblue Fantasy: Relink (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

A great cast of characters let down by a fairly unengaging narrative, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is still a superb RPG packed with content. Grab your friends, it’s time to go adventuring in the skies!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

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