Amid all the gacha games I’ve seen over the years, there’s always been something intriguing about Cygames’ Granblue Fantasy. The Skydom setting, with its floating islands, probably attracts the Skies of Arcadia fan in me, and even if I had no idea about the characters, their designs looked cool. Diving into the actual game felt terrifying enough, especially with all the years of content to follow up on.
Thankfully, Granblue Fantasy Versus and Rising helped bridge that gap. It presented the characters and lore in more bite-sized bits, revealing the journey of Gran/Djeeta and Lyria, along with the general personalities of the other characters.
"This is a good action RPG for those who know nothing about Granblue or long-time fans who want to see their favorite characters in action."
However, I was more excited about Granblue Fantasy: Relink. The action RPG felt like the best chance to dive into this rich world, even if the story is completely original, and learn more about the Primal Beasts, the setting and the Grandcypher Crew. The combat also looked good, which is thankfully affirmed by the demo that I replayed multiple times.
After about 30 hours in Granblue Fantasy: Relink, experiencing the story, Quest Mode and the endgame, I’m a bit mixed on the overall approach. While it didn’t have to break boundaries or set new standards in the role-playing genre, there are some missed opportunities when presenting the world and characters.
This is a good action RPG for those who know nothing about Granblue or long-time fans who want to see their favorite characters in action. As long as both audiences aren’t looking for further emotional depth or development and enjoy the combat, they’ll find a compelling enough experience.
Relink sees the Grandcypher crew exploring the Western part of the Zegagrande Skydom, happening upon some new islands. It’s not long before they’re attacked, and while Gran/Djeeta and Lyria summon Bahamut to help, it suddenly loses control, wreaking havoc on the ship. Lyria subsequently falls off, with the player character leaping off heroically to save her.
"The problems arise an hour or so later when you realize that the characterization within the actual plot is mostly stagnant."
They awaken on a new unexplored island, make their way to the town of Folca and catch wind of a Primal Beast courtesy of the local Mr. Fix It, Rolan. Given Lyria’s ability and the crew’s general desire to help the people of Folca, they set out to help and become involved with the followers of Avia, who have their own goals.
If you don’t know much about Granblue, then a lot of this won’t make sense (though there is a helpful glossary to provide information on various terms). That being said, it’s a solid enough introduction that doesn’t overwhelm you with too much. Each character is presented well enough, and you get to know the people of Folca quite well.
It was nice to walk around and listen to people’s conversations, whether it was the two NPCs who kept missing each other at the waterwheel or those casually chatting about their neighbors. Seeing these conversations and little story bits evolve as I progressed through the story is also a nice touch.
The problems arise an hour or so later when you realize that the characterization within the actual plot is mostly stagnant. You learn by then that Katalina is devoted to protecting Lyria, having forsaken her empire and previous station to help her, but her development doesn’t progress past that. Rackam is constantly worked up about the state of the Grandcypher but still courteous to thank those who take care of it. Rosetta is alluring and mysterious, and that’s just about it. The list sadly goes on.
The crew is united in their desire to help Lyria, but most times, I don’t even know why (besides being good people). However, even if Relink doesn’t go into further details on the “how” and “why”, the overall story also doesn’t explore any other facets of their personalities or expand on those we know of.
"Granblue Fantasy: Relink has 19 characters, but only seven are part of the Grandcypher. You recruit others through Crewmate Cards, which you earn throughout the story and from Quests."
The new characters are somewhat better, particularly the happy-go-lucky Rolan and mysterious Id, but it feels like the Grandcypher Crew is mostly along for the ride. Lyria chimes in now and again, Gran/Djeeta get a few key moments between their pointless dialogue choices, so it goes. At least they all have great voice acting.
The problem is made worse with the rest of the cast. Granblue Fantasy: Relink has 19 characters, but only seven are part of the Grandcypher. You recruit others through Crewmate Cards, which you earn throughout the story and from Quests. These allow for bringing other characters into your party, ranging from swordmaster Narmaya to the dual-blade-wielding Lancelot. It’s a pretty healthy roster, from hefty bruisers like Vaseraga and Ghandagoza to unique fighters like Ferry and Zeta.
However, they’re not actually part of the story. They have a decent amount of dialogue during battles and while exploring, but don’t appear in cutscenes or directly impact the plot. You can’t hang out with them – awkwardly standing around while they repeat the same line doesn’t count – or engage in extensive conversations about the current situation.
Fate Episodes are probably meant to counteract this. Many are static images with text on the screen, explaining their backstory and how they came to meet Gran/Djeeta and Lyria. You also learn about their thoughts during the story, leading to some odd moments, like Narmaya feeling downtrodden about a particular event (even though she wasn’t actually there).
"There are chests to discover, materials to gather, collectibles, Omen Stones with tougher enemies to challenge and even Shaded Chests that offer a timed jumping puzzle to collect."
As players level up their characters and progress through the story, new playable episodes become available and usually involve battling enemies or completing an objective. This unlocks a new Sigil Slot (more on that later), and eventually, the general arc of that character is resolved. Having no bearing on the plot is one thing, but the Episodes don’t reflect on the characters outside of it.
For some, it will be enough to gain more context on the roster (while the min-maxers will probably mash through to gain those minor stat boosts from each Episode). However, they should have been seamlessly integrated into the overarching story and world. If anything, I would have been okay with less playable characters that are more fleshed out and have important roles.
Also, despite certain moments where it felt like the story should end and instead keeps going, it’s over much sooner than expected, as contradictory as that sounds. The pacing is generally quick, but it also feels like some moments don’t get enough time to breathe.
Past the introduction, exploration starts fun enough, with each area having interesting things to see. There are chests to discover, materials to gather, collectibles, Omen Stones with tougher enemies to challenge and even Shaded Chests that offer a timed jumping puzzle to collect. It also doesn’t hurt that some areas are unique in different ways like the desert region with its traversal rings that make for some fun sand surfing or the little pockets of platforming that are available. Nothing mind-blowing, but it works well enough. There are plenty of linear segments with baddies to slay, but venturing through these environments is relatively enjoyable.
"Bosses usually aren’t content to stand around taking damage and will go into Overdrive when enough time has passed, unleashing powerful attacks that deal extensive amounts of damage."
You’ll be doing a lot of fighting in Granblue Fantasy: Relink, so it helps that the combat is on point. Square is your basic attack for chaining combos, while Triangle allows mixing in character-specific actions, from combo finishers to lunges that close the distance. Each character also has unique Skills, usually eight apiece, ranging from attacks and counters to buffs for the party and debuffs to enemies.
You can dodge or guard against attacks, each providing benefits when timed correctly. You can spam three dodges in a row before there’s a slight delay while guarding only blocks so much damage before it’s broken. Dealing damage to enemies and filling up the blue bar above their heads also allows for Link Attacks, with each character capable of striking instantly with Circle.
Do this enough to build up Link Time, and it activates when everyone executes the next Link Attack. Everything slows down while your party moves normally and gains increased critical hit rate, health recovery and reduced skill cooldowns. Perfect for piling on the damage. There are also Skybound Arts – ultimate attacks for each party member, which you can chain into bursts. The more characters in a burst, the more damage dealt.
Bosses usually aren’t content to stand around taking damage and will go into Overdrive when enough time has passed, unleashing powerful attacks that deal extensive amounts of damage. Most times, it’s a good idea to run around and avoid the telegraphed areas of their attacks. You can deal enough damage to inflict Break on a boss, which can also disrupt its Overdrive.
"As hard as I am on the story, I will admit – Granblue Fantasy: Relink’s combat is pretty good. It’s responsive and impactful, with several play styles between its characters."
It would be nice to have a meter showcasing how long Break status lasts, especially since you gain equipment allowing for more damage in this state. Still, several bosses – especially the Primal Beasts – are outright spectacles. No spoilers, but their scale is on another level compared to some of the other threats.
As hard as I am on the story, I will admit – Granblue Fantasy: Relink’s combat is pretty good. It’s responsive and impactful, with several play styles between its characters. Narmaya, for example, can switch between Freeflutter Stance for rapid attacks and combos and Dawnfly Stance, which allows for draw attacks that become stronger with longer charges. Ending a Freeflutter combo with Triangle will execute a Dawnfly quickdraw, and your next charged draw becomes faster. End that with another combo finisher to immediately transition back into Freeflutter Stance and repeat.
She also gains Butterflies with successful combos and draw attacks, which enhance specific skills. A slash that would usually send one wave slash will instead launch three. You also have skills to instantly gain Butterflies and more defense or enmity, further adding to the strategy involved.
Each character has multiple Skill Trees, which provide passive additions to attack, defense, crit rate, health, guard and more. They also unlock new skills and enhance the available options. There are additional Sigil Slots to gain and effects like Narmaya’s charged draw parrying any incoming blocks if timed correctly. Likewise, I can appreciate characters like Lancelot, who has a signature dodge in addition to his default to combo into, Ghandagoza and his devastating one-punch style, Ferry and her pet management, or even Zeta and the focus on plunging attacks.
"However, it’s a slog in the late-to-end game when upgrading their weapons, later nodes, Collection Bonuses and whatnot. There’s even more on top of all this, and each character has a unique element strong against certain bosses."
With so many different characters to level and equip, things can get grindy, but that’s a core part of Relink. Completing quests earns Mastery Points to unlock nodes in the skill trees. You also get materials for leveling up weapons, then uncapping them for further leveling (gacha game players will recognize the ascension-style star ratings). New weapons are also craftable, but it’s also a good idea to upgrade and uncap your current arsenal since they gain Collection Bonuses – passive stat boosts that don’t require as many Mastery Points to unlock.
There are also Sigils, which function as your gear, though they’re more like Monster Hunter’s Decorations, and can provide different passive benefits like more health, damage and so on. They have tiers and can also be leveled, not to mention the higher rarity Sigils, which provide two passives instead of one. Eventually, weapons can be imbued with passives, leaning further into the min-max fantasy.
From the outset, it can feel like a chore, especially when you want to try out new characters. It’s somewhat alleviated in the beginning and mid-game since recruiting a new crew member provides some Mastery Points, and they start at a decent level with a good amount of their Skill Trees unlocked.
However, it’s a slog in the late-to-end game when upgrading their weapons, later nodes, Collection Bonuses and whatnot. There’s even more on top of all this, and each character has a unique element strong against certain bosses. I can see some hardcore players outfitting specialized teams and characters to tackle the toughest content. It’s not mandatory, but the option is there.
"The Power level mechanic was initially annoying since you’re just trying to hit the required amount to tackle certain activities."
The problem is that unlike, say, Monster Hunter World, the available Quests for farming all these materials are fixed. You don’t have the benefit of extensive regions to fight bosses across (though some arenas can differ), Turf Wars between monsters, or even Investigations with unique conditions.
Relink doesn’t necessarily need those things, but Quests playing out exactly the same every time means that repetition sets in faster than usual. I like some materials being guaranteed drops, but as you progress deeper into the end-game, certain Quests offer the same bosses, except with more health, damage and a new attack or two.
Relink does mix things up with other objectives, like defending Hallowed Ground or wiping out scores of enemies within a time limit, and there are optional objectives to complete in each Quest. However, the variety doesn’t feel like it’s enough. You can also pick up requests from various townspeople, but these amount to little more than defeating enemies and/or delivering resources. With how intriguing some side characters and background NPCs can be, it’s a shame that you can’t explore their backstories more in the side quests.
The Power level mechanic was initially annoying since you’re just trying to hit the required amount to tackle certain activities. However, as you upgrade more Skill Tree nodes, unlock Collection Bonuses, imbue weapons and much more, it becomes less of a necessity to spec into the “best” Sigils for the highest Power and focus more on something that fits your build. That doesn’t mean Sigils providing more health, crit rate, critical damage, and so on aren’t the most valuable, but you get more freedom.
"While it may not have the longevity of a Monster Hunter title, the combat, presentation and exploration in Granblue Fantasy: Relink can make for a fun time."
I’d be remiss not to mention the stellar presentation values, especially when exploring the world. The lighting, shadows, environmental textures and effects are spot on, with Performance mode on the PS5 offering a crisp 60 FPS at all times. Some character expressions can sometimes feel wooden, but they’re generally expressive, and the cutscenes are well-animated. Perhaps the only downside to all this splendor is that effects can be too much during battles, especially with multiple skills going off and enemies around. Visual clarity is an issue, with sadly no setting to tone it down.
While it may not have the longevity of a Monster Hunter title, the combat, presentation and exploration in Granblue Fantasy: Relink can make for a fun time. However, those hoping for a more involving story and characters or a less grindy progression, especially in the endgame with several repeated bosses and forgettable side quests, may take to it less. I don’t mind mopping up any remaining quests, but in the grand scheme, Relink is more of a holdover than an action RPG epic that I’ll look back fondly on.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 5.
Great aesthetic, with a clean presentation and detailed environments. Solid voice acting and music. Combat is well-done, with many boss fights having unique mechanics that are challenging. Plethora of playstyles thanks to the number of playable characters. Extensive number of optional Quests and progression systems to dig into.
The main characters don't really get much chance to grow or develop. Certain quests start to get repetitive, with several bosses repeated as you delve into the endgame. Grindy, especially when having to level so many characters and unlock their bonuses. More quest variety would have been appreciated.