Geek Preview – ‘Granblue Fantasy: Relink’ Delivers Gran(d) Combo Of Action RPG Flair & Multiplayer Fun

The Granblue Fantasy universe promises a little something for different-genre-loving fans. While its journey began as a humble mobile Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) for Android, iOS, and web browsers, Cygames’ signature gacha title has since seen overwhelming popularity, branching out into the realm of anime, fighting games, and more.

Geek Preview – Granblue Fantasy: Relink

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation served to flesh out more of the character lore and worldbuilding, with Granblue Fantasy Versus and its sequel Versus: Rising making a bold leap into combo-chaining, brawling territory. But there’s always room for more exploration and risk-taking, which explains the newest addition to its ranks, Granblue Fantasy: Relink. 

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Slated for worldwide release on 1 February 2024, the game represents a shift to the action RPG genre, where real-time combat and flashy moves rule the battlefield. This shiny, fresh coat of paint affords the series the freedom to spread its new pair of wings, and fly freely as a spin-off with an independent story. 

The upcoming adventure looks to be well worth the effort, if a 140-minute hands-on preview is any indication. Taking players through the first three chapters of the single-player campaign, it also offered a quick go at the multiplayer experience – a surprisingly enthralling affair best enjoyed with good company. 

The plot of Granblue Fantasy: Relink is straightforward. Players assume the role of Gran or Djeeta, as they explore floating continents and uncover the mystery behind Lyria’s broken link with the Astrals, the former of whom has the ability to command primal beasts. This starting journey takes the player’s crew to the city of Folga, a bustling hub where adventurers can pick up side quests (while advancing the mainline ones), upgrade their gear, interact with various NPCs, or simply enjoy some downtime.

Geek Preview – Granblue Fantasy: Relink (2)

It certainly helps that the town’s vibrant, high-energy environment makes for a breathtaking sight. Cygames’ soon-to-be latest inherits a similar texture work and art style to its mobile game counterpart, with plenty of familiar faces, such as Rosetta, Katalina, and Rackam, lining up the roster. Each of the settings feature a distinctive look that complements its feel; for instance, mining settlements are shrouded in atmospheric, dim lighting, while the forest landscape is filled with lush trees and dense vegetation. 

True to the RPG spirit, customisation is a core element of gameplay in more ways than one. As a party-based adventure, players can switch out other members and change teams at will, but there are also individual skill trees that demand their attention. The system isn’t as deep and complex as that of other RPG contemporaries, like those of the Tales series, with each character boasting their unique passives and skills – split into “Offensive” and “Defensive” categories, and unlocked by spending acquired MP. These abilities can then be added to or dropped from the active skill list freely. 

Still, being limited to four party members means some resource management and allocation is required. While it’s possible to run just one fixed team, Granblue Fantasy: Relink features an elemental weakness system, allowing players to make use of their character’s attacks – assigned to a core element, such as fire, wind, or water – to deal more damage. Changing characters, as such, is likely to be a common occurrence, so it’s always good to have some MP in reserve to progress the skill trees of lesser-used characters in situations where you’ll need them.

In battle, individuals will bear witness to attack strings, combo chains, and breakneck action similar to other ARPGs like Devil May Cry and Final Fantasy XVI. Dishing out damage gradually fills an enemy’s stun gauge and once that’s full, they will be stunned, opening up a generous window to maximise devastation output with a Link Attack.

Geek Preview – Granblue Fantasy: Relink (3)

Link Attacks are activated in tandem with another party member, and the more they are used, the faster one’s link level fills. Hit 100 percent for the entire party, and Link Time, which slows time down and regenerates health, will activate. The most satisfying part of combat, though, is unleashing a Full Burst – the ultimate tag-team attack that requires all party members to trigger their Ultimates (or Skybound Arts, for those acquainted with Granblue Fantasy) almost simultaneously, complete with flashy, dynamic animation. 

All these mechanics may sound complicated, but Granblue Fantasy: Relink actually makes it fairly easy to get into the groove of things. While perfect dodge will take newcomers some practice, combo execution is more straightforward here as compared to the full-fledged, hardcore APRGs. It should be noted that a downed character can be revived by party members, so a knockout isn’t a one-time done deal, especially if players run out of revive potions. 

Other accessibility options include varying difficulty levels and Assist Mode, but this isn’t to say that the game doesn’t offer anything for genre veterans. Between different monster types with individual abilities and attack patterns, move sets, equippable bonuses called sigils, and character playstyles, there’s a lot of strategising and experimentation to go around. Want to hit hard and last long on the battlefield? Invest in critical damage and life steal sigils. Prefer to keep your distance? Pick a far-ranged character and pair them with a defence-type, enemy-baiting companion. The combinations are aplenty. 

In the grand scheme of things, the accessibility factor is a welcome and logical course of action, considering the more casual Granblue Fantasy player base. The same goes for lore expertise, too – little to no understanding of the world is needed to enjoy Granblue Fantasy: Relink, as it does a good job at getting players up to speed. Even skipping cutscenes comes with a short blurb describing what happens, so they are kept in the know for the most part. 

The fun picks up even more with multiplayer. While the main story presumably only allows individuals to control Gran or Djeeta (it’s unclear whether this changes later in the game), the co-op component lets them complete quests together with other adventurers. The group session for the preview involved killing waves of goblins, fighting a griffin, and defeating a massive dragon as part of a “Rank Up” mission, with the latter two presenting challenges of a different nature. Where the griffin’s constant flight proved to be an annoyance against melee attackers, the dragon is capable of knocking the whole party out with a single blow if they fail to dodge it.

What’s most impressive, however, is how different each character feels from one another. Granblue Fantasy: Relink offers a robust roster, so there wasn’t enough time to test most of them out, but experiences with Percival, Zeta, and Vane were poles apart. Fighting as the tank-type Vane felt heavy, with a lot of weight behind his strikes and a focus on blocking and taunting enemies. Meanwhile, Zeta is fleet-footed and zips around the battlefield easily, making her a good pick for those who love pulling off aerial combos. Percival’s attacking style is similar to Vane’s, but he’s able to close distances more efficiently. 

Regardless of the character, the upcoming title promises fluid, lively action, as well as a great deal of shared joy – especially when everything works out as planned. Teamwork makes the dream work here, and Granblue Fantasy: Relink has seemingly refined the multiplayer formula, without compromising on the single-player experience. 

With its versatile customisation system, expansive roster, and both offline and online elements, the upcoming title teases an adventure for everyone, from longtime franchise fans to ARPG newcomers. As 2024 gears up to be the year of RPGs and its sub-genres, Granblue Fantasy: Relink has made it clear that it isn’t going down without a fight.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink releases 1 February for PS4, PS5, and PC via Steam.