An action RPG with an emphasis on action, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is based on hit mobile title Granblue Fantasy. For the last decade or so, developer Cygames’ intention has been to spread the good Granblue word to a wider audience, and so it greenlit the likes of Granblue Fantasy Versus and Relink — console adaptations that would (hopefully) prove the property’s worth outside of the mobile space.
Relink in particular has been a long time coming. The project was first announced in 2016, and original developer Platinum Games — of Bayonetta and NieR: Automata fame — departed the process in 2019, as Cygames took the title in-house. The question, then, is whether this extended wait — compounded by multiple delays — has finally paid off.
For what it’s worth, there’s definitely some Platinum DNA still left in Relink. The hack and slash combat is accessible but demands timely blocks and dodges, not unlike the systems that you’ll find in the studio’s most well known releases. However, what sets Relink apart is its reliance on RPG elements; stats, equipment, and big damage numbers are at the heart of the game’s workings, while battles are punctuated by character-specific attacks and skills that operate on cooldowns.
Speaking of characters, Relink’s got a fairly big roster of playable heroes. The title is effectively made up of two parts: the single-player story campaign, and mission-based, Monster Hunter-esque quests that can be tackled with either CPU allies or other players online. The latter is where you’ll make use of that aforementioned character roster — but you’ll need to complete the core campaign before you can tackle the vast majority of the game’s additional quests.
In a way, the single-player story acts as an introduction to Relink’s mechanics — but to call it a tutorial would be doing it a colossal disservice. This is a full-blown campaign made up of cutscenes, action-packed levels, and some shockingly impressive cinematic set pieces. It’s abundantly clear that a lot of effort has been poured into the title’s headline act; the core adventure is a real thrill ride for most of its duration, as you battle brilliant bosses and partake in some crazy platforming sections. Again, there are times when it all feels very Platinum — especially with regards to pacing, and combat encounters that just seem to grow more and more ambitious as the plot progresses.
There is a downside to having a campaign that’s this intense, however. In terms of length, the single-player story clocks in at around 15 to 20 hours (available side quests included), and when the credits roll, it does feel a bit short-lived. Don’t get us wrong, everything ramps up and wraps up in a satisfying manner, but if you’ve spent the last few years hoping that Relink would be some sprawling RPG adventure, you’ll likely be disappointed.
On the flipside, the fact that Relink features little to no padding is something that should be praised. All too often, we see bigger budget action RPGs like Final Fantasy 16 destroy their own momentum so that they can funnel players towards boring filler storylines and snore-inducing side quests. Relink’s campaign may take just 20 hours to beat, but it’s 20 hours of fast and furious fun.
Moving on, the narrative itself isn’t anything special, but it’s charmingly told through a cast of likeable characters. You play as the captain of a sky-faring ship — the same male or female protagonist who’s central to the mobile game. Relink’s story is actually a spin-off from that title, as the captain and their trusted crew make for the Zegagrande Skydom — a collection of floating islands that they’ve yet to explore.
Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and the crew quickly make an enemy of a cult-like organisation, which results in an adventure that takes the captain and co across the Skydom’s elementally diverse islands. The plot’s predictable and the characters don’t get a whole lot of time to express themselves, but it does a good job of tying all the action together. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, you still get a decent sense for the personalities that are on offer, and the sky-based world that they inhabit.
Early on in the campaign, you’re given the opportunity to unlock playable characters who aren’t part of your immediate crew, using items that can be acquired through questing. However, it’s important to note that these additional heroes have nothing to do with the main story, which focuses exclusively on the captain and his or her five closest allies. As such, we’d probably recommend completing the campaign before exploring your expanded roster, if only so that you can get to know the core crew better.
In battle, you play as a single character while the AI handles up to three of your party members, and each character comes with their own unique fighting style and ability loadout — which can be upgraded via an incredibly long skill tree. Without a doubt, one of Relink’s key selling points is that aforementioned playable roster; it’s diverse in terms of gameplay, and we struggled to find a hero who wasn’t a blast to use in combat.
The captain, equipped with a shortsword and sporting a wide range of both aggressive and supportive abilities, is pretty much the default pick — but there are gun-toting ranged fighters, spell-slinging magic users, and plenty of pretty warriors who lug oversized anime weapons about. Taking them all for a spin, finding favourites, and transforming them into high-level powerhouses is really Relink’s big draw once you’re finished with the main story.
Fortunately, you’ll have a massive number of quests to undertake post-campaign. These missions come in many shapes and sizes; some task you with wiping out waves of monsters, some have you defend a location, and some pit you against especially dangerous bosses. Generally, though, quests don’t match up to the spectacle that’s on display throughout the story. Endgame missions come close, demanding near mastery of defensive techniques so that your health bar isn’t melted — but most quests will be over in a matter of minutes.
The idea here is that you’ll grind objectives in order to level characters and hoard materials, which can be used to forge and upgrade weapons. This is really where that Monster Hunter comparison comes into play, because it’s that same sort of structure: select a quest from the hub town, gather your CPU pals or find allies online, cleave through the mission, and then head back to the hub so that you can beef up your character, ready to do it all over again.
The thing is, your quest-grinding mileage will vary depending on how much you enjoy Relink’s battles. On a fundamental level, the combat system doesn’t have anywhere near the addictive depth of Capcom’s famous franchise, and if you want to complete every mission, you’re going to be hammering Relink for who knows how many hours. To some extent, character variety does keep things interesting — and the title’s toughest bosses can pose a serious challenge — but whether you’re with the CPU or other players, repetition starts to take hold long before you’ve bested the lot.
That’s not to say Relink’s combat system is bad, mind — far from it. At its best, it’s a gripping ballet of combo attacks, tightly-timed blocks, and last ditch dodges. It feels a little floaty at first, but once you’re used to the rhythm, there’s an awful lot to like about the action. What’s more, teamwork is actively encouraged, since even grunt enemies require a barrage of blows to bring down. Fighting close to your allies opens foes up to high damage link attacks, and a wide range of support magic — healing spells, barriers, and buffs — means that it’s usually best to stand side-by-side so the whole party benefits.
Outside of the eventual repetition, our only complaints about the combat don’t actually stem from the system or mechanics. Firstly, battles can be an utter cacophony of visual noise at times, making it difficult to react to incoming attacks. And secondly, characters never shut up. This isn’t a huge deal during side missions, but in the story, there are points where characters will deliver absurd amounts of exposition while you’re knee-deep in a desperate act of survival. It’s a shame the cast is incapable of quiet, because Relink’s got a frankly fantastic orchestral soundtrack that’s often elevated by roaring electric guitars.
Before we jump to the conclusion, we should note that while Relink has gorgeous art direction, it’s rather rough, graphically. You can certainly tell that this was intended to be a PS4 release, but the disappointment comes when you realise that the PS5 version’s performance mode is capped at just 1080p. The low resolution means that assets can look noticeably jagged on a 4K display — but at least you’re getting a buttery smooth 60 frames-per-second.