By Quentin H. / September 15th, 2023
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Release Date: February 1, 2024
Before I started my hands-on demo of Granblue Fantasy: Relink, I had one question: “Do I need to have played either the mobile game Granblue Fantasy or Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, as I saw during EVO 2022, in order to understand this game?” The answer was simply “No.” Granblue Fantasy: Relink can be played as a standalone title.
With that out of the way, let’s dive right in.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is an action RPG that can have up to four players playing at the same time as they hack and slash their way towards Estalucia, which is billed as “a fabled island beyond the end of the skies.” In my demo, there are multiple characters I could play as, and each had a different skillset. For example, Katalina, who is one of the easiest characters to play as, performs combos by using the Square and Triangle buttons, while Sigfried (one of the most difficult to use) requires you to carefully time your Square button presses to power up his attacks, and successfully timing all the attacks in a combo unleashes a powerful finisher. For my demo, I chose to try out Katalina.
The Granblue Fantasy: Relink demo itself was fairly simple: clear some trash enemies, take on a boss, and then – if I have time – take on an extra secret boss. This was clearly meant to be a demo to show off the gameplay combat, and it definitely did so.
Combat itself is fairly simple: attack with the Square and Triangle buttons, combo when I can, and hold down the R1 button when I want to use my cooldown skills. I was able to push my way through the trash enemies at the start until I got to the demo’s first boss battle. When it came to my first boss, Gerascene (a giant skeleton) monster, I quickly realized that button mashing would only carry me so far. I started to have to Dodge with R2 as I learned how to read the various attacks, and I would strike whenever I had the opportunity. By the time I was able to clear that boss, I had managed to fulfill all the optional criteria to go into battle against the Rock Golem extra boss that I was unable to beat before the demo’s time limit expired.
The combat itself, despite me never having played before, was easy for me to grasp and make me feel powerful. I hammered the various basic attacks that Katalina had while throwing in the various skills (naturally on a cooldown timer) that she also had available with the additional press of a shoulder button. The combat itself was silky smooth, and I felt like I grasped it quickly as I was able to button mash quickly through the first few rounds of enemies. Dodging was extremely responsive, and I liked how I didn’t have to expertly time it like some other video games out there in order to be successful.
I mentioned at the top that you have three additional teammates while you play Granblue Fantasy: Relink. These CPU teammates fade, clearly purposefully, into the background somewhat. They are strong enough that I didn’t feel like I had to babysit them in any of the battles that I was in, yet they clearly were not going to be the deciding factor in whether I win or not. I couldn’t, for instance, hide away in a corner of the battlefield and let them simply take on my enemies for me. While the CPU teammates did contribute to the overall battle, I was expected to do the lion’s share of combat and to carry my team to victory.
What my teammates were extremely useful for, though, was for Link Attacks and Chain Bursts. When you and your teammates hit an enemy, their stun gauge goes up. When the stun gauge is full, and your party’s link gauge is full, all four of you can perform Link Attacks that slow down the enemy during ‘Link Time,’ give you bonus effects, and cause great damage to the enemy. Chain Bursts are when you use a Skybound Art in conjunction with your teammates in order to do great damage to your enemy. The Chain Bursts are big, flashy, and come with a miniature cutscene that you can get watch as each character pulls off their move in turn – assuming that, of course, you can hit the appropriate buttons in the fairly generous time window that flashes on screen for it.
It was a real surprise to me that both the Link Attacks and the Chain Bursts happened fairly frequently during combat and it felt more than coincidental that my teammates always seemed to have their Skybound Arts ready to go whenever mine was ready to go. This was a good thing, as it really made me feel super powerful and it felt like my foursome was unstoppable as I would be pulling off crazy fun Chain Bursts and Link Attacks often enough to add a lot of flavor to the combat without completely taking it over and making it just purely combat cutscenes.
There is one more thing that is really worth mentioning: this is a beautiful game with gorgeous character models. Cygames has really gone all out in making a game that is stunning to look at. I kept being impressed with how pretty it all was, especially during combat. The graphics are also sharp enough that I never felt like I was getting lost in combat or what was happening on screen. It also felt like a natural evolution of the 2-D graphical style of Granblue Fantasy: Versus fighting game as it was transitioned into a 3-D world.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the demo of Granblue Fantasy: Relink at PAX West 2023. If the full game is anything like the demo, then there is going to be an action RPG game that a lot of people are going to enjoy. I certainly wouldn’t mind fighting my way through in a copy at launch.
Who do you want to play as in Granblue Fantasy: Relink?
Have you picked up any of the other titles in the franchise?
Let us know in the comments below!
Action RPGCygamesGranblueGranblue Fantasy RelinkPAXPAX WestPAX West 2023PCPlaystationPlayStation 4PlayStation 5XSEED