Rolling Credits on Granblue Fantasy: Relink
I won’t beat around the bush with this one: I’m really enjoying Granblue Fantasy: Relink. Granblue Fantasy: Relink possesses an incredible balance which makes it easy to recommend whether you’re only interested in a quick (and relatively easy) story experience, or whether you want to dive deep into power progression and character builds.
I rolled credits perhaps 15 hours of gameplay ago, and I’m still as every bit enamoured with it as during the climax of the story — perhaps more so. The main storyline took me almost 20 hours to play. You could get that down to 15 hours if you beelined the chapters and did nothing else.
The story is balanced such that doing anything off the beaten path to get through it is not required. Grinding in JRPGs to hit the next major story beat is something of a trope. But one that Granblue does away with almost entirely.
Even had it been required; within reason — I think it would’ve got away with it. Because the combat in Granblue is incredibly satisfying. Each character has a unique identity, ranging from the reticle-aimed throws and shots of Eugen, to the slow, methodical, but heavy-hitting Vaseraga that is reminiscent of playing Great Sword in Monster Hunter. Right down to the charged attack which can lead into an even more powerful charged attack.
My main through the end game has been Narmaya. She has two stances which shift her attacks between a massive area covering AoE style, and a rapid, short-ranged attack, directly in front of her. Perfectly chaining one stance’s attacks into the other provides bonus damage effects and feels incredible to pull off. Then add to that — and I discovered this only earlier today — that it seems like Narmaya has a parry window off the back of releasing her charge AoE attack. All on top of the normal blocks and dodges, which can be (after a mastery unlock) ‘perfected’ to provide bonuses, which can be further enhanced by traits/sigils…!
It might sound like a lot… And it can be. But it doesn’t have to be, and there in lies the beauty. If you just want to run around as Percival with a giant flaming sword that goes ‘Rarr!’ when you hold a button down, you can do so. Heck, there are even two different levels of ‘assist’ available, on top of a more typical difficulty select.
On a technical front, I’ve had no issues. Buttery smooth performance. (Note! Granblue defaults to a low FPS cap; but you can set it up to at least 120). My only complaint is no support for ultra-wide resolutions. So I’ve been running in a 16:9 borderless window in the centre of my 21:9 screen. To be fair; this fact does fade into the background pretty quick — but worth noting for anyone else who is also sporting such a screen.
There were some PC multiplayer matchmaking issues at launch where matches were ‘region locked’ to your Steam Download region, but this has since been patched and fixed. There have also been reports of crashes under certain conditions. Of the three playing in my friend group (myself included) two have had zero crashes, and one has had a couple. These also seem to be on Cygames’ radar for patching though.
Finally for this overview before diving into the detail — it’s important to note there is no crossplay between PC and Playstation, nor it seems, any intention to add it. So if multiplayer with friends is your goal — you will need to align on PC or PlayStation. PS4 and PS5 can play together though.
The Story (No Spoilers)
The most likely to happen, but also the least impactful to my enjoyment, in my reckoning, is that the story will be a bit pants.Naithin, Time to Loot — Granblue Fantasy: Relink — Here Soon! (2024)
Turns out — I was wrong. The story — once it gets moving after the first couple of chapters — is actually… not bad. The English voice actors are top notch too. I expected to switch over to the Japanese voice acting fairly quickly (which is an option if that is still your preference) but never felt compelled to.
The ‘main’ story is told over the course of 10 chapters, each being fairly bite-sized, fairly linear sections of play. There is a little room for exploration to find hidden treasure chests and the like, but you’ll never be running off down extensive dead-end paths nor spending any time confused as to where it wants you to go.
You must play as ‘The Captain’ (aka Gran or Djeeta, depending on whether you chose the male or female version) to start with, but within a few chapters you’ll be able to choose who you play as; either from amongst the starting 6 characters or from the characters you unlock along the way. Gran/Djeeta must be in the party for the duration of the main campaign — but that gives you three other slots to mix and match as you see fit.1
The last thing I’ll say on the story — because the game doesn’t make this particularly clear — there is more after you roll credits. It sits behind the ‘quests’ structure though, so I could imagine it being easily missed if you decided you weren’t wanting to jump into multiplayer. Which, I should probably also clear up — because MP is absolutely not required. You can solo (with or without your AI party) right the way through the quests system as well if that’s more your speed.
That has some implications on progression though, which leads me to…
There is… a lot.
There are character levels, of course. A hundred of them; although I ended the main story, I think, somewhere around 50, give or take a few. Each character has their own XP and level, independent of the others. Characters not in your active party do still earn experience, but at a reduced rate.
In practice that means that your active characters will certainly pull ahead in levels, but you also aren’t going to have the situation where your unplayed characters are sitting at level 5 while your main bulls ahead to 50.
As you progress into the end-game; you’ll also start receiving items you can spend to grant XP to characters of your choice, as well.
Levels just begin to scratch the surface, though. There are also the Mastery trees, and you earn MSP (Mastery Skill Points) for almost anything you do. Levelling a character, completing a side mission, or quest, and other things of this nature. MSP is earned as a party though, and can be spent on whomever you like.
The trees aren’t especially broad — and in fact; ultimately you’re going to want to completely fill them out anyway. But at least while developing a character, you can lean into offense, defense, or a balance of both as you see fit.
Throughout both trees, you’ll occasionally hit bigger nodes that have a greater effect such as unlocking or improving an already unlocked an active skill (the diamond nodes), or enhancing your character with an unlock such as perfect dodge/block, or even unlocking a new sigil slot.
If you’re familiar with Monster Hunter; Sigils are most like decorations. They can have one, or later more, traits on them, and you can slot a limited number of them to your character to form your build. These can be all out offensive in nature (improving attack, crit chance, crit hit, etc), defensive (health, status/damage resists) or utility (additional potions, consecutive dodges, etc) and how you bring them together is up to you.
Note: Do not take those images as Narmaya build advice. Hah. I’ve neither unlocked all the sigils I’d like to yet, nor spent the time working out precisely where my balance between unlocking the damage cap and actually buffing my damage lies just yet.
I think it’s likely that I’ll replace one of the Damage Cap sigils for a Combo Booster, which increases damage for consecutive strikes. And I also very much would like a Supplementary Damage sigil, which provides a chance to proc an additional damage hit on your normal hits.
But I’m digressing! This isn’t all; although Sigils are a key part of it… There is also your weapon.
In addition to your starting weapon, you can get weapons as drops from special chests, forge them, or as (I believe), quest rewards. There are not a whole bunch of weapons though; you won’t be forever chasing that next RNG drop. There are perhaps 6 or so weapons for each character, each of which have a different focus.
The gacha game trope of unlocking weapon potential or levels and then spending other resources to level them is very much a thing here. Unlike those gacha games though, there is no real money in the picture, nor is the grind excessive or tedious.
You’re incentivised to level even weapons you’re not using though, by way of the ‘Collections’ Mastery screen.
You can unlock permanent character buffs that match the nature of the weapon in question with a relatively small expenditure of MSP. And these buffs apply regardless of the weapon you’re using.
In one of the earlier screenshots, you might’ve also noticed a ‘+11’ next to the weapon name. This indicates yet another progression system of the end game — and this one is fairly flexible, allowing you to take these weapon buffs and move them around as you see fit. You can apply up to 99 of them at a time to any given weapon.
Then, and I haven’t even got to this myself yet… You can get an ascension weapon with just a whole other set of systems around it.
All the while, these power-ups are moving you through ever more advanced content, where bosses gain in mechanics almost like a jump between a WoW normal dungeon up to heroic, or mythic.
Wrapping Up and Where I’d Like to See DLC/Granblue 2 Improve
As I noted right at the outset — Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a game of amazing balance. Whether you’re in for just a short, sharp, but epic story, or whether you’d like to jump right into the theory crafting of builds and learning the ‘tech’ each character has — the game has something for you.
But it isn’t entirely without fault.
I think my two largest complaints, right now, are:
- Difficulty — even on the harder difficulty; the story mode is very easy.
If I had finished writing this post earlier today, this would’ve been a more strongly worded bone of contention that extended to the quest mode as well. My experience before today was that you’re very rarely going to see the ‘Quest Failed’ screen. It is actually relatively difficult to fully fail a mission.
In the main, the challenge comes in from completing the bonus objectives and achieving S++ rank on the missions, rather than simply getting through them.
I hit the first encounter that required our group to take multiple shots and build specifically for it today. I won’t say ‘what’ it is exactly, but it’s the unlock mission for the final difficulty tier, ‘Proud’.2
I’m not suggesting that every fight — or even most — should wipe the floor with you on first contact. I’m not saying make this a Dark Souls game in difficulty. But perhaps we could’ve seen these types of ‘might take you a few tries and a little learning’ by the time we hit extreme?
- Limited range of monsters and bosses — you’re going to see a lot of the same models recoloured about the place.
This hasn’t hampered my fun at all, and I have to say – despite the model recolours; each boss fight in particular is actually very well designed. Even when you do encounter the ‘same’ boss again at a new difficulty, you had better be ready for it to show you a few new tricks.
Still… If we do get some form of DLC, or expansion for this game — that’d be my biggest wish for it. Increase the number of new boss encounters and models for us!
Other than that though… I’m pretty dang happy, and I think it might now be time to jump back in again and see how the rest of the ‘Proud’ difficulty tier treats me. :)
- I ran with Rackam (a gunner class, with some self-buffs) as my main for a lot of the story, backed by Gran, Rosetta (a zone control/support mage) and then mixed around that final slot a fair bit depending on who I had unlocked or wanted to see in action.
- Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, Extreme, Maniac and Proud are the available difficulties.