Granblue Fantasy: Relink review - Lengthy wait spells disappointment

Granblue Fantasy: Relink review - Lengthy wait spells disappointment
Images via Cygames

Written by 

Harry Boulton

Published 

31st Jan 2024 15:00

There have been keen eyes on Cygames' Granblue Fantasy: Relink for over seven years now, and it did seem for a while like we would never actually dive into the vast skies that this world has to offer.

However, that often excruciating wait has reached its end and the game is finally in our hands, but as someone who has been eagerly anticipating the skybourne adventure, I can't help but be left disappointed at the end result.

GGRecon Verdict

While Granblue Fantasy: Relink does boast excellent combat with true variance between its many characters, the predictable narrative robs it of any motivation while removing the sense of adventure from the game.

I had a lot of fun in pockets, as extravagant fight sequences buy into the chaos that you'd want from a towering boss, but it also leans a bit too heavily on length to the point of fatigue in the later stages and into the post-game.

Players who thrive on a good grind and find the combat consistently engaging will have plenty to fall in love with during the extensive post-game, but I do worry that the mileage isn't quite there for solo players especially and anyone looking for a strong narrative will leave sorely disappointed.

Tales in the Sky

Image of a ship flying through clouds in Granblue Fantasy Relink
Click to enlarge

Following on from the narrative laid out by the original Granblue Fantasy on mobile, Relink joins the Captain with his crew once more as they take to the Zegagrande Skydom in search of new adventures.

What emerges quickly is the threat of various Primal Beasts that cause hostility and instability within various islands, and a mysterious sect looking to control these antagonistic creatures as their own.

Unfortunately, this narrative follows a predictable track, stepping largely within footprints that we've all seen far too many times in other games and media. There are some well-executed cinematics that bolster many of the latter sections of the game, but the action for me doesn't hold enough of an emotional impact to really surge it to the next level.

Thankfully the story doesn't overstay its welcome, coming in at under 15 hours with a fair amount of side content. While this is a reprieve as someone who was unengaged with the narrative beats - I feel that part of the reason I found myself detached was the lack of space within the story.

Very little has time to actually breathe, and it's surprising how disengaged from the notion of adventure a game about skyfarers actually is. You're almost tossed from area to area without the chance to actually feel like you're travelling, and your very own ship - the Grandcypher might as well not be in the game.

Image of a ship and a city engulfed in clouds in Granblue Fantasy Relink
Click to enlarge

The world, admittedly, looks fantastic - with gorgeous vistas and varied environments that do give grandeur to the archipelago that you're exploring, but most levels and even the hub areas have little to actually encourage engagement with the area beyond a few hidden chests along the way.

Who are you again?

It's a tricky task to build upon a narrative set out in a game that - presumably - most people playing the game haven't experienced. As mentioned, Relink follows directly on from its mobile predecessor and places you firmly in media res with characters you technically should already know.

It does, however, do a good job of making you feel like you're not missing anything too dramatically - with clear but not heavy-handed reminders of the connections built between each member of the main cast, especially with people like Lyria, Katalina, and the main character.

Image of one of the Fate Episodes in Granblue Fantasy Relink
Click to enlarge

What arose as a frustration as I progressed though was the lack of character development outside of the various Fate Episodes that you unlock as you progress the main story and level up each crewmate. These largely boil down to short text segments and feel like a slog to get through when they could have otherwise been integrated naturally.

There are some intriguing moments to be found within these Episodes, and they definitely help expand and familiarise a wide cast of both new and experienced Granblue players alike, but they feel like a miss mostly and I wouldn't blame anyone opting to skip them along the way.

Image of Vyrm in Granblue Fantasy Relink with the dialogue "If those buttheads are using something like that, then they're worse than trash!"
Click to enlarge

There are also some instances of cringeworthy dialogue outside of these Fate Episodes and one particularly annoying 'comedic relief' side character in the form of Vyrm that I wish I could boot off one of the many islands. There was at least one instance of 'well that just happened' among other tired tropes, and while this isn't the case for most of the characters in the game, it did definitely dampen my enjoyment and almost never worked in my experience.

Action on all fronts

Conversely, though, it is within the characters themselves that Granblue Fantasy Relink truly shines. While the Captain is undoubtedly still the main character and remains in your party for the entirety of the main story, the real joy is often sourced through the variance between characters.

The Captain has an intriguing moveset on their own, but it genuinely felt like an entirely new game was opened up every time I switched characters. It's so impressive how much the game reinvents how you tackle each encounter through different move sets, abilities, and skills - and it kept segments engaging that would otherwise feel mundane.

Image of a boss encounter in Granblue Fantasy Relink
Click to enlarge

Both Rackam and Eugen from the main cast were some of my favourites as they brought ranged combat into the mix with an increased reliance on mechanical skill, and the game gives you plenty of information to let you learn the various abilities and combos to maximise your damage.

Additionally, there is also an abundance of additional characters that you progressively unlock through Crewmate Cards, which each bring their own unique combat styles and skills to the fray.

Often it's easy to opt for the biggest numbers when choosing which character to play, but in Relink you really do feel like you gravitate towards the character whose playstyles you enjoy the most - and that's without even considering elemental weaknesses too.

The combat as a whole is a key highlight too, with many grand boss fights that put your skills to the test. A big part of succeeding in every fight is building up your link meter, which allows all four part members to join forces and stun the enemy, alongside one over-the-top colossal attack that takes off a big chunk of the enemy's health if you time it correctly.

Image of a boss in Granblue Fantasy Relink
Click to enlarge

Managing this means that the action always has something to work towards, and it's a careful balancing act in both solo and cooperative play that requires you to play together to maximise its potential.

I did feel that many of the bosses past the latter stages of the game became a little bit tedious, with huge health pools that take upwards of ten minutes to deplete. While this is of course a big part of the challenge, I didn't feel like the move sets were extensive enough to justify the length, which in turn made fights relinquish some of the action that made them so enjoyable in the first place.

Does the real game start now?

While I have my own frustrations with the main narrative of Relink, much of the argument could be that the 'real' game starts after it's concluded, with a heavy focus on post-game activities that allow you to grind away and take on countless fights with your friends.

Image of one of the quests in Granblue Fantasy Relink
Click to enlarge

Your own mileage with it will very much depend on how you engage with the combat though, as much of the combat - at least within the early stages that I got the chance to tackle - is repeated from the main sections of the game.

I can imagine it flourishing when played cooperatively, with the opportunity to master the link between your friends and a near-limitless number of questions and scenarios to tackle. However, as a solo player, it did leave a little to be desired as I fought against many of the same enemies in fights that felt just a little bit too long. There is definitely plenty to do though if it is more up your street, with over 100 levels to climb through, a huge skill tree to unlock, and plenty of weapons to level up.

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The Verdict

Granblue Fantasy: Relink was unfortunately a rather disappointing experience for me, which is a shame to say considering how excited I was for it all those years. It does offer excellent combat that achieves genuine variation between its vast cast of characters, and many spectacle-filled boss fights - but remains largely unengaging due to a bland narrative that barriers off much of its character development behind tedious text segments.

There is likely to be plenty of life found within its extensive post-game segments, as players can team up to take down countless missions across numerous forms, but that grind might not be for everyone in the long run, especially if you're playing solo.

3/5

Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Code provided by the publisher.

Harry is a Guides Writer at GGRecon, having completed a Masters of Research degree in Film Studies. Previously a freelance writer for PCGamesN, The Loadout, and Red Bull Gaming, he loves playing a wide variety of games from the Souls series to JRPGs, Counter-Strike, and EA FC. When not playing or writing about games and hardware, you're likely to find him watching football or listening to Madonna and Kate Bush.