Granblue Fantasy: Relink is here after just over seven long, long years. From its original announcement in 2016, the game had a developer change in 2019 and delays in 2022 and 2023, leading to an incredibly turbulent development cycle. Despite all the chaos in development, the long-awaited Granblue Fantasy: Relink exists and exceeds all expectations. Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a character action RPG at heart, but it feels more like a perfect blend of modern Ys, Tales, and Monster Hunter with its flashy, in-depth, and rewarding battle system. Yet, as I played through the game, I couldn’t help but feel like it was everything I wished Final Fantasy XVI was, and I say that as someone who loved that game.
While this is a new entry in the Granblue Fantasy storyline, players don’t need to play the original Granblue Fantasy or the spinoff games. Granblue Fantasy: Relink takes place further along in the timeline, yet the developers introduced a brilliant method for handling character backstories and lore. As the main story progresses, Fate Episodes appear for the player to read and watch. These are short stories told by each character about their history, how they met up with the crew, and how they got to this point. However, the best part of these stories is that each one is voiced by the character in question, with every story written to fit the character’s personality and method of speaking.
While the lore and backstories are a grand addition, the Glossary system also serves as a great asset when characters begin talking about certain islands, past events, and races. Keywords are highlighted and a quick press of the square button pauses the dialogue and brings up the glossary. Mercifully, the entries are short and easy to understand, ensuring the pacing doesn’t get impacted for more than a few seconds if an unfamiliar term arises.
Granblue Fantasy Relink‘s story is, overall, quite impressive and tells an emotional tale about two souls linked together who are doing their best to follow their dreams and see the end of the sky. The story focuses primarily on the captain (Gran or Djeeta), the soul-linked summoner Lyria, the gunslinging helmsman Rackam, the booze-loving sharpshooter Eugen, the mysterious yet kindhearted Rosetta, the elegant and powerful mage Io, the loyal and loving knight Katalina, and the adorable little dragon Vyrn. While I entered the game with little knowledge or care for the cast, I found myself quickly attached as I learned their histories in the Fate Episodes and experienced their actions in the game. While some backstories can be heartbreaking and grim, the story and world of Granblue Fantasy: Relink are refreshing, vivid, and full of hope and positivity.
Throughout the game, players select who they want to control while roaming around and engaging in battle. The only requirement is that the captain, Gran or Djeeta, must be in the party. The game also technically has two modes: Main Story and Quests. The Main Story has players progressing through the story with the primary cast through a linear yet fantastically directed main scenario complete with multiple towns, dramatic setpiece battles, and plenty of character development stories and sidequests. Quests are optional sidequests that can be tackled solo, with your party, or even online with other players. Throughout the story mode, there are twenty quests available, ranging from easy to normal. After clearing the story mode (which is just under 20 hours), an additional scenario will open up with a slew of new quests, difficulty levels, and a dizzying number of new skills and abilities. As Dark Souls fans would say, the real Granblue starts here.
Although the combat in Granblue Fantasy: Relink is the star of the show, the character depth and customization are incredibly impressive. With seventeen characters available, each one plays wildly differently from the others. Each character has an extensive moveset that can be expanded via the game’s Mastery system (see: skill tree), learned and swapped out to fit any playstyle and encounter. Along the way, you can craft new weapons with special traits to them. Even these can have new effects to customize the player’s loadout further: each can be leveled up, and older weapons still have their use.
What adds the most depth, however, is the sigil system. Sigils serve as pieces of equipment slotted to the character, each with certain effects like buffing stats, increasing attack when perfect dodging, or draining HP as a few examples. Every single sigil also has its trait level and rarity, and as the player continues to fight with the sigil equipped, it levels up along the way. Blacksmiths can also boost a sigil’s power if given the materials, ensuring players can fine-tune and tailor their loadouts to their exact playstyle. I received great results in stacking the alchemist Cagliostro with critical chance boosters, critical damage boosters, and weak point damage to ensure she was pumping out the biggest numbers possible as often as possible.
In Granblue Fantasy: Relink, the battles are frantic, flashy, and most importantly, they’re incredibly fun. Understanding each character’s playstyle feels like mastering a job in Final Fantasy XIV or a weapon type in Monster Hunter. As I advanced, I learned new tricks, such as speed charging after attacks, comboing air juggles for the party to capitalize on, and setting up as many Link Attacks as possible. Whether I was fighting run-of-the-mill goblins, building-sized golems, or overwhelmingly large kaiju, combat never once got dull thanks to the setpiece and encounter design paired with character customization and unit design.
On the subject of setpieces, the story battles in Granblue Fantasy: Relink are simply spectacular. The main story takes the players through an astonishingly paced scenario rife with exciting moments and jaw-dropping fights. Over and over, I sought out new encountes that got the blood pumping and made me sit up straight and gasp at the sheer scale and spectacle. Throughout the story, I dashed along airships during a dogfight that felt like a mixture of Final Fantasy X with a touch of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, fought a wind god that felt straight out of Final Fantasy XIV‘s trials mixed with Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak‘s final battles, battled a colossus in the desert that would make Shadow of the Colossus fans cheer, fought mechs that would make Metal Gear Solid fans gasp, and encountered several battles that would fit perfectly within NieR: Replicant or NieR: Automata. The sheer variety of encounters was almost overwhelming.
With all these exciting setpieces, battle never felt too easy, nor did it give the feeling of pressing buttons during sequences while the game played itself. I couldn’t help but constantly compare Granblue Fantasy: Relink‘s battles with Final Fantasy XVI. In this game, elements and status effects matter. Enemies weak to an element take more damage and get staggered (or broken) more easily, while status effects have profound impact. Being able to inflict slow, poison, or paralysis on a boss can turn the tide of battle, yet the abundance of buffs and debuffs ensures that breaking an enemy and tanking their stats while buffing the party leads to an incredibly rewarding payout. As all of the mechanics work seamlessly together, gorgeous burst arts paint the screen in a dazzling display of violence.
In and out of battle, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is simply beautiful. The world feels bright and vivid, giving a welcoming and warm feeling when traveling across the islands. The use of color and world design led to grand vistas that had me stopping and spinning the camera around time after time. Whether I was crossing a lush grassy field, traversing a snowy mountain, dashing through an active volcano, or simply wandering the towns, I was often in awe. On a smaller scale, the character designs are stunning and dripping with quality, though the occasional camera angle can make the captains Gran and Djeeta look slightly off due to lighting. Regardless of whether the party is exchanging words or blows, the game’s visuals are eye-popping in every way.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink doesn’t just look great; it also sounds fantastic. The peaceful town and zone themes make each area feel welcoming, yet the battle music is where the excitement truly lies. The orchestral arrangements make major and boss battles feel epic in every sense of the word. The horns, strings, guitars, and drums add over-the-top energy that fits perfectly with the vibrant chaos unfolding on screen. Yet it’s not just the music that stirs up emotions. The cast is full of familiar voice actors from series such as Persona, Fire Emblem, The Legend of Heroes, and more. Sean Chiplock, Erika Harlacher, Richard Epcar, and the beloved SungWon Cho (ProZD) give stellar performances that pack the game with a star-studded cast of RPG fan favorites.
Throughout my twenty or so hours in the story mode, I found very few things detracting from the experience. The largest issue with Granblue Fantasy: Relink is that the main story quest is a solo adventure. While the co-op quests are a huge draw, it would have been great to experience the entire story with a few friends. Additionally, though the player can select any character to control, it would’ve been nice to pause the action and quickly swap to another character or even issue a specific order. There were a few instances where I would have told Io to slap down a gravity well to gather enemies together for the party to unleash hell upon. That said, the AI is generally pretty smart and follows up on link attacks, heals the party, and applies buffs and debuffs appropriately.
As a game that has been in development for well over seven years, my expectations for Granblue Fantasy: Relink have been sky-high. With only a handful of very minor flaws, the game has dramatically proven itself worth the wait. While combat, setpieces, and character customization triumph, the game also has incredibly tight pacing. While Final Fantasy XVI put five or so hours of side questing and downtime between pivotal moments and spectacular boss fights, Granblue Fantasy: Relink cuts all the fat and focuses on delivering a fast, dramatic, and exciting experience. With myriad mechanics, setpieces, character variety, and fantastic combat, the game is the perfect blend of modern action RPGs while avoiding the formula. Granblue Fantasy: Relink has, without a doubt, surpassed my lofty expectations and set a new bar for character action RPGs. I cannot wait to lose a couple hundred hours of my life to the post-game scenario with friends.