We recently went hands-on with Granblue Fantasy Relink, and with its recent showing at Gamescom, there’s bound to be some rumblings about this game.
Based on the renowned mobile game that’s also spawned quite the fighter a few years ago in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, which is also coming out with a sequel that we went hands-on with, Granblue Fantasy Relink is an action RPG that Cygames hopes will spawn more fans of the IP stateside.
Prior to this event, I had absolutely no knowledge of Granblue and the lore behind it, so I had no connection to any of the characters that the game features. The developers label this as an action RPG, and it very much is, but it’s also worth noting that based on the build I played, it’s more of a dungeon crawler than anything due to the fact that it’s primarily stage-based.
While we were briefed about the story, considering I have no connection to the series and its characters, I won’t spend any time on that here and will likely leave it for a full review when the time comes. The main takeout that was interesting was that each campaign aspect is level-based and while you have the option to roam around the map you start in, there’s no real open-ended aspect or exploration in gameplay–at least from what was featured.
The demo at the event only had one level, which should last most players no more than 10 or 15 minutes. We had a wealth of characters at our disposal, each with unique abilities and weaknesses that’ll make every bit of gameplay feel different. We had two runs at it, one with a character who seems to be the prominent female protagonist in the game, bearing a large sword.
After fighting our way through small batches of enemies on cliffs, we got to a rocky clearing where we immediately got into a boss fight, and it’s here where the combat system really shined. It’s actually really not that far off from the action in Final Fantasy XVI, except the combat in Granblue Fantasy Relink didn’t seem to feel as visceral. In FF16 for example, you really felt like you were dealing significant damage to your enemies with every strike. With GBF Relink demo, the animation made it so you weren’t really doing much of anything except watching the health gauge go down. I don’t know if this is a polish aspect that the team plans on working on, but for better or for worse–when the game comes out, it will draw the comparisons.
Getting back to the demo, you have a checklist of things to do as you fight. The most significant was to beat the boss within five minutes, which I failed to do. That said, I was still able to take it down and the demo ended there. I reloaded the build and gave it another try with a quicker character that had dual-wielding blades, and his moveset was more my style with combos easily to perform when spamming square and triangle to do a combo-finishing move. You can also use a bunch of different spells using the shoulder button in conjunction with a face button, and that’s where the comparisons to FF16 will really take shape, with the main difference being holding R1 instead of R2. I had trouble getting that programmed in my mind as I was playing, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, upon actually killing the boss within the five-minute time period, we got treated to another boss entirely which really tested out knowledge of combos and the various special attacks we had at our disposal and before long, it was over.
Because the game got its claim to fame on mobile, Cygames is addressing the possibility of hardcore mobile players not quite used to the fast-paced action of console games by giving them the ability to have far more accessible controls or even just let the game autoplay itself when it gets too hard. The latter is a common mechanic in mobile games, so while it could be a bit unnerving to know you could beat the game without actually doing anything of real consequence, the trophy hunter in me also wonders if the game will have an accessible Platinum Trophy.
While I hate to make comparisons to other games so early, another reason for the Final Fantasy comparisons is due to the fact that the game is co-developed by Platinum Games and the esteemed Nobuo Uematsu also lends his talents to the game’s soundtrack. All that said, Granblue Fantasy is quite the phenomenon in Japan, so seeing all this veteran talent from various respected Japanese studios really isn’t a surprise.
Granblue Fantasy Relink is currently slated for both a physical and digital release on February 1, 2024, and we definitely plan on having a review around then so stay tuned.