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The development of Granblue Fantasy: Relink has been fraught, to say the least. From several delays to the end of Platinum Games’ involvement in the action RPG, it looked like Relink might never come out. Despite the myriad setbacks, Granblue Fantasy: Relink has turned out rather excellent. But with several lacklustre aspects, there is a real sense of disappointment that Relink could have been so much better.
For those hoping for a grand fantasy adventure, you will be shocked to learn the main story of Granblue Fantasy: Relink is barely 20 hours long, and more rushed than epic. You move from place to place so fast for each story beat that there’s barely any time to let the narrative breathe, throwing the pacing off and rushing you through everything.
As you play through a Chapter, you can’t return to these expansive areas you explore at any point. Instead, you’re only allowed to continue with the story or take on quests at the town hub to slay waves of enemies or beat a boss again for more materials. Chests are found everywhere, rarely containing satisfying loot; only a never-ending supply of Sigils that bolster or provide skills. Sigils play a big part in the end-game grind, making them fairly meaningless early on.
Progression through the game is rigid and unsatisfying. The inability to freely return and explore Story areas and levels at will restricts what you can do, and this is especially true with Quest Counter missions taking place in the same small arenas you’ll end up seeing a thousand times over. While they are gorgeous and charming to look at, there are only two Town hubs – Folca and Seedhollow – and you’ll quickly tire of the same scenery with such limited exploration. Sure, a Chapter Replay unlocks after you beat the game, but it’s effectively meaningless to unlock after the credits roll.
The main event is the end-game content loop where you fight bosses, clear quests, and forge weapons. It’s clear the story is short and rushed because you’re pushed to get through it to reach the end game, but it is plagued with boring repetition, chiefly reused bosses and stages. There is precious little variety; most bosses outside of the Primals and a handful of unique enemies are simple reskins of previous bosses – but even the former will be fought several times over.
This aggressive re-use of bosses is extremely boring and, to be frank, lazy. If there was more variety or even longer or unique levels to tackle in Quests and Multiplayer, these issues would be fixed immediately. The fast and stylish combat is one of the best things about Relink, but not even that can’t fully save you from the tedium of fighting the same enemy in the same arena over and over again. The inability to switch party members during combat is also painful, adding to the repetitive nature of being stuck to one character during long fights. This is especially frustrating when you consider there are 18 playable characters, all of whom have unique playstyles.
All characters have established lore and stories, most of which you’ll be unfamiliar with if you don’t know about the anime. This is where Fate Episodes come in, which are narrative supplements explaining each character’s past and providing context to the ongoing story in Relink. The problem is that these dialogues are optional instead of woven into the story to help flesh everything out naturally, and they unlock so rapidly they never keep pace with the main story quest.
While I enjoyed Fate Episodes a lot for giving direly-needed context to each character, and giving them more depth, the reality is you’re bombarded with every character unlocking an episode simultaneously. The game goes from zero to 100 with the lore and info dumps from each character’s 11 Fate Episodes thrown at you, once again not giving anything time to settle or breathe. If these were peppered throughout the main story, or tied to specific character quests, the narrative would benefit greatly and go a long way in making it feel less rushed overall. It does all the characters a disservice, and the story pacing suffers more.
The world of Granblue Fantasy deserved better. With such a wellspring of awesome designs, a beautifully crafted world and aesthetic, and an anime that already laid the groundwork for this game, there is shockingly little substance in Relink. We’re not asking for an expansive world to navigate by airship, but not even giving the option to travel to different areas other than the barebones two towns and re-used arenas is painful when you think of the possibilities this game could’ve provided.
However, with a brilliant and satisfying combat system, excellent characters and voice acting, fun designs and art direction, Relink is still a fantastic ARPG that will endear itself effortlessly to many. Any fan of the anime will love this continuation and the character interactions. Plus, any game that takes the time to consider giving your swords a visible scabbard to sit stylishly on your character should always be praised.
Reviewed on PS5, review code provided by 4MediaGroup.