In a special media session for SEA media, we were able to have a hands-on experience with Granblue Fantasy: Relink and, honestly, it was a game that I enjoyed way more than initially thought I would. Given that this was my first experience with a Granblue Fantasy title, I didn’t really know what to expect but, at the end of the session, I can now say that I have a personal excitement in waiting for this game to release. Allow me to share with you my take on our short but sweet experience with the game as I give you my Granblue Fantasy: Relink First Impressions.
To properly frame my feedback, let me describe to you how our hands-on experience went. The whole session was divided into 3 main parts. First, we had 100 minutes to experience the game’s single player / story mode from the very beginning. Next, we then had 40 minutes to try out the multiplayer feature where I joined the other SEA media to form a party of 4 and knock down as many missions as we could. After that, we had a 20 minute hands-off session where we watched the devs themselves run us through an end-game level fight.
There’s actually a sense of symmetry to this as this is what players of Granblue Fantasy: Relink can expect their gameplay experience to be once the game is fully launched. The game will start with you following a very RPG style story and establish the setting of the game. This first part of the game was said to be roughly 20 hours of playtime. Once that initial story part is over, the game then becomes a quest-based / hunt-based game where coop gameplay shines (yes, you can play it solo but coop is definitely the way to go with this). As you clear quests during this part of the game, you will then unlock EVEN MORE story which makes the plot progress even more from the first story part. This part of the game was said to be roughly 20-40 hours of playtime. Finally, once you finish all the main story elements of the game, you then enter the ENDGAME portion of Granblue Fantasy: Relink where you get to do these massive quests and fights where both the difficulty and rewards of each mission is ramped up. This final part of the game was said to be roughly 40-100 hours of gametime. That is a LOT of game inside this one title.
Single Player / Story Mode
Aside from describing what my experience was during this part of the hands-on, I’ll also use this part to roughly explain what the gameplay is like to people who have zero idea what Granblue Fantasy: Relink. Speaking in plain terms, this game is an Action RPG that follows sort of like instance-based maps. If you look at games like Monster Hunter, Dauntless, and God Eater, then that’s more or less what you can expect from this title. There’s sort of like a central area where you pick-up quests, upgrade your gear, interact with NPCs, and more. From there, you queue up for quests that will either be for side quests or for main missions which takes you to an instance map where you have to either take down a bunch of enemies or finish off a boss.
In Granblue Fantasy: Relink though, your skills and movements aren’t weapon-based, but rather, they are character-based (of which there are MANY to choose from – each with their own unique fighting style). You will usually do quests with a party of 4 characters, with whoever you choose to be the party leader being the one you will control while AI handles the others.
I personally already prefer this to other titles as the missions during the parts that I got to play were quite lore heavy already – something that I don’t find much in other games within this genre. Each character also has their own quirks, flow, and attacks. In addition to the innate differences in mechanics per character, you can also customize the gear you have, what sigils (kind of like accessories) you bring, and what masteries you’ve learned (AKA what character skills you have unlocked). There’s a lot of things to mix and match as you get a lot of freedom on how you make use of your character.
The combat was also amazingly satisfying as the fights in the game are more fast paced and are kind of combo based. Enemies-wise, there is indeed a lot of variety in the kinds of mobs and bosses that you’ll face. All in all, as a gamer who values the lore and story behind games, it’s a much appreciated aspect for me that the story elements of this game seem to be quite strong.
Multiplayer. Was. FUN.
No joke, this was the highlight of our playthrough. Because combat is so fast-paced, coordination felt much more satisfying and battles felt more intense when you’re part of a group. We started this mode at level 50 so our characters felt way more stable and were way more built so much so that we were pulling off some insane looking attacks BUT the boss did fight back enough to prove a challenge. Moves at this level become so flashy especially with FULL BURST attacks. I also love how satisfying it was to battle (and conquer) these bosses while we experimented with various characters to see which playstyle suits us more.
Once again, I love how this part of the game is still unlocking MORE main story. I like how there’s a story line reason why we we’re grinding to get stronger. This is one thing that I disliked during this part in other games. I wanted to have a reason behind the quests that I do and not just simply to do quests just for the sake of doing them. I’m definitely hoping that Granblue Fantasy: Relink pulls this part of the game off well because I find it so impressive that they aim to weave in storyline developments for coop missions. It gives the player a purpose and it gives us a rhyme and reason behind us playing.
As an additional note, if the thought of playing coop for this part of the game isn’t appealing to you, the game does give you the option to run these missions with AI instead.
For this part of the game, we put down our controllers and watched the devs play a mission from the end game instead. They were at level 150 which is the max level cap, I believe, and the mission that they showed us was just jaw-droppingly epic. At this stage of the game, they showed that the stats of the gear that they have were all customized towards a certain approach and build that they wanted for their character of choice. This is where the beauty of the end game lies. Even if you gravitate towards a certain character to be your main, HOW you play them will still vary from build to build so if you add that consideration to the already impressive number of characters that are available to use, you end up with so much variations of gameplay that you can explore making the game even more worthwhile.
Sadly, we weren’t allowed to capture footage from their fight but allow me to try and quickly describe it. They did a party of 4 where only 2 people were controlled by one dev each. The rest were controlled by AI. The fight was SO IMPRESSIVE and EPIC because it felt like an MMO Raid Boss. The fight had so many mechanics that you had to study or else it would wipe your party. The devs won so yeah, the fights are definitely doable. But seeing the complexity of the fight along with just how awesome the actual battle looked, I was definitely fully sold and am looking forward to us reaching that part of the game.
Overall for my Granblue Fantasy: Relink first impressions, I can honestly say that its such a promising game. While we only got to play for a limited amount of time, what we saw was already so impressive that I can almost see it ranking high as compared to other titles in this genre. With such a huge amount of game length, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they are able to pull off the other parts of the game well. For those of you who are worried that this is a game that follows quite a huge background from the earlier games, we spoke to the devs and they did say that the game will be able to catch players up on necessary info when needed so this shouldn’t be a worry.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink launches on January 29, 2024 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Windows so stay tuned!