Granblue Fantasy: Relink PAX West Impression
It’s hard to get the fluidity and smoothness of everything across in words, but there’s a ton of characters and a lot of flashy abilities that chain together to make enemies go boom.
Cygames found a certified winner with mobile title Granblue Fantasy. The overall reception for RPG series turning from consoles to mobiles has been mixed at best, but the excitement for Granblue Fantasy as it goes the other way has been palpable, even if it the wait for it has been longer than initially intended. A fully-fledged action RPG originally announced back in 2016, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is finally approaching release. RPGamer got a chance to look at this stylish and fast-paced title at PAX West.
The demo saw players choosing a character before being thrust directly into the action. This did make it impossible to make any early judgments on the story, but of the plenty of characters to choose from, Rackam stood out. He has decent defense and the ability to move quickly around the battlefield while being a ranged attacker with his rifle. After bolting into action against a pack of skeletons, the first thing to point out is just how smooth the attacking is. Regular attacks feel like butter as they make short work of skeletons, but in case it is needed there are dedicated dodge, jump, and lunge buttons to move around the slow enemies.
As Rackam and the three AI controlled party members kept taking out skeletons and moved through a mountain pass, there were messages of praise and calls to move forward from flying mascot assistant Vyrn. Luckily, Vyrn doesn’t say too much, he just guides players forward and lets the action speak for itself. Basic attacks can be chained together to create combos and do more damage. Meanwhile, skills have a cooldown, but players are encouraged to spam them as much as possible to get extra damage out. The screen never feels cluttered, yet is always busy, as colourful attacks are thrown about. After a few waves of skeletons the first mini-boss appears in Gerasene, who is admittedly a stronger and faster skeleton. This fact doesn’t diminish the boss fight though, as Gerasene is able to prove a threat by charging and swinging its axe around at the players.
Gerasene’s special ability gives a first look of enemy hit zones, spots that glow red to indicate where the enemy will strike next. While they give players enough time to dodge, they have to move fast to do so as everything is moving so fast it feels almost like a fighting game where its necessary to consistently dodge blows while making each attack count. This is where using Rackam felt a bit like cheating; a lot of his moves and all the basic attacks are done at ranged levels. Gerasene does a lot of damage and will hunt the player character, but all of the flashy special abilities are done at close range, making it easier for a range-focused character to stay away from them. If hit too many times, however, players have an array of healing items to keep them in the fight.
After facing against a boss for long enough the option to do a Link Attack will flash. Link Attacks involve a stun gauge on the enemy climbing higher and all four party members are able to join in as they do enough damage. If all party members perform a Link Attack before the boss is able to fully recover, which only takes a moment or two, they will instigate link time. Link Time slows everything down and players can chain all kinds of combos together, doing damage to the boss as they are sluggishly trying to move around. This period of constantly attack saw Gerasene go down and we were met by the real boss of the area, a Rock Golem.
Against the Rock Golem, Link Attacks were able to charge up even more to get to Skybound Arts. These attacks combine the flashiest of visuals seen yet with a massive attack, that in true fashion can be chained with the whole party. If everyone in the party is able to do their Skybound Art, it unleashes a Chain Burst. Chain Bursts are a team flashy attack that do a ton of damage to the enemy. If a lot of this sounds like ample opportunity for pretty colours and high damage numbers to go flying by, that’s exactly what it entails. It’s hard to get the fluidity and smoothness of everything across in words, but there’s a ton of characters and a lot of flashy abilities that chain together to make enemies go boom. It’s very simple, but it is an addictive loop that can be hard to break out of as everything works so well.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink has a solid combat system behind it that does really well in short bursts. How Cygames incorporates the story into everything and allows for a balanced approach with the playable characters will be fun to see. Even if the story lags behind, there’s enough characters, abilities, and equipment to make the flashy visuals stand out over a prolonged period of time for the game to do just fine. People won’t have too long to wait to slash and chain combo their way through enemies as Granblue Fantasy: Relink will release on February 1, 2024, for PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.