Granblue Fantasy: Relink: new gameplay information and an extensive hands-on look for the long-awaited action RPG from Cygames
Earlier this month, I was flown out to San Francisco, California to meet with Cygames for the latest on Granblue Fantasy: Relink. This was the first stop on their international press tour to formally introduce their new Cygames America and Cygames Europe branches to western media.
They were also showing off Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, the follow-up to the Granblue fighting game developed with Arc System Works. I decided to focus on Relink, since I know the RPG community is eager to learn when they could play it.
There was an extensive presentation shown to members of the press when the event began. As far as Relink was concerned, Cygames clarified that it would be a stage-based game with “no cliffhangers” at the end of the main story; it would end conclusively. The action RPG would contain over 100 quests and post endgame content. Several quest types listed were boss battles, time attacks, survival, and more.
Up to four party members could participate in combat and each of them can equip four skills each. Players can learn new skills for each character by unlocking that character’s mastery nodes. Characters in Relink can be further customized by equipping different weapons and sigils. Sigils provide passive effects, such as stat increases, increasing experience points received, and so on.
Cygames provided a follow-up on the Assist Mode and Full Assist Mode accessibility options they detailed earlier this year for Relink. These two modes can be used during online co-op. On the other hand, they mentioned that players will not be able to use them for some specific high-difficulty content.
Finally, we were shown the brand-new trailer that was unveiled at this year’s Gamescom Opening Night Live event. It revealed that Relink would finally be coming out on February 1, 2024. You can find more details about its release here, alongside the game’s physical and digital editions. Cygames will be publishing it themselves in North America; they’ll be partnering with Plaion for Relink’s release in Europe.
After concluding the presentation, I was given the opportunity to interview Cygames about Relink. You can find the full interview here as we learn a lot of new gameplay details about Relink that have never been shared before.
I got to go hands-on with Relink for about 90 minutes; the demo itself didn’t last long, but it allowed me to try every single character that the preview build had. The following characters were playable: Gran, Katalina, Rackam, Io, Lancelot, Siegfried, and Charlotta. James previously described his time with Siegfried and Katalina at a different preview build during Anime Expo 2023.
In the build that I played, it was a brief time attack stage that had me fight against a few smaller enemy mobs before leading into an undead skeleton boss. This boss had wide-sweeping attacks and would often douse the battlefield in a miasma that would slow characters. It also would fire off energy waves and send skeleton minions to pin the player in place if they caught them.
If the skeleton boss was beaten in five minutes, an optional rock golem boss would spawn after its defeat. This had its own set of unique attack patterns that, as you’d expect, involves a lot of flinging rocks and boulders around.
Out of my brief time with each of the playable characters, I enjoyed playing Lancelot the most. The blue-armored knight’s main gameplay mechanic resolved around getting into a sentry-like stance that would fire off attacks at an immensely rapid pace with his dual blades; Lancelot can dodge once to reposition himself to keep his flurry of blades going seamlessly. Lancelot had a skill to freeze foes momentarily too.
I was curious how well Rackam would work in Relink’s combat system as a gunner character. He surprisingly did a lot of damage once I understood how his main gimmick works. His gun basically heats up with repeated skill usage; once the temperature gauge of his weapon has been increased, you can charge up his heavy attacks to unload that pent-up heat, which will deal more damage that it normally would if charged up regularly.
Charlotta is a character for people who like to transition between ground and aerial combat organically. Her heavy attacks fling her into the air. While suspended in mid-air, players can continue their assault before landing with a devastating finisher that grounds Charlotta once more. She’s a quick, nimble fighter that can navigate around the combat arena at a brisk pace. Experienced players can keep up the pressure by using her air launcher as a movement tool to elegantly avoid ground-based attacks without expending any effort to dodge them manually.
What seems promising about Relink’s battle system is the amount of interactivity players have with their party members; other characters fighting with you don’t exist in their own isolated vacuum. Characters often come with their own party-wide support skills that can buff party members or inflict debuffs on enemies. Plus, Link Attacks and chaining Skybound Art super attacks provide a sense of unity among party members to achieve even greater damage values together - more than what’s possible alone.
For action game fans, Relink features a dodge roll with invincibility frames. Several of the most damaging attacks that the bosses fired off in my time with Relink could be negated with a well-timed dodge; the game will provide a satisfying notification to indicate if you i-framed an attack correctly.
My time with Granblue Fantasy: Relink left me optimistic about the title and I’m very excited to get my hands with the full game when it releases on February 1, 2024. The years and years of waiting are looking like it might be worth it after all. It controls well and everything the developers have told us about the game lead us to believe that we’re in for a good time.