Granblue Fantasy: Relink is shaping up to be one of 2024's best RPGs
No, you're not confused; although I had the chance to demo Granblue Fantasy: Relink during this year's Anime Expo, and Josh had a longer hands-on with the game earlier this year, Cygames once again invited us to get hands-on with the game - this time, with what appears to be the final retail build for PlayStation 5. Now that we've had a chance to take a look at the game's opening hours, and the gameplay loop that will fuel the Relink's replay value, it's never been more clear that the game is shaping up to be one of 2024's best releases.
During our 4-hour session, we had the chance to play the first 3 chapters of the game uninteruppted from the start of the adventure, followed by an additional section where we participated in several multiplayer missions alongside other members of the press and the development team, using characters from saves following the conclusion of the main story quest. While I can only speak for myself, I was curious exactly how Relink's story would play out - and while learing that you will only be able to engage with the main story on your own without friends accompanying you, the stages that we did get the chance to play offered excellent spectacle, usually culminating in a boss fight against an enemy that would be replayable as a Quest available in multiplayer.
One other aspect that was shared about Relink during our preview session, was how the game will continue after the main story has ended; players can expect the main story to take about 20 hours to complete, with side quests and an additional post-game scenario adding up to 40 or so hours of gameplay to unlock the proper endgame grind. While we didn't have the chance to challenge these fights ourselves, members of the devteam demonstrated how players will generally want to equip their characters with Sigils unlocking specific skills to accomodate their chosen character and playstyle, and to consider which characters would work best as a team while challenging some of the games most challenging enemies.
Some of the more challenging fights in the game might incorporate mechanics that players will be required to engage with. For example, the devteam demonstrated how the Radis Whitewyrm will shrowd itself in buffs at certain parts of the fight, greatly increasing its defense and implementing a light regen to its health; players will have to take down weaker enemies littered across the arena to pick up an item to throw at the Whitewyrm to remove its buffs before players can meaningfully engage with it. Furthermore, even with a fully maxed out character, one wrong move knocked out one of their characters in a single hit; though, it should be noted that they did eventually succeed.
It's all exciting stuff, and Cygames pledges that players can easily find themselves sinking over 100 hours into the game if they want to engage with the grind against these stronger and more taxing encounters. While inevitably this aspect of the game won't be for everyone, personally I can't wait to tackle it for myself. The lack of any cross-play between PlayStation and PC does sting quite a bit, but the PlayStation 5 version that we played ran quite well in the default 60 FPS mode; Cygames has also commited that the game will have a "Quality" mode targeting 4K at 30 FPS on Sony's latest console. PC players can expect the game to support framerates up to 120 FPS, and that the game's PC port is officially supported on Steam Deck; complete with the appropriate button prompts for the system. We didn't have the chance to demo that version of the game during the preview, though.
It's not often that I walk away from such a lengthy preview with so little to say, but then again it's equally as rare that we would be given so many opportunities to play any game prior to launch in such a short succession, and with differing builds of the game. When I first played Relink all the way back in July, I was happily surprised to discover just how good the game felt to play. Unsurprisingly, that hasn't exactly changed with my first taste of the near-finished product. It may have been an excruciatingly long wait for the game's release, but we're finally in the home stretch - and I couldn't be more excited for the next chance I'll have to play it.