Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review - An Engaging Monster Hunter-esque Experience 34534 3453

Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review – An Engaging Monster Hunter-esque Experience

Roughly a decade ago it seemed like every developer wanted their own Monster Hunter franchise. Some of these were interesting, such as Sony’s Freedom Wars, and Soul Sacrifice, with others trying to offer their own take, like God Eater. Since the death of PlayStation Vita interest has remained relatively low, which is why Granblue Fantasy: Relink is so exciting. Taking place in the proven world of Granblue Fantasy, this unexpected title hopes to offer engaging gameplay, powerful bosses, and exciting loot. With impressions of the demo remaining relatively strong, is it everything players are hoping for, or is its future just fantasy?

Granblue Fantasy: Relink starts by offering an okay story. It seems Primal Beasts are behaving strangely, so you explore the world to discover why, and the problem turns out to be more than initially expected. Fans of the franchise will get a bit more out of it, with everyone else having a handy glossary of terms to prevent confusion. Beyond that, it’s engaging, just not revolutionary. In fact, its standout feature is how well of a tutorial it is.

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Practically every quest boss is based off a story encounter. This forces players to be familiar with them, and more importantly, overcome them with only AI. Many long time fans of this genre will appreciate this choice since it addresses the knowledge gap that tends to appear when other’s are involved. Even this isn’t perfect, but I appreciate Cygames trying to do something before players can interact with harder quests.

Early gameplay is surprisingly fun. Each boss has their own gimmick, which is enhanced during overdrive (it’s an enrage mode with challenging mechanics), with some even having additional mechanics. Overtime some of these moves can grow to be annoying, mostly because they drag out fights, but learning how to overcome them is a real delight. Where problems start to appear are progression, and builds.

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Lot’s of Options to Increase Your Power

The way progression works is relatively simple. Certain aspects, like masteries (skill/perk tree), have hard locks tied to story/adventure rank. From there, other parts are gated by resources. Even if I unlock the ability to make my weapon level 150, doing so will require a sizable amount of resources obtained from quests/story to level it. This can make a variety of things rough, like it takes a sizable amount of time to make each character viable, but it’s far from the biggest issue.

To put it simply, sigils are a confusing mess of a system that will likely frustrate many players. On a basic level they’re a simply equipable attributes that offer a progressive level system. So a tier I attack sigil is like level two, meaning it gives six attack. Equipping two brings the level to four, increasing attack to 10. Overtime they get more interesting, even modifying how characters work on a fundamental level, allowing for some truly amazing builds.

Might as Well Go All In

Where the system starts to go wrong is ability creep. Shortly after gaining access to sigils, new tier I+ sigils will appear. As the name suggests, these sigils give two different perks. So instead of having six attack, I can get six attack with 300 HP. This rotation continues until V+. What makes this a problem is a couple simple things.

At lower tiers it never feels worthwhile to invest in any of them. Why level my attack sigil for an additional two attack points when literally any other benefit would be more worthwhile? And even if I never obtain a two perk version, any tier II drop is going to be better anyway. These numbers start to become more compelling at a higher level when the difference between two base tier IV attack sigils, and two base tier V sigils is 81 attack.

Two is Better than One

While it makes sense to wait until tier V+ to start leveling things, Granblue Fantasy: Relink throws a wrench in this plan by making it incredibly difficult to level high rank gear. This is due entirely to the inexplicable choice of making them require a specific high level treasure (material).

To obtain either resource players must unlock the highest quests tier, and then finish six specific quests. This will unlock two incredibly difficult fights, which are among the five highest ranking quests in Granblue Fantasy: Relink, that give said resource. To put it into perspective, it probably took me longer to gain access to that material than gaining access to tier V+ gear itself. If that isn’t odd enough, one level into tier IV+ gear requires the same material. There is basically no upgrade path, outside of base tier V items, prior to reaching this point.

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Absolutely Worth the Investment

Not only does this choice leave build crafting relatively stagnant, most of the grind at that point is for sake of making the grind quicker/easier. The same build that barely defeats 16,000 PWR creatures is able to kill a 11,000 PWR creature in a couple minutes without breaking a sweat.

Along with limiting sigil progress, Granblue Fantasy: Relink adds a damage cap. As the name suggests, once players hit their limit all additional attack/power offer no additional benefit. To help understand this, I fought one of the aforementioned 16,000 PWR bosses with the build that successfully killed it, and again with no damage cap sigils.

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My heavy attack did an impressive 101,397 damage, with one of my special attacks hitting for 202,797. With my potential realized, my heavy increased to 209,395, and the special was now doing 418,795. In order to achieve this level of damage I need to use five of my 12 sigil slots on damage cap. This is where the aforementioned point about leveling sigils really hurts.

At the time my skill was level 55 out of a possible 65 levels. Five comes from my weapon, so if I maxed out four tier V/V+ sigils I would gain the max benefit, and a sigil slot I can use on something else. While the build limits are annoying, the bigger issue is quantifying the concept.

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Do I Need More Cap or Attack?

I can’t actually find a metric, or place that explains how much damage is being capped. As near as I can tell, players need to figure it out through trial and error. I tried the aforementioned build with a couple different attack boosting attributes, though each one gave the same numbers. It’s unfortunate as it adds a certain amount of tedium to something that should be straightforward, or at least easier to understand. That said, I’m not entirely sure the answer matters.

Since quests lack scaling outside of quick quest, Granblue Fantasy: Relink encourages homogeneous builds. Certain sigils, along with perks, discourage high health builds. This choice is reinforced by having several bosses that either won’t one shot you with a low health build, or will still one shot you with a high health build. Accessible defensive tactics, which we will discuss in length later, further diminish the need for defensive builds.

The real nail in the coffin is Granblue Fantasy: Relink‘s reliance on damage checks. In all there are seven bosses that have at least one damage check. A few of these are not absolute, so failing them won’t guarantee failure, but the rest are strictly kill the boss, or fail the quest. Several of these are simply impossible without bringing one, or more characters to the damage cap. For this reason anything besides high attack is going to be a liability, especially with AI.

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At Least the Option Exists

All this being said, I am curious with how the online situation will play out. From what I tested players were not restricted to one character per group. This allows for formations not otherwise possible with AI. While that might be a potential balance issue, I am more concerned with the overall difficulty.

Ignoring how a high level character can destroy low level content in seconds, I am not sure if even the final quest will pose much threat to a decked out team. Based off a number of battle results screens I average 48 to 51 percent of the honors when playing with AI. So, in theory, if another person matches my output specifically it should be equal to my AI team’s performance.

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Dalia Badges Encourage Online Play

However, my concern is the other two players. If I can beat the final quest with a kind of decked out AI team playing three more support oriented characters in about 10 minutes, would it be possible for equally powerful human players to do it in 2 minutes and 30 seconds? It’s a concern, but at least this can be adjusted if need be.

Even if I am harsh on certain build crafting aspects, it isn’t all bad. For up to 2000 Mastery points players can Over Mastery and get four random perks at various levels. Each roll replaces all four options, though players are given the choice to replace, or keep their previous roll. Some will dislike the fact it’s practically impossible to get the perfect roll, though I do like that these perks extend beyond the usual attribute offerings.

Weapons are also given a variety of enhancement options. The first are Wrightstones, which can be imbued into a weapon to grant up to three traits. These can be really cool, though it will take a fair amount of grinding to get the perfect roll. Thankfully, end game missions allow players to target a specific type over relying entirely on RNG.

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Tons of Possibilities

Beyond Wrightstones are Mirage Munitions, and Weapon Awakenings. The Mirage Munitions system is actually pretty cool. Up to 99 can be placed on a single weapon, with players being able to freely change the amount as needed. This is perfect for anyone playing multiple characters as a single set of 99 can be used on every character if you don’t mind that hassle. Unfortunately, Weapon Awakenings isn’t as awesome.

For starters, this system is limited to specific weapons, and they must be fully leveled to awaken. Each awakening adds additional stats, with the occasional level adding another perk, or further enhancing existing perks. It’s a good option to keep players invested once they finish everything, even if it isn’t the most useful thing to invest in.

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With build out of the way, let’s actually talk about endgame quests. Several high tier bosses are actually more involved than dungeon/raid bosses found in Destiny 2. There are obstacles to avoid, moves that dictate what you can do on the field, and more. Perhaps my favorite is the pick your poison mechanic found on one of the last bosses.

It will drop several different colored items that need to be destroyed. Each item dictates which element the boss can utilize, with each surviving item offering an additional buff that further increases this sections duration. What makes it a choice is the phase will either end after a set period of time, or when a single item is remaining. It’s not possible to completely void this move, at least with AI, so players need to decide which annoying element they want to deal with.

Several other bosses utilize a stream of attacks that is really reminiscent of higher tier Monster Hunter creatures. One second there might be a barrage of lightning, followed by several shockwaves, and then something that covers the battlefield with imminent attacks that fill you with dread. Some of these mechanics are really smart as well.

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This Isn’t Even A Notably Difficult Boss

It isn’t enough to just run around, or occasionally dodge, due to clever designs. Oftentimes Granblue Fantasy: Relink will know what I’m going to do, and while I am avoiding a series of attacks, a single one is placed where I planned on going. I died more than once to this trick, but even if it seems like all hope is lost; forgiving defensive moves help keep things interesting.

Usually dodge/block are pass/fail mechanics. Timing either incorrectly is met with a punishment, with blocking typically having more disadvantages. With Granblue Fantasy: Relink I can hold block for an extended period of time to withstand a surprisingly high number of attacks. In fact, simply holding block in a dire situation can be enough to survive it without losing any health.

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Thankfully, it isn’t an easy mode button either. Negative attributes, such as being frozen, cannot be circumvented by blocking. Touching ice will slowly freeze you, just like fire is hot regardless of where your arms are. This makes paralyzing attacks fun, as they’re the epitome of high risk/high reward. They can be blocked, though doing so will immediately stun you. If there are no follow up attacks you’re fine, but often times it will burn potions/healing spells, or kill you outright. Depending on your luck, it might just do both.

Most bosses also have a top tier option, so there will always be a version that packs a punch. Some of these might come with some friends, which requires more than amazing Dynasty Warrior’s skills to overcome. All of these things might not impact builds, but they help keep things fresh. It’s also extremely satisfying using rotations to your advantage, as a perfectly executed assault can destroy an enemies overdrive before they start to, well, drive.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink: At the end of the day, I found that Granblue Fantasy: Relink captured the elements I love about this genre. There are several unique bosses, each with their own shenanigans, keeping things interesting. While I would appreciate changes to the build system, it doesn't detract from the overall engagement of the experience—especially for those who aim to overcome everything Granblue Fantasy: Relink has to offer. Grant

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von 10
2024-01-31T07:01:00-0800

Editor’s Note: Granblue Fantasy: Relink was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.

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