Thanks to Cygames, gamers anticipating Granblue Fantasy: Relink had the opportunity to go hands-on with the released demo for the PS4 and PS5 ahead of the full game’s launch on February 1st, 2024. I had a full weekend as I delved into the demo, and couldn’t wait to dive in. The first thing that surprised me was how much content was in this demo. It provides access to a tutorial mode, a section of the story mode, and the quest mode, with a fair number of characters available.
Getting The Feet Wet
Upon firing up the demo, I headed to tutorial mode, which took about 5 minutes to familiarize myself with the buttons, normal movement, and aiming. In this mode, you’ll play as Gran and work on mastering combos that Gran can perform, as well as getting used to combat. It was worth having this in the demo to get used to it, but it went by far quicker than I was expecting.
Combat in Granblue Fantasy: Relink is on an easy-to-learn but hard-to-master basis. You have a normal combo string by pressing the square button multiple times for each hit. You can incorporate the triangle button as a unique attack that can be meshed into the combo with some characters. With Gran, it is a heavy attack that can be strung into a combo.
You can lock onto enemies with L2 and move between targets in your view with the right analog stick. You have a guard button and a dodge button. You can dodge at the perfect time to get a frame of invincibility or guard at the perfect time to take no damage. If you guard at the wrong time, it will still reduce the damage you take. If you dodge at the wrong time, you may still take damage if you are still in the damaged area.
The game’s combat takes a whole new level of integration when you add other party members. When you use skills with the R1 button and press one of the face buttons at a similar time as your party members, you damage a part of an enemy that can stagger them. Once staggered, you can do something called a link attack. This attack will stun the enemy for a few seconds, and if multiple party members perform link attacks, it increases the Link gauge. When the Link gauge reaches 100%, and all four party members do link attacks in succession, you put time at a standstill as everything slows down, and you can combo indefinitely as the timer goes down before things go back to normal. Your cooldowns also expedite, so you can use (spam) your skills a lot quicker in succession.
There’s an orange bar that, once filled, will let you use what’s called Skybound Art, which is a devastating attack. If you do a Skybound Art and your party members also have their bar filled, they can combine attacks. If you get all four of them to combine attacks, you also activate a Full Union Burst. This special attack deals massive damage, similar to the Hyper Combo attack from Marvel vs. Capcom.
A Glance Into Story Mode
The story mode begins with you playing as Gran, landing on one of the islands in a Skyfarer capacity. In the world of Granblue Fantasy, a Skyfarer is someone who travels the world in the same vein as an adventurer. Due to the world being mostly the Sky Realm, it is floating islands that must be traveled to. As you land on this new island, Gran jumps at the chance to help the people here from the goblins trying to take some of the civilians. You take on a lot of the goblins and save many of the island’s citizens. You don’t get a real vibe of the characters or the overarching story as a whole, but it is fun to see some of the English voice actors bring their characters and the compassion you can see from Gran. Otherwise, I am going to wait for the full game to be released to critique any issues I may have with the story mode. There isn’t a lot of substance here, but it is nice we do get a small segment of moving in the map.
The Meat and Potatoes
The mode I dedicated most of my game time to in the Granblue Fantasy: Relink demo was the quest mode. Here, you take control of a team that consists of a customizable party from the 11 available characters. You can also choose to play as any of the 11 available characters. Each character plays differently and has a unique movement and playstyle.
The quest mode in the demo gives you access to three different quests in terms of their difficulty and setup. I initially did the quest mode by myself to see what it warranted and test some of the characters out. I tested out Lancelot, Narmaya, Gran, Charlotta, and Zeta. Then, a group of us at The Outerhaven joined together to try out the online functionality. My main character of choice was Zeta. I loved the playstyle of attacking and countering to fly up in the air and do a bunch of bunny hops on enemy heads to then end with a giant spinning smash.
Overall, the online functionality works well as long as nobody looks for allies during matchmaking. When looking for people during matchmaking on the first quest, it kept not finding anyone and crashed the entire game due to it. You couldn’t stop the matchmaking and had to close the game to re-open it.
The appeal of redoing these quests is getting a higher ranking. You get graded based on several facets that contribute to the overall merits of your team. The one who gets the most merits on the team gets the MVP status of the quest. The ranking ranges from D to S++. You earn a significant number of points that contribute to the ranking if you accomplish the optional tasks in the quest. These tasks can include finishing the quest within a certain time, throwing several objects at enemies, or even doing a full union burst during the quest.
It is crazy how much fun it is to play the same three quests with people. When we hit S++ for the first time, we were all screaming at each other for how excited we were to finally hit the max rank! This is a game that will be enjoyable to play with others once it launches! Mastering the game is also mastering the specific combo loops of each character you want to get good with. Lancelot has a cool combo that lets him deal some massive AoE damage that can also freeze enemies to the ground for a few seconds. This helps characters like Narmaya, who has a skill that lets her build up damage by standing in one spot to deal with a strong portion of damage of her own. Using characters with great synergy allows you to team attack on bigger enemies, like in quest three, which is a giant rock monster.
You don’t get to do a lot of customization of your characters in the demo; they all retain the same level and stats. I am super excited to see how skill trees and more sigils will play into the customization. I am deeply sad that Djeeta is in the demo, but you can’t play as her. You get the option to change Gran into Djeeta, but when you attempt to change him, it gives you a “This can only be done in the Full Game” message. This does signify, though, that Djeeta and Gran play the same role in the mobile game, where they are just avatars for the player. You can choose to play as a boy, Gran, or a girl, Djeeta.