Granblue Fantasy: Relink was provided by Cygames for review. Thank you!
When it comes to Action JRPGs, I tend to have a type. I love the flashy combat, even if it is a bit repetitive, the vibrant anime colors, a thoughtful story, and an enjoyable progression system that allows me to grind and become more powerful earlier on in the game. Granblue Fantasy: Relink has all of these, but interestingly enough, it stands out due to some changes to the formula I wasn't expecting. None of these compromise the game's core loop, which takes center stage, and I couldn't be happier for it.
Granblue, like other JRPGs, is known for its longer stories that feel a bit drawn out. While this is a staple of the genre, Relink goes the opposite route and tells a shorter, more concise story. The way it is crafted, however, doesn't spare any expense and still feels very meaningful as you go up against the Church of Avia, rescue your allies, and save the Sky Realm. I also really love the visual style they go for. Yes, it is anime-style, but it feels like a nice evolution, similar to Tales of Arise.
Instead of a heavy focus on the story, Relink focuses more on its gameplay, which it executes extremely well. I had a friend of mine describe this as a more generic JRPG with Monster Hunter-esque combat, and I would say this is quite accurate. You choose one of over 20 different characters, each with their own weapon, combos, and skill trees, and head off into quests to take down hordes of enemies, giant bosses, or defense points. You will have your standard attack, a combo finisher, and four different abilities that you can swap out as you unlock new ones. You can also jump and dodge attacks, which you will need to do a lot against the stronger opponents.
The fluidity of combat, mixed with the flashy visuals of different abilities, link attacks, and ultimate moves, makes for probably one of the most enjoyable combat systems I have recently played in a real-time JRPG. Even though it would look repetitive, it is so much fun to go into each battle and watch as the effects pile on the screen with a massive light explosion, a monstrous tornado, and green wind blades crashing in on an enemy all at once. This is eye candy cranked up to an eleven, and I love it.
On top of this, each character feels unique and varied with their mechanics. I ended up really loving Ferry, who has this whip and can summon little pets. These pets augment some of her attacks, making them stronger or more effective. And, while only 4-6 characters are really present in the story, you can recruit another 17-18 that feel just as fleshed out as the main cast. You can even take on these quests with your friends in multiplayer, working together, gathering crafting materials, forging and upgrading weapons, and so much more.
I love Relink, way more than I thought I would. Even though I am a fan of these types of games, this one stands out, and I can see myself going back even after I am completely done just to play with my friends. And while there may be some compromises, I love playing this one on the Steam Deck.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is extremely fun to play on the Steam Deck, and while it is enjoyable, you will need to compromise a little bit on stability and framerate. While many areas can hit 40 FPS, there are larger fights and the hub that will push it below. And, without more advanced or specific settings to change, we can't do much else other than set to the "Standard" graphical setting and change the resolution, which can't be changed unless you are at the title screen. Interestingly, the resolution change didn't actually improve performance that much, so I would say keeping it at 1280x720 is the way to go.
There may still be some minor slowdowns here and there, but they are far and few. Most won't really be felt either due to it dropping to 28 FPS. The higher-quality settings are technically playable, but there are way more drops that go down further than 28, so they are felt more often and more frequently. I felt this tradeoff wasn't worth it, and the lowest settings still looked fantastic.
Since playing this way means keeping everything on the lowest settings, I will only have one build here. If you want to push 40 FPS, I recommend keeping the settings the same and getting rid of any TDP limit. You could also force the resolution to 1024x640 through Steam to try getting some more performance, but from my testing, it didn't help much.
As for the settings available in Relink, we do have a bunch of toggles for target switching, difficulty, auto-playing dialogue, target priority for skills, and even an Assist Mode to help you along the game. There are also some sensitivity options, such as turning subtitles on or off, changing language, and key mapping.
The game doesn't support 16:10 resolutions, so there are black bars at the top and bottom, but it does have cloud save and gamepad support. There is no HDR support included in the game.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is nicely summed up as a more generic JRPG mixed with Monster Hunter-like gameplay systems. Favoring a shorter but still meaningful story, developer Cygames wove in one of my favorite real-time combat systems I have seen in a JRPG like this. The fighting is flashy and feels fantastic, to the point that I want to keep doing the same battles multiple times to grind and find the same enjoyment that I did the first time I played.
It does have some issues running on the Steam Deck and will have some slowdowns from time to time, but it is a lot of fun and holds the framerate for most battles and almost all quests. This is going to be the way I play for sure, and if you want to play on the go, it is possible and enjoyable!
Our review is based on the PC version of this game.
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Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a fantastic JRPG with an addicting combat system that, while it can run decently, needs some compromises on the Steam Deck.