We’re only in the first quarter of 2024, and already, it looks like we’ve got quite a few potential Game of the Year contenders. Not least of which is Granblue Fantasy: Relink, which has proven to be a bit of a surprise hit, having released at the same time as JRPG big hitters like Persona 3 Reload and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
While my expectations going into Relink were relatively low, it quickly became clear to me that this was the Monster Hunter experience I’d been looking for all along.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been particularly good at the Monster Hunter games. Good enough to get by, sure, but once you hit the HR quests and you realize how much of a grind it is to get your gear up to snuff, I’m bouncing. My issue with Monster Hunter has never been the steep difficulty curve; it’s the fact that the game pretty much forces you into multiplayer if you want to have any hope of farming your materials efficiently.
And therein lies the problem. Assuming you don’t have a dedicated group to play with, you’re often just praying and hoping that the players you match up with are at least geared up enough to farm the HR quests with you. Or worse, you end up being the weakest player in the group, but you have no choice but to join a multiplayer party because this is the only way for you to progress, and there’s no way you’d be able to clear it on your own.
You join the group, you do a pitiful amount of damage, get your loot, and then leave the group hanging your head in shame… Not that I’ve ever been in that position. Obviously.
Anyway, Granblue Fantasy: Relink offers players the option to play completely offline if they so choose. Immediately, my interest was piqued. You’re telling me I get to grind out all these high level quests with a party of three AI-controlled characters, and sometimes they even perform better than human players, and I no longer have to feel any shame about my subpar gaming abilities? Surely this is too good to be true. But no, dear reader, it is, in fact, very true. And that’s what’s made Granblue Fantasy: Relink such an appealing Monster Hunter alternative for me.
Once you get into the endgame content of Relink, it’s all about grinding through high difficulty quests to raise your Skyfarer Grade. From there, you’re upgrading weapons, repeating quests endlessly for materials you need, the list goes on.
The beauty of Relink is that as you play, you’ll earn skill points that can be used to power up the characters in your roster. You’ll also spend time and Rupies upgrading their weapons, grinding out Sigils for them to equip, and this lets them keep up with you. As long as you make sure your party members are sufficiently geared, you can take on virtually any quest in the game without ever having to touch multiplayer.
I should mention that there are drawbacks to being purely offline. For one, you don’t get access to certain online-only currencies that you can exchange for very valuable materials. This can slow down your progress a little. In addition to that, playing offline means that you basically have to grind four times as hard to get everyone geared and skilled up. This can be a very time-consuming process, especially as you get into the higher difficulty levels.
It feels like a fair trade, though. Cygames is essentially giving you the freedom to play offline and enjoy the game however you want, with the drawback of being responsible for your entire party’s power level. If you don’t want to have to farm as many materials, you can hop online, but keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on the skill level of your teammates and what characters they’re playing as.
Personally, having this offline option allows me to enjoy Granblue Fantasy: Relink at a pace that feels comfortable to me. Whereas I often felt pressured to keep up in Monster Hunter or risk getting left behind in low population quest lobbies, that feeling hasn’t crept up at all in Relink. By playing offline, I could take my time leveling up and when I feel comfortable enough to take my main character online, then I’ll do that.
Of course, my opinion may very well change 50 hours from now, when I start cursing at Narmaya for being too weak in battles and lamenting the fact that gearing up an entire party takes way too damn long. But for now, Granblue Fantasy: Relink feels comfortable, and I’m happy to stay in that bubble.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is now available on PC and PlayStation.