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Cult classic RPG, killed by its own creator, gets spiritual successor

The influence of Granblue Fantasy Relink's shuttered mobile predecessor, Dragalia Lost, is evident in the new multiplayer action-RPG epic.

Close up of a Granblue Fantasy Relink character with white hair.

Chests stuffed with materials at the end of a run? Grinding slimes holed up in pots for cold hard cash? Tailoring specific builds to take on one specific boss? You hear all this, and perhaps you think ‘Granblue Fantasy Relink‘ – yet their origins lie elsewhere. It’s a bittersweet reminder of a game that the very same developer, Cygames, regrettably blipped from existence toward the end of 2022. Dragalia Lost, I miss you.

As you’re on a PC gaming site, you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Dragalia Lost, the Cygames-developed and Nintendo-published mobile JRPG that ran from 2018 through to 2022. The hugely popular Granblue Fantasy Relink, which launched Thursday February 1 and recently surpassed a million sales, isn’t a sequel, prequel, or alternate universe take on Dragalia; it’s another entry in the Granblue saga, which kicked off with a 2014 mobile game and now spans an anime and even a fighting game.  Suddenly, Relink being free of required reading starts to feel like one of its greatest strengths. You can just hop in and get slashing dragons with swords or blowing up goblins with grenades.

Featuring a campaign that’s refreshingly short for a big JRPG release, it isn’t here where the similarities to my beloved Dragalia Lost appear in full. Yes, there’s an evil empire, religious zealots, orphans, redeemable villains, and a damsel in distress stuck in a tango with someone attempting to play god. But it’s the post-credits gameplay loop where grind-lovers and – yes – ‘Losties’ will find their refuge.

Once you’ve bested the campaign, which is essentially a story-laden tutorial, the real game begins: a long grind all too familiar to those who played with Euden and his pals before their touching story went so impossibly far off the rails as to facilitate twists I cannot print here.

A comparison between the Granblue Fantasy Relink and Dragalia Lost Slime monsters.

There’s a viciously satisfying cycle of repeating monster-killing quests big and small. Once the story wraps up, it’s off to farming the thousands upon thousands of items, tokens, and skill points needed to make big numbers go bigger. You exchange surplus stock at the Treasure Trade, work toward earning rare ingots, brawl against the same boss time and again, and dispatch practically identical slimes.

You might repeat story missions on harder difficulties to get generous first-time clear rewards, churn through golems for the fingers needed to make new weapons, or grind the whole quest counter to slowly chip away at your favorite character’s skill tree. Then, when you’re done, you might just choose to do it all over again for one of the other 18 playable characters. So far, so Dragalia.

Clearing a quest in Granblue Fantasy Relink and Dragalia Lost.

Despite the immense joy this endgame grind has brought me, a daily mobile gamer, it’s hard to say whether what is essentially the Dragalia formula on a bigger screen is enough for PC gamers to cling to in the long term. That said, while the audience wasn’t there to support Cygames’ experiment with Nintendo, the devoted following it did garner just can’t let it go: they’re still playing on a region-free private server to this day.

There are just so many references and similarities and even borrowed content from Dragalia in Relink. I have to believe it’s the natural evolution of a game that occupied a good chunk of my life for years: one that I’m clearly still not over. I, for example, can’t help but think the Radis Whitewyrm fight is shockingly close to the various High Dragon trials that kick-started Dragalia’s endgame grind – and I’m not alone.

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The diverse and chaotic four-player combat, a huge roster of characters that all play very differently, the need for deep and strategized synergy at higher levels, rupie-hoarding slimes, and a gratifying gear grind have become a sort of salve: easing the hurt of Cygames’ decision to annihilate years of its history with Dragalia Lost. Before its community stepped in to preserve it, that is.

If you didn’t manage to walk the path of Dragalia before its closure, you owe it to yourself to get stuck into Granblue Fantasy Relink. Many of its crunchy combat mechanics are here: overdrive and break, telegraphed attacks, and generous-until-they’re-not invincibility windows. On top of that, you get a taste of its spiritual predecessor’s heartfelt character stories and the arduous grind you’ll inevitably miss when it’s over.

A crop of the final Dragalia Lost artwork used to commemorate end of service.

I’ll always treasure the time I spent with Dragalia Lost, booting it up daily to learn new and dangerous dances against a cool boss. Thankfully, Granblue Fantasy Relink is so close to replicating it on a larger scale that I can’t help but thank Cygames for at least keeping it alive in spirit.

It’s been seven years since Relink’s reveal. Through multiple delays, long periods of silence, and then the removal of Platinum Games as a collaborator, I’d worried we were in for a disaster.  Now that it’s here, however, it’s clear that my concern was misplaced. Though it’s in many ways a flashy entry point to the gacha genre, Granblue Fantasy Relink still stands on its own as a terrific new PC game and my latest RPG obsession.