Granblue Fantasy: My First Three Weeks

With any big online game — particularly one that has been around for several years — it can be difficult to know where and how to get started. Granblue Fantasy is no exception.

With that in mind, I thought I’d outline my experiences over the last three weeks as I learn about the game, how it works and what I can expect from it in the future.

This is by no means an attempt to say “this is how you should play the game” — doubtless the more hardcore players out there will have strong opinions about how “best” to progress! — but rather a reflection on the experience of one timid newbie and his attempts to understand the many hidden depths of this surprising phenomenon.

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When you kick off Granblue Fantasy, you’ll be walked through a few introductory quests and introduced to the core characters of the narrative. You’re also given the opportunity to draw some initial weapons and characters to start building your party, which forms the core of the overall metagame.

Once you’re through these tutorials, which are pretty self-explanatory, there are a number of different directions you can go depending on your own personal priorities.

A good place to start is the main scenario, which takes you from location to location across Granblue Fantasy’s world of Phantagrande Skydom. Each chapter includes a four-part fully voiced main quest, which provides additional opportunities to get loot over sidequests and doesn’t cost any of the game’s “energy” resource, AP, to play for the first time. In this way, even if you’re out of AP from doing other things, you can always attempt to make progress on the main story — and perhaps even replenish your AP if you manage to earn enough RP to rank up.

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Each chapter of the main scenario also includes a number of sidequests, each of which are one-shot affairs that cost AP to participate in. It’s worth doing these alongside the main quest, as completing any content for the first time rewards you with something — generally Crystals, which can be used to do Premium Draws for new weapons, characters and summons.

There are a number of ways to progress in Granblue Fantasy, and while the main scenario is a lot more forgiving than some of the other content in the game, it pays to stay on top of all aspects of progression and get as ahead of the curve as you can.

The first and most obvious means of progression is your player rank, which increases with “RP” (Rank Points) you earn by defeating enemies. Ranking up increases the base stats of the protagonist Gran (or his female counterpart Djeeta) and, at certain milestones, unlocks new content.

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Being a high enough rank to enter a certain piece of content doesn’t mean it’s going to be practical for you to challenge it, however. Much more important than your overall rank is your party’s power level and star rating, which can be seen on the main menu screen when you open the game. Power indicates your total attack power from characters, weapons, summons and other bonuses, while the star rating gives you a rough idea of what “tier” of content you’re able to challenge and not be overwhelmed: each solo quest has a star rating that indicates its rough level of difficulty. Star rating rises naturally as your power increases; there’s nothing that affects it directly.

The biggest boosts to your overall power level come from your weapon grid. Here, you can equip up to ten weapons at once: one is your “main weapon”, which is used by Gran and must be of a type his current class is proficient in, while the other nine are equipped to add HP and attack power to your party as a whole. Rare (R) weapons and higher also have passive Skills attached, which can offer further bonuses to characters of a particular element, so it pays to focus a party on a single element in most cases.

Weapons can be levelled up through the game’s “upgrade” system, whereby you can consume up to 20 fodder weapons at a time to give the item you’re upgrading experience points. R weapons or higher provide a chance to increase the level and overall effectiveness of passive skills, while special Angelic weapons are pretty much useless in combat but worth much more experience than standard loot drops.

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Summons also have a “grid” system similar to weapons, though you only equip five at a time in this case. Your “main summon” has an aura effect that provides a passive bonus or benefit of some sort, while the other three are both summonable as special attacks in combat as well as providers of additional HP and attack power to your party. Summons, like weapons, can be upgraded by “feeding” them other, unneeded summons.

Weapons, characters and summons all have level caps, too, initially set by their rarity. Anything SSR (the highest rarity) has a higher level cap than SR, which in turn has a higher level cap than R, and so on. These level caps can be raised in various ways: characters generally require collecting a combination of rare treasure items, while weapons and summons simply need to be fused with additional copies of themselves or special items. Fully uncapping something (sometimes referred to as “MLBing” or “Max Limit Breaking”) often unlocks new skills or improves existing abilities considerably, so is well worth the effort.

It’s worth knowing all this stuff up front so you don’t waste your time and resources progressing in areas that aren’t worth focusing on. A good initial priority, it seems, is to focus on building a party and a weapon grid that complements it — in my case, I’m aiming for a party of Water-type characters, with a grid of Water-type weapons to boost their attack power wherever possible. I chose this element for a fairly simple reason: because I have a good selection of Water-type characters already. Some of the first characters who join you as part of the main scenario are Water-type, and an early SSR draw was also Water, making this an obvious choice for me to focus on, at least initially.

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This isn’t to say you have to pin yourself down to a particular element immediately, especially not in the early game where your weapon inventory will likely be a hodgepodge of mismatched elements rather than the coordinated elegance of high-level players. Regular events provide opportunities to acquire SR and SSR weapons and characters if you’re willing to put in a bit of work, and it’s very much worthwhile to do so.

I’ve participated in two events since I started playing; I joined just as the Little Skyfarer A La Sacre Blumiel event was coming to its conclusion, and am currently knee-deep in the Idolmaster-themed Piña Hazard event. Both have provided some great rewards for participating, and both unfolded in rather different ways.

Little Skyfarer was a story-heavy event in which Gran and his crew were tasked with creating the perfect “grown-up” lunch for a dimunitive holy knight captain called Charlotta, who was fed up of eating kids’ meals. Completing this event involved a combination of reading through the visual novel-style preamble, participating in multiplayer raid battles against powerful bosses, and making use of the loot acquired to cook meals for Charlotta. Each meal you cooked raised her Loyalty value, and she would join your party permanently when this reached its maximum. Loyalty would grow faster if you gave her the foods she wanted, which she provided hints for, but you would still get some credit if she didn’t think much of your dish.

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Piña Hazard, meanwhile, is a little more complex. Once again, there is a narrative preamble, but this time there are battles involved in the story, and after this is complete, a number of Special Quests open up, allowing you to acquire tokens that can be traded in for loot. There are also a number of Challenge quests, which give you a predefined party and challenge you to use their unusual combinations of skills to defeat a boss monster. These battles are a real highlight, incorporating almost puzzle-like elements as you determine how best to defeat your foes, and the rewards are great: the guest characters in the predefined parties join your lineup after successfully completing the battle. If you ever wanted Mika Jougasaki and friends in an RPG… now’s the time to start playing Granblue Fantasy.

Granblue Fantasy is, like more traditional computer- and console-based MMOs, a game designed to be played for the long haul — though not necessarily in single sessions as long as titles like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV demand. As such, I’m learning, you shouldn’t get discouraged if you find yourself getting distracted from the main story for long periods by grinding for event loot and characters; that main story will still be there when the event ends, and the rewards from the event will make your journey a lot easier in both the short and long term.

After three weeks with the game, I feel like I have a fairly firm handle on how the game works, how to progress and how to spend my time with it effectively. I still have a long way to go — the folks who jump into raid battles and immediately throw out seven-figure damage without breaking a sweat show that very clearly, while I often struggle to break five after spending a long time buffing everyone — but the journey, so far, has been enjoyable, and every time I play I feel like I learn a little more about the game and progress a little further into the rabbit-hole that is its surprisingly compelling metagame.

Ask me again in a year if I’m still interested and you might get a different answer. But right now, I’m absolutely on board.

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