Thursday, January 2, 2020

Low-Level Granblue: Info for Newbies!

Welcome to Granblue Fantasy, the mobile game that is getting an action RPG and fighting game in the near future, and has had two seasons of an anime adaptation! It’s a giant timesink full of waifus and husbandos and things to fight. I’m not here to convince you to play, or teach you the very basics of accessing the game itself; I’m here to give you a straightforward rundown of some important systems and idiosyncrasies. I know that starting off in Granblue Fantasy can be a little daunting, but I promise that once you get some core concepts down, learn to research your options, and find a community to ask more niche questions, it’s a lot less to worry about.

Some terms will come with the equivalent from the original Japanese because enough of the community started playing before the English translation that it was just how people referred to things. These will be marked with [JP] so as to be clear. Also worth noting is the fact that I will be covering general ideas, but specific exceptions, which take precedent over these generalities, are too abundant to cover in their entirety.

Before we get into more specific advice, here are some baseline warnings regarding important newbie traps to avoid: Do not use Damascus Ingots, Gold Bars, or Sunlight Stones lightly! 
These resources are extremely limited, and using them irresponsibly could bring you some massive headaches! For Damascus Ingots and Sunlight Stones, don’t use them without consulting more experienced players that you trust until you get a better sense of the game’s system of value. For Gold Bricks, don’t use them for anything that doesn’t explicitly and specifically require them! All of the reasons for this will be discussed later on!

To divide our explanations up into more manageable chunks, we’ll be using the three major components of a party in GBF: Characters, Weapons, and Summons.

You can’t have a party without characters! The party in Granblue is made up of six characters: the main character (aka the Captain, Gran (male) or Djeeta (female)), three additional units in the front line, and two more in reserve. As a general rule, you’ll have four characters in battle at any given time, with the two in reserve jumping in when characters are knocked out. You can’t leave gaps in the party; characters will stack up until there aren’t enough characters to fill the slots. Typically, you’ll want a full party to give yourself more bodies to trade damage with the enemy, so… how do we build a party? 

Parties are typically made up of units of a single element, of which there are six: the tetra elements which go in a cycle (water beats fire beats wind beats earth beats water) and light and dark, which are strong against each other, with elemental superiority going to the player. The primary reason parties tend to be single-element is because being on-element, or having the elemental advantage, affords several benefits that make the party quite a bit more effective. Party members who are on-element will deal more 50% more damage and can deal critical hits (if they have a source for critical hits), they will take 25% less damage from the element they’re strong against, and they have a higher chance to successfully inflict debuffs.

For this reason, and another which will be discussed later, the game is in what is called the Rainbow Meta. What that means is, to play and enjoy all of what the game has to offer, you’ll be expected to build teams of all elements to some degree. Starting out, you’ll be better served by focusing on one or two elements, which you can choose either based on characters that interest you or the strengths of some early draws. While the long-term expectations are to have lots of characters, you won’t start with many, and that can be a very limiting factor, but with time, you’ll accrue a crew. It’s true!

The party starts, as does the crew, with the MC. The Captain is capable of switching classes and, thus, skills and general roles in the team. They’re always going to be the first character in the line-up, and their flexibility with classes is what gives them the potency to do that. There are four tiers of basic classes, and Tier 4 is unavailable until Player Rank 101, so don’t feel like you’re screwing something up by not getting there before then. The classes in GBF have both a cost in Class Points (gained via some events and when you Rank Up) and, past Tier 1, a pair of prerequisite classes to master. 

A typical first target mentioned for new players is the Tier 3 class Dark Fencer for its Gravity and Miserable Mist skills. Dark Fencer requires Tier 1’s Enhancer, Knight, and Priest to be mastered, in order to unlock Tier 2’s Arcana Dueler and Sentinel, which then unlock Dark Fencer. You can take most skills from each class and assign them as a subskill on other classes, and Gravity and Miserable Mist are very strong debuffs that will serve you well.

Classes each have one or two weapon types they can equip, and the equipped weapon element is what determines the Captain’s element (more on that in the Weapons section). There are two other characters that also key off of this, but the rest of the characters in the game are set. 

Units in this game all have four primary traits that will determine some key things about how you use them: rarity, element, race, and weapon proficiency. Some weapons will give bonuses to characters based on their race or weapon proficiency, and characters with a weapon proficiency will get a bonus to the raw stats of weapons in the grid they’re proficient with. Rarity is simple: R or Rare is bronze, SR or Super Rare is silver, and SSR or Super Super Rare is gold, and various things improve as the rarity goes up. There are no intermediate star ratings in GBF like a lot of other games have, and, in fact, it can be a bit confusing. The reason it might cause some confusion is that stars are how GBF denotes uncap level. R characters’ starting level cap is 20 with three uncap stars, while SRs and SSRs start at max level 30 and 40 respectively, with four stars being typical for both. These uncap stars represent 10 extra levels each, meaning Rs cap at 50, SRs at 70, and SSRs at 80. 

However, some SRs and SSRs have extra stars, which are blue. These represent an extra uncap that requires more resources, but lets them push beyond the normal level cap and unlock even more of their potential or nullify their kit’s weaknesses. The fifth (blue) star is worth 20 levels, pushing SRs to level 90 and SSRs to 100.

Leveling up units is as easy as using them in quests, unlike other games where you take resources gained from a quest to get consumable items to feed your units. Here, if you use a character, they’ll get experience. Uncapping characters is similarly easy; all characters are uncapped using items that you can farm, so there’s no need to worry about getting duplicates to make the most of a character.

How can you get characters? There are a few ways. Progressing through the main quest will unlock a few staple characters who are important to the plot of the game, though they’ll be SRs, so not terribly useful in the grand scheme of things. Alongside the game’s own main story, there’s almost always some sort of event running, and often these are side stories or crossover events, which can come with SR or SSR characters for very little effort. They’re not always great, but they’re almost always worth picking up, especially if you’re starting out and your options aren’t terribly diverse. Some of these events are archived under the Side Stories tab, making them accessible to everyone and a solid source of both their associated characters and the weapons/summons the event dropped. 

If you go down to the GBF Handbook on the home screen, you can open the Character Map, a recent addition that highlights side stories and how deep you'll need to be in the main story to unlock them, and the characters you can get for completing them! In addition, by accessing the Pinboard in the Gameplay Extras box on the home screen, you can get some introductory tasks for the game, which culminate in an SSR Character Weapon ticket, guaranteeing that you'll get at least something to start with! However, these are not going to be the source of most of your teams.

Let’s address the elephant in the room, or rather, the whale. Granblue Fantasy is a game with gacha mechanics. Gacha is not the exclusive method by which you get characters, weapons, and summons, but it is, nonetheless, a pivotal component of the game. The Draw page is where dreams live and die, it’s where your money goes, and it’s likely the bane of your existence while playing this game. Here are the basics.

On the Premium Draw page, you are given the option to draw once for 300 crystals or ten times for 3000 crystals. These also have paid options, where you spend the equivalent amount of Mobacoin, which are roughly equivalent to yen/pennies. Exchange rates fluctuate but it’s always going to be roughly $3 per single draw and $30 per ten-draw. When you draw once, you will get one random item from the current pool, with a rarity between R and SSR; when you do a ten-draw, you will get nine random items with a rarity between R and SSR, and one random item with a rarity between SR and SSR. 

Hot tip: the animation of zooming in on the crystal for the draw is indicative of certain qualities of its contents. A plain blue crystal means there’s nothing over R in the pull, while an orange core indicates an SR or higher is in the results; this will happen every 10-pull due to the nature of its rules. A discolored tip on the crystal indicates a character you don’t already have is going to be unlocked, though I believe this is only on the aforementioned two types of crystals. A rainbow crystal indicates that the pull contains at least one SSR item! Note that SSRs can show up in non-rainbow crystals, so the RNG might surprise you once in a while.

The items in the pool are weapons and summons. Unlike other games, you don’t draw characters in GBF, you draw weapons that have characters associated with them, called character weapons; if you get a duplicate of them later on, you don’t unlock a second copy of the same character, you instead get a small token called a moon, of a metal matching the weapon/character’s rarity (bronze/silver/gold) that act as a currency in the shop. Not all weapons in the Premium Draw have characters associated with them. 

In short, instead of doing single pulls, plan to do as many 10-pulls as possible to help yourself out with the slight benefits they have over doing ten single pulls. Another way to get an advantage is to wait to spend your crystals until either a character you’re interested in is on the banner, indicating a boosted draw rate, or if you’re just looking for a general increase in the odds, wait until either recurring Gala banner. 

The Premium Gala (or Legend Fest/Legfest
[JP]) and Flash Gala, which happen near the end and near the middle of the month respectively, boast a doubled SSR draw rate, sometimes with featured characters getting an extra little boost on top of that. The normal rates are 82% R, 15% SR, and 3% SSR, but this doubles the SSR rate to 6% by taking away from R draws. On top of this, both Premium and Flash Galas have their own exclusive characters in the pool, most of which, if not all, are extremely useful. If you hold your crystals until the Gala, the odds will be slightly more in your favor. In my opinion, while you’re starting out and in need of some SSR units, it’s best to save up and do 10-pulls during Galas until you get a few reliable characters in each element.

However, sometimes there’s a specific character that you really need. Or just really want. Maybe they’re cute as hell, maybe they’re a cornerstone of a team you want to build, I don’t know and won’t judge. If that’s the case, you can spark them. Sparking is when you save up crystals (or make some fiscally irresponsible decisions) and draw 300 times in the span of one banner! This costs 90,000 crystals (which can be supplemented by single/ten-pull tickets earned from some events or otherwise bought) and/or Mobacoin, so it’s obviously a long-term project for those who don’t have a thousand dollars to waste on a single character on a whim. Please gacha responsibly. Please. 

If you look at the bottom of the first panel on the Draw page, you’ll see a section called Cerulean Sparks, with a number denoting how many times you’ve pulled this banner, and a button marked Available Items. Clicking on this will list the items (and characters) available to be sparked for this banner, so be 100% sure the character you’re aiming for is on the list before you start the process of pulling! Another good idea is to decide on another character to get from the list in case you get your primary goal in the middle of the spark; a couple of 10-pulls in is one thing, but if you’re more than a third of the way in, it might just be worth it to keep going instead of stopping. 

If you hit 300 pulls during a banner, you will be prevented from pulling any more until you select an item to use your sparks on, and if the banner changes after you have 300, you’ll still be able to spark from the banner you were under. If you don’t have 300 sparks by the end of the banner, the sparks you do have will be converted to Cerulean Stones, which can be used in a section of the shop to purchase various materials, some of which can be frustrating to farm.

In addition, there’s the Start Dash[JP] or Beginner’s Draw Set, which lets you spend 3k Mobacoin in order to recruit a character from the pool of available at the time of the account’s creation. This offer will periodically disappear and return until you take advantage of it, so don't worry about missing it. There’s also the Surprise Special Draw Set, or Surprise Ticket/SupTix[JP], that will show up a few times a year and give you the chance to get a character from the general pool for the same price point. Finally, around the anniversary of the game (by that I mean March 10th for the last 4 years), they offer a special SupTix that, as of the last two iterations, has allowed you to pick any character from the general pool or seasonal promotions, which can be a godsend for folks who miss out on a seasonal character.

OK, so, that’s the characters, but what about the weapons? Characters need equipment in RPGs, right? Well, instead of equipping individual characters, in GBF, you equip the entire party with a grid of weaponry, and this, more than just character choice, is almost always the key to winning fights. Your grid is made up of 10 weapons: 9 weapons providing statistical benefits, and the main character’s equipped weapon, which determines the Captain’s element and charge attack. Every weapon has a basic associated HP and attack value, which are conveyed to the party, and skills, which provide statistical bonuses to the party just for being equipped. 

Skills are the key to this equipment system, as, apart from very specific circumstances you don’t need to worry about early on, raw attack and HP is not the point of a grid. The point is to build up synergistic skills which do a much better job of bolstering the power of your team. 

Skills tend to be fairly descriptive; (size) boost to (element) allies’ ATK or HP is the general format you’ll find, though there are a few conditional skills such as Enmity and Stamina. Enmity weapon skills (and grids) are built around being more powerful at low HP, with the extreme being a common Dark build relying on a character named Zooey bringing the entire team to 1 HP and making them invulnerable for a turn. Stamina skills/grids are more powerful at high HP, so building around maintaining HP and preventing damage is key to that idea. 

There are three general types of skills, indicated by their icon, and understanding these helps grid construction a lot early on. If a skill icon has an omega symbol (Ω) in the upper left (or an M in JP), it’s part of the Omega/Magna
[JP] family of skills, which you’ll come to know as the reliable F2P skill family. If a skill icon has EX in the upper left, it’s in the EX family of skills, which is a separate one for the purposes of calculating stats. If a skill icon has a II, III, or doesn’t have anything in the upper left, it’s in the Primal/Normal family, which is a separate skill type and is, once again, handled separately in the calculations. Distinguishing these is important, because skills in the same family are additive, and the result for each is then handled multiplicatively. Essentially, for a basic rundown of how grids are built, you want to focus on Omega or Normal, with a slight dip into the other and an EX weapon to take advantage of all three bonuses.

On top of these three general skill families, there are a few unique weapon types that you’ll gain access to as you progress in the game. One of them is, I think, key to the reinvigoration of the rainbow meta that I mentioned earlier, and that would be the Seraphic weapon series. These weapons not only boost your damage (and damage cap) when using elemental advantage, but eventually gain attack and HP skills as well. They have a fairly low entry cost, and progressing through their upgrades can mark important steps in your teams’ growth, so getting them fairly early isn’t a bad idea! You can find them by going into the Shop’s Weapon Series page, and they’re almost always included in grids thanks to the focus on elemental advantage and their bonuses.

Omega weapons and summons are ones that you can farm, and thus form the backbone of most grids for free players, or off-elements for players who don’t have the resources to go full Primal in all elements. The benefits of building Omega grids are based around the theoretical accessibility of the weapons; where Primal grids require extreme luck or a deep wallet to function at worthwhile levels, Omega grids are based entirely around items you can obtain at no extra monetary cost. It feels a lot grindier, but ultimately, you’re probably going to be doing a lot of the same grind no matter the grid. 

Weapons are leveled up (for raw stats) using other weapons, and doing so can also level up skills. With this in mind, it’s important to know how the math shakes out, though the UI has fairly recently been updated to help people understand. In short, R weapons with skills are worth 1 point per skill level, SR weapons with skills are worth 4 points per skill level, and SSR weapons are worth a whopping 40 points per skill level, but… Just to be on the safe side, don’t use SSRs to level other things up until you’re 100% sure that a) it’s not a weapon you need or want, and b) it’s not worth reducing (turning into raw materials) instead. 

The number of points needed to upgrade a weapon’s skill level is its current skill level times 4 for SR, and 8 for SSR. (eg. A skill level 1 SR weapon would need 4 Skill Level Rs to hit level 2, and an SL1 SSR would need 4 SL2 Rs to hit level 2) Don’t bother upgrading R weapons’ skills. Also, there are some special SSR weapons with what people will call Bahamut-level skill difficulty, which require five times the normal SSR amount of points per skill level! These are best leveled up with one skill fodder SSR of an equal skill level each time, ie a SL7 SSR to upgrade an SL7 Bahamut-level weapon. 

Uncapping weapons allows them to reach higher levels, which increases their raw stats, and, in the case of weapons with blue stars, it increases the skill level cap as well. Weapons are uncapped with duplicates up to 3*, which is the highest they’ll get without blue stars. Blue stars are unlocked with regular farmable materials, much like they are on characters, albeit often with much more strenuous requirements. 

Primal grids are based primarily around multiple fully-uncapped weapons found only in the Premium Draw, and limited character weapons at that. This has a pretty steep barrier to entry, requiring either luck, persistence, or some degree of fiscal irresponsibility to even get your foot in the door, and even with the caveat that Damascus Ingots can be used in place of a duplicate weapon for uncapping purposes, the process of getting multiple copies of a single character weapon to make the grid worthwhile can be an arduous one. The cornerstone of these setups is their respective summons, so let’s talk about Summons next.

On top of the weapon grid, you’re also given slots to equip summons; one main summon, and 4 sub summons. When you equip a summon, you gain access to its Call (summon effect) in battle, but also, if you equip it as a main summon, you’ll gain the bonus of its Aura. 

The Omega series summons, Colossus, Leviathan, Yggdrasil, Tiamat, Luminiera/Chevalier[JP], and Celeste SSR versions, are the main focus for Omega grids, the Auras for all of them giving bonuses to the weapon skills in their element; most of the weapons you’ll want for their grids also drop from said bosses along with the summon, so you’ll be farming these guys a lot. Grids based around these summons are referred to as Magna[JP] grids, with a division coming between M1 (Magna 1, or grids obtainable before Rank 120), and M2 (Magna 2, which rely on weapons from the tier of raids that opens up at Rank 120). Example grids can be found in the GBF Handbook’s Equipment Template section!

The Primal series summons, Agni, Varuna, Titan, Zephyrus, Zeus, and Hades, are the focus for Primal grids, similarly giving bonuses to elemental skills under their purview. If you get any of these summons, don’t get rid of them. Save them so once you get more established you have options, but really, don’t feel pressured to actually build any Primal grids until you’ve decided to commit to such a task.

There’s also a third major type of summon, that being the elemental boost type. These will boost elemental attack, which is treated separately from the skills you’re using. Some summons boost all elemental attack, but they’re usually less potent than one that boosts a single element’s attack. These are also good to hold onto for support summon purposes.

On top of your own summons, most fights you’ll undertake in the game make you pick a support summon from a giant list of other players; you can set your own support summons by going to your profile and scrolling down to your support summons section. You can set one support summon per element and two in the Miscellaneous section, and those summons will appear to people taking on quests, earning you a small number of rupies if they use yours. You can send friend requests to people whose summons you use, and if they’re on your friends list, their summons will cycle in and out near the top. As of a fairly recent update, if you use a friend’s summon, they’ll stay in the first slot for a few minutes, so if they’ve got some useful summons, they’ll be even more useful!

But what support summons should you take? In short, you want a combination of elemental attack bonus and skill bonuses. If you only have an elemental summon, equip it and borrow someone else’s Omega summon to make use of your grid’s burgeoning skills. Once you’ve got your own Omega (SSR) summon, equip it and borrow someone’s better elemental summon. 

Some extra foibles with summons that I should mention: some summons have specific different effects while they are a sub summon, denoted by their Sub Aura. Also worth noting: if a summon is on-element for your team, it will have a reduced initial turn count before you’re allowed to summon it, and if it’s fully uncapped, it will be similarly hastened. Support summons are always available to call turn 1. 

Summons are leveled with other summons and uncapped with copies, same as weapons, and Sunlight Stones are the equivalent to Damascus Ingots. They should be handled carefully and not spent thoughtlessly; if you can farm copies of the summon, don’t use a consumable item to uncap it.

With all of these basics roughly covered, what else do you need to know? Basic progression and some other minor notes, of course! When you start out, you’ll be gated a lot by Rank, which is how the game measures and limits your progression. Before you hit rank 30, don’t worry about doing much aside from doing what you can in events, and working on the main story to get some characters and access to some very early raid battles (battles where you can cooperate with other players). 

Once you hit rank 30, you’ll be allowed to host and join Omega raids, which will make up most of your farming game time and general grid progression until rank 101. Hosting a raid will get you a special red chest with better rates of good items than the rest of the chests, roughly equivalent to being the MVP in the raid, though different raids can have different drops or rates in host vs MVP chests. Hosting these fights daily (or as often as you can) is a surefire way to up your chances of getting weapons for your grid, and you’ll earn a currency called Renown Pendants for even just participating which you can save up and buy weapons with!

Don’t worry if you can’t handle these fights on your own! They’re meant to be cooperative, and you can request support via the Request Backup button below the battle UI, where you can request assistance from the general public, your friends specifically, or your crew. There’s also Twitter integration in the game that, alongside letting you refresh your AP/EP once every day, gives you the ability to post requests for help as tweets. There are sites that collate these tweets into feeds full of codes that funnel those who can and want to help into your fights; I use this one and this feature is extremely useful! Speaking of useful sites, I’d also recommend the GBF Wiki when you want to look up details for bosses such as HP triggers and drops, as well as details on how to make progress on gaining weapon types I didn’t discuss here. Researching stuff can fill a lot of knowledge gaps that newbies have, so don’t be afraid to look stuff up! 

At some point, the game will ask more of you in order to make substantial progress, and you’ll have to decide whether you want to commit to spending time (and maybe money) on this game, or accept that you’re not in the game for that. Some folks just like to coast along, play through story events, take advantage of free pulls, and not think about the game much. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to play the game, but if you decide to commit to putting a little more time in, you’d be well-served by finding a crew to play with; this isn’t really a game to play on your own, and joining a crew will provide both camaraderie and some pretty nice bonuses. You can likely find a crew via recruitment threads on the English Granblue subreddit, or the Granblue Gaijins Discord server.

One of the primary reasons you’d want to join a crew is access to one of several recurring events, so let’s go over the major ones to keep an eye out for. First up is something that a lot of players will call Magfest. No, not MAGFest, Magfest. The difference being that unlike the real world Music And Gaming Festival, this is an abbreviation of Magna Festival, the nickname for any stretch of time that features a number of game-wide bonuses. This group of bonuses includes extra crystals on login bonuses, more Rank Points and Experience Points from quests, half AP/EP/treasure costs for quests/raids, increased Renown/Prestige Pendants, and a few more things that don’t really concern newbie players. It’s called Magfest because the reduced AP/EP costs mean it’s a lot more efficient to farm while the campaign is running, so it’s like a festival of Magna farming.

There are four recurring events that are worth taking note of. First, Rise of the Beasts. This is a week-long event where players gain access to bosses based on the mythological Four Symbols: Zhuque the Vermillion Bird, Xuanwu the Black Tortoise, Baihu the White Tiger, and Qinglong the Azure Dragon, representing fire, water, earth, and wind respectively. Defeating these bosses, and the bigger versions that come in after you’ve fought enough of the small fries, rewards you with Four Symbols pendants. These are a currency which can be traded for special weapons that come in a 3* uncapped state and can be uncapped to 4* extremely easily. These weapons are really nice early acquisitions for newbies! This event is also one of the few reasonably early ways you can gain access to Gold Bars; the shop sells nuggets that can be crafted into bars, and by doing a set of battles every day, you get a nugget for free.

Next up, Xeno Showdowns. These are the source of the most potent EX-skilled weapons across all elements, and they’re a pain. Essentially, they’re week-long blitzes of farming tokens from fights in order to purchase copies of a strong weapon from a shop, while hoping to get a drop to save yourself the trouble of dealing with the inflation as you progress through the shop’s stock. There’s then also a 4* uncap that requires even more tokens and a few extra items, but unlocks the weapon’s full potential in the process. They’ve been paired off in sets of two elements since last year, and each element has two weapons, usually both worth it, so it’s a heck of a grind to get through. However, these events are often quite rough on newbies, so don't feel too pressured to try and grind them before you're confident in being able to take out the solo quests or contribute to raids!
After those we have Proving Grounds, a battle challenge where you’re forced to build multiple parties to take on a series of fights. You can only use a character once per set of battles, which means some experimentation or clever gap-filling for your teams is going to go a long way. Every Proving Grounds has a specific gimmick that gives bonus points, and a weapon that can drop from the bosses or come from the badge count you get for completing the sortie. These weapons are also EX-skilled and fairly unique, so their usefulness will vary greatly. 

The final recurring event, and the one that you’ll need to be in a crew for, is Unite & Fight, or Guild Wars[JP]. This is, basically, a competition between crews to see how much grinding they can collectively do. There’s a bracket, and a ranking, and depending on how your crew places in the overall rankings, you get tokens called Valor Badges that you can exchange for Sunlight Stones, Gold Bars, and other rare items. The biggest pull of Guild Wars, though, is the draw boxes. For every boss you kill, you get tokens for the token draw. You get to draw one of ten weapons, one for each weapon type; there’s one of these SSR weapons in every drawbox. If you uncap them to 3*, you can begin the process of upgrading them even further, and attracting the attention of a legendary crew in the process. 

These Revenant Weapons are customizable and powerful things, and by unlocking their potential, you’ll encounter The Eternals, a group of ten weapon specialists that you can recruit, one by one, who are some of the strongest characters in the game. All of them are farmable recruits, and a Gold Bar is required for both recruiting them and unlocking their 5* potential, along with a lot of other materials and general dedication. This is why U&F/GW is the most important recurring event, and between the token grind and the Valor Badge rewards, this is why you would want to join a crew.

So there you have it. Granblue Fantasy is a mobile game with a lot of stuff in it, and not all of it is super easily prioritized or tutorialized, so I hope this post has been helpful! Remember to ask more experienced players for help if you need it, know your own limits, and have fun!


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