To say that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III’s story is overwhelming is the biggest understatement of the year. The unsurmountable amount of walls of text is enough to build a fortress than can even go eye to eye with the Juno Naval Fortress located in Lamare. The game takes you for hours on end to set it to a close with the many events, battles and side adventures you can take throughout your entire stay. And if you know the drill already, you’d also know that this is just a quarter of the entire story spanning in four separate games so nothing is actually set to a close, just one huge cliffhanger by the end of it all.
Since the game takes place a few years after the events of the first two games, I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers of the previous games but I won’t promise anything. Rean Schwarzer is your average noble boy, a son of a baron that enrolled in Thors Military Academy. There he met his newfound comrades otherwise known as classmates in Class VII, a ragtag group of individuals from different walks of life from your not-so-average noble Jusis Albarea, son of Duke Albarea and part of the Four Great Houses of nobles, Machias Regnitz, your not-so-common commoner who is actually the son of the Imperial Governor, there’s Alisa R. who you would later find out what the “R” stands for and the class president equipped with the stereotypical glasses and braided hair, Emma, which despite her average appearance is like the others who aren’t average after all. And a lot more individuals that would easily take at least a few minutes to name so I best hold back in the introductions.
The first two Trails of Cold Steel games introduces you to the school life while also putting you into the harsh reality of nobles and commoners. In the span of the entire game, you’ll be going through a lot of things involving education and extra-curricular activities like finding a waifu and what not while juggling your time with field studies and stopping an impending war.
Trails of Cold Steel III, however, puts Rean in the shoes of an instructor of the new Class VII in Thors Military Academy’s branch campus located in Leeves after he graduated. By that time, he’s already known for many things, like the Ashen Awakener or to the public, the Ashen Chevalier but one thing here remains the same, you’re still back in school, and while you can’t directly flirt with the ladies, it doesn’t stop Musse from teasing Rean anyway. Just like the old Class VII’s line up of students back in the day, the new Class VII despite having fewer members still boasts a pretty interesting cast. There’s Kurt Vander, a dual blade wielder not to be mixed up with Kirito from Sword Art Online, Juna Crawford, the stereotypical tsundere with her anime pink hair, Altina Orion, whom which is already acquainted with the protagonist from their past encounters in the second game and two more individuals that would soon later find their way to join the class such as Musse Egret that has more secrets than you can chew and the thuggish Ash that seems like a delinquent but has more brain cells than your average textbook nerd.
However the story progression does come out as linear and repetitive similar to the first two games. Each chapter would follow a certain pattern of things to do like the first part of the chapter would introduce you into the school portion, go into bonding events, and would soon later find your way in a dungeon just like the old schoolhouse in the first game. There’s the new panzer soldat training with the students that replaced the old training course with Instructor Sara which would later progress into your field exercise where you go into different regions of Erebonia to see the world and fulfil requests that always end with the bad guys running amok and causing havoc without fail. While the story itself is great and filled with content, it just makes it far less entertaining as you already know what to expect and when to expect it.
The game is a huge wall of text, it’s also a huge and empty stare of a silent exchange of words. Most of the game doesn’t include voices which is a bit disappointing to see for a game in 2019 especially when a lot of the voiced lines came out from random banter with the party while exploring dungeons or crawling invents. Although I have to say, Principal Le Guin’s remarks on her chest being too big to fit in the vent are gold!
While I do miss the simplicity of Blades and Blades II, Vantage Masters, the new game within the game is an interesting approach. It’s a card game that offers more strategy and card composition to outwit your opponents. Each player uses a Master Card that reflects the average RPG classes like a Paladin or a Knight that has their own set of life points, attack power and special effects with the goal of killing the other’s master card. You also draw cards through a deck of 20 which can involve setting monsters to the field in order to deal damage, protect or heal your master, or even spells that can improve attack power of certain monsters in the field, directly damage the enemy, or heal. It’s a fun side activity to add to your list of things to do and having to win against your opponents also rewards you with unique cards to power up your deck even more aside from buying cards in various shops scattered within Erebonia. Other than that, fishing is still as chill and interesting than ever with upgrades to your fishing gear that makes it possible to fish out tougher and larger fishes like a young shark in the various fishing spots all throughout the game.
While I can say that the meat of the game is the story, the battle system is also no walk in the park either. Similar to the first two games, characters are given the ARCUS II units which is an upgraded version of the previous ARCUS but like a flip phone that you can use to place a Master Quartz and other orbs that boosts your power or lets you learn new skills and other abilities. And there’s a lot of it with varying elemental attributes and having to set them all on every character is like a nightmare on its own. While there is the basic auto-equip with a balanced, prioritize physical, magical or speed setups, it doesn’t do it justice like doing it manually and customizing the character as you see fit. Often times I find myself skimming through the list of quartz that would greatly benefit my currently usable party line up. And this is something that happens a lot of times on the later part of the story, as the game would casually drop a bomb at you forcing you to switch characters or split into groups for dungeon exploration.
The battle menu also offers a friendlier UI. Instead of the old way of using directional buttons to browse through commands like arts, crafts or items, the face buttons and directional pad now has a dedicated command like pressing triangle to use crafts, square to use arts or Up on the D-pad would pop up the new Brave Order tab that lets you choose which game-changing order to use from the likes of Juna’s Sledgehammer order that increases Break damage, Musse’s order that cuts EP cost of arts to a fifth of the original or the other orders that can increase damage or decrease damage taken. There’s a lot of varying orders tied to characters which makes it ideal to set a party that would benefit from the order you usually use.
And unlike Trails of Cold Steel I which only just introduced the mech battles in the very end of the game or Trails of Cold Steel II which only lets Rean have fun in a mech, the third instalment brings you into the world of technological advancement where mech warfare is king despite the technology behind communication only limited to certain people with a janky flip phone that lacks full Wi-Fi support. All jokes aside, the game now involves mech battles of up to three while still following the similar approach on previous versions’ mech battles that tasks you with figuring out which part of the enemy to attack based on their stance.
I love exploring dungeons, figuring out puzzles within each one and testing my mettle, however, Trails of Cold Steel III doesn’t particularly bring a lot of flavour into its dungeons. Most of which is pretty straightforward with nothing that really tries to make you stop and think about your course of action. At best dungeon exploration is nothing more than just a simple walk in the park with the occasional back and forth in branching paths with one way leading to a chest and a dead end and the other to progress to the next set of corridors and rooms. When it comes to its visual presentation though, there’s really nothing groundbreaking or breathtaking here. While the upscaled visual fidelity is there and the boxy character figures of the old gen are out, the animations and environment are just plain decent. It’s not a bad thing but it’s also not a good thing to see in a 2019 release.
Overall, Trails of Cold Steel III is a JRPG fan’s paradise. It has the content to back it up and the rewarding battle mechanics that have more freedom than someone doing the annual naked marathon in South Korea. Despite its lacklustre visual flair, fans who can skip past that would find a tremendous amount of living and breathing characters and a story that racked up the crazy to over 9000. It’s a shame that the story can be a bit linear but the unpredictable plot twists and revelations make up for its dull showing.
And if you’re someone trying to get into Trails of Cold Steel III without any plan on getting your feet wet with the first two, just like Trails of Cold Steel II, the game offers a backstory which gives you a brief explanation on the keynotes that happened in the first two games. A welcomed addition but doesn’t particularly do it justice than experiencing it firsthand.
For more on The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III click here.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is available on the PlayStation 4
If you enjoy games and gaming and want more NEWS from the Gaming World Click Here
Enjoy the review? want to read more of our reviews? then click right here to be whisked away to the realm of our opinions.