The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV marks the end of the saga for one of the most highly explored narratives in gaming. The rich history, its relatable characters, the massive world and even its full-scale conflicts all mash up into one of the greatest of conclusions to an already amazing franchise. Nihon Falcom, known for its JRPG-making prowess delivers the kind of quality that only a handful of games can aspire to be—massive yet unforgettable.
So if you’re already familiar with the latest arc of the franchise, I don’t need to tell you why you need this… the exceptional quality of the first three titles is proof enough why you wouldn’t want to miss out. However given that the fourth instalment, much like its prior titles, directly follows where it left off, there’s a huge barrier to entry here for newcomers. Although let me tell you why you’d want to dive into the entire saga anyway.
The God of Cliffhangers is back but did it really just end?
Trails of Cold Steel is a series of turn-based JRPGs that features one of the most engrossing stories but with also one of the worst possible cliffhangers that combines both the occultic and the technological struggles of the Erebonian Empire. With a group of military students known as Class VII at its helm, the story progresses into one massive saga spanning from one generation of Class VII to the next. There’s a very lengthy narrative to see here which can easily put you through over fifty hours with each one. This has you going through the basics of school life while also experiencing the world outside of the comforts of the four corners of learning. And as each page, each chapter and each title unfolds, so too does its world evolve into strife and conflict until finally putting you through its final tests.
And I can’t stress enough how great Trails of Cold Steel is as a story-driven RPG but really, a lot of that has to go with its wonderful cast of characters and their deep relationships with each other. Each of the four titles fleshed out their personalities and built long-lasting impressions that I find it hard to keep my emotions in check as each chapter is set to a close. I wouldn’t even be able to do it justice to explain why it’s great without having to spoil anything so I won’t even imagine trying.
But more than that, the game is filled with neat little intricacies to keep you occupied in between saving the world and trying not to die. There’s the Harem Simulator-like bonding events with each character, the card game Vantage Masters that was introduced in Trails of Cold Steel III, the ARCUS (mobile) game Pom! Pom! Party! as well as fishing and many more to keep you entertained in between its lengthy chapters.
Though I do find faults at its extensively long banters that more often than not doesn’t exactly advance the story in any way. From characters that always try to lengthen an already massive wall of text to other miscellaneous dialogue from the “supporting of supporting characters” when I only wished to see their wares, it definitely fleshes out the entire cast into greater than life characters but with the world at stake, I feel like ignoring some of these doesn’t particularly break the experience.
Their Power Levels are Over 9000!!!
It’s without a doubt that the Trails of Cold Steel series is one that shines best with its narrative. However, its battle system is also something that doesn’t disappoint. It offers a highly customizable battle system where you can tweak each character to your liking. The ARCUS’ Orbment system puts depth into character building by letting you slot in gems with a wide range of effects such as increasing basic parameters, adding status effects to attacks or even learning new skills in the process. In addition, you can also equip two Master Quartz that lets you gain unique abilities such as gaining CP that is used to cast crafts when defeating enemies or regenerating EP based on the damage dealt which alternatively can be used for casting arts. These quartz also gain levels which improves the abilities as well as unlock new arts for the character to use.
There’s a massive plethora of options to which you can build a character that even the most overpowered anime main protagonists will feel all too underwhelming in comparison. Ash Carbide for example equipped with a CP regenerating-based quartz can be a monster of a damage dealer that can spam crafts for dayzzz meanwhile you can also be an arts-spamming god that self-regenerates its EP while also being able to fully heal and revive the entire team without any worry of EP consumption. I was immediately hooked to the entire concept that each time I open up a chest with a unique-sounding gem, I would frantically go into my inventory to figure out how I can take advantage of it.
However, the weak link to the game’s battle system comes with its mecha fights in particular. The Divine Knights and Soldats as it’s called in the game doesn’t really offer much to the table with its lackluster customizability other than a handful of EX Orbs that increases its basic parameters unlike the Orbment system that really deepened the experience of the turn-based RPG.
It also doesn’t offer the kind of graphical fidelity that a high-end console is supposed to offer. Going through each area of the world despite being massive chunks of clustered maps linking one another, never gave the kind of awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping reactions that some games can easily achieve. Character movement is still rather stiff with how they’re animated as they move around or through its less action-oriented scenes. It’s definitely not a perfect game but it’s also not something terribly broken that needs a definitive fix.
But by contrast to its slightly underwhelming graphics is its phenomenal music and soundtrack. I could never hate a game for having an underwhelming music choice but when the musical piece of its striking violin melodies and heavy guitar riffs follow through, it’s hard to not be impressed if not completely swept away. It really reverberates the impact of its scenes which is something that makes its often undubbed dialogues put more emphasis to the weight it brings when it finally starts going.
In a nutshell, Trails of Cold Steel IV being the latest entry of any of The Legend of Heroes games is the definitive edition of the true and tested formula of great storytelling with a rich and deep history attached to it. Given how the story unfolds in the series, there’s an even bigger cast of characters this time around that literally gives longtime fans a bit of an extra service with the added characters from previous arcs that takes the stage for Cold Steel’s conclusion. From a great narrative to an addictive battle system, Trails of Cold Steel IV along with its prior titles is one that is a highly recommended title for both veterans and newcomers alike.
This game was reviewed on PS4, you can purchase the game here for £49.99.
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