The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a JRPG from Nihon Falcom and Marvelous Europe. The game follows a class of individuals set in a world of class divisions, war, and magic. Filled with political intrigue, lore as deep as an ocean and that most dangerous element of all, teen angst I can safely say I was not ready for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.
A Trail of Treats
Do you know what is the greatest treat for anyone? It’s to go into something with no expectations and be blown away. That happened to me when I played The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.
In its first hours, I felt a twinge of the familiar. There were several elements that kept reminding me of RPG’s I’ve played in the past. Games that come to mind include Persona 5 and the majority of the Tales of games.
I’ll get to the game mechanics later in the review. I will begin with easily the biggest highlight of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, its story and the characters within it. You play as Rean Schwarzer a new student in Thors Military Academy based in the country of Erebonia. You follow Rean as he joins Class VII a unique class with Thors that is filled with an eccentric group of students.
A Trail of Tales
What you need to know heading into Trails of Cold Steel is that this is a world defined by class. There is a strict class system where the nobility and the lower class are separated and this is the norm. Along comes Class VII a group of nobles, peasants and some other unique individuals shoved into one class.
They’re definitely a group of misfits but they are all loveable. They all have their quirks and foibles but that is what makes them so compelling. The cast is also quite large too. From the playable characters which fluctuate from eleven to thirteen characters (an impressive number) to the supporting cast Trails of Cold Steel has a fully fleshed out world.
For example, Class VII are sent out on field studies which are missions where the player has multiple tasks to perform. This is the main element of the story. This shows the players the scope of the world and its people and its vast. As you complete these tasks the story is further progressed and once you complete a field study you are sent back to the academy.
This is where I found a lot of charm within The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. Thors Academy is a kind of hub world where the characters can strengthen bonds to enhance abilities. You have a core group of NPC’s that you get to know over the course of the game and I couldn’t believe how much I connected with all of them. It is a feat of great storytelling and world building.
A Trail of Blood
On the gameplay aspect, I have issues. The battle system is a somewhat pedestrian affair. You have a team of a maximum of four combatants they can be swapped out with three reserve members so technically you have seven characters at your fingertips.
You utilise arts (spells) and crafts (skills) to bring down your enemies. It’s similar to a Tales of game in that aspect but it’s executed in a far more traditional (and dull) fashion. There are a few flourishes thanks to the link abilities but that’s it. One particular highlight though is in the late game where a new battle system is introduced.
To help empower your class you have the ARCUS units. These unique devices allow the class to form links together that give them an impressive edge in battle. These links which you build throughout the game happen through going on field studies, bonding with your classmate of choice and playing mini-games.
A Trail of Pixels
The final issue I have with Trails of Cold Steel is that this is not a natural PlayStation 4 game. It has been ported from the PlayStation 3 and Vita and with that comes the trappings of a previous generation game. It looks like a PlayStation 3 game. The game has a fascinating world but it’s let down by a less than stellar aesthetic. This is not their fault but when I saw the game’s frame rate slow down considerably during a festival scene something that shouldn’t be too taxing it hampered my enjoyment.
Graphics ultimately though aren’t the big draw of a game like this it’s the story, it’s the heroes, and it’s the villains and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel have these elements in abundance.
When I first arrived at Thors Military Academy as young Rean Schwarzer fresh off the train from Ymir I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. After 90+ hours I’m still recovering from what went down. I fought shadow demons, formed lasting friendships with complex and engaging characters and recovered multiple curios for an eccentric country of NPC’s. This game ran the gambit and I adore it for that.