By Ashley Ring / October 12th, 2017
|Title||The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel|
|Release Date||August 02, 2017|
The Legend of Heroes series is a series I’ve wanted to get into, but always struggled to. The amount of dialogue and the time the series takes setting up was always a little intimidating for me. For a while, I’ve really desired to put those feelings aside and just play through one of them to completion. Originally released in the west on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, Trails of Cold Steel has now arrived on PC. With the release of the first Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel on Steam, it’s time to dive into this series and see what makes it so great! Now that I’ve finally gotten through it, was it worth the long journey?
The story of Trails of Cold Steel follows Class VII, a special group of students from Thor’s Military Academy as they are sent on field studies to learn more about the world they live in. What makes Class VII so special is that instead of dividing students by social class, it’s made up students from different social classes such as commoners, nobles and even foreigners.
This unique mix of students causes a lot of arguments between quite a few of the characters at the start of the game. Most notably the characters Machias and Jusis definitely have their fair share of arguments. When I tried to go through Trails of Cold Steel last year on the PS3, this really annoyed me as it just felt like constant bickering between the characters, and honestly put me off the game at first. After coming back to it this time around on the PC release, however, I stuck with it and thanks to some excellent character development, Machias and Jusis ended up being two of my favorite characters.
It does take quite a while for the story to really get moving, as Cold Steel is setting up its world and characters at a fairly slow pace. Thankfully, the character development is, in my opinion, the highlight of the story in Trails of Cold Steel and more than makes up for its slow start. Despite having a large cast of ten playable characters, every character gets several moments to shine and develop. Usually each chapter tends to focus on a few characters, giving details on their back stories, their home life, and even what their families are like. One of my favorite moments in each character’s development is that there is a focus on the struggles that lead each character to attend Thor’s Military Academy in the first place. In addition to that, there are also moments where you’re granted a certain amount of bonding points during your free time. These bonding points allow you to spend it with certain characters to see what they’re up to while things are more relaxed.
By the end of the long journey, I found myself really invested in all of the characters and their back stories. So much so that the very slow build up to everything going on in the story was not a problem to me. Normally, I’m not a fan of stories taking too long to get started, but the writing and interactions between all of the characters is so great. It’s thanks to that, that when the story did start to get more involved, it made everything feel much more dramatic and interesting, because I was able to feel for these characters a lot more.
A great cast of characters is not all Trails of Cold Steel has to offer, it also has one of my favorite battle systems in a turn based RPG. What sets it apart from other turn based RPGs is the combat link system. With combat links, you pair any two characters together in battle, and depending on certain conditions, the party member each character is linked with will assist them. For example, getting a critical hit or knocking an enemy down in battle will trigger a Link attack, which will also make your partner attack.
Later on in the story, this system expands so that each successful Link attack will help build up Bravery Points, which when you have 3 or 5 points stocked up, you can unleash very powerful attacks that end up doing quite a bit of damage to groups of enemies. Combat links also can act as support, such as a party member healing who they’re linked with immediately after they’re attacked.
Each character has their own set of skills called a craft, that consume CP, which is gained from attacking enemies, as well as being attacked. Craft’s are without a doubt my favorite aspect of the battle system, as theys are so satisfying to use in battle, and cover a fairly large radius, allowing you to quickly turn the tides of battle in your favor. They’re not just incredibly useful in battle, but they also look so cool. Rean’s craft attack “Gale” being my favorite attack in the whole game. Watching him vanish and reappear in front of each enemy before each hit just feels so satisfying to watch. As the story progresses, each character will also gain an S-Craft, which is an extremely powerful attack that consumes all CP, but does massive damage.
There are also Orbal Arts, which act as this games magic. By equipping a limited amount of Quartz to a character, they can then use whatever spells that the Quartz offers. Some quartz may only have one spell on them, but others have a set of them.The thing I like most about Orbal Arts is that you have a fair amount of freedom to equip whatever you want to each character. You may not end up using Arts on the more melee focused characters often, but equipping Quartz will also raise your characters stats, so it’s worth equipping them to everyone.
In addition to all of this, it’s also important to keep an eye on the order of which both you and your enemies will attack, as there will be bonuses or handicaps on certain turns represented by an icon next to each character. These bonuses can include things like restoring 10% HP, getting to use an Art without consuming any EP, or even turns that will cause whoever’s turn it is to vanish from the battle for a few turns. The really cool thing about this mechanic is that certain attacks will cause a delay, pushing an enemy turn back some, allowing you to potentially steal the bonus they were going to get. Attacks that cause delay can also cancel spells that an enemy may have been charging up for. This added some great depth to the battle system, as it can make a real difference if an enemy gets the advantage or not.
Visually, Trails of Cold Steel is very vibrant and well put together. The character models look great and animate well, and the battle animations are some of my favorite in the genre. There are two areas that really stood out to me, Heimdallr and Roer. Both of these towns are a pleasure to explore and even just look at. Heimdallr especially, with its large scope and many different areas, made it one of my favorite towns in an RPG. The only downside I can really think of from a visual standpoint is that the dungeons themselves are fairly bland to look at, especially in comparison to the outdoor areas.
The sound department is one of the areas where Trails of Cold Steel really shines. As expected of games developed by Falcom, the music is absolutely fantastic, with tons of great adrenaline pumping battle themes, as well as plenty of very relaxing music during your travels. Some of the stand out songs for me were the main battle “The Glint of Cold Steel”, “Into the Abyss” and “Silent Exhalation”. Really though, the music is excellent overall, and I didn’t think there was a single bad track in the entire game. The voice acting is also excellent, with this PC re-release adding more voice acting specifically for the main character Rean, whose lines previously were often unvoiced.
The PC release overall is an excellent port. There are a massive amount of customization options that let you tweak so many different settings, that honestly a lot of which went over my head, but its great for those that really like to tweak the graphical options in games. Many of the standard options you’d expect are here, such as a wide variety of resolution options, your choice between 30, 60 for unlimited frames per second. There are also options like being able to adjust the field of view, and three different options for customizing shading and shadows. You can also chose what kind of button prompts you’d like to have in the menu, be it Xbox, PlayStation, or mouse and keyboard. The only downside to this is that, regardless of what option you chose, the tutorial screens will always have PlayStation button information, potentially making things a little confusing. For the most part, the game ran very smoothly and only crashed once for me. I did have a few occasions where the framerate decided to dip to just single frames, but it’s nothing restarting the game didn’t fix.
This release also has some new quality of life features that I really appreciate such as an option to auto save after a certain amount of time, as well as Turbo mode which allows you to make the game run much faster with the press of a single button. Turbo mode to me, is a great addition that I wish more games would have, as it makes things like grinding for exp or money go much faster. There are also two seperate options to tweak how fast Turbo mode speeds things up in battles, as well as in the field. Lastly, there are also some very appreciated presets for graphical options. The most notable one to me being the Portable preset, which makes the settings low enough to play on lower end machines such as laptops, tablets and even the rising in popularity GDP Win pocket computer.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is an excellent PC port of an excellent RPG. I’m so glad after all this time, I’ve finally seen a glimpse of what makes The Legend of Heroes so great. The characters are excellent, and the story built up enough intriguing plot points to make me really excited for the eventual PC port of Trails of Cold Steel II to see where the story goes from here. If you are all about fantastic characters and an excellent, addictive battle system, then The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel should definitely be something you look into playing. It’s a long journey, lasting me very close to 80 hours, but it’s a memorable one, and more than worth its $39.99 asking price.
Review copy provided by publisher
FalcomLegend of HeroesNihon FalcomPCRPGSteamThe Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold SteelTrails of Cold SteelXSEED