Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - PC Review

Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is the first installment in the “Trails of Cold Steel” subset of the “Legend of Heroes” series. Originally for the Vita and PS3, the PC port has recently been released. Bringing the original JRPG aspects from its predecessors while including a brand new “link system”, Trails of Cold Steel is an immersive world full of interesting and unique characters, vibrant landscapes, and boss fights that may have you making a lot of this face: ಠ_ಠ

My first experience with a Legend of Heroes game was actually a ROM for an old PS1 game that I don’t believe ever got localised to North America. That being said, I didn’t even realize it was part of the same vein of games until about 10 hours into Trails of Cold Steel, and I can say with certainty that having an intricate knowledge of the previous titles is not necessary to enjoy what is somewhere around the tenth or eleventh title in the series. So have no worries, and hop in to the Erebonian Empire as Rean Schwarzer, a newly enrolled student at the prestigious Thors Military Academy. Rean and his fellow classmates must put aside their differences and work together as they strive to make the best out of their school days/military training.

Trails of Cold Steel is, at its heart, a rather traditional JRPG; not that there’s anything wrong with that. Your time is spent primarily doing one of three things: fighting monsters out in the field, performing various tasks for people, or grinding out levels so that one boss won’t butcher you during your next attempt at him/her/it/THEM. Gameplay takes place during set periods of the school year, mainly focusing around key points in time, such as your field studies to other towns, or around the midterms. During your free time on these dates, you are generally tasked with completing quests for NPCs, some of which are mandatory and some are optional. You can roam around whatever town or city you happen to be in to converse with the locals, buy or sell things, and possibly even find hidden quests. Pretty standard stuff in the JRPG genre.

The combat is turn based with a focus on “characters with higher speed have more turns”, meaning if you have a party with some of the hefty characters, expect to take a beating. There are a lot of aspects to both the combat and equipment involved, as there are both Arts and Crafts (yes, I realize how weird that sounds), where Arts use EP and are gained by equipping “quartzes” in a grid type system, and Crafts use CP and are generally gained by reaching a certain level. CP will regenerate by 10 points as a default when performing an attack, whereas EP has to be recovered through other means, whether it’s a passively activated quartz skill or through items. You’re probably wondering what quartz is by now, well, it basically acts like equipable spells/stats/skills, and you need to unlock slots to put more quartz in. Quartz can be created through the elemental “sepith” gained from battle, or from chests and quests completed. In addition to the more common quartz, there are also “Master Quartz”, which give large stat bonuses, skills, and arts. These Master Quartz also have levels, which you can gain exp for through using them in battle.

Trails of Cold Steel comes with a plethora of characters, each with their own specialty and attack type. Different characters have their own weapons with their own attack types, those being: slash, pierce, thrust, and blunt. Enemies have resistances and weaknesses, and if you’re lucky, you can unbalance enemies using an attack type that they’re susceptible to. If you’ve set up a link with another party member, which you can change in battle, then you can have your link partner do a follow up attack. Later in the game, you unlock a “rush attack”, which requires three successful link attacks to use. In battle you can have four people in battle and two as support swap outs. If the characters aren’t displeased with each other, the link will transfer to the character that you swap in.

Outside of battle you can swap which character appears on screen, which also affects the weapon you swing (or shoot) on the field map. If you smack an enemy with something they are weak to from behind, and then run into them, you can get a triple advantage, or a double advantage if they aren’t weak to the attack, or a single advantage if you don’t attack them and just rush their back. The greater the advantage, the more delayed the enemies are before they get their turn. Normally this will allow you to basically wipe out the enemies with no problem, at least early game. This brings up an interesting issue with the games balancing, mainly the fact that the fights are either ludicrously easy, or brain numbingly difficult for very little reason. Some bosses (I’ve been told by Pierre-Yves to mention the Pit Demons and Double Dogs here) can get you in a really bad place, mainly because there are a few of them, and if they start spamming status attacks, good luck. Other times you beat at least one into submission as fast as possible and the others just kind of roll over. More than the boss fights, my biggest problem was the standard enemies. Some are really weak and no problem; whereas others can party wipe you by accident if you’re not prepared or low on health.

Some of the best forethought for the game comes not from its interesting party mechanics however, but from the inherent settings. On start-up, the game provides you a full customization menu for game performance. While this may not be special on its own, if you hover the mouse cursor over an option, it actually tells you what the option does and how it affects CPU performance, and even occasionally gives a visual example of changes. One option you can adjust is the “Turbo Mode”, which will basically double the speed of your field/town movement or more, and hastens movement and animations in battle. This is extremely useful when travelling through particularly large areas, when you don’t feel like spending four hours roaming around (which may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it could certainly feel like it at times). Best of all, the game has a built-in controller support for both X-box and PlayStation controllers. That’s right, you can set all the prompts and descriptions to act like they would on a Sony system.

There are a lot of great aspects to the game though, such as the link system, the great music, and the large amount of available characters. I really liked the fact that, as you “acquire” characters to use, they start appearing on the title screen with Rean, and the fishing game was really fun too. Definitely better than Final Fantasy XV and its philosophy of “let’s make the fish all dicks”. Overall as a game, Trails of Cold Steel certainly brings a lot of enjoyment to the table, despite some game balance issues and occasionally extremely frustrating hidden quests. I swear, if I play another game where the hidden quests basically involve either a guide or talking to every available character every time an event occurs, I think I’m gonna lose it. Thankfully, there aren’t a whole lot of NPCs roaming around, so the quest search shouldn’t take too long. The constant swapping in and out of characters as they’re split into different groups for their assignments is a great way to get you used to the characters, but a little exp bleed would be nice, as at one point I started the next chapter with a level 28 Rean and two characters at level 20. And yes, you’ll burn through cash pretty quick outfitting all your characters. Despite my gripes, I had a lot of fun, and I’m really hoping for the PC release of Trails of Cold Steel II.

While I haven’t played the Vita or PS3 version, as a PC port I found that the performance was really good, except for one glaring issue that I had, which I have yet to find anyone else in the forums post about: all my background effects (shadows, lighting, and focused blur) turn into a small box in the top left of my screen during some dungeons and cutscenes, which while not game breaking, is so incredibly annoying it was pissing me off for a while until it decided to randomly stop happening as much. I’m going to blame my 6 year old laptop for that though, but there are a number of issues with the port, some text shifting, a few text boxes and voice line mismatches and some character clipping, but nothing too major or something that the devs won’t help you work through if you post in the forum. All in all, while I definitely could have been happier with the experience, there wasn’t a whole lot I really felt the need to improve on. Trails of Cold Steel is a solid game and a solid port.

Game Information

Nihon Falcom
Marvelous USA
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
PlayStation 3
PlayStation Vita

Provided by Publisher

Article by Richard


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