The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PS3) review
Before The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I had never played any of the games in ‘The Legends of Heroes’ series, but I never felt as though my experience was hampered by the fact. Although, I’m sure there were probably references to certain people and events that may have happened in previous games in the Legend of heroes games.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a character driven game set in Thors Military Academy. The academy trains high-school students of both common and noble status, although both groups don’t share the same class, that is until the school adds a sixth class to the school, Class VII (and yes I know that makes no sense). Class VII is unique in the Academy as it contains students of both common and noble decent. The main focus of the game is how the boys and girls of Class VII interact and how they see the world.
As The Trails of Cold Steel is a character-focused game, you would hope that each character is well fleshed out and interesting, and thankfully this is the case. The characters in Trails of Cold Steel are incredibly interesting especially all nine students in Class VII. Each student has their own personality, story arc, and the game explains why they act and behave in the way they do. I never once found a student acting out of character. Apart from the students and supporting characters that you meet, the game does some great world building, with the game creating an interesting look at a world based around your status in society and the troubles that come with a class system.
When playing the game, I felt invested in each of the characters struggles. One great example is of Machias Regnitz, who is a commoner, but his father is Imperial Governor of Heimdallr. Machias has a powerful hatred for nobles with his early interactions involving fighting with fellow student Jusis who is of noble descent and asking each student whether they are a commoner or noble. As the game progresses Machias is exposed to various events involving nobles and commoners, these events allow Machias to grow and as he grows we see his hatred attitude begin to shift. Machias is just one example of the great character development in the game.
What helps the character development work so well is the game’s dialogue, which XSEED, who published the game in North America, and NIS America, who published the game in Europe, did an amazing job of translating and making sure the dialogue conveyed the right tone.
Moving away from the characters how is the game’s story? Well, the story is decent, but it does take a long time to get going. The story isn’t boring as I enjoyed how the game discussed its class based society and how such a system affects the world. Once you get past the discussions of class we are treated to a story that shows the students of Class VII just how dangerous the world can be.
Moving back to the characters, let’s talk about how the game is setup. Each chapter is broken into two parts, part 1) student life in the academy, and part 2) exploring and experiencing the world and culture of towns and cities outside the academy with field studies. The academy sections are light hearted and built around growing your bonds with your classmates, a task that is essential to the game’s combat, outside of bonding you complete quests, and do school work such as exams and combat training.
When you finish in the academy section you move onto the ‘field study’ portion of the chapter. In field studies, you are divided into groups and sent to a town/city to complete specific tasks over a 2-3 day period. These tasks are for the most part gathering and kill quests. The field study section is also where the majority of the combat takes place. Personally, I’m not overly fond of the field study portion of each chapter as they drag on for far too long and have cutscenes that seem to last forever. But, the field studies have to be endured as important aspects of the game’s story and character development is expanded upon in this section.
Now, let’s discuss combat. If I was to sum up Trails of Cold Steel’s combat in one word I would call the combat easy. When I say easy I don’t mean fights aren’t challenging, by easy I mean lack of failure. Combat can be quite challenging, especially since I found myself being out levelled on nearly every encounter, but despite being challenging and getting out levelled I still found it easy because of one important point, a game over is impossible. What I mean by this is whenever you are defeated you are given the opportunity to retry or have the enemies weakened and retry. Essentially, if you die enough times enemies will be made me so weak you could defeat them by simply sneezing on them. The ability to weaken enemies after every defeat takes away all urgency from combat as you can just avoid all encounter and run to a story monster and die until the game makes it weak enough for you to kill.
So, I said combat is easy, but how does it work? Firstly, Trails of Cold Steel’s combat is a turn based with 4 active party members and 2 support members. Combat consists of several types of attacks: normal attacks, crafts attacks, arts attacks and combat link attacks. Normal attacks are straight forward so I’ll avoid that. Crafts attacks are skills that you acquire by levelling up and vary from character to character, these attacks require CP, which is gained by dealing or receiving damage. Crafts attacks can be useful moves in combat especially the support abilities, but if you let your CP reach maximum you can perform an S-Crafts attack that allows you to do a large amount of damage at the cost of all your CP.
While normal attacks and craft attacks are the moves you will likely use the most often there are two remaining attack types to mention. Arts attacks are attack or support moves that you give to characters via items known as quartz and master quartz. These quartz can be gained via quests or buying in shops, and can be placed in a characters Orbment, which is a device that allows you to use the quartz arts move. Arts are essentially a technological form of magic. Now arts attacks have one major drawback and that is the fact that they take a turn to charge up. Finally, we have combat link attacks. Combat linking is essentially performing joint attacks or supporting a specific character you have bonded with. Your combat linkability depends on how well you bond with characters outside of combat. While you have four types of attacks they game also throws random status buffs, these buffs can happen on your players or the enemies, some of the buffs include: heal you, regenerated EP or CP, guarantee a critical hit and allow you to charge and use an arts attack on the same turn.
So, is there anything else do besides fighting, and bonding with classmates? Well, you can fish, cook and play a card game called Blade. All three non-combat skills aren’t essential to completing the game, but they do act as fun side activities. Fishing allows you to gather points to buy items, the cooking skill allows you to make healing items in a cost effective manner, and Blade allows you to increase your bond with your classmates.
All three skills also have an interesting mechanic attached to it. With fishing you are given buttons to press in a quick time event setup, cooking requires you to team up with a classmate as the classmate assisting you can alter the foods’ status effects, and finally Blade is just a simple card setup that you don’t encounter in regular play.
Now, let’s move to a more technical aspect of the game, the graphics and sound. Graphically, the game is a bit on the weak side. The game isn’t ugly per say, as the game looks decent, but shadows are rugged, textures lose their lustre when viewed up close, and at times, it feels as though the character models don’t work with the overall art style. However, I did get used to the models after playing for a while.
In terms of standout issues with the graphical aspect of the game, I did encounter frame rate stutters during some cutscenes as the aspect ratio alters for cutscenes.
With Regards to sound, there are no major issues. With the music suiting, each location perfectly and the English dub of each character is well executed.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a game that excels at character development and world building, but suffers from an easy combat system and overly drawn out segments.
|+ Great character development||– Combat is too easy|
|+ Good world building||– The field study segments go on for far too long|
|+ A great look into a class based society|
|+ Numerous side activities|
|+ Great port by XSEED and NIS America|
|Falcom||NIS America (EU), XSEED (NA)||RPG||12+||PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PlayStation Vita||January 29th (EU), December 22nd (NA)|
For more information on The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, visit http://nisamerica.com/games/trails-of-cold-steel/.
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.