Hell of a first year.
It’s only been a few weeks since I last bid farewell to Estelle and company.
The events that took place in Liberl Kingdom are still fresh in my mind, and as much as I would love to just delve right back into a familiar place, the idea of exploring a brand new continent and meeting its people sounds intriguing in its own right.
Such is the premise of Trails of Cold Steel, which takes place in the same world as Trails in the Sky, but now shifts the focus to the Erebonian Empire, which was mentioned often but never truly explored.
While the new cast of characters takes some time to warm up to, it’s a perfectly paced experience that weaves a tale of growth and understanding.
Platforms: PS3, PSV
Voice Acting Selection: ENG only.
Length: 65~ Hours
As freshmen at the prestigious “Thors Academy”, the students of a newly founded class VII are assigned various tasks that will help them learn about the world.
Given the nature of being a student, Cold Steel plays out a bit differently compared to Sky, but manages to find a perfect balance of combat, exploration and exposition that I never once felt bored throughout its lengthy 65~ hour campaign.
Even though there is a bigger emphasis on time management, it’s more there to pan out various side quests and bonding time with fellow classmates, which often serve to expand on that character’s story and provide some bonuses in combat.
It’s not quite social links, but the interactions themselves were often quite humorous, and sometimes even enlightening as I gained insight on their various quirks and motivations.
Even though much of class VII’s time is spent within the campus grounds, the class is often tasked with traveling across the continent in various “Field Studies”.
From the hustle and bustle of the biggest city in the capital to the vast open fields of the Nord Highlands, class VII goes across the empire solving problems, and sometimes creating some of their own.
It’s a fantastic hook, as it’s something that makes sense in terms of their education, but it also serves to expand the universe of the Trails series in meaningful ways.
The combat in Cold Steel should be familiar to veterans of the Sky series, as much of it remains the same.
It’s turn based with emphasis on positioning, as many attacks have an AOE. There are arts that are basically magic, and crafts which are character specific skills tied to a resource generated when attacking or getting damaged.
It’s pretty standard stuff, but it’s also expanded with the addition of the “Link” system, where two characters form a link that can complement each other in battle. Following up a critical hit or even automatically healing the linked ally when they are damaged, there’s a lot of utility here to explore.
There’s also the addition of a master quartz, which are gems that can be assigned to a character for dramatic bonuses like gaining CP for each kill and level up alongside its designated combatant to further bolster its effects.
The art system has been streamlined to be a bit more straight-forward, instead of having to juggle a bunch of elemental numbers over a spread sheet.
Overall, this is streamlining done right, where it’s still just as deep and interesting while cutting out all the unnecessarily bulk.
If I had any complaints about Cold Steel, it would be that it’s visually unimpressive.
I’m not talking about how realistic everything looks or how many polygons are used to model a lawn chair in the yard, I’m speaking in terms of artistic design, and I felt in this regard it’s a bit lacking.
The use of voice acting was also strangely inconsistent, where in some scenes there would be no voiced line save for like two, or other times where it would seem to be fully voiced minus a few lines.
It’s almost as though they have the voice files recorded but simply forgot to tie them to the events.
This is most likely an issue of polish and while not too frequent, when it did happen, it felt a bit jarring to say the least.
In the early hours of Trails of Cold Steel, I was skeptical that it could live up to the lofty standards set by Trails in the Sky. However, after my first year spent as a student of Class VII, I can confidently say that it has, and knowing that this is just the beginning of a new series fills me with great anticipation.
Fun Tidbit – Falcom and Team JDK truly can do no wrong when it comes to music as this series also features another fantastic soundtrack.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.