The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III was an incredible JRPG in the series thus far. The cliffhanger of Cold Steel III made fans extremely eager to continue Rean’s story in the chaotic country of Erebonia. Finally, Trails of Cold Steel IV is upon us and its a bigger title than the previous. Players are swept into a giant dilemma that threatens the entire world of Trails. It’s going to take a lot more than Rean and Class VII to take on this threat so characters from Trails in the Sky and Zero/Ao no Kiseki join the conflict. Plenty of spoilers are included in this review so definitely catch up on Trails before going any further!
Continuing The Aftermath
Trails of Cold Steel III ended with Chancellor Gilliath Osborne getting what he wants: starting the Great Twilight and a war with Calvard . Millium dies to protect Rean and in the process, he’s swept up in a demonic rage inside of Ashen Knight Valimar. Rean and Valimar are quickly captured by Osborne, Ouroboros and the Gnomes. Things are seriously grim as Prince Olivert, Toval and Viscount Arseid are blown up inside of the Courageous. Erebonia is now subject to the “curse of the end,” which is enraging the general public for war and spreading to various countries neighboring lands like Crossbell. Trails of Cold Steel IV starts with SSS members Lloyd, Elie and KeA teaming up with Estelle, Joshua and Renne Bright to uncover the dangers that lie ahead. Meanwhile, the Weissland Army formed by Lady Mildine (Musse) is building in an effort to protect Erebonia in the coming war.
Juna, Kurt and Altina are captured in a dream that leaves them unconscious for two weeks. After finally gaining the strength to wait up, they are greeted by Randy, Roselia and remaining members of Class VII. Ash and Musse’s whereabouts are unknown at the time. Roselia explains them that everyone was teleported out of the Gral and Class VII are taking refuge in Eryn. Eryn is the Hexen Clan’s home, hidden from the outside world while Class VII heals their wounds. Juna gets seriously angry after discovering that Rean’s dad is Osborne and quickly motivates everyone to get their act together. They vow to journey across Erebonia, save Rean and find truths of what lies ahead. The Prologue of Cold Steel IV is coming to a close and the real journey to save Zemuria begins.
Refining Cold Steel
Trails of Cold Steel III brought much needed improvements to the series including an updated game engine and more quality of life features. With Cold Steel IV, refinements are made to round out that overall Cold Steel gameplay experience. Those coming from Cold Steel III will have a smooth transition and notice some slight tweaks. For example, the Battle Point Gauge has been extended to 7 so players have more leverage in Orders and Rush/Unite Attacks. The signature turn based combat is just as satisfying as ever including the ARCUS II system with quartz. Characters from the entire Trails series up to this point are present after all! Players can even summon Panzer Soldats similar to how Rean summons Valimar. In fact, Cold Steel IV makes the other characters feel more impactful since Rean is not a playable character for a considerable portion of the game.
Plenty of features fans enjoyed in the series have returned including some old ones. The ranking/AP system is back again with more rewards for those who complete bonus objectives and side quests. Activities like fishing, cooking and Vantage Masters are back for fans to invest time into. Additionally, trial chests and lost arts make their return from Cold Steel II so fans will have that added challenge in the playthrough. Falcom Sound Team jdk continues to compose wonderful tunes throughout the game. Locations from the previous game return and new ones are introduced as the battles take stage across Erebonia. An enhanced fast travel system helps with the increase in scope for the game. Naturally, a lot of what makes Cold Steel games great is back and better than ever!
The biggest Trails journey (with a few downsides)
As previously mentioned, Trails of Cold Steel IV increases the series scope to account for the large conflict taking place. Each chapter is full of story and side content in each act, even more so than the previous game. Class VII is unified under one cause so players will be taking new and old members across the wild ride. Characters from across the Trails series make their appearance and interact with Class VII in interesting ways. These encounters have been long awaited such as Trails in the Sky protagonists Estelle and Joshua Bright finally greeting Class VII members. Plot points culminate after many years and it feels grand when those moments occur. Of course, players will have to be invested in the Trails series to recognize those aspects. It’s important to play the previous games to experience these characters and stories grow.
Trails of Cold Steel IV is an excellent title but some new things to consider arose with this title. It seems the some of the voice cast for mainstay characters were recasted so players may notice some differences early in the game. However, most of the cast from previous Trails games return. It’s important to note this change since this is an English localization though. Additionally, the frame rate dips in some portions of the game but for the most part, it’s locked at 60fps and feels great. We will have to see how the game holds up on Switch and PC next year, but it seems promising for those platforms too! Overall, issues players had with the previous Trails games are improved upon and addressed here.
The End of Saga
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV marks a turning point for the series as its wraps up story elements and an arc encompassing many games. Players unlock New Game+ like always and if they choose, they can experience the whole game over again with some added bonuses. This is another staple of the Trails series and welcomed one upon finishing the credits. However, this is not the end of the Trails story. A new beginning awaits Class VII, the SSS and other characters that have shared this long and challenging story together.
Once again, Falcom and their team have made an exceptional title that shines upon their previous work. Trails of Cold Steel IV is the best in the series yet as it beautifully wraps all things RPG fans love into a single package. It fixes issues from Trails of Cold Steel III while adding heaps of new content for a worthy sequel. This RPG is a real journey and it rewards players who take their time exploring what’s available. Hajimari no Kiseki is next in the series and the high bar has been set!
Disclaimer: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV was provided to us as a review copy by NIS America.