The Legend of Heroes franchise is one of Nihon Falcom’s most recognizable franchises (aside from the Ys series.) The character development, storyline, and mechanics of the Trails in the Sky series are some of my favorite RPG experiences in recent years that are available on PC. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is the start of a new saga, on the same continent as the Trails in the Sky series.
In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, you find yourself in the role of Rean Schwarzer, a seventeen-year-old student about to enroll at the Thors Military Academy. The country of Erebonia finds itself on the brink of civil war, with tensions rising between nobles and commoners. For the first time in the history of Thors Military Academy, rank and class mean nothing, which leads Rean’s class to delve into the conflict between the ranks and social classes in an all new adventure.
One thing that I’ve always liked about the games in this series is the diverse variety of difficulty options available. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare. These should fit a variety of RPG fans, from fans of tough-as-nails gameplay to more story oriented players that just want to relax and enjoy the vast, lore-filled experience that The Legend of Heroes franchise has to offer.
As in the other “The Legend of Heroes” games, Trails of Cold Steel is rich in lore and storyline. The country of Erebonia comes to life for the first time in series history, and with 3D visuals unique to this new entry in the franchise, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel looks better than ever. In addition to the new graphical changes, the Orbment system found in previous entries has received an overhaul with the ARCUS system.
Before we get into the ARCUS System though, there is another addition to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel that is important to talk about. The PC release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has 50% more English voice-overs than its original release. This has all new voice acted content that has never been heard before, which means that even if you have played Trails of Cold Steel on a console, this PC release will feel new and fresh.
The ARCUS system is a new version of the standard Orbment system found in previous “The Legend of Heroes” titles. With the ARCUS System, instead of all quartz (of varying types and elements) providing the same benefits across the board, now there are new quartz called “Master Quartz” that level up over time. Each character’s ARCUS system is tailor made for them, and can only hold one Master Quartz at a time. Other quartz can be set into the system but only the Master Quartz will level up as you gain experience.
Combat in Trails of Cold Steel is similar to other entries in the series, but unlike the Trails in the Sky series, it is enhanced to provide more party cooperation. This is particularly apparent in the link attack system, which allows characters to assist others in attacking enemies. After a character attacks you may receive a prompt on the screen to assist or follow-up with another character. Doing so allows that character to deal extra damage to the enemy, and may even help you finish them off quickly.
Characters can move, attack from a variety of ranges, utilize arts and craft abilities, and do pretty much everything you’ll know about if you’ve played the series before. However, Trails of Cold Steel seems much more polished and streamlined, allowing for an easily understood combat experience.
Outside of battle, there are all sorts of things in the menu to keep track of. Recovery items, equipment, orbment details (including the ARCUS system) and the notes section. The notes section is a helpful area that provides a summary of the plot, as well as useful information on all sorts of things from general information, combat information, links, and other helpful data.
There is also the matter of maintaining academic achievement in the academy. Answering questions correctly, making proper decisions, completing quests, and being an overall good student will give you Academic Points, which will raise your rank over time and give you academic perks. Part of your academic life will be performing quests, which can increase your Academic Rank and can cover a variety of quest types. Some quests will be required to advance the story, others are optional, but will provide quality rewards.
The exchange system of the Trails in the Sky series (in which you trade sepith for Mira) has been somewhat altered, adding in “Sepith Masses” as an exchange currency so you do not have to exchange the sepith you use to make quartz.
On free days, you can also undergo bonding events that allow you to grow closer with various members of Class VII. These events allow you to raise your link level. Link levels are important for combat, as each link level does something different (beyond the link attacks I mentioned previously) and grows stronger as the bond between characters grows.
Other returning mechanics are the fishing, and cooking mechanics, which can provide a variety of important rewards if you use the mechanics to their fullest potential. This is one of my favorite parts about The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (and the Legend of Heroes series in general) as the game isn’t all that difficult if you take the time to learn the mechanics and use them to their fullest extent. If you are lazy and play like you would with a lesser RPG (just throwing your characters at enemies) you are likely to not get very far.
That isn’t to say that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is too difficult of a game on its own (unless you’re on a higher difficulty) but it speaks more to the fact that this game is a perfect game for an RPG enthusiast. If you enjoy lore-heavy, strategic, in-depth RPG experiences then I am pretty certain that you will not be disappointed by The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. My only complaint isn’t even about the game itself; it’s more that the DLC (which is entirely optional and doesn’t contain story content) seems a little pricey for what you are actually getting.
I can’t wait to see XSEED Games bring the other entries in the Trails of Cold Steel series to PC as well since I am sure they will follow the path that they started with the Trails in the Sky series and finish out a full trilogy on steam. If you’re in the market for a great RPG then give The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel a try.
A Steam Review Copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel was provided by XSEED Games for the Purpose of this Review.