Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) are known for their rich storylines and variations in combat systems. Recently, Xseed Games has been translating games in The Legend of Heroes series into English. The games have been released on console before, but have recently been made available on Steam, making them accessible to both console gamers and PC gamers alike.
Trails of Cold Steel takes place in Erebonia, which has been mentioned in other Trails games, but has not been visited. It brings a unique plot setting in Thors Military Academy. It blends the idea of going to school into an RPG setting, much like Final Fantasy VIII, although more in-depth. Your grades in class, done by answering questions correctly and completing quests, allow you to get more powerful items.
The theme of social class is explored in this game. The game’s playable characters make up Class VII, a class where both commoners and nobles are combined, unlike the other classes in game which are divided into commoners-only and nobles-only classes. The tension between commoners and nobles is present in the game, but Class VII is an attempt by the Academy to break down the walls between commoners and nobles.
The protagonist of the game, Rean Schwarzer, is the de facto leader of Class VII. He is joined by several other playable characters: Elliot Craig, who aspires to be a musician; Alisa Reinford, a secretive girl who tries to hide her true identity from the others; Laura Arseid, a girl who wields a giant sword; Machias Regnitz, who despises the nobility; Jusis Albarea, a noble who is dismissive towards most things; Emma Millstein, considered the brains of the class; Fie Claussell, whose actions are considered strange by the group; and Gaius Worzel, a foreign exchange student who ventures outside of his homeland to learn about the world around him.
While mostly a traditional RPG battle system, there are a few differences. There are certain events that allow you to build on your relationships with your party members. These are called Bonding Events and can be done at any time in the game. These increase your Link Levels with your party members, allowing you to do special abilities with those members as you gain Link Experience with them through Bonding Events. Gaining maximum Link Levels with all characters requires at least two playthroughs due to the fact that you can only do a certain number of Bonding Events at any given time. The Arts have also been largely modified in that it depends on the quartz you equip rather than how many quartz you have on a single line, simplifying the system from the other Trails games. Instead of buying new weapons or finding them in chests, you can upgrade your weapons instead. There are several mini-games such as swimming and fishing which reward powerful items if you have the patience to play them.
Trails of Cold Steel is another solid entry in the underrated Trails series, and its presence on Steam means that fans have yet another way to play JRPGs. The storyline is different from most JRPGs in that it includes plot lines that surprise the player as they progress through the game.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE September 2017 Issue
Words by Jose Alvarez