The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV takes place two weeks after the ending of Cold Steel III, where The Empire of Erebonia and its people face the Great Twilight threat. After Rean Schwarzer, instructor of the new Class VII of Thors Military Academy is influenced by the curse and kidnapped by Oroborous, Juna, Kurt, and Altina awaken to find themselves in the hidden village of the fire witches, away from the empire’s watch. After some much needed training and information gathering, the group set out on a mission to find their classmates, rescue Rean, and stop the upcoming war.
A Generous Introduction
Trails of Cold steel III and IV are objectively the densest entries in the series as it closes the curtain on the long-running saga. Newcomers starting the series with this entry are in for a rude awakening as the game is definitely catered towards longtime fans (especially fans with a save file from previous entries as they are rewarded with numerous items for their loyalty). However, the game still tries to help out those looking to understand the plot by including an incredibly long and detailed story summary/ recap of each previous installment in the series.
After introducing or reintroducing themselves to the world of the Cold Steel series, players will then jump into action with a party of returning characters including Estell, Llyod, Elie, Joshua, Renne, and KeA as they infiltrate a facility to recover some vital information. Afterward, the game then has you take control of students of class VII Juna, Kurt, and Altina once again after being weakened by the previous game’s events. The game’s story is split into multiple Acts, each with its own cast of characters. Each of these Acts includes missions that will usually have you gather information, explore dungeons, and fight enemies and bosses.
Gameplay-wise, Trails of Cold Steel IV is nearly completely similar to the previous game with a few new additions to the mix. Similar to previous games, players will need to familiarize themselves with their HP, CP, and EP bars. HP obviously meaning Health Points, CP meaning Crafts Points which are used to cast spells and are built up by dealing and receiving damage, and EP meaning Energy Points used to cast regular spells. Aside from regular crafts, players can also make use S-crafts, which are highly elaborate attacks that deal massive damage to enemies. These attacks can be used to turn the tide of the battle but also cost a ton of CP, so it’s best used on bosses or multiple high-level enemies.
The combat system also received a few notable balance adjustments by scaling back some abusable mechanics such as the break damage used to stagger enemies, and Brave Orders (party-wide buffs). A part of the combat system I really enjoyed in Trails of Cold Steel IV is the link system, which allows characters to protect their linked partners, heal them, and even perform follow up attacks on enemies. Players can also expect to partake in combat with mech units but to a lesser degree.While these sections play out slightly differently from regular battles and are much slower-paced, I still found them highly entertaining.
When not in combat, players can also enjoy a multitude of side missions, activities, and minigames, some of which rewards you with new outfits and accessories to change your characters’ appearance. Among side activities, players also have the option of forming a potential romance between characters.
A Few Flaws, But a Fitting End Nonetheless
Narrative wise, Trails of Cold Steel IV does a surprisingly excellent job of continuing the series’ engaging story while including each of your favorite characters as they each have a role to play. However, it’s no surprise that for a game with such a large cast, it sometimes becomes hard to keep track of everyone, and the story can feel pretty drawn out at some parts of the game.
Aside from that, the game’s pacing at the start can be annoyingly slow, especially if you’re jumping in immediately after Trails of Cold Steel III. However, as you continue to progress, the game quickly picks up the pace, and you’ll start to enjoy its many JRPG elements. In conjunction, I appreciated that the developers accounted for the game’s significant playtime and included a speed up feature which enables you to play the game at a much faster pace.
Visually, Trails of Cold Steel IV looks virtually unchanged from previous titles in the series, especially Cold Steel III. Though this isn’t too much of an issue, as it isn’t a game known for its graphical fidelity anyway. However, while the character designs look unremarkable, the music is far from it, as the game includes an excellent OST, an example of which is seen in its catchy battle music.
Overall, despite some incredibly long, drawn out sections in the 80-hour experience, I’m happy to say I enjoyed my time with the game, especially with its now incredibly refined combat system. Trails of Cold Steel IV is no doubt a fitting end to Class VII’s incredible saga and is a game well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of the series and its stellar characters.
This review is based on an early copy of the game provided by the publisher
Are you a fan of The Legend of Heroes series? Have you played Trails of Cold Steel IV? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Trails of Cold Steel IV
Trails of Cold Steel IV is no doubt a fitting end to Class VII's incredible saga and is a game well worth your time, especially if you're a fan of the series and its stellar characters.
- Great story
- A good soundtrack
- Excellent gameplay
- Some drawn out story sections
- A slow start