When I first played The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky back in 2011 on my PlayStation Portable, I never believed I would still be playing games in the series a decade later. In it, I found an intricate and fantastic RPG that called to me in a similar fashion to the RPGs on the Super Nintendo era. I absolutely loved my time with it, and despite plenty of further waits for the later games in the trilogy, I kept up with it over the years, before falling off early in the Cold Steel tetralogy. Now, we’re coming to the end of that series with the release Trails of Cold Steel IV. Once again, I’ve found an RPG with an intricate storyline and fun gameplay mechanics to soak up the hours.
As the fourth title in the Cold Steel tetralogy, Trails of Cold Steel IV might seem like a daunting prospect if you haven’t been following the previous games, but the game does a pretty great job of onboarding you. Taking place almost directly after the conclusion of Trails of Cold Steel III, the game throws you right into the action after a lengthy cutscene setting up the current political climate. That political climate is one of the reasons that I enjoyed the story of Trails of Cold Steel IV as much as I did. Much of the game has a basis in politics, be it the assumption of power, the overthrowing of or rebellion towards political regimes or other similar thoughts. It takes a personal approach to its characters in those climates, focusing in on how they feel and how they’re affected by what’s occurring. While there’s still elements of the general ‘save the world’ storyline found in most RPGs, its somewhat more contained and personal, which I absolutely loved.
Much like its predecessors, Trails of Cold Steel IV plays like a fairly traditional turn-based RPG. The turn order of your characters and enemies are shown on the left-hand side of the screen, giving you a view of what’s coming down the line. Where the game gets a little more interesting is through its layering of systems on top of that turn-based order. On top of using items or regular attacks, you have different skills and abilities at your command. You have Crafts, which trigger immediately and utilised your Craft Points. Then there are Arts, which trigger after a short period of time and use EP, allowing enemies to potentially get hits on you before you unleash your ability. Then there are Links, which are dynamic links you create between characters, allowing them to support one another in battle.
All of those systems were available in earlier Cold Steel games, and they combine together to bring a complexity and dynamism to combat that is great to play. New to the series and system are super power S-Craft techniques. These are unique abilities possessed by each character which require a minimum of 100 craft points and completely drain your meter, unleashing massive damage on enemies. It all takes a while to get used to, and can be a little confusing early on, but really come together the longer you play.
Being a Nintendo Switch port of a PlayStation 4 game, there was always the potential that this version of Trails of Cold Steel IV could end up being a substandard experience, but thankfully Engine Software have done a great job on the port. You’re certainly not going to mistake the game for a PlayStation 4 release, but the game has a clean look to it that translates well to the Nintendo Switch. Character models are relatively complex, textures have some detail to them and attack effects are great to see. There’s a relative simplicity to some of the game’s environments, which leave them feeling a little empty, but it’s nothing too impactful to the experience. Similarly, the game’s soundtrack is nice to listen to, but isn’t particularly memorable, which can also be said for the voice acting in the game. Neither of those elements are poor, but they’re not particularly great either.
Overall, Trails of Cold Steel IV is a fitting end to the Cold Steel tetralogy. The story is intriguing and engaging, the combat is complex, dynamic and engaging, while it also looks pretty good on screen. The music could have been a bit more memorable for my taste, while the voice acting also wasn’t amazing, but these are far from immersion breaking issues. If you’re interested in RPGs or the Trails series, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is absolutely the game for you.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch, with a review copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC and PlayStation 4. For more information, check the official website.
- Intricate and interesting story - Complex and dynamic combat system - Plenty of content to keep you busy
- Music and voice acting is largely forgettable - Some environments feel empty