The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, the game intended to be an end of the saga as evident by the Japanese versions’ tagline, is a game that has been a long time coming. Often dubbed as the Avengers: Endgame of the gaming space, Trails of Cold Steel IV marks the end of a series of events that have been in motion since 2004’s Trails in the Sky. Read on to see how The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV fares in our review and if it lives up to the ungodly amount of hype it has encompassed over the past few years.
The Trails series, known as Kiseki in Japan, is a long running sub-franchise of the even longer running The Legend of Heroes series by legendary developers Nihon Falcom. The series focuses on themes of politics, internal and external conflicts and secret societies. The Trails games are praised for their masterful worldbuilding and character-driven narratives that not many other franchises can match in the gaming scene. The Trails of Cold Steel games are the part of the third story arc preceded by the three Trails in the Sky games and the Crossbell duology.
As far as the story is concerned Trails of Cold Steel IV does it extremely well if not for the pacing issues. Although it wasn’t an issue for me as I’m immensely invested in the Trails franchise, but for other people the constant compulsory dialogue by each of the massive cast members present in every cutscene will tend to get annoying. As the series has progressed and more characters have been introduced and become integral to the story, Nihon Falcom is forced to fit in as many of them as possible in this game, as it’s technically a conclusion to many story threads. You’ll be seeing returning characters from all the previous games in Trails of Cold Steel IV, with there even being an epic assembly of heroes like the one seen at the end of Avengers: Endgame (the comparisons aren’t without reason).
The NPC interactions, something that Trails does extremely well, doesn’t disappoint here with players always having something fresh to listen to each chapter when visiting previously explored areas. The books are also great to read, with some of them even hinting at future events so you may want to read them with that thought in mind. Due to the structure of the Cold Steel games there’s always going to be a bit of pacing issues, but you’ll learn to completely ignore that towards the end of your missions when everything goes crazy. I’m hopeful that future titles, taking place in new areas, would reduce the cast to a more reasonable amount so that you don’t end up in a 20 person conversation all the time. The ending this time around isn’t the signature cliffhanger anymore, but instead you’ll have a ‘Normal’ and ‘True Ending’. I’m still unsure of the what I think about the ending as it was quite abrupt, but it did help hype future titles and especially what the Grandmaster is up to.
The game also has a story summary section which can help bring you up to date to the game’s story if you haven’t played previous games or missed out on some of them. In addition to the story, you’ll also be able to read up on character bios, different organizations at play and their relationships with each other. Definitely recommended you give it a go-through to get up to speed.
Other than the story there’s still so much to do. There’s a ton of side-quests in each chapter, optional events that open up the lore, optional bosses, side-activities like fishing and mini-games like Vantage Masters. The game is full of content, in fact my Nightmare playthrough was just over 200 hours. A standard, normal difficulty playthrough where you do a bit of the sidestuff and story, will still last you over 100 hours so there’s a ton of value for your money.
The soundtrack by the famed Falcom Sound Team JDK is excellent as expected, especially the faster tracks. Tracks from previous games have also being slightly arranged and re-done to make them sound fresh and in-line with the game’s theme. The influence of the tracks are certainly noticeable and play a huge part during the epic confrontations at the end of the chapters. The voice acting on the other hand felt really weird since due to the massive amount of dialogue, it would take a huge amount of effort and investment to voice all those lines. So it was weird when in scenes certain characters would have a voice over for certain dialogue while for the rest of the conversation they would stay silent. It’s notably noticeable for the main character Rean, who as expected has the most dialogue, but only a small fraction of that is with a voice over.
The battle system is at its best in Trails of Cold Steel IV, which I think is probably the most balanced it has been in the series. Yes there are still strategies you can use to cheese away your enemies but there aren’t many game breaking arts or attacks this time around, especially if you’re playing on Nightmare (which every true Trails fan should anyway). The game has a decent amount of bosses and optional enemies that are very fun to fight and plan against, especially on the higher difficulties. Personally I’m very happy about the battle system as with each Cold Steel game there have been steady improvements and balancing, with the Cold Steel IV version being the best yet.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is very close to being my favorite Trails game so far, although I’m still conflicted if the game managed to give me the same feeling that Trails to Azure or Trails of Cold Steel IV did. Maybe a few months from now I’ll change my mind. All things considered Trails of Cold Steel IV is one of the best JPRG experiences you can buy and a must buy if you’re invested in the Trails franchise. On the other hand if you’re hesitant and haven’t played a Trails game yet, what are you waiting for? We’ve covered Trails countless times in the past on the site and can’t get enough. Every game in the series is a bundle of value and will stay in your mind for months if not longer. Can’t recommend it enough, so go on! Give it a go and let us know what you think in the comments.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review
Final Score - 9/10
All things considered Trails of Cold Steel IV is one of the best JPRG experiences you can buy and a must buy if you're invested in the Trails franchise.