Review: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV

It could just be that the Ysseries and the Trailsseries you don’t say so much. These Japanese RPGs (JRPG) from developer Nihon Falcom are very popular in the Asian country, but in the West they are a lot more niche. The fourth and final volume of the latter series is now in the Trails of Cold Steelseries. Or Trails of Cold Steel IV is a worthy ending, you can read in this review.

Trails of Cold Steel IV continues immediately after the heartbreaking events of the third part. Overcome with grief, Rean Schwarzer loses control of his inner strength, heralding the ‘Great Twilight’, the end of time. And that’s exactly what Chancellor Osborne was hoping for. Now that Erebonia has declared war on neighboring Calvard Republic, it takes a lot of soldiers and that’s where the Great Twilight comes in. This phenomenon creates a curse, transforming negative thoughts into positive thoughts about the impending war. Many residents of Erebonia are now eager to fight for their country.

For Class VII, the main battle now begins. The first thing to do is find out where Rean is being held captive. Then they will jointly fulfill their own role in the war. In a linear story, your journey takes you to different villages and cities, where the new reality hits hard. Conscription has commenced and many people are now being sent to war and food and other supplies are being collected. As befits an RPG, you will have the necessary conversations with the inhabitants. Most of them are just text, so you will read a lot. Some of them have a request for you that you can accept.

Of course you will also fight a lot in Trails of Cold Steel IV. You will encounter the necessary monsters on the roads between the villages and cities. You will also frequently face Chancellor Osborne’s allies again. The fights against, for example, Ouroboros members McBurn and Campanella or the jaeger corps Zephyr and The Red Constellation are going to be quite challenging again. Fortunately, Class VII gets help from several heroes. The members of the Special Support Section from Crossbell and the Bracers from Liberl will assist from time to time, ensuring the widest roster of characters available.

The fighting in the Trails of Cold Steelseries are turn-based and quite static, but the developer still manages to come up with a very interesting and in-depth system. Basically, each character has his or her own weapon that you can use to perform regular attacks and special ‘Craft’ attacks. In addition, all characters can wield magical attacks called ‘Arts’. Your team consists of a maximum of four members, where two characters can link with each other. By using regular attacks or Craft attacks you can “unbalance” the opponent, which can be used for a follow-up attack. This will give you a ‘Brave Point’. These points can be accumulated to perform Rush and Burst attacks, where the duo or the whole team attack the opponents at the same time. These points can also be used for certain bonuses that are valid for a number of turns. For example, attacks can do more damage or the team doesn’t have to wait as long for their next turn.

With all these options, the fights never get boring and you will have to make the right choices, especially against the spicy boss fights. For example, try to weaken the enemies first with regular and Craft attacks and finally finish it with the very powerful S-Craft, or do you also put a character in your team who can attack the enemies with powerful magical attacks or your own team can heal when the need is high.

But there is more: from time to time Rean and some members of Class VII will step into their Divine Knight and Panzer Soldats. Rean is a so-called ‘Awakener’ and has a connection with the Divine Knight Valimar. These Knights, giant humanoid robots, play an important role in Erebonia’s bloody history. The Panzer Soldats are a bit smaller and weaker and were developed during the civil war that took place in Trails of Cold Steel II. Fighting with these robots is slightly different and focuses on the rock-paper-scissors principle. Enemies, which are often Divine Knights and Panzer Soldats, take a certain stance, after which you choose one of the three body parts. One of them is the weak point, and when you hit it, you launch a follow-up attack. These fights are often a bit easier, because here you have to find the right body part for each position and then you can go wild on the enemies.

In between, there are some optional things to do. You can cook dishes, go fishing or play the card game Vantage Masters. There are also books to read that describe the “lore” of the Trailsfranchise in depth. If you feel like taking it easy, there are plenty of other things to do.

From Trailsgames have to rely on the combat and the story and that also applies Trails of Cold Steel IV. Graphically, this game is not that special. Environments and characters look just a bit better than in its predecessor, but it is certainly not a high flyer. The story is very strong, but at the same time also the pitfall in this fourth part. The Trails of Cold Steelseries has its own story, but is also part of a larger whole. In total there are nine games that make up the first saga. There are also the three Trails in the Sky-share, Trails from Zero in Trails to Azure. You will also occasionally encounter references to characters, groups and events from these games, which can make the story quite difficult to follow if you are not familiar with the other series.

Still, we absolutely recommend giving this series a shot. The story in all four parts is highly developed and you see how the characters have grown from young students at the military academy to young adults who fight together and will never give up. Add to that the excellent combat and you’ve got yourself a great JRPG.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV was played on the PlayStation 4 for this review and is currently only playable on this platform. The game will also be released for Nintendo Switch and PC next year.

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