I’m a big JRPG fan, so it was a matter of time before I learned of Trails of Cold Steel and Trails in the Sky. A few days ago I finally completed Trails in the Sky Series and I’m glad to announce it got me super excited to continue through Cold Steel.
As the title suggests, this review will only cover Trails in the Sky, which is only the first 3 games of a 9 game franchise, with another game coming out 2023.
Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything for you.
The story of this franchise are currently divided into 3 arcs Liberl arc, Calvard arc and Erebonia arc, each one with the name of the country the story focuses on, all of them happen on the fictional continent: Zemuria.
Trails in the Sky happens on Liberl Kingdom where we follow our 2 young protagonists Estelle and Joshua Bright on their adventure to become full-fledged bracers and save the kingdom from an ominous enemy.
If I’m being honest the story is quite simple, compared to other JRPG at least, I absolutely loved it, but it can get predictable how its going to unfold.
However, the story takes a massive win on world building. Everything that happens on the world affects the characters, allies, villains and even NPC’s you start recognizing. The world is live, and it feels good to explore each place with it’s own culture and problems.
A good story must have good characters to carry that story forward, this game is no exception. They grow along the story and all of them have a unique personality, people they look up to, fears, hobbies, ideals.
This is especially true for our protagonists, both of them have a really good and progressive development, they don’t just change over the course of one night, they change across their entire journey as they see what it is about the job of a Bracer and the world for the first time.
We all know how JRPG work, you level up, acquire a bunch of powerful items and destroy everything with your attacks, abilities and magic. So what makes Trails different?
Combat in this game is a strong point, everything on how it works is really clear but you can still get better at it if you understand how some things work that the game does not tell you, but learn from experience, this is vital to complete the game on the highest difficulty, I will get to that later.
Like the image below shows, the bar on the left side shows the order of turns, along with turns that have critical attacks, augmented damage, or other bonus.
You know when you or your opponent has one, and the better part is, the player can steal turns with their special ability if available. So, not only the RNG is less infuriating, but also you can plan ahead of time for this moment.
Main and secondary missions get recorded on the Bracer Notebook along with a brief explanation on story, a great way to know where you left off if you have not touched the game in a year, this book also shows how to do all the combinations for the arts since the beginning of the game.
Arts are magic abilities and get unlocked by combining orbs into the orbment each character has, this, along crafts (abilities) is what decide a character role, for example, some orbments are really bad for arts, but the character has really good stats and abilities, some orbments are especially made for supporting.
Difficulty varies for each game, it’s not a particularly hard game, unless you go to the hardest difficulty, nightmare, this is where the games differentiate the most.
Don’t get me wrong, the games have a few changes on gameplay here and there, but it is on nightmare where this differences matter the most, is really hard on all stages and with more and more things to consider each game, this only escalates.
On the first two games this can be enjoyable if you like to challenge yourself, but the problem comes on the 3rd. The third doesn’t feel hard, it feels unfair and luck based(this affects bosses the most), luckily, there is a nice option called “Retry Offset”, this option makes a battle easier each time you get defeated and reset the battle.
For the most part nightmare mode is a nice challenge on First and Second Chapter, you have enough freedom to not only go with one team composition but have to know how the game works, how to use buffs, de-buffs, stat changes, and other mechanics that are not that relevant to know on easier difficulties.
Chests and final words
I just have to mention the hilarious comments made by chests when you try to loot them for a second time.
As said before, the story is probably the weakest part about Trails, hope this changes on later games. Still, this series made it to the list of games I love the most, second chapter being the best one.
All thanks to the enjoyable cast, exploration, and satisfying battles that I got to experience during this adventure.
Now, if you ask me to rank the games, it would look like this:
- Trails in the Sky SC 9/10: Best storytelling, bosses, difficulty and exploration (Not that far from a 10 to be honest)
- Trails in the sky FC 8/10: Introduction to the world, easiest of the three.
- Trails in the Sky the 3rd 7/10: Epilogue for previous games, nightmare difficulty is bad, slow start, almost no exploration to do.
If you want a good JRPG to play, or just a simple but enjoyable story, check Trails in the Sky.
- Great combat system
- Character Development
- World Building
- Almost no replay value
- Predictable storytelling