The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Review

Exploring Sara's world in Cold Steel

Trails of Cold Steel II will be released very soon, with the European release scheduled for November 11th, and as for the first part, we still haven’t written about it, so we’re making up for it.

Trails of Cold Steel, released last January on PS3 and Vita, is a massive RPG whose events take place in Erebonia, a prosperous country facing serious problems. You play as a group of elite students who travel around Erebonian cities and villages, fighting monsters, solving problems, and studying the ongoing class struggle that threatens to tear the country apart. There are plenty of cities to explore, an insane number of characters for lengthy conversations, and a whole bunch of side quests to distract you on your way to the main goal.

Cold Steel 5B

In other words, it’s a massive game that they made even bigger. The writers at Falcom should be reminded that brevity is the soul of wit. Tens of hours of gameplay is far from the limit.

However, there is a lot to love about Trails of Cold Steel. The storytelling and character development are top-notch, fully living up to the standards set by publisher XSEED and their RPG series Trails of the Sky. It’s a rare game where conversations with every NPC are truly worth your time. The main characters may initially seem like clichés from anime series – the brash class president, the reserved nobleman, and so on – but as the story unfolds, most of them reveal unexpected depth.

The game is structured very neatly, so all seven chapters will progress at a similar pace. It’s something of a mix between Suikoden and Persona. At the beginning of each chapter, the protagonist Rean will attend school, take classes, and exams, and so on. Additionally, each chapter will have one or two free days, which Rean can spend either completing side quests (ranging from mundane to incredibly engaging) or building relationships with his classmates. This will strengthen Social Links, and the stronger they are, the more powerful Rean will be in battles against enemies. Free days usually end with a visit to the old school building, which serves as both a testing ground and a multi-purpose dungeon in Cold Steel. I should mention that you will visit this place more than once or twice.

Cold Steel 5A

In the second half of each chapter, Rin and his comrades embark on an expedition to the Erebonian cities and villages – this is where the real action takes place. With a few exceptions (especially in the third chapter), these are the best parts of the game. Studying Erebonian culture is a pleasure, especially if you have played Trails of the Sky, whose events take place in the neighboring country of Liberl, where Erebonia is seen as an enemy. But, as it turns out, the people of Erebonia are actually ordinary people with their own problems, many of which are related to strained relations between the aristocracy and the common people.

In the midst of war

While exploring the school building and going on expeditions, you will often have to fight monsters, and the combat here will be familiar to anyone who has played other games in the Trails series. There is a special panel (similar to Grandia) that allows you to control the order in which the heroes will attack, as well as many different skills and spells. Boss battles may seem challenging, but never unfair, because you have plenty of strategies at your disposal to experiment with and eventually find a winning combination. You can switch between heroes – usually, you always have access to at least six characters, but you can only use four – and you can also equip your students with the most powerful spells.

The battlefield of war

Playing on the Vita, you may encounter serious frame rate drops, especially in large cities. It’s not a big problem, but it can be a bit annoying. However, it can be minimized, for example, by fast travel.

The game ends unexpectedly and many things remain unsaid, so if you do finish this game, be prepared to also play Trails of Cold Steel II, which is set to be released on PS3/Vita in early November.

Either way, the first Cold Steel is worth the time spent on it. Yes, it can be slow at times, but it is definitely not boring. In a story-driven RPG, a good storyline can overshadow all other shortcomings, and Cold Steel is a clear example of that. If you are the type of player who talks to absolutely every NPC, doesn’t mind exploring dungeons, and enjoys participating in field political investigations, then this game is for you.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
PlayStation Vita, PS3
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



More Reviews