The epic story of Trails of Cold Steel is finally seeing its conclusion and it's one fantastic experience, especially for fans like me.
I've been a fan of Nihon Falcom ever since I played the original Ys on PC back in the early '90s and since then, I've enjoyed the Xanadu series and got introduced to The Legend of Heroes franchise via the Gagharv trilogy when I bought a PSP. Years later, I played through and loved Trails in the Sky and of course, have been playing all of the Trails of Cold Steel games which always blow me away. So, imagine my delight when I started playing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV only to see characters from the entire Trails franchise including ones from Trails in the Sky as well as the 2 Crossbell arc games which still have yet to be released in the west. On the plus side, this acts as a wonderful treat for fans but it also may be a tad perplexing to those who got into the franchise later, especially considering just how many characters get thrown at you on a consistent basis. Thankfully, newcomers should still be able to at least follow along.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV - The End of Saga makes for a fitting final chapter in the epic long-running series. Without giving much away, series hero Rean is absent for the first chunk of the adventure as you explore the continent with his friends and their acquaintances and their cousins and their pets. Okay, maybe it doesn't go that deep but there is an absurd amount of characters.
As you travel while meeting many familiar faces, you'll explore plenty of locations that were present in previous games which is a great way to bring back memories yet it can also feel quite tedious at times. Obviously, there are new areas but travelling across so many repeat lands did make me feel rather bored at times. On the plus side, there are plenty of scenes with the large cast of characters throughout the journey that range from cheeky to thought-provoking and these make each mini-adventure worth it.
With all of that being said, the familiar world is mostly a positive in my books as it feels like revisiting your childhood hometown. There are loads of memories to be had and reflecting on past journeys as you wander through fields and towns warrants a warm feeling. Another aspect that you're treated to as you traverse the world is a top-notch orchestral soundtrack. The same group of composers crafted the music in this sequel yet it comes across like they really stepped up their game with a consistently impressive score that always fits each situation perfectly while offering many musical layers and the occasional catchy tune, too. Excellent work, chums!
If you've played previous games then you'll know exactly what to expect when it comes to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV's gameplay and combat. In fact, it's nearly identical to Trails of Cold Steel III. On the downside, this means that it doesn't quite feel evolved enough as a lot more could have been done to differentiate itself to create a stand-out gameplay experience. However, it also means that series veterans can pick it up and play without any need to learn anything new which is fine because the combat is exciting stuff, especially when you're facing off against a boss that requires strategy and skill to topple. Whenever you're finding it too difficult, powering up your party with new gear, levelling up, and optimizing their quartz loadouts may give you the upper-hand. Setting such things up is as rewarding as it has ever been but again, there's nothing particularly new or exciting in this regard either.
Finally, although I enjoyed my time with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV a great deal, I must say that its dungeons disappointed me for the most part. I remember traversing many tricky puzzle-filled dungeons earlier in the series yet here, the dungeons are mostly linear and don't require much thought to master. You can simply run through the majority of them while doing a little exploring in order to receive the odd treasure but that's about it. The only substantial mechanic is switch-based puzzles yet even those are too few and far between. I wish I was forced to do things like use clever character-specific abilities in order to progress.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is an awe-inspiring love letter to loyal fans of the franchise. The enormous cast of characters, grand-scale story, and memorable adventure makes for a wonderful conclusion to this epic long-running tale.
- + Ties the Trails franchise together brilliantly with a huge cast of characters
- + Familiar world and excellent soundtrack
- + Solid gameplay and exciting combat
- - Traversing the same locations as previous games can feel tedious at times
- - Dungeons are mostly too linear
- - Gameplay simply hasn't evolved enough