When it comes to stories, there is no greater fear than whether or not you’ll reach the conclusion. We’ve seen that with Shenmue, especially following the long-awaited third chapter, and it’s something the Berserk community constantly grapples with, regardless of there being new content or not. Thankfully, Trails of Cold Steel was able to reach its fourth and final installment, something that fans have been waiting roughly seven years across nearly three PlayStation generations. Given the strong focus on story, does The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV meet expectations or does it fall short of what fans are looking for?
Similar to the third installment, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV has a rather intimidatingly long recap video. This is a series built heavily on story and has so many plot points it’s the type of thing where you, quite honestly, need to revisit past episodes and play through the adventure, not watch a video explaining everything. Still, it’s an amazing video that, despite being rather lengthy, gives newcomers and fans alike an impressive reminder of why the series is so beloved.
Upon starting the final arc, players need to band together to put a stop to Giliath Osborne and his plans. This builds to a point where it’s revealed that awakening every Divine Knight sets forth a chain of events that leads to a ritual to determine which one would be the vessel for the Great One Ishmelga. This sets forth a series of events that conclude with a final climactic battle to conclude this saga.
Beyond a basic overview of the events, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV does a fairly good job concluding a good number of threads and concludes the story on a relatively nice note. It’s the type of thing where paying attention is rewarded and it works towards a series of events that are both engrossing and exciting to watch unfold. As for gameplay, it’s a bit closer to business as per usual.
Despite four releases and releasing fairly deep in the PlayStation 4’s life, there is no denying The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV still looks like a PlayStation 3 game. Graphics generally look low resolution, character models feel stiff and it’s the type of thing that really shows where the budget and focus went. None of these things are enough to take away from the overall experience, but it does stand out given how much time you need to invest. Similar things can be said about gameplay too.
For all the progression, the gameplay feels relatively unchanged. While exploring the world, you’ll see enemies wandering around that you can walk up to and engage or attack for a slight benefit. Fights themselves have a nice and fairly traditional flow to them.
Since this is an RPG, there are a lot of mechanics and elements that go into the average battle. Elements do increase or decreased damage, depending on what you use and the enemy you decide to use it on. From there, using a special attack has some kind of wait, forcing players to plan accordingly. Certain characters have additional benefits, like taking damage can result in another counter-attacking, along with certain attacks leading to additional attacks and special combo moves. There is also a counterattack system based on whether or not your attack lands and a bit more.
In the grand scheme, a lot of it will come down to the usual tactics though. Keep allies up and active, maximize damage by either targeting more problematic enemies or a wide array of problems and using every mechanic in your favor. Of course, sometimes a single wrong move can set you on the path to defeat but these are the type of things that make the genera so much fun to play.
All that being said, there are times when things feel a bit more demanding than previous titles. It takes a bit more to break enemies and some of the bosses pose greater threats than they would’ve in the past. This isn’t enough to break the game, it’s just a sudden change that slightly takes away from the overall experience. Thankfully, those who find the new challenge a bit much can always lower the difficulty, explore various paths to increase your power or, quite honestly, come up with a better tactic.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review – Verdict
Despite some shortcomings, this is still a fantastic JRPG that remembers what made players fall in love with the genre. You have a wondrous story that is topped with engaging gameplay that is more than enough to keep most people engaged. Toss in a wide variety of mechanics not even mentioned, exploration and so many details and it’s easy to understand why so many people love this franchise. And while newcomers are better off playing through the other titles, the recap is robust enough to either remind you what happened or explain so many were excited about the conclusion.
[Editor’s Note: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]