Release Date: October 22nd, 2019 (Playstation 4)
Genre: Action Adventure, RPG
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
ESRB: Teen (Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco)
An exciting new game was brought to the attention of western gamers earlier this month by Nihon Falcom. The game studio has finally localized the newest game in their extremely popular The Legend of Heroes game series! They brought the series back with a bang because the newest release is a direct sequel to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. They left us on a bit of a cliffhanger and now we will finally be able to see what really went down and experience what is yet to come!
Eager gamers enters the world of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III by playing their choice of one of five unknown characters in a crazy battlefield. The player gets no context and is immediately tossed into turn-based combat. As the whirlwind intro continues, the game goes back in time where the player is reunited with fandom favorite and series protagonist Rean. After that, though, the pace slows down and takes its time going through Rean’s new experiences within his brand new profession as well as how things lead up to the battle in the intro. He is such a wholesome protagonist and the game does a great job at highlighting that. There are quite a few new interesting plot points that long time fans of the series will be interested in. I cannot say too much, but the surprise factor in this game kept me on the edge of my seat.
There are a lot of mechanics to get a hold of in this game. If that sounds a bit daunting, that’s because it is. I loved how many different things that there were to do in the game, but with so many different controls I found myself having a little bit of trouble remembering them on the spot. One example of this is Panzer Soldat Training. This training is an important aspect of the game, but it is not a very frequent occurrence. The second time I had to do it, I had totally forgotten the controls! The player also learns controls for: a card game called Vantage Masters, how to fish, how to apply and adjust quartz, fast travel, book collecting, hidden events and how to activate them, character bonding, synthesizing quartz, cooking and recipe collecting, the entire armor system, how to restore different gauges, free roam controls, horse riding, and how to use Valimar which is NOT the same as Panzer Soldats. They also just sort of toss you into Valimar with no explanation of how to use him.
The gameplay is a mix of free roam and turn based combat which is really fun and interactive. Battling is one of my favorite things to do in this game as there are quite a few options like choosing between physical attacks and special attacks. There are many different combos that you can pull off based on which characters you have chosen to link. The game also features very challenging fights. I chose to play on normal difficulty because I have played RPGs in the past, but I would recommend a lower difficulty for someone who is new to RPGs. I love that the player can select a difficulty since many games do not give you that option. I will note that the boss fights are way harder than the normal battles you encounter throughout the game. I found myself having to lower the difficulty for the boss fights multiple times because even though my characters were all in the best gear I could find with the strongest quartz that I could create, the bosses would simply go first and one shot my team. It might have been my error as a player and maybe I just did not grasp the armor system completely, but I am fairly certain it was simply due to the jump in difficulty as I had invested a few hours worth of grinding by this point.
One of the most enchanting aspects of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, is the aforementioned card game Vantage Masters! I love that the player can buy cards from certain vendors to add to their deck and the gamer can challenge people throughout the game while in free roam mode. It will remind players of Gwent from the Witcher series and is nicely woven into the game. I really like the bonding aspect of the game as well. Rean is given bonding points that he can spend during free roam time and by using them he can increase his bond with certain characters. I mentioned hidden events above and one way to activate them is by a unique bonding experience… bathing! That’s right. Once per day during free roam Rean can go and use the men’s bath and while bathing hidden events will occur. It is completely adorable and incredibly safe for work, I promise.
This game also has a lot to offer in the lore department which I absolutely adore in a game. The title screen has a tab that allows you to look into all of the previously met characters, the cities, the lore, the whole shabang! Everything was pretty detailed as well. Speaking of detailed, the player can find and read entire books while in free roam mode. Certain books will also be saved to their character notes so they can go back and read them again from the inventory screen. They mostly talk about the important houses, battles, and the cities, but there are some other random books in the mix.
You can cook in this game as well which is unexpected, but completely charming. Certain establishments will offer special recipes that you can try and by trying them you can then create them if you have the ingredients. The player can collect ingredients from enemies and there are also quite a few different NPCs that can sell them. The food the gamer cooks can have better stats than food purchased from vendors, so I believe it is a worthwhile endeavor, just make sure you let a character who is proficient in that dish make it. That way getting the best stat boosts or replenishments from the meal is guaranteed. Cooking is also extremely easy to get to since it is located in the notes tab of the player menu. No running around to find kitchens or NPCs. Then there is the fact that the fishing mechanism is actually really nice as well. It took me a few tries to understand how to reel the fish in, but after I figured it out everything went smoothly. I do wish that the additional fishing equipment was not so expensive though because eventually the player will find fish that you cannot reel in without modified rods.
I did find a few things that I wish were done differently. I think the HUD (which includes character mini profiles, gauges, and the main mini map) is a bit too small. This makes it hard when trying to read the gauges throughout the game, even on a decently sized screen. Players may also often find themselves having to figure out controls and then later in the game the tutorial for said controls would pop up. This happened multiple times! The intro to the game tosses the gamer straight into game play before giving an explanation of the controls after the intro sequence. It happens again when the player gets to use Valimar for the first time. The gamer is only told how to control him after they have done it once. That was rather frustrating, but nothing I could not personally overcome. It happens in other smaller aspects of the game, like fishing, as well.
Continuing, there were a few things I also noticed concerning character interactions that were quite off putting. There are multiple times while there were multiple characters in a discussion but only one was being voice acted. It was really odd because it felt like I was only hearing half of the conversation. The other problem I encountered was with the movement of the character models. I specifically noticed that the heads of the models swivel extremely slowly and it is…rather creepy if I do say so myself. On a positive note, the character interactions themselves are well written! The player gets to meet plenty of new characters as well as some well known characters. The game has really nice pacing between events and features a pretty good story to gameplay ratio, but in the first couple of chapters it is rather cutscene heavy. For example, I timed the ending cutscene of Chapter 2 to be about thirty-seven minutes long. By my standards that is a pretty long cutscene. Some people love that and some people do not, which is why I felt the need to put this tidbit in.
Does Legend of Heroes: Cold Trails III give its fanbase what it desires in a sequel? I believe that for the most part it does. Overall, I really enjoyed this game and I hope that the rest of the fans of this series will too. I loved the game, but there were a few things that stuck out to me in a negative way. There were some weird things going on with the voice acting and with the character model movement as well as some problems with when the player is given controls. That being said, you get a lot from this game by means of story, lore, detail, character development, and more. There were a lot of cool little things within this game that made it extremely charming. Add that to the great story and visually pleasing graphics and I believe that this is a solid game. I think that the pros far outweigh the cons of this game and I am really excited to see what other people think of it.