The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PS4, Switch
Tested On: Switch

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV (Switch) – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Massive amounts of content
Bad: Lots of padding on the earlier parts, convoluted systems
User Score
9.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Encompassing three games and several spin-offs, the Trails series has been going strong for over seven years, but like all things, it too must come to an end. Trails of Cold Steel IV is the latest entry in the franchise, bringing its players the long-awaited finale of the story, along with old characters and the series’ familiar combat style.

Story

Trails of Cold Steel IV’s story begins with a dream sequence, during which players will be left in control of the trio formed by Altina, Kurt and Juna. Awakening from their slumber, the group finds out that two weeks since the events of the previous game have passed, with both the old and new class VII having escaped to the hidden village of Elin. After this, both classes resolve to rescue Rean (their comrade and teacher) from his imprisonment at the hands of the Gnomes, with the older students setting out to gather intelligence, while the trio stays behind to recover their strength.  Once done with their training, Juna, Kurt and Altina embark on a mission to find the Occult Points in Erebonia in order to stabilize them and track down the stronghold Rean is being held at.

Throughout their travels, the party meets with several old schoolmates, who reveal more information about the ongoing war effort and forced conscriptions throughout the kingdom, as well as providing a lead on the first of the Occult Points. After reaching said occult point, the group happens to encounter their classmate Ash Carbide and promptly getting jumped by a group of jaegers attempting to apprehend them, which they luckily manage to fend off. With the enemy defeated, the group manages to seal the Occult Point, returning back to Elin in order to catch some much-needed rest.

The game’s story is quite dense, to say the least, starting off extremely slow and confusing for those who may not have played the previous games. That said, several logs summarizing the events of the previous entries are available in the main menu.

Graphics

Trails of Cold Steel IV’s graphics are quite decent, although somewhat dated, due to having been built on the same engine as the previous entry in the series. The game contains a wide cast of different and unique characters, both main and secondary, with the same even applying to the random monsters found throughout the world. Said world is also comprised of a good amount of different areas, with towns generally containing more variety than the simple roads between them.

Sound

Similarly to its graphics, the game’s sound design is pretty good, containing a soundtrack featuring plenty of different songs and well-made sound effects all throughout the game. On top of this, the voice acting is also included in all cutscenes and most dialogues, with extra chit-chat for each character during combat. That said, similarly to other games including dialogue lines during combat, it is still quite true these lines can easily become excessively repetitive and grating at times.

Gameplay

Trails of Cold Steel IV belongs to the JRPG genre, more specifically the turn-based version of the genre. During combat, players will control their team and be able to act according to the turn order, based on the speed of the different characters in play and the techniques they may use. Certain techniques will delay the following turn more or less, with special ones such as the magic system or “Arts” taking a turn to select, and another with a short delay to cast.

Besides this, the game includes a bounty of different systems, each relying on their own unique resources to utilize and providing different effects, although before explaining any of these, the link mechanic should be covered. By partnering two characters, players will be able to have them support each other in combat, automatically following up on each other’s attacks, healing their partner or counter-attacking for them. With each basic attack, characters will also have a chance to throw the enemy off-balance and strike them with a Link Attack accompanied by their partner or even the whole team. Depending on the enemy, this will become easier based on the weapon equipped by the attacking character, with different enemies resisting certain attacks.

By utilizing this Link Attack system, players will be able to gain BP, utilized both for stronger link attacks and Brave Orders. These Brave Orders will provide different buffs to the whole party and depend on the unit casting them, being unique to each of them. Differently from the previous game, in order to upgrade the effectiveness of these abilities, players will need to beat “trial” chests found throughout the world, which will pit a reduced party against a few enemies.

Other than this, players will also be able to utilize different Arts and Crafts with each of their characters. As already mentioned, Arts are what is commonly known as magic in other games, relying on EP (basically mana) to be cast and is independent of the character, being obtained instead through the orbment system. On the other hand, Crafts require CP to be utilized, a resource obtainable by dealing or taking damage, and are unique to each character, providing different effects at different CP costs. On top of this, players will also have access to S-Crafts; empowered Crafts available upon reaching 100 CP which can be used at any time and further power up at 200 CP to deal massive damage in large areas as well as depleting the enemy’s Break gauge.

Said Break gauge is yet another mechanic players will have to keep in mind, which is a second bar on each enemy which will slowly deplete after dealing damage to them. In order to deplete it further, special attacks with bonus damage to it or S-Crafts will need to be utilized. Once the Break gauge empties out, enemies will become “broken”, taking increased damage and triggering Link Attacks on any attack. Whilst this Break system is a powerful tool at the player’s disposal, it should be noted it can often be rendered ineffective, with enemies recovering on their following turn which can immediately happen after being broken.

In order to power up their characters, players will have two main tools, these being the classic equipment system (armor, weapons and accessories) and the orbment system unique to the series. This orbment system, already mentioned alongside arts, simply consists of a matrix unique to each character where players will be able to equip quartzes in order to grant the character stats, arts and passive effects. Each character will additionally be able to equip a “Master Quartz”, which will grant all of the aforementioned bonuses and slowly level up alongside the character. In order to obtain more quartzes, players will be able to craft them or simply find them throughout the world in chests.

Surprisingly enough, the game’s world is quite empty, with little to see on the different areas besides roaming enemies and a few chests spread out through side paths. While exploring is certainly rewarding thanks to these chests, there are few other reasons besides them to do so. That said, “exploring” wouldn’t really be the applicable word, with most of these side paths still being mainly linear and easily visible.

As one may guess, the combat system is certainly convoluted and hard to grasp at first, containing lots of different mechanics and things to be kept in mind. To further this, at higher difficulties enemies may easily feel like bullet sponges, boasting massive amounts of health and damage. Without paying attention to the systems and strengthening their team, players will certainly see the Game Over screen many times.

With most gameplay elements covered, it should also be mentioned that the game isn’t really at its best performance on the Switch. Players will encounter continuous loading between cutscenes, upon leaving areas and after combat. While this is still usual and most of these loading times are not long, they do certainly pile up. What’s more, it is easy for the game to stutter during combat, taking a few seconds to recover, made even worse by the loading before and after combat abilities, which occurs even after having to manually skip them.

Conclusion

Trails of Cold Steel IV is a good game that delivers on what it promises, thus being a great finale to the Trails series. While fans of the saga will most certainly enjoy the game, new players attempting to start with it will most likely feel lost due to its massive cast of characters and convoluted story. At a price of €/$59,99 or £53.99, the game does certainly offer a massive amount of gameplay divided between the main story, minigames and the additional grinding games of the genre require. Those willing to read the logs or the wiki in order to catch up with the lore of the game will be able to find an enjoyable experience.

Personal Opinion

“I didn’t really enjoy my time with Trails of Cold Steel IV. While I don’t hate the gameplay itself, the pacing felt awfully slow for my liking, with lots of things that would fly over the head of a newcomer to the series. I also found the enormous amount of different mechanics in the combat overcomplicated, ending up just focusing on damage. While someone willing to delve into the systems and understand them might enjoy it more, it definitely took me a good while to do so, and even then I ended up cheesing most fights by chaining 4 full power S-Crafts.”

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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV (Switch) - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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