The first thing to note about this particular title is the big chunky ‘3’ at the end of it. This is important. In fact, it would appear to be very important, as the game will refer to previous characters and events in previous titles every 15 minutes. This leaves those – like myself – that have never played the previous games in the series… well… scratching their heads and feeling a little lost. Trails of Cold Steel 3 is full of fan service.
Perhaps too much.
However, that’s not to say that Trails of Cold Steel 3 is not a good game. In fact, it’s a very good game. It’s just that it goes out of its way to let you know that this is just a part of a much larger story, and it does it often enough to frustrate.
You have been warned.
Trails of Cold Steel 3 Review
In terms of gameplay mechanics, Trails of Cold Steel 3 reminds me of the Persona series. On the one hand, you are a school teacher (of sorts), and you need to bond with both the students and the other teachers.
You do this by talking to them, helping them solve minor puzzles, and playing a surprisingly enjoyable trading card game with them. Oh, and you also pilot a mech and fight wars against the other factions in the game, as you are merely just a part of an Empire and the school you teach at is raising new warriors.
If you were looking for a Persona game that was set in a kind of medieval (yet somehow still futuristic) setting and felt a bit more like a traditional RPG, then this is the game for you.
It plays out quite simply. When you’re on campus, you’ll be running around doing errands for others and generally just advancing the inter-relational storylines. Eventually, you’ll also be sent out on battles for the Empire, which will advance the story at large.
The turn-based battle mechanics are quite good, I have to say. The menu system takes some time to get used to though. I had no idea what the difference was between Arts and Crafts for a long while. Once you get the hang of it, there really is a hell of a lot of potential strategies available to you.
The inclusion of the Break Gauge is also a welcome addition, as it reduces the impact of overpowered enemies steam-rolling you as you apply medicine after medicine to try to keep team members alive.
Although that will still happen from time to time.
There are also a bunch of playable characters available to you, each with their own unique skills and abilities. Combine this with team attacks and Orders, and not only do you have a formidable team, but battles are really quite enjoyable.
All of that said, although the game is enjoyable to play, and the story ramps up over its course, this is very much not my style of RPG. There’s a lot of discussion between characters, most of which I was just not interested in, and I found myself clicking through page after page of dialogue.
What’s more, it’s an incredibly long game (or perhaps because there’s so much dialogue) and I found myself losing interest over the course of the game.
Of course, this is my opinion; your mileage may vary. On top of that, while some of the game’s visuals are lovely (in an anime J-RPG kind of way), some aspects of the GUI are very outdated. Take the map, for example. Just navigating my way around this was unnecessarily tedious, especially given there are so many disparate areas, some with multiple levels of their own.
Sure, I was able to come to grips with it over time, but more modern map systems already exist – it’s fine to take the lead from other titles once in a while.
Having not played any of the other titles in the series, I’m not sure how the fan service plays out and I’m not sure how well this game compares, but I can say this; if you enjoyed previous Trails of Cold Steel titles then you are likely to enjoy this one.
It has some solid mechanics, tells a great story, and is really well structured. It’s just not for me.
If, like me, you’ve never played one of the previous titles, then you have been warned. If you love games that want you to take your time leisurely experiencing its story and its characters, then this is probably right up your alley.
But if you want more action, more regularly, then you’d best steer clear. This is one for those that enjoy the immersion.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 was reviewed on PS4 using a digital copy provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Trails of Cold Steel 3