Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Release: October 27, 2020
Reviewed on: Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch
Trails of Cold Steel IV is a perfect culmination of the series. The story built up to this final chapter and the storytelling, world building, and character development is truly epic. Fans of the series are certainly in for a treat with this final entry.
Trails of Cold Steel IV picks up right where the previous game left off. The world is at the brink of war. The game opens with townspeople reacting to the news that the prince of Erebonian was murdered and that preparation for retaliation is underway. There is quite a bit of story to get through in the beginning of the game, roughly half an hour’s worth of dialogue. However, because of the storytelling and the daunting feeling of what’s going on, it doesn’t feel that long. For fans of the game, it’s a nice segway into the new chapter. For those that are new to the series, it’s a good recap of what’s going on.
At this point, you’re probably wondering if you need to play the other games in the series before playing this game. The short answer is no, there is plenty of exposition done by the characters in the game, so you’ll catch on pretty quickly about what’s going on. That being said, if you really want to get the most out of this game, I’d suggest that, at the very least, play Trails of Cold Steel III. This game is a direct follow up to that one, and having played Trails of Cold Steel III, I will say that the game is a pretty good starting point for beginners in the series. There are a lot of characters and it can feel a bit overwhelming if you have no idea of who they all are, but you are also offered plenty of short readings you can go through in the menu to get more of the backstory if you so desire.
This is definitely a love letter to fans of the series, as you will be playing as members of Class VII, both new and old. But the cast doesn’t end there, as you also play as characters from previous Trails of Cold Steel games as well. The addition of all these heroes certainly adds to the world building and brings the saga together in an epic moment, but having all those characters can be staggering and cause some head spinning for someone new to the series. Again, I encourage you to read up on the backstory in the menu, or better yet, pick up the previous entries.
As far as game play, the mechanics from Trails of Cold Steel III thankfully resurface in IV. Returning is the use of combat links, the ability to link two of your characters together. The link gives them the potential to trigger a special combo attack, or in some cases, health or protection for the person that they are linked to. Links level up and can be very powerful throughout the game.
Characters can also give orders to the other team members. Orders act as buffs for the team. If you use orders properly, they can make a huge difference in the outcome of a particularly tough battle.
Each character also has crafts and the more powerful s-crafts. S-Crafts act like breaks and can cause some major damage in battle. You’ll need craft points to cast both crafts and s-crafts, and you earn craft points by hitting enemies or by getting hit by enemies. The battles are turn based and will require you to use some strategy, thinking through your next move and which character is next in line to fight.
If I had one complaint about the game, it's that it's very heavy in story. There will be times when you walk around and talk to other characters and all you want to do is dive back into the amazing battle system. It’s a JRPG, so it’s not surprising to be heavy handed with the story, but it does slow down the overall pace of the game.
Final Grade: A
As I said, this is a love letter to all the fans of the series. Seeing characters from all the different games in the series is a treat for those that followed it all. The saga is an epic tale that comes together perfectly in this final chapter of Class VII. If you are a fan of JRPGs this is a must have in your collection. Just be forewarned, you’ll want to go and play the other games in the series, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Review code provided by NIS America