The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV from Nihon Falcom and NIS America is ready to go on PS4! Learn more about this JRPG gem in our The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV review!
If you want some spoiler-free context on the Trails of Cold Steel franchise, head to our Trails of Cold Steel review, and then be sure to check out our Trails of Cold Steel II review, right before you dive into our Trails of Cold Steel III review, which is the game that sets things up for the story of this fourth entry.
The Erebonian Empire is on the brink of all-out war! Taking place shortly after the ending of Trails of Cold Steel III, the heroes of Class VII find themselves against the full force of the Empire in an attempt to stop its path of total domination. Further, the hero of the Erebonian Civil War and Class VII’s instructor, Rean Schwarzer, has gone missing. Now, the students of Class VII, old and new, must unite with heroes from all over the continent to create the only chance the world has to be spared from total destruction.
The Legends of Heroes is a grouping of different game series, all evolving in parallel and in the same world at the same time. The two main series are Trails in the Sky, and Trails of Cold Steel; the first taking place in the Liberl country, while the second is set in Erebonia. Throughout any games of the series there are references to the events of the other games, but each series can be played independently.
While it is technically possible to start with Trails of Cold Steel IV without having played any of the previous entries, I’d really advise against this idea because this story is a direct sequel to the final events of Trails of Cold Steel III, and you’d miss out on some crucial background story arcs to be able to enjoy this game to its fullest. If you’ve never played a Trails of Cold Steel game before but would like to spend less time playing the earlier titles, my suggestion would be to begin with Cold Steel III. You’ll still miss out on many story elements from the first two releases but would still learn most of what you need to know to play the fourth entry.
For this new story arc, you’ll be in the aftermath of the cataclysmic events that led to the ending of Cold Steel III. The whole Erebonian country is under military law, and Rean has gone missing. You’ll be following the new Class VII, which was formed in CS3, and returning members of the previous Cold Steel games on your way to saving Rean, then take on the whole Erebonian Empire. You’ll also begin playing with characters new to the Cold Steel franchise, and it was a nice surprise as a fan of The Legends of Heroes game series, but I’ll let you discover this one yourself. Ouroboros is also there to complicate the plans of the team.
If you’re reading this review, I’m pretty confident that you know about the Trails Of franchise, so you’re probably already aware that the games are text-heavy and feature a lot of reading through each campaign. I thought that this game’s prologue felt shorter than previous games, so I was happy to be back on the battlefield in the first hour or so of the game’s first act. Like in any The Legends of Heroes game, this new entry has a huge world to explore, and it’s packed with a lot of references to previous releases.
In the gameplay department, the turn-based battle system is identical to the one found in Cold Steel III, still using Attacks, Arts (magic spells), Crafts (special attacks that consume CP), and S-Crafts (similar to limit breaks, available once your CP reaches 100). Also worth mentioning is that the battle system is completely unlocked as the game begins, and you are encouraged to experiment with it. You can select a few different difficulties, and I thought that the normal one was fairly challenging, but luckily it can be changed at any moment without any consequence.
As I mentioned before, you begin the game with the members of the new Class VII, and due to story purposes, the crew will see new members added to the group. Switching members in and out can be done at any moment in the battle, which can help turn the tide depending on the situation. Since Cold Steel II, there are also mech fights using either Panzer Soldats or Divine Knights, depending on who the pilot is. Those segments add variety to the gameplay, and I thought that those fights were highly entertaining when trying to open up an enemy to a world of hurting.
I liked how the passage to the PlayStation 4 for the Cold Steel games brought the new High-Speed mode feature, which allows you to speed up the game at any moment. It can be enabled and disabled by pressing the left side of the touchpad on the DualShock 4 controller. I liked playing through the easier fights with High-Speed mode activated, in conjunction with the Auto-Battle feature. Do make sure to watch your character’s health because it can quickly drain. A new auto-save feature has also been added, which is always a nice touch.
The presentation of Trails of Cold Steel IV is amazing, and it felt even more beautiful than the already great visuals of Cold Steel III, with better dynamic shadows. This does come at a cost, however, because in some cities or dungeons, your PlayStation 4 console will kick up its fan speed into overdrive, making a ton of noise. As a fan of the Nihon Falcom music team, this soundtrack is once again near-perfect and, as expected, reuses many themes from the previous games – which is not a bad thing! The battle theme did feel underwhelming, however, and my favorite battle theme in the series is still the one from Trails in the Sky: Second Story. The game also begins with an epic intro cut-scene showing the entire cast of the series up to this point.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Trails of franchise, and once again, Nihon Falcom and NIS America have given us their best effort yet with Trails Of Cold Steel IV on PlayStation 4. I don’t recommend this game to a gamer new to the Cold Steel franchise, but if you’ve played the third installment, then purchasing this one is a no brainer. I liked the new features, such as the auto-save and the graphics overhaul of the new regions to discover, even if the PS4 fan does go a bit crazy. As for the story, Cold Steel IV delivers and brings an epic conclusion to the Trails of Cold Steel franchise in style.
This The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by NIS America.