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Trails of Cold Steel 1: Belated Review

TraIls of Cold Steel Newbie

Trails of Cold Steel
A Very Underrated RPG

Trials of Cold Steel flew relatively under my ignorant radar. I am a big JRPG fan, but for very Tales of Berseria, we have abject disappointment as shown by Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness.

Despite being a fan, I would no longer say I am an expert of the genre, I am experienced, but I don’t have the free time I would love to devote to great JRPGs. Like any JRPG there are things the game down not do so well, but they are outweighed massively by the positives of this entry. In fact, following this game finishing, I wanted to go straight to the Steam store and purchase the sequel.  

The BASIC Premise

In Trails of Cold Steel, you will follow the main protagonist Rean through his enrolment in Thors Academy as a political threat and intrigue break out across Erebonia. A standard ensemble of student companions form your party yet there is more depth to the characters through the evidence of the social class system within the built world. This gives you a little bit more than your standard, monsters = bad, human = good system.

I won’t pretend some of the characters are particularly innovative when it comes to JRPG tropes. However I do believe there is enough depth to keep them interesting and they are certainly not lacking in charm.

Technical Specs and Graphics

Trails of Cold Steel Settings

These were the settings I decided to implement in my playthrough on the PC. I had heard mixed things about the frame rate drops.

If you can play with the majority of settings maxed out, I imagine you should have few issues. PS4 gamers seem to be more susceptible to framerate drops.

The characters themselves look beautiful and boldly presented — the scenery on the other hand s painfully dull at times with dungeons being particularly partial to monotony. 

Trails of Cold Steel’s controls can take a little time getting used to on the PC as many JRPG ports seem to opt against the WASD control scheme.

I imagine, as a former PS4 gamer; this is one area the Playstation will offer superior performance. One feature that seemed unnecessarily fiddly was the in-game map. Opening it up and finding your destination was almost a vent worthy action at times. 

The game also has a new turbo mode on the definitive edition of the PS4 and PC version making the more tedious areas easy to negotiate.


Battle Trailer from GameSpot Trailers

Battles in Trails of Cold Steel are incredibly fun. Even grinding doesn’t feel as tedious as other RPGs. The characters are all quite varied in their abilities and you will certainly establish your favourites after a period of time, despite the game splitting your group regularly. 

Staleness is a popular occurrence in JRPGs. Trails of Cold Steel tackles this with a wide array of abilities called arts and crafts. It would be nice to have a more expansive weapon and armour customisation options. However, the variety of abilities and pacing of boss fights, in particular, keeps you chugging along despite its’ other limitations. 

Arts are governed by a system called quartz with each character possessing a master quartz and slots to equip more powerful standard quartz as the game progresses. This reminded me a lot of the Final Fantasy VII and certainly not in a bad way. As a result I regularly sort out treasure chests for the shear excitement of finding new quartz.

Story and Side Quests

Trails of Cold Steel has a good story that is strong enough to stand on its’ own two feet. It doesn’t require in-depth adventures into tedious data logs to establish what is going on like say Final Fantasy XIII. Sure there are books you can read if you want more detailed knowledge of Ereboria. Nevertheless, they are never prerequisites to the plot.

The formula of calendar-driven events and structure similar to that of Persona drives the story keeping the events well-paced yet exciting.  I was particularly a fan of some of the insurmountable obstacles evidencing group as still, a group of kids in comparison to their teachers and battle-hardened veterans.

The final twist of the story even caught me by surprise. Possibly, because I underestimated the story but still I found it enjoyable nonetheless.


Side quests follow very simple JRPG tropes. Yes, there is an abundance of fetch and find searches, but enough context is given to make you care about completing them. Even secondary and tertiary characters seem well developed enough for you to understand their motives.

I want a more comprehensive selection of quests available, and some of them seem quite mundane. However, I feel the developers attempted to be economical with side content preventing distraction from the story. You’re rarely in the middle of critical world-changing events only to be distracted by a quick game of Blitzball or Chocobo races.

Final Fantasy is in a different league concerning additional content. However, it does flirt with devaluing the story events on the odd occasion.


Official Art of the Game

For me, it is the characters that have made this game so engaging. As I touched upon earlier, even the secondary characters like Sara (insert love heart eyes here) and Rufus are well developed with transparent parts to play.  

I was worried at first Rean would be taking the trope of the silent protagonist that JRPG publishers and developers seem so fond. My concerns were unfounded, as Rean has his personality and flaws he can fall victim to, much like the rest of the group. As mentioned, some of the characters previously are very typical of Japanese RPGs; however, if anything this seems to add to the game’s charm. There are just enough surprises to keep it interesting. 

Final Verdict

Trails of Cold Steel is definitely a good RPG bordering on great. Whilst I would never say that any area of the game is groundbreaking. On the other hand, even the weakest areas of the game are surprising very solid.

Overall if you have no interest in Japanese Role-Playing games this game will certainly not convert you.  However, if you have an interest as an experienced or novice player in this genre it is game I would definitely recommend buying.

Like this review? Check out my review of Doki Doki Literature Club!


  • Charming characters and engaging story.
  • Fun, well-paced battle system.
  • A greater variety of side quest would be nice.
  • 8/10
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