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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Score: 92%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corporation
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Originally released a few years ago for the PS3/PSVita, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has now found a home on your PC via Steam. For those of you out there who don't play on consoles, you'll finally be able to experience the lives of these students.

While I have not played it on the PS3, I find it hard to believe that the graphics looked this good on it. My laptop is not the newest and yet even on my video card, this game looks amazing! I feel like I am controlling an anime rather than playing a game. The characters, while all dressed similarly, cannot easily be confused. They did a great job of going in depth on their personalities and habits. You really feel like you get to know these kids and their instructors. My personal favorite is Instructor Sara (and not just for the name). You'll enjoy getting to know everyone. I do find it odd that their weapons just disappear when they sheath them. It would be much better if you saw them carrying their weapons. Holding things and such is the only place I can really fault the graphics. They never really connect hands or pick up things. Basically, hand interaction is avoided. The footprints on the map are really nice for seeing where you just came from. Theyíd be annoying if they stayed, but they are there just the right amount of time. One more thing to note, the animations in the battles make the battles feel a bit longer than I prefer. You can skip them, but the skip takes almost as long so itís not really worth it.

Since these students come from all areas and all walks of life, there is a wide variety of accents, just like you expect to see at schools like this. I especially like the Scottish girl and her family. Once again, the designers made sure that the characters are interesting. The voicework is well done as well. The only time I notice a lag is after battle. For some reason, the voices start a second or so after the mouths start moving. I do like the music as well. It's nice and peaceful for the most part, but picks up when it needs to and it really fits the game.


Gameplay:

If you're looking to jump right into a game, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel will make you happy. Like a number of games I've played, you start the game several months ahead of the rest of the story, which means you learn to play while you're a bit more powerful and have more Arts and Crafts. To learn to fight, you will be defending your academy from unknown mechanical enemies. Trails of Cold Steel is a turn-based RPG, so your turns will be mixed in with the enemies based on your respective speeds. If you attack near one of your team mates, you can get Assists, which is always nice. If the enemy misses you, sometimes you will Counterattack. There are different types of attacks. You have your normal Attack, but you can also choose to use a Craft or an Art. You can use items as well. You will earn the CP you need to do a Craft after a normal Attack. There are more advanced moves, like S-Crafts and Link Attacks, but they will do a great job of explaining how to play as you go along. You will find rest stations along the way and I donít need to tell you how helpful those can be. Donít forget to break boxes and things that you can as they may have useful items inside. Treasure chests will have even better items.

After the first few battles, youíll get to see the intro which will introduce the characters (there are a fair amount of them), then youíll go back in time, 5 months earlier. You take a train to a town called Trista. Your name is Rean and Trista will be your new home for the next two years while you are at Thors Military Academy. You meet a girl at the train station who points out that you both have on red jackets when most have green, so you must be special candidates. Special, in this case, means youíve got a LOT of work ahead of you. Youíll have to fight your way out of a dungeon just to get to start school with the rest of the newly created Class VII. There are only nine of you total.

Sara Valestein is your instructor. Class VII is different in that it is a mix of commoners and nobles, unlike all the previous classes. Not everyone (Machias especially) is happy about this, but they have to get over it. Your ARCUS unit will let you communicate while in the field. They also allow you to use Arts. Elliot Craig and Gaius Worzel team up with you to get out of the first dungeon. They're your first close friends. When youíre not in battle, you have to go to class. There will be questions in these classes and if you answer correctly, you can get AP. You can increase your rank with AP and you can also get AP by completing quests and for good behavior and such. You want to get higher ranks because they come with academy perks. While not in class, there is a whole lot that you can explore. The campus is quite large with some fun stuff and places to meet people. If you see an (!) on the map, those are events. Red ones are required events and green ones are quests. Donít forget to do those quests for AP! Youíll also need to find ways to bond with your classmates, if you can.

Your class is definitely different in that you are even sent off campus, to different towns, to help people out and do "field studies." At first, you all have no clue what is going on. Go with the flow, keep playing, and just maybe you'll be able to help solve the political struggles of this world!


Difficulty:

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel give you four difficulty levels from the beginning: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare. I recommend starting a new game on Easy or Normal. Personally, I didn't find Normal very difficult at all, but then I play a lot of RPGs. Hard might be a bit difficult, but can be done. Nightmare is recommended only for a NewGame+ after youíve beaten the game once.

While Trails of Cold Steel is a turn-based RPG, it is by no means simple. If you want to play on the higher difficulties, you will need to get your own balance of when to attack, when to use Crafts, and when to use Arts. You'll also probably need to move your characters around at times. To complicate things further, your Arts and Crafts can have elemental bases. Various enemies are strong or weak to specific elements. You will not know which at first, so you have to try them out. The more you battle specific enemies, the better you will figure out what works. You will also have some characters and some items that will be able to analyze the enemies, so you will know what better to use. Learn how to use S-Crafts since they will make your life a LOT easier.

Some characters have affinities for some elements, but for the most part, you can unlock slots for equipping whatever elements you want. You'll need to play around with it so that you can get balanced teams. I do like that you can remove or swap out the orbs at any time outside of battle without a fee, so you can play around with it easily.


Game Mechanics:

While there are lot of different controls in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, it's pretty easy to use. You can use your keyboard/mouse or controller. You can configure the keyboard/mouse controls as you want, which makes things nice. Personally, I prefer the controller. There are a lot of options that you can configure when you launch the game. I changed mine to fullscreen and didnít adjust anything else. You can save by going to the Camp Menu and choosing System, then Save. As is typical for me, one of my favorite things is the map. You have a mini-map in the top right corner. Personally, I always love maps since I have a tendency to get lost! You can also expand it to see a bigger view. The map shows people you can talk to, enemies, events, and more. In town, you have a Quick Travel Menu, which can be really handy for getting places quickly and seeing if you have bonding events available.

As it seems practically every game recently has added in a fishing game, Trails of Cold Steel is no exception. To fish, you simply cast in at a fishing spot and wait. When the (!) appears, you press the right button. Then you will need to quickly press a variety of buttons to reel it in. The buttons change based on the type of fish, so watch out. Youíll also be able to cook, which is easy as well. There is also a card game that you can play with your friends while you are on the train between towns. They really packed in a lot of extras in Trails of Cold Steel. The card game is not too difficult to learn as well. Itís basically a game of adding cards to the pile and totaling the score. There are special cards, but not so many that things are hard to keep track of and you can increase the bonds with your teammates by playing cards with them.

As a general rule, I am a console gamer. I don't like having to change out my video card every few months just to play the latest and greatest game, especially since I use a laptop. Games like The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel are starting to change my mind. This game looks amazing hooked up to my large TV, even without a brand-new video card. You can scale the options so that your PC will most likely run it. With a new card, it would look even better and the controls are easy to handle. Best of all, patches come out pretty quickly. A new one was just added to allow auto-saves.

If you are a fan of RPGs with a good storyline, I highly recommend you check out The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel today! It's a good balance between story and fighting with amazing characters. Check it out and see what you think!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

Minimum System Requirements:



OS: Windows 7 or later, CPU: Intel Atom x7-Z8700 2.4 GHz, RAM: 4 GB RAM; Graphics: Shader Model 5 (GeForce 400 / Radeon HD 5000 / Intel post-2012 series),DirectX: Version 11,Storage: 17 GB available space; Additional Notes: 1280x720 / 30 FPS with portable settings
 

Test System:



OS: Windows 8.1, CPU: Intel Core i7-3630QM 2.4 GHz, RAM: 16 GB, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M, Hard Drive: 400 GB free

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