Trails of Cold Steel IV

Posted: October 24

This game has some of the cheesiest, cringiest moments I have ever experienced in a video game. The writing can be downright awful at times. Characters frequently feel like they share one hive mind, always on the same wavelength, briefly forgetting their entire personalities to regurgitate the authors’ moral messages in an almost cult-like fashion while the rest of the very large cast looks on with wide approving smiles on their faces. The game’s theme itself is frustratingly black and white; interesting conflicts are explained away in convenient plot devices that dumb down the stakes and steer the game away from what could have been a really intriguing, complex narrative.

And yet I still recommend this game.

Why? Because by this point, we are nine games into the mainline Trails series, and the series as a whole still has some of the best worldbuilding I have ever seen in any RPG I’ve played to this point (yes, including Persona). The world feels alive, and even the most minor characters feel like they are living lives outside of the main path, progressing along on their own little character arcs. At a certain point the game turns into a mini reflection of life, where you may check in on how an acquaintance is holding up, have unexpected reunions, and have moments of relaxation. The game knows how to move at a leisurely pace when you want it to, and knows how to ramp up the action when it has to.

The gameplay itself is very solid, building on the systems of the previous games in the series. The combat is deceptively deep, and while this game’s normal difficulty is noticeably more casual than previous games, it still provides a decent challenge at times that requires a deeper exploration of mechanics to master.

Yes, there are many issues with the main narrative, especially when the game attempts to get emotional or serious. But the game also does a lot of the little things very well, and in my opinion is still a good-to-great JRPG package that provides an engaging combination of gameplay and story. Not on the level of a Persona or Final Fantasy, but very close with it’s own set of strengths.

Let’s be honest- If you’re looking into this game, you’ve probably already played all the previous Cold Steel games, if not the entire Trails series. And if you’ve played through any of the other games in the Trails series, you will more than likely enjoy this one because it builds on the experiences in those games. However, If you have only played through the Cold Steel series, I highly recommend playing through the Sky trilogy and the two Crossbell games before playing this one, because this game (and Cold Steel III) heavily references the entire Trails series as a whole.

Ignore the cheese (or embrace it), and I’ll see you at the next game.

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