The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review

The epic conclusion to a long journey

Release Date
October 27, 2020
Developed By
Nihon Falcom
Published by
NIS America
Genre
RPG
Consoles
Available on PlayStation 4, Coming to Switch and Steam 2021

As the credits for Trails of Cold Steel IV began to roll, I realized I had just completed a three-year journey. I actually started my journey with the second game. After playing through most of II, I realized that I needed to start from the beginning. Not because I couldn’t follow along, but because I was falling in love with the characters and Zemuria as a world. I made my way through the first two games in full and then dove right into Trails of Cold Steel III when it was released. While IV is not a huge leap in pushing the series forward with new ideas, it doesn’t need to make huge strides. Nihon Falcom found a sweet spot with III and decided to stick with what isn’t broken. Combined with a strong localization effort of NIS America and a solid English voice cast, you have another long, enjoyable entry in a long-running franchise.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review 1

 

I am not going to go too deep into story discussion as I do not wish to spoil any major details. The story picks up right after the ending of the events of III. I am grateful that they do not waste any time with an overly long explanation and jump right into the good stuff. From there, the overall story’s pace is very spry, and the character side stories are just as impactful as they have ever been. Having now completed the 4th game in this particular part of the franchise, I will say that in the entirety of my 75+ hour playthrough, I was not bored or wondering when something big was going to happen. I was delighted with the ending overall, and I am inquisitive about what is next for the world of Zemuria.

In terms of gameplay, not much has been changed, and I found that to be better. The combat system got plenty of refinement in the previous entry, so only minor tweaks were made. These include changes such as balancing character move sets and allowing you an additional 2 battle points for a total of seven maximum. You can still set a master skillset and a secondary set that allows for a wide range of effects and give character access to this universe’s version of spells. This further enhanced strategies about the game’s “orders” system, allowing for slightly stronger strategy planning.

 

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The turn-based combat is still engaging after four games because of all the pieces in motion, between managing a party of 4 with very different skill sets and variable elements, such as a turn with guaranteed critical hits, restoring your health in increments, or other random effects. Turn order is determined by character speed, and each option has a certain amount of delay cost. Some allow moving to a new position or making your basic attack have little to no delay while using “Crafts” or casting “Arts” to slow down how quickly a character can act again. Each character is customizable with a large variety of different augmentations and arts. In many ways, it’s similar to the materia system in Final Fantasy VII. These elements combine into a combat system that I found fun to experiment with to find powerful character builds. I played through the game on an easier difficulty to complete the story in a faster time frame. Still, the series is well known for its difficulty balancing, and the consistency is apparent here as well.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review 3The presentation style hasn’t really changed. The graphical style of III is still here; the characters and environments look great. While not the most technically advanced game on the market, Cold Steel IV still wows with incredibly creative locale design and some very cool character designs. There were a few locations introduced that I really had to soak in the scenery. Some of the dungeons have ultra-cool designs that really made me appreciate the work.

 

Using the same method for cutscenes since the PS Vita/PlayStation 3 days makes the series feel a bit dated at this point, however. The menus are not bad since they are easy to navigate and are aesthetically pleasing enough. I ask that with a new generation on the horizon, they change how they handle these scenes.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review4

 

What is still consistent, however, is the sound work. The game offers dual audio between English and Japanese voice casting. Once again, the English dub is very well done, and a strong localization effort furthers this. The soundtrack for IV is actually my favorite so far; some of the newer tracks had me bobbing my head. The fusion of electronic, rock, and orchestra is still a great combo.

It’s been a long journey, but the main story for the series is finally upon us. I highly recommend taking this long but rewarding journey. I know there is a follow-up game that doesn’t have a US release date yet, but I hope that we will see more in the future of Zemuria! 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Review
Trails of Cold Steel IV doesn't make an radical updates to the series' formula. The presentation stylings are all here for better or worse. The finale to this long running story is easily worth your time.
Pros
Engaging Story and Combat
Fantastic Soundtrack
Meaty campaign and side activites
Cons
Presentation of story feels dated
4.5
Score
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