So if your a fan of JRPGs like myself or your looking for something new to play then the Trails of Cold Steel games are a pretty good place to start. Trails of Colds Steel 2 or Trails 2 to make things easier is the next instalment in Legend of Heroes series from Nihon Falcom. Will the sequel get a passing grade or will it flunk out of school so with that, lets get to it.
If you haven’t played the first game there is a very handy option which allows you to view all the major plot points from the first installment so you can catch up and be ready to move straight on, but there may be a few smaller things you might miss so if possible, I’d recommend playing the first game beforehand.
But if you’ve already completed the first game and sunk countless hours into it like myself, you will be happy to know that it wasn’t all for nothing because the sequel allows you to carry over your data and get some extras in the second game, as it remembers certain bonding events achieved from its predecessor to provide a more personalized experience.
The game picks up a month after the events of the first Trails game. Erebonia has been thrown into chaos due to the civil war between the Noble Alliance against the Imperial Army. The game starts with protagonist Rean Schwarzer unconscious on a mountain range in the northern part of Erebonia having previously escaped from Trista. After Rean comes too he is greeted by Celine, the mysterious black cat from the first game along with the Ashen Knight Valimar. Celine proceeds to explain that Rean is a chosen one referred to as the Ashen Awakener for the Divine Knight Valimar and that he has been chosen by the Great power, seeming uninterested by this Rean is more concerned with returning to Trista to find out the fate of the other members of Class VII and sets off down the mountain.
Rean recognizes the mountain range he landed on was in the Nortia continent and is part of the Eisengard range which turns out to be near his hometown of Ymir. After returning to Ymir and being reunited with his family, Rean is brought up to speed by his father Baron Schwarzer with what has happened while he was away, the Noble Alliance has seized control of most of the major cities as well as Thor’s Academy and they are currently trying to eradicate what remains of the Imperial army.
With Thor’s under the Alliance’s control, Rean instantly assumes the worst but finds out that there are some students are unaccounted for. Slightly relieved Rean spends some time recovering in Ymir but it’s not too long before he is thrown back into the fray, when a group of mercenaries attack his home town looking for Princess Alfin. Shortly after fending off the mercenaries a mysterious black haired girl appears and kidnaps Elise and the Princess, determined to set things right Rean sets off to reunite with his classmates, rescue his sister, Princess Alfin and to try to put an end to the conflict once and for all.
The game starts off pretty slow but then after a while keeps hits a certain point and keeps a fairly steady pace, with the story progressing in a similar pattern for a while but then changing later on giving you chance to explore and learn more about what is going around Erebonia during the war. This also opens up the game a lot more with providing extra side quests/stories with the chance to visit new areas and meet new people however, not all of these are important nor do they provide any actual insight into the story, some are just extras for you to complete to gain extra bonuses while playing through the main story.
There are some side quests that help you learn more about not only members of Class VII but other characters, both new and old, which helps get a clearer picture of how characters came to be the people they are now, most of these come from the bonding events. This helps connect characters together and also manages to show how the conflict affects the members of Class VII on a personal level.
Overall the story just kept getting better and better as the game progressed, it manages to keep you interested with the many surprises and plots twists throughout without being too overwhelming while also providing elements that make you really connect with the characters.
In terms of graphics, the game does a really good job of portraying the unique style of each of the different regions you explore through the game, like the town of Lagram or the capital of Heimdall each has something that differentiates is from the others. The size and scale of certain sections of the world allows you to get a feel for type of place you are exploring, from vast nature filled grasslands to the massive cities and fortresses the history of the land itself can be discerned from specific features around the landscapes.
The overall character design for Trails 2 depicts how the characters have adapted during their flight from the Noble Alliance, with the more mature designs and showing how they have had to adapt to their current situation. Coupled with the anime style opening and individual character graphics makes the game easy on the eyes and also gives off a feeling similar to previous Legend of Heroes games.
The game does however suffer with frame rate during particular scenes, normally when the screen is overloaded with powerful attacks or numerous actions occurring at once. This makes the game feel a bit sluggish at times but it only lasts for a few seconds at most, so it doesn’t make too much of an impact unless you’re purposely going crazy with arts.
The voice acting in the game seems to mainly be present during the key points of the main story however, this is only for certain characters it appears, there are instances when you will find some character will just have text appear during a conversation. Apart from that, the voice acting portrays the characters in a way that portrays their personalities, emotions and backgrounds really well.
In terms of game play there is some similarities to the first game but there is some new elements that are added later on. For the most part you simply have a main story mission which involves travelling to a different part of Erebonia to locate the other members of Class VII then, once that has been done you returning to Ymir for what would be your free/rest day which mainly used for bonding events. There are points during your main mission though were you can accept side mission from a number of people some which are required to move on in the story and others are optional, similar to the way the Field Studies worked in the first game. Later on however, the game play changes and allows much more of a free roam aspect with the ability to travel around Erebonia via the Courageous in between the main story mission to complete side quests and help out people in need as well as other Thors students scattered around Erebonia. This adds a nice change and provides a break from the heavily quest based game play which was in the first game.
Depending on how many quests/events you complete as well as the decisions you make during certain events, you get AP(Academic points) then at the end of the chapter you are awarded a grade on your performance, this then goes towards your overall rank through the game which ranges from B7 – A0 and you receive perks/gifts when you rank up.
The battle system remains the same as the first game with the arena style, take turn system that also includes the use of the ATB(Active Time Bar).During battle you have several options to choose from these are Attack, which is your basic attack , Arts(or magic if you prefer), Crafts(Character specific skills), S-Break(like an overdrive move that do tonnes of damage), Combat Link(links characters together for joint attacks) and Swap(switch out active party members with reserve ones). You have the option of a total of six characters to choose from when in battle, four in the main party and two support, these can be switched out during battle depending on the situation your in or, if you just have a favourite group of characters that you prefer, I found that most of time the female characters had the better moves and were far better to have in the party…who’d of thought it.
The newest action for battle available in Trails 2, is the Overdrive command which allows two characters that are Combat linked together to attack uninterrupted for three turns which was pretty useful since it allows you do more damage and build up brave points quicker. For some of the quest monsters you fight this is really useful, since they can be pretty difficult or when your stuck against a large mob of monsters because they were actually way harder than you first thought.
The battle system itself is works really well, it’s not too slow or too quick it has a nice balance to it. There are times when you enter a battle and it can be ended within a few turns by using your Arts or Crafts and some times you can find yourself spending a while fighting an tough enemy. There are sometimes though were the battle system can make things a little too easy like when using the Burst,Rush and Assist during combat links and then using everyone S-Break moves, even some of the bosses don’t prove to be that much of a challenge.
Thanks to the ability to summon Valimar, there is a new system in the game called the Divine Knight system which is when Rean summons Valimar into battle when he is up against the mechanised soldiers known as Soldats, instead of facing off with them head on with the other members of Class VII. Once Rean is piloting Valimar in battle the style of the game changes quite a bit, instead of just attacking on enemy as a whole the game employs a similar thing to the VATS system in Vagrant story and Fallout where separate body parts can be targeted and damaged separately. For some reason It doesn’t seem to matter which body part you attack, once the health has been depleted on the enemy it it defeated completely which I didn’t see that much of a point too, now personally I would have like to have seen it so that each body part is individually broken rendering you enemy powerless but that’s just me.
Another feature of this system is the ability to work with other members of Class VII, who act as sub contractors, to give Valimar extra abilities called EX Arts and depending on the character the arts vary, some are just like regular arts for attacking enemies others heal Valimar or grant him stat boosts.
Compared to the basic battle system, the Divine knight battle system feels slower mainly due to the fact that most of your attacks take a longer to complete due to the size of the enemies and Valimar but this is also a good thing as it adds a more realistic feel the game, although a super fast, all powerful ancient mech would be pretty cool but apart from that I think that the battle system itself is interesting. It puts a unique spin on the way battles are played out because, since you don’t have the other members in your party as well as a limited supply of EP and CP to heal yourself, you need to plan your moves more carefully other wise you can find yourself in a lot of trouble.
Aside from all of the main game stuff there is lots of extras available whilst playing through the game like, taking time out to go fishing, cooking food with your fellow classmates and even snowboarding. Some of these can be complete during the main game but some have to be done at certain points in the game such as the bonding events. These are the main side activity in the game as these unlock new skills when using combat links which are extremely helpful later on in the game.
Now these are completely voluntary as you don’t actually have to do them but, for those trophy collectors out there, these are required for trophies so if you want that shiny platinum then you better brush up your culinary and fishing skills. These mini-games and side quest break up the game quick nicely because otherwise it just be a very long story without much change or character development.
One of the new features in Trails 2 which I thought was a good improvement over the original is, the ability to upgrade the slots on your ARCUS unit so you can equip more powerful quartz and also upgrading the quartz themselves to make them more powerful. In the first game there were only certain slots that could equip special quartz which limited the arts certain characters could use but now, all you need to do is upgrade the slots on the ARCUS unit and you can open up a whole new level of abilities for each character.
Overall Trails of Cold steel 2 proves itself to be a great sequel and follow up to the first game, building really well on an already solid story with some interesting plot twists and game play mechanics. The game also does a good job of helping new comers to the series ease in without overwhelming them while not punishing players for not having played the first game. While those of you who have played the first game, will surely be able to appreciate the new additions to an already well made game.
Who Should Buy This
- Looking for an indepth story
- Great combat mechanics
- Solid Gameplay
Who Should Avoid
- Not a fan of walls of text
- Looking for something quick to fly through
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