The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is the fourth part of the Trails of Cold Steel and the fourteenth of The Legend of Heroes. The Cold Steel games themselves are part of the Trails subgenre of The Legend of Heroes games. I know it all sounds really confusing. So – we have The Legend of Heroes main series. Within it, there are multiple subseries. Within these subseries, however, there are even more subseries. Cold Steel is one of those. It’s like Inception: a series, within a series, within a series RPG style.
A Series Within a Series
The Trails of Cold Steel IV takes place right after the end of the third game. The Erebonian Empire is on the brink of an all-out war, having resorted to conscripting all the young men. The heroes of Class VII are the only hope to prevent the destruction. The only problem is that the hero of the Erebonian Civil War – Instructor Rean, has gone missing, presumably captured. Now it is up to Juna, Kurt and Altina – the new Class VII, to join with the old Class in uniting the heroes from all over the continent.
The story was my greatest concern: this being the final part of Cold Steel and introducing characters from the other games. For someone who hasn’t played a single game in that series, I was worried I’d be lost. It did start that way, with the game introducing too many characters in a short amount of time – whom I forgot within seconds. However, after the prologue it does get better, as it introduces Juna, Kurt and Altina – the new class VII.
With the game’s de facto protagonists on the scene, the story becomes way easier to follow; even if, technically, Rean is the sole main character of Cold Steel and this game. After waking up from a coma caused by the events of the third game, the new Class VII sets out to rescue their instructor. Before they do that, however, they need to brush up their skills. At the same time, the old Class VII searches for the occult points – which are crucial to rescuing Rean.
The Art of Combat
Cold Steel IV is a traditional turn-based JRPG, similar to other games in the series. The battle system revolves around an element called break. Each attack, the enemy loses points from two bars: their usual health bar, and a blue bar underneath – the break gauge. When that gauge depletes, the enemy becomes staggered, being open to link attacks. To perform a link attack, the party also needs to unbalance the enemy. This requires them to use an attack type that aligns with their foe’s weakness, like slash, thrust, pierce, or strike.
The link attack can proceed in multiple ways. Specifically, there are three actions that can be performed by a character linked to the attacking hero. Those are: assist, when just the linked character attacks; rush, when both linked characters attack together; and finally burst, when the whole party goes all-out on the enemy. To perform rush and burst, the party needs Bravery Points, earned when performing the assist attack. Each such attack earns one Bravery Point.
In addition to the Break System, there is the Order System. I barely used it, though – mostly because I completely forgot about it. However, it seems to be mostly for buffs, which lasted just a few turns. I think most of those were defensive too, but I could be wrong.
Arts and Crafts
Battles involve more than just the two systems outlined above, however. Like any turn-based game, The Legends of Heroes has got the combat basics. Characters can do normal attacks; magic, which is known as Arts; special attacks known as Crafts; and ultimate attacks known as S-Crafts. Each of the three different actions comes with its own rules and limitations.
Arts are just like magic from most RPGs. Each character has a unique set of spells for attack, or support. The Arts aren’t performed straight away. Instead, they work on the next turn after being selected. Arts require points from the EP (Energy Point) gauge. Each character has their own number of EP, which is expanded through the Orb System. Depending on their playstyle, some players could spend a lot of time perfecting their use of Arts. Some, who are like me, would only use those every once in a while. It’s good to have this option, but, because of the long waiting period, I mostly used just the supporting spells.
The Crafts I loved. Crafts are special attacks unique to each character. Characters start with a few each, but will gain more as they level up. Crafts use the CP (Craft Points) gauge. Each character has a maximum of 200 CP, and the number can’t be increased. To restore these, the characters must complete normal attacks. When a character has above 100, they can perform their S-Craft. This is a special ultimate attack that does serious damage. The downside to S-Crafts is that they fully deplete the gauge. Their advantage – and why I liked them so much – is that, unlike Arts, they happen on the same turn I activated them. If I was lucky enough to have over 100 CP, I could use an S-Craft whenever I wanted, no matter when my turn was.
Time to Catch a Big One
It wouldn’t be an RPG without side quests and every gamer’s favorite minigame – fishing. Trails of Cold Steel IV has both and more. The number of extra activities available here is too great to count, enough to keep the players busy for hours. While I don’t care much about extra activities when it comes to big games like this one, I do like trying some out here and there.
Each activity adds to the game’s overall completion. Finishing side quests increased my class rank and unlocked special rewards for each new rank I gained. Unlike other activities, side quests come in two variants. Some could be completed over time or whenever. Others had to be taken care of before a new day starts, or before a specific chapter of the story begins.
Trails of Cold Steel IV doesn’t just end the Cold Steel arc, but – from what I’ve gathered – the entire Trails series. As such, this game has the largest character roster to date. For someone who hasn’t played those games before, all I got from this is a large roster; I assume that for those who did follow the series, this will be their Endgame – where all the heroes come together to finally complete the saga.
As a first-timer to the series, I had a lot of fun with Cold Steel IV. It really is a wonderful game. There were some confusing points, of course, and the system could feel a bit hectic for those who aren’t familiar with it. However, in the end, as I got used to it, I found myself absolutely enjoying the experience.
Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is available for PC, PS4/5 and Switch. Big thanks to NIS America for providing the code for this review.