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Review

Review: Trails of Cold Steel 2

The PS4 release of Trails of Cold Steel ear­lier this year was ano­t­her chan­ce to play a gre­at JRPG, even if the port its­elf did litt­le to impro­ve the game’s visu­al short­co­m­ings. Trails of Cold Steel 2 is ano­t­her simp­le port, though the game its­elf does have a few pro­blems that stop it from being as memo­r­able as the first game.

Being a direct sequel to the first game, Trails of Cold Steel 2 is natu­ral­ly full of spoi­lers for Rean’s adven­tures with class VII. Taking place one year after the cliff­han­ger ending of Trails of Cold Steel, the game opens with Rean waking up from a month-long coma. Ere­bo­nia is cur­r­ent­ly in a civil war bet­ween the nobles that took con­trol after kil­ling the pre­vious lea­der, and the resis­tan­ce figh­t­ing against them. To try and stop this war Rean has to find the rest of class VII, who were split up after Thors Mili­ta­ry Aca­de­my was occu­pied, and crea­te a third group to take back Ere­bo­nia from the noble alli­an­ce.

Trails of Cold Steel had a very slow moving sto­ry, sin­ce it had to intro­du­ce a lar­ge amount of new cha­rac­ters and loca­ti­ons. This games sto­ry in turn is noti­ce­ab­ly quicker paced, though it can still spend a litt­le too much time on sce­nes or cer­tain events. Rean is still an inte­res­ting main cha­rac­ter, espe­ci­al­ly after the many reve­la­ti­ons at the end of first game, though in many ways it’s the retur­ning mem­bers of class VII that take the spot­light once again. With the sto­ry taking place an ent­i­re month after Trails of Cold Steel, they’ve had time to deve­lop out­si­de of the school set­ting, giving Rean and in turn the play­er new per­spec­tives on the cur­rent sta­te of Ere­bo­nia.

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, the sto­ry is an over­all mixed bag com­pa­red to the first game’s slow but well thought out sto­ry­line. Trails of Cold Steel 2 was initi­al­ly inten­ded to be part of the first game befo­re the extre­me length of the sto­ry cau­sed it to be split into two games, and this real­ly shows with the incon­sis­tent pacing and fil­ler con­tent. A lar­ge chunk of the game’s later half could have been con­den­sed wit­hout the over­all sto­ry losing anything important, and even though this game is shorter over­all than Trails of Cold Steel it still feels drawn out at times.

This game also edges clo­ser to the pro­blem later games in the series will have in the west; the fact that two games are still not avail­ab­le offi­ci­al­ly in Eng­lish. The events of Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2 take place almost in par­al­lel to Trails to Zero and Trails of Azu­re, mea­ning that for the most part you don’t need to know much about the events of tho­se games. Howe­ver, the­re are still many refe­ren­ces made to both games that will be mis­sed wit­hout know­ledge of both games. Trails of Cold Steel 2 is alrea­dy the seventh part of this long run­ning saga, and having two who­le games unavail­ab­le for the wes­tern audi­ence will likely make Trails of Cold Steel 3 even har­der to get into.

When it comes to the rest of the game, not much has chan­ged over­all. The sto­ry­line does allow for a less line­ar expe­ri­ence, sin­ce you’re able to tra­vel to dif­fe­rent are­as of Ere­bo­nia regard­less of whe­re the next sto­ry event is. It’s a nice chan­ge of pace from the first game, whe­re you couldn’t revi­sit are­as after your brief time their during the field trips. You also gain access to the orbal bike ear­ly on, allo­wing you to tra­vel through are­as quicker. This makes back­tracking less tedious and is thank­ful­ly not limi­ted to one area like the hor­ses in Trails of Cold Steel. You’ll be making use of the bike often, sin­ce your search for class VII and the many dis­pla­ced stu­dents from Thors will take you to many fami­li­ar are­as from the first game.

Com­bat has seen a few tweaks as well, though asi­de from some balan­ce chan­ges it should feel fami­li­ar to tho­se that play­ed the first game. The big­gest chan­ge to regu­lar batt­les is the over­dri­ve fea­ture, allo­wing par­ty mem­bers to team up and attack for mul­ti­ple turns wit­hout inter­rup­ti­on. It doesn’t chan­ge up battle’s too much, but it does tie into the the­me of bonds that is pre­va­lent throughout the series. A lar­ger addi­ti­on would be the divi­ne knight batt­les, which only appeared in Trails of Cold Steel at the very end of the game. They’ve been expan­ded upon great­ly here, with Rean’s divi­ne knight Vali­mar having a lar­ger move­set, and are also more fre­quent throughout the sto­ry. The­se fights requi­re you to attack the cor­rect parts of the enemy’s mech to do dama­ge, with each stan­ce the ene­my takes chan­ging whe­re you must tar­get. Vali­mar can also link with your other par­ty mem­bers unli­ke the first game, giving him access to dif­fe­rent skills. The­se batt­les are usual­ly fair­ly simp­le to beat, but the lar­ger sca­le and catchy batt­le the­me do make them a nice chan­ge of pace from the regu­lar batt­les.

As with the first game, this is yet ano­t­her bare-bones port on the PS4, though the­re are some rather noti­ce­ab­le gra­phi­cal issu­es at times. Frame­ra­te drops, some­thing that rare­ly hap­pen­ed in the first game, are more com­mon than they should be. The ori­gi­nal ver­si­ons of the game did have some serious issu­es main­tai­ning a con­sis­tent frame­ra­te, but this should have been easi­ly fixed by the more power­ful hard­ware. All other pro­blems we listed with the first game on PS4 are still pre­sent here, from low draw distan­ces for cha­rac­ters to low reso­lu­ti­on tex­tures.

Con­clu­si­on

While not being ever­ything we hoped for, Trails of Cold Steel 2 is still a decent sequel to one of our favou­rite JRPGs. A more open world and a much lar­ger selec­tion of par­ty mem­bers make for more inte­res­ting game­play, but the sto­ry suf­fers from some bland fil­ler con­tent.

 

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