I received a review copy of this game from Nis America.
Trails of Cold Steel III takes place after II. You’re Rean Schwarzer, the Ashen Cavalier, teacher, and has more friends than I ever will in my life. He’s an all-around good dude that’s been thrust into another situation in this game. I was invested in the story of this game from the moment I started playing it. I already knew I was walking into something special because the last two games are very special, but I would place the story in this game below the previous two games because I did not like the new class 7 with exception of a single character.
Juna is a terrible character and I quickly got tired of her nonstop whining about how much better Crossbell is and her shitty attitude towards Rean. I mean… stop complaining for ONE second and maybe I would give a shit about what happened to your town and about you. Just a thought… What I love is the vast amount of dialog in the game. You’ll spend hours upon hours talking to everyone, getting to know your students, progress in your romance ark, and watch neat cutscenes. This game, like the others before it, went all out with the storytelling, world-building, and lore. Not many games can build a story spreading across multiple games like Falcom did here and they should be commended for that.
I loved seeing my old companions again and what their new lives are like outside of school. There are so many characters in this game and they’re all handled really well. It’s incredible at how well all of the characters are crafted in this game. One moment Rean is talking to one of his old classmates about his current life and the next you’re battling a boss and it all felt natural.
Trails of Cold Steel III is the best looking game in the series by far. It’s no near the best looking game on the PS4, but does that really matter? This game ran like a dream and never dipped below 60 fps even when I gamed in 4K resolution. The character models look really good and the world can be very beautiful at times. You can tell that that the game is dated, but that didn’t stop me from taking a ton of screenshots and falling in love with this game. Falcom did an excellent job of optimizing this game for the PS4 and deserves some praise for it.
On the other hand, the Switch version of this game does leave much to be desired. It’s capped at 30 FPS in 720p resolution in both handheld and docked mode. This made the game look somewhat blurry on my 4K TV so most of the time I played was in handheld mode. If you want the best possible performance (on console) then I would recommend buying this game on the PS4 over the Switch, but if you want to play this game on your toilet the Switch version is obviously the one you’ll want to get.
Trails of Cold Steel III plays like the previous two games in the series. It’s turn-based. You can do a little more than you can in other turn-based JRPGs though. You’re not just stuck in a single position while you click on a command. You can actually position your characters in different positions and they actually matter unlike in Dragon Quest 11. I can move my group out of the way of a powerful aoe attack, position someone in front of a group of monsters for a vertical slash attack, or use weak magic spells, called arts, and devastate groups of enemies or a single foe.
The difference between this game the ones that came before it is the break and order systems. If you do enough damage or a certain type you’ll eventually break an enemy’s guard which will allow you to attack them multiple times for extra damage. The order system allows you to give orders, usually as Rean, to his group to increase their attack, defense, etc.
Your time in this game will be split between the campus and doing various different field missions for the Empire. On-campus, you’ll talk to your students, increase your affinity with various different NPCs, delve into the campus dungeon every so often, and prepare for the next field mission. The way the story progresses is very linear.
Field missions are when the game really opens up. I could explore to my heart’s content. I can grind levels by battling monsters, complete optional side quest for a bit of story, and cash, or just relax and go fishing. I can battle in big ass mechs which work a little differently than your basic encounters or just reminisce in seeing my old companions from the first game again. There’s a lot to love here and it’s all done incredibly well. Turbo mode is in this game too and it’s a lifesaver. I can’t imagine grinding without it or battling in general because it would take forever.
There are some good tunes in this game. I wouldn’t mind owning the soundtrack. I really enjoyed listening to the tracks that played in the background. So why is this in the good section? Because of the voice acting. There’s a lot of quality voice acting and a lot of mediocre voice acting too. It’s a mixed bag. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it’s no near as impressive as other JRPG that have released over the last few years. And as much as I like the soundtrack here I don’t think it deserves to be in the great section.
Trails of Cold Steel III feels older than what it is. This game released in 2017 in Japan and it feels like it was released much earlier than that. I know that this game didn’t have the biggest budget when compared to other JRPGs. Can you imagine how much better this game would be if it had a budget like Persona 5? Here’s to hoping part IV feels a little more modern.
Why Start With Part 3 On The Switch?
You can’t expect people that’s never played this series before to just want to jump in in the third game. That would be like remastering only Mass Effect 3 and putting it on the PS5 and Xbox Series X and not the other two games in the series. There is a bunch of dialogue you can read to try and catch up to where the events of 3 take place, but, honestly, it’s best to experience the first two games for yourself and hopefully, they’ll make their way to the Switch soon.
Trails of Cold Steel III is a great game that tells an incredible story, has a great cast of characters, except class VII, and serviceable gameplay. I was always looking forward to the next chapter and which character I would meet next. Falcom did a great job of making every character feel useful to the story and not many developers can do that. The dialog is excellent. The improvements that were added to the gameplay gave it more depth and the world-building here is in a league of its own. Trails of Cold Steel is a fantastic JRPG series and is only under Dragon Quest and Persona for me. The Switch version of the game is a little disappointing because of the low resolution, but that didn't take too much away from this excellent game.