*Note: There will be spoilers for the first Trails of Cold Steel game, so be sure to finish that first before reading this! As an abridged review, this game is amazing and so is the first. Don’t do yourself a disservice and play this game before the first game. Both are worth it!* Once you start though, be sure to use our Professor RPG: Trails of Cold Steel 2 Basics Primer to help get you started off on the right foot!
It takes a special game to keep me enthralled for over 50 hours, and a truly magical one to make me want to jump right back in and restart it right after beating it. Serving as the second half of a narrative arc that began in the first game, Cold Steel 2 feels more like a Cold Steel 1 – Part 2 then a full sequel. Together, creating a single 100+ hour super RPG. This acts both to its betterment and detriment, however.
Legends of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 picks up a mere month after the climactic final stand by the students and faculty at Thors Military Academy. The protagonist, Rean, has been whisked away to safety in his newly awakened Divine Knight Valimar. After being unconscious for the past month and losing a fight with his former classmate and their own Divine Knight, Rean must seek out the remainder of his Class VII friends, who threw themselves in the way of the Divine Knight’s onslaught which gave Rean the chance to flee. Along the way, you will be recruiting new allies and doing what you can to stop the war between the Nobel Alliance and Reformist Faction that erupted after the assassination of the Chancellor.
Many of the squabbles and differences that Class VII contended with in the first game have been worked out and the team has moved on from these differences. Thus making the class a more cohesive and tight-knit family, and this is exactly what they will need to be if they are going to whether this new war. There are situations at hand that are far direr than boys and girls sleeping in the same room together or family drama, and they are actively aware of this.
Having outstanding warrants out for their arrests and no longer being able to rely on the safety and protection of their instructors or the walls of Thors, each member of Class VII has had to grow up fast.
The gameplay and visuals remain largely untouched from the previous title, with combat still remaining a turn-based affair with characters and enemies slugging it out against one another. The main new addition here is the Overdrive mechanic, once the Overdrive meter has been filled, two linked characters will be able to instantly take three back-to-back turns. When performed more than once, I found this to be a lifesaver during the game’s difficult encounters.
Most of my complaints from the first game have been rectified in this new game. Exploration has been greatly enhanced in Cold Steel 2, simply by giving you access to an airship that will allow you to revisit and explore cities and locations you previously explored and adventured in. Some side quests are still locked once you complete the main quests in each area. However, just like the previous game, you are given a blatant warning of this being the case.
Cold Steel 2 leaves behind the chapter structure of its predecessor for a structure built on substantial acts, which serve it quite well. Each act felt as if it had a specific purpose to advance the story and was different from the other acts. Moving away from the prior game’s chapter system has gotten rid of much of the filler which made the original Cold Steel feel so redundant. That time spent with your classmates in the first game though has paid off in spades within Cold Steel 2 and dramatically increases both the tension and emotion in the events that play out. I doubt I would have felt even a fraction of what I actually did, had I not played those first.
One particular area that stood out to me was the inclusion of a special dungeon at the end of the game. What makes it unique is how it is randomized. Every time you leave and come back, treasure chests have reset and new layouts await. It was a great place to do some late-game grinding for levels and resources. Some really fantastic and powerful Quartz can be found here.
Cold Steel 2 opted to reuse many of the locations and various art assets from the previous game, making this game come off more as the second part of a larger game and not a full sequel. You will still visit new locations and see some new areas around where you visited last game, but towns, world areas, and NPCs remain largely the same with perhaps a couple of new models spread around to give the feeling that it’s a populated city or that there was a battle recently. The team reusing assets makes sense, simply because it has only been a few months since you first passed through these locations.
Unfortunately, things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows with this Relentless Edition. Strangely, a rather noticeable slowdown has been introduced into this port, which can make the game chug when any sort of fog or transparent effect is present when you’re running around or in cutscenes. This slowdown wasn’t present in the Vita version of the title, nor was it in the previous PS4 port either, so it was rather bizarre for it to appear when playing on a PS4 Pro.
Once you beat Cold Steel 2, you have the ability to replay it with a New Game + option, just like the original Cold Steel. These range from letting you carry over your characters’ levels, Quartz, Sepith, and more back into the fray. On subsequent playthroughs, you are even able to find additional story elements and a bonus dungeon.
I really can’t overstate how much I enjoyed my time with Class VII. Trails of Cold Steel 2 solved most of the gripes I had with the first title. While the ending may not have been as mind-blowing as the first, no jumping out of my chair and hollering this time around, I still found it to be incredibly moving and touching. I won’t deny a tear may or may not have streamed down my cheek. It’s a shame that the random technical flaws decided to appear in this game which was seemingly absent before, but it didn’t detract much from my enjoyment. I can’t wait to see where the adventures of Class VII take them next!
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by the publisher.