While the West is anticipating Trails of Cold Steel IV on Switch and PC, Nihon Falcom revealed details on the next Trails saga, Kuro no Kiseki. Screenshots and details from the latest Famitsu article reveal a new combat system and a drastic change in UI and art style. The series is heading in a different direction from the previous titles, which could allow for many changes. Let’s take a look at what we know now and see what we could expect from the new Trails, shall we?
Shift into Real-Time Action
The Trails series have always had a fun combat system. The AT System allowed for faster encounters and each battle didn’t feel like a complete slog to go through. The flow of battle was always in the player’s hand. The system wasn’t perfect but there never was a dull moment with the franchise and its combat system. Screenshots from Nihon Falcom’s official Twitter reveal that the AT System will be replaced by a new system. Players will have the choice to choose and switch from Action and Command Battles. Action Battles appears to be a real-time action combat system while Command Battles play out similarly to older entries.
Given what we know, it’s safe to expect the Trails series is branching out into more of ARPG with their new titles. It’s a clear departure from the turn-based battle systems of previous titles. I’m a huge fan of real-time battle systems but part of me will miss the AT Battle System. It made turn-based battles more dynamic and offered a hidden layer of strategy.
My only hopes are that the Command mode can offer the same enjoyment I felt during the previous titles. At the very least, I wouldn’t want it to be a rushed feature built-in there just to appease old fans. If that was the case, I would rather it focus on one system. One system that is accessible to newcomers and veterans alike.
— 日本ファルコム (@nihonfalcom) March 3, 2021
A New Setting and Cast
With Trails of Cold Steel VI, the story in Erebonia will come to an end, leaving us to more unexplored areas and plotlines. It’s been the same deal for each new setting. With Rean and Class VII’s story wrapped up, we can expect to follow a new cast of characters in the new title. There isn’t much detail, but it’s refreshing to have a new cast of characters. As much as I love Trails of Cold Steel, four games were more than enough for us to enjoy their characters and lore.
The Calvard Republic was confirmed to be the setting for Kuro no Kiseki. Without going into major spoilers, Calvard has been a nation mentioned many times in previous games. The Calvard Republic is the eastern nation of Zumeria. A key nation that was also involved in conflicts with the other nations in the past games. With that in mind, It would be interesting to see plots from their point of view and their current relationship to the other nations.
While the new title will have new characters, I do expect some fan-favorites from older titles to reappear. While most titles bring back characters as fanservice, Trails uses their older characters to add to the world-building. It’s one of the few series that makes their worlds feel whole. Still, I wouldn’t be against the idea of focusing solely on the new cast of characters.
Better Accessibility to New Fans
The Trails series is one that I have trouble recommending to new fans because of the daunting list of games under its belt. While players can start anywhere, many of the later games benefit from prior knowledge of the past. Trails of Cold Steel references heavily back to the previous two series, which is why many long-time fans recommend new fans to start at the beginning.
Many players might feel overwhelmed by the task of diving into hundreds of hours of content. However, with the new features implemented for new fans, I can expect that the new game will have a more accessible plot as well. Of course, I don’t want the new title to completely ignore the old titles, but the point still stands.
Recently, a few of the franchise’s games have found their home on the Nintendo Switch and PC. Thanks to the effort of Xseed and now currently NIS America, the Trails series is able to reach a larger audience with their ports. I do expect the trend to continue with future entries. For the longest time, it had remained almost exclusively on PlayStation systems, making it relatively niche. I believe that these ports will benefit it in the long run, allowing for more Nihon Falcom IPs to be localized. Hopefully, the increasing popularity could also allow Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure to finally be brought to the West as well.
The Trails series is heading in a new direction. The shift towards real-time action is a first for the franchise. This change can be promising, depending on its execution. The new characters and plotlines can allow newcomers can allow new fans to jump right into the games with this entry. As long as the execution is right, I have faith that Nihon Falcom can make Trails a grand JRPG series that could contend with the likes of Persona and Final Fantasy.
Unfortunately, it would be some time until the West can play Kuro no Kiseki. In the meantime, fans can look forward to Trails of Cold Steel IV releasing on April 9th of this year.
For Newcomers still interested in the series, they can start with the first entry in the Cold Steel series, Trails of Cold Steel which is available on Steam and PS4. I also recommend players to try out its roots from the beginning with Trails in the Sky that is available on Steam and PSP.