Review – The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie

Trails of Cold Steel the 5th

Overview

Developer Nihon Falcom
Publisher NIS America
Genre RPG
Platforms PS4, PS5 (reviewed), Switch, Steam
Release Date July 7, 2023

Trails of Cold Steel IV led to quite an epic conclusion for the Erebonia arc of the Trails games, much like Trails of the Sky SC closed out our adventures in Liberl. And to bridge the gap as we head to Calvard, Trails into Reverie serves as an epilogue to the Trails of Cold Steel sub-sub-series of The Legend of Heroes. Confused yet? If you haven’t played the previous nine Trails games, you probably should be. But if you have, you’re probably just wondering about what’s next, and I’m here with answers. Let’s get to it!

The “Trails to Walk” system.

Content Guide:

There are spoilers below; it’s unavoidable, sorry! 

Violence: Fairly standard for this series. No gore or blood. No one humans are killed that I can recall; but mechanical clones that look like humans are killed. 

Language: -ss, sh-t, h-ll, and d-mn are all present in spades. B-tch is probably also present and I just don’t remember it. No f-bombs, though. 

Sexual Content: As has become the norm, there is plenty of suggestive material in the game, especially early on. Suggestive comments are frequent. Rixia’s battle outfit is problematically revealing, but early on you get a regular clothing set that you can change her into. And since all of the cutscenes are in-engine, the costume change will stick throughout the game. One of the main villains is also underdressed, as are the Arc en Ciel performers during their performance. Early on, there is yet another hot springs scene (characters are covered in towels). There is no actual kissing or PDA (or worse) in the game; just a lot of suggestiveness. This culminates in a beach minigame, a copy of the tea party minigame from Fire Emblem Three Houses, except that everyone is in bathing suits. It’s probably the cringiest thing in the whole series. 

Spirituality: Trails has more and more had a weird mix of science, witchcraft, monotheistic religion, and technology, all stirred into one pile of gobbledygook, and it is at its peak in Reverie. So there are spiritual ideas present, but I am not sure you could draw anything interesting from it; maybe there’s something here about the future of technology. 

Combat in the Corridor.

Review

Graphics and Sound

I don’t have much to say here. It was a bit jarring to jump into this after playing Tears of the Kingdom and the DLC for Horizon Forbidden West and while everyone is gushing about Final Fantasy XVI. It looks like the same mildly dated PS4 graphics as the other games, and I am fine with that. I don’t play Trails games for the graphics, and they are good enough to make the important scenes hit hard. I don’t remember any new musical tracks standing out to me, but it was nostalgic to hear some music from past titles (e.g. the Geofront theme). It was also nice to hear a lot more voice acting of characters from the Crossbell arc, and I thought the three new characters had great voice actors. I especially like Nadia’s introduction to combat, when everyone else is so hyped all the time: “Gross! I don’t wanna do this!” 

Gameplay

Other than the “Trails to Walk” system which I’ll get into later, there are two other key changes in Reverie. One is the addition of “United Front” attacks, which require you to have five party members. This uses up one bar of the Assault Gauge and can land a devastating physical or arts attack, or heal the party and restore some BP. I don’t mind this addition, and used it plenty. But between the addition of Link Attacks, Brave Orders, and now this, the combat system is getting pretty bloated compared to when we began, to the point that I almost entirely forgot to even use Brave Orders. I really don’t have any complaints about this addition; I just think we’re at the limit.

The other change unique to Reverie is that you spend a lot of time (especially if you are a trophy seeker like myself) in a randomly generated dungeon called the True Reverie Corridor. I hated almost everything about this. There are treasure chests everywhere, full of mostly useless junk, but you need to open X chests to accomplish a mission. Yes; the Corridor’s main computer assigns you missions to do, and when you finish them, it assigns you a new mission – the same thing, with a bigger number! I hate feeling like something is done just to be told, “just kidding, do it more!”. Is this a new trend in RPGs? Just tell me from the outset how many times to do something. You also get different “Sealing Stones” as you explore; some unlock minigames, Trial Doors (like Trial Chests from past games), and Daydreams (small stories between Cold Steel IV and now), but most of them give you items. Like, completely randomized piles of junk. A really great Quartz next to… glasses for a costume change. I just endured 3 days of a neighborhood garage sale, and the parallels did not escape me. 

The eventual story payoff about the True Reverie Corridor in the post-game is interesting, but it still feels completely unnecessary, and unfun to play, even though you are forced to do it several times in the middle of your first run through the game. I guess I appreciate that the annoying dungeon is part of the game instead of the entire game unlike Trails in the Sky the 3rd, but I still don’t see the point. It could have been completely removed and the game would have flowed fine (better, even) without it. 

Oh look, another minigame!

The Story So Far

Speaking of Trails in the Sky the 3rd, Trails into Reverie could have easily been called Trails of Cold Steel the 5th. You are exploring an otherworldly dungeon for much of the game, and a variety of vignettes (Daydreams) are meant to bridge the gap between the ending of Trails of Cold Steel IV and the upcoming Calvard arc. Fortunately, the Daydreams are a bit easier to access than Sky the 3rd’s Doors,  and they are by far the best part of the game. Unfortunately, while there was one gigantic reveal and a few heartwarming moments, they didn’t hit me the way the Doors in Sky the 3rd did. It might just have been newer to the series, but I think it’s because the series was more focused back then. They try to incorporate everyone into these “Daydreams”, which means everyone gets just a little bit of screen time, which doesn’t have the same impact.

On the bright side, the main quest actually makes more sense than Trails has for a long while, and the back half of the story has some interesting revelations. They wisely minimized the number of new characters, and all three of them are quite likable, though I wish we had seen more of their backstory. However, many of the story beats are literal repeats of past titles, to the point where characters reference this in-game. But overall, it’s a much better story than the irrelevant story of Sky the 3rd; and I suspect this one will have consequences later down the line. It was also great to see the Special Support Section fully realized and embraced with their own arc in a 3D Trails game. 

Reverie has a “Trails to Walk” system where you can switch between three different story routes at “any time,” except that quite often, you cannot. Routes will lock until the other routes catch up, and I don’t really see the point. It would actually be interesting to be able to “spoil yourself” from one perspective and then catch up and see how the other group got to that event. Or, I’d rather just have dedicated chapters alternate between characters, and not even be given the option. The false illusion left a bad taste in my mouth, and if anything, just made it more likely to miss treasure chests or character notes due to the confusion of skipping around.  

One of the better Daydreams.

The Unique Identity of Trails 

The weirdest thing about Reverie is that there are no side quests. Yes, you can spend forever and ever in a big randomly generated dungeon, but that isn’t what made Trails, Trails. And, a long time ago, the myriad mysteries of Zemuria are not what made Trails, Trails either. The best word I can think of is: charm. Joshua and Estelle bantering while fixing a street light, or helping someone take a photograph of a landscape, or just hearing what the townsfolk were up to today… Those things are what made Trails in the Sky FC & SC some of the best RPGs ever, which is still true to this day. Sure, you can talk to some NPCs as you go through the chapters, but Reverie is all action, no charm. To the point where they basically ripped a motorcycle scene straight out of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and it was one of the worst things about FF7R to begin with. Between that and the direct copying of Fire Emblem Three Houses’ tea party minigame, I feel like the developers have lost confidence in what they were doing. 

Trails has always been the “Nintendo” of RPGs – lateral thinking with withered technologies. I never expect Trails games to have the best graphics, for example. What I always hope for is a unique and heartwarming story that no other series can tell. Their advantage has always been their words and gameplay, not their graphics or budget. No other series comes close to this level of worldbuilding, and it’s always been done through dialogue, getting to know the people that inhabit Zemuria. In fact, two of the best Daydreams in Reverie are almost all text, with just still pictures in the background. 

Instead, I felt like Reverie largely was trying to be something Trails has never been, nor do I want it to be. Between the embarrassingly large cast, the embarrassingly large dungeon, and the complete lack of side quests, it’s just focused on the wrong things. That said, there’s still a lot of Trails DNA in here, and if you’ve made it this far, you owe it to yourself to see this through. That said, I eagerly await the Calvard arc; I think it’s time for a soft reboot with a much smaller cast of PCs and a much larger cast of townsfolk with support requests.  

The Bottom Line

 

Reverie maintains enough Trails DNA to be a worth your time, but it's lacking the charm of earlier titles.

 

7

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Derek Thompson

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