The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II
Eiyuu Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki II, localized as The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is the sequel to 2012's The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, and the two games, along with their sequels, are collectively known as and make up the Erebonia arc of the Trails series. The game was developed by Nihon Falcom and published in the West by XSEED games in 2014 on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. It was also published in Europe by Marvelous! Entertainment the same year. A port of the game was published for the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows (through Steam), and a Nintendo Switch release is scheduled for 2021, alongside its prequel.
After their defeat at the hands of Crow Armbrust and his Divine Knight, Rean and Emma's cat Celine escape to the Eisengard Range, in the north of Erebonia. Upon arriving, Valimar is knocked unconscious and the others are attacked by a mysterious magic construct. Toval, a Bracer, saves them and brings them to the town of Ymir. There, they learn that a month has passed, and there are no news of the rest of Class VII. The mysterious construct approaches Ymir, but is stopped by a reactivated Valimar, who also reveals that he can perceive the members of Class VII, as "secondary contractors", and that they are all still alive. The town is attacked by a group of Jaegers and a mysterious girl who kidnaps Rean's sister Elise and her friend Alfin. While the attack is fended off, Rean's father is injured in the attack. Rean, Valimar, Celine and Toval then depart Ymir, searching for Class VII, Elise and Alfin, while learning more about the situation that developed in Erebonia in the last month.
Why It Rocks
- Unlike the previous game, which was more boxed in and centered around attending classes, with exploration relegated to dungeons and field trips, Trails of Cold Steel II is much more open and becomes a full-fledged open-world game as you go through, once you acquire the Courageous.
- Fast traveling is introduced, making traversing the world far quicker.
- As you go through the game, you unlock several means of transport, including horses, bikes, and most importantly, the Courageous airship, all of which can be summoned at the push of a button to head for another location.
- The orbal bike can be customized with various parts that increase its efficiency and utility, and several decals can be applied to change its appearance.
- The game picks up right where the previous game had left off, and fleshes out many plot threads while introducing new ones.
- If you have a clear data save file from Trails of Cold Steel, you can carry it over to achieve bonuses. Some content, like Link Levels, unlocked Crafts and S-Crafts, and Zemurian Ores will be available in the game right off the bat, and all character and enemies will receive a significant boost to their levels (depending from the levels of Class VII in Trails of Cold Steel's endgame).
- The Courageous, which received only a brief appearance in the previous game, now is fully explorable, and acts as a hub of sorts. There, you can speak to party members, interact with or upgrade Valimar, or plot a destination for a location by speaking with Towa.
- You can access the Courageous at any time when you are in the open at the press of a button, which makes transitions almost seamless.
- Unlike the previous game, which only had mandatory and optional quests, this game has full-fledged side-quests that can be started whenever you want before moving on with the plot and are written directly into the game's story, which makes the player feel much more engaged in the world.
- The game is split into two acts. Act 1 is more linear and has Rean reuniting with his Class VII friends, while Act 2 is open and has Class VII and the Crimson Wings reuniting the students of Thors to oppose the Noble Alliance. While you don't need to actually find all the students, they will join you and maintain various facilities aboard the Courageous, which makes it worthwhile to look for them.
- It helps that you are told when someone is in a certain area, so you can go there and pick them up. Sometimes they will also ask you to complete a sidequest for them before they join.
- Each and every character is named and can be spoken to, in order to unlock books, side-quests, recipes or even just receive information about the current state of affairs, which makes the world feel much more alive. In the same vein, you can enter and explore pretty much every building to search for helpful things like items or recipes.
- Character profiles aren't restricted to just the people around the school any longer, and can be unlocked by just talking to the characters at the right time, which fleshes out the world even further.
- The game warns you when some content is no longer available, so that you can go back and search for what you missed. In case you miss some items, you can buy them back at the pawn shop in Ymir.
- Fishing spots are marked on your map, so searching for fish types that you might have missed is much easier.
- Scattered throughout the world, there are some Trial Chests, which, when opened, will pit two specific characters against a group of particularly strong monsters and a mini-boss. Defeating all enemies will allow the two characters to enter Overdrive when they are linked together, and give you a particularly rare Quartz.
- The Quartz Slot upgrade mechanic from Zero and Ao no Kiseki makes a return here: instead of having to unlock Orbment slots with Sepith like in the previous game, each slot is already open and can be upgraded twice with Sepith. Upgrading a slot once will let you equip Rare Orbments there, and upgrading it twice allows to equip Super Rare Orbments, which helps with customizability.
- Another mechanic returning from previous games is Orbment value: each Orbment has a "value" proportional to its rarity, which increases for each slot you upgrade. As the total value of your Orbments rises, the user will obtain a boost to his Arts stat, which encourages creativity and customizability with various builds.
- The combat also was tweaked to add a bit more variety:
- After a certain point in the game, Rean can release his Ogre powers in battle with a special Craft, healing him of all damage and greatly increasing his stats.
- When two characters are linked together, they can enter Overdrive. Doing so will give them three free turns, during which Arts can be cast instantly while Crafts and physical attacks have a particularly high chance of unbalancing an enemy to set up a Linked attack, in addition to be healed if needed, giving you a powerful tool to use when fighting particularly tough enemies.
- The Rush Linked Attack is available right from the start, and its higher damage output makes it more useful to take out groups of enemies.
- General adjustments to the balance were also made - for example, the accuracy of physical attacks was reduced to incentivize the use of Arts, and the damage cap was removed.
- Divine Knight combat, which was present in the previous game only for the last two battles, makes a return and is redesigned almost from the ground-up:
- One party member can fight alongside Valimar, casting spells to damage enemies or provide support in various ways. As Valimar levels up, the potency of the party member's spells will increase. Defeating enemies while a party member is fighting with you will grant a significant boost in Link Experience.
- Valimar can be modified aboard the Courageous and equipped with special Orbs (similar to Orbments) that grant him spells to cover a variety of situations.
- Often, you will find yourself in battles pitting Valimar against two or more enemy Soldats, each with its own weaknesses, encouraging strategic thinking on the player's side to take both enemies out quickly.
- You can gain up to 5 Bravery Points when fighting on Valimar, too. Once you capped your Bravery Points, you can unleash a finisher that deals tremendous damage to all enemies.
- Very good soundtracks, such as Awakening (Valimar's theme) or the Soldat battle theme. Some pieces of music from the previous game also make a return, such as Tie a Link of ARCUS! (when fighting chest monsters and quest bosses) and Belief (when fighting Shining Poms)
- The story is very good, closing many plot threads from the previous game and introducing new ones from the overall arc. Characters from Trails from Zero and Trails in the Sky also start appearing, connecting the Erebonia Arc to the storyline of the Trails series.
- Lloyd Bannings, the protagonist of the Crossbell Arc, makes an appearance and is briefly playable during the Intermission chapter.
- The Noble Alliance is full of compelling, distinct and recognizable antagonists, both original and returning from previous games. During the Intermission chapter, you get to learn more about each of them and their individual reasons for opposing the Erebonian government.