Trails in the Sky the 3rd is a brilliant send-off to a trilogy that introduced a mass amount of people to the Legend of Heroes franchise of roleplaying games. The title that no one imagined would ever make it into the English language finally arrived last month, and if you played the first two games, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play through the finale. That being said, if you haven’t played through Trails in the Sky and Second Chapter, do yourself a favor and avoid this review until after you have gone through those two games. Trying to jump straight into this release will create so much confusion that it isn’t worth it. Also, there may be heavy spoilers throughout this review for the first two games… so again, read at your own discretion. If you’re ready, then proceed on for our full Trails in the Sky the 3rd review.
Title: Trails in the Sky the 3rd
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Available On: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Release Date: May 3, 2017
Review Game Supplied by Publisher
Even though this game marks the conclusion for the Trails in the Sky sub-arc found within the Legend of Heroes series, it is structured quite a bit differently than the first two games it directly follows. Meant to be a separate story that does not directly involve Estelle and Joshua, the 3rd tells the story of Kevin Graham (introduced in the second game) six months after the conclusion of Second Chapter. After completing an initial mission for the Septian Church, he soon gets word of an artifact that sets off the entire plot and rest of the game. This artifact was recovered at the bottom of Valeria Lake in the Liberl Kingdom, and while investigating what it is, Kevin runs into Ries Argent, an old friend. Together, they set off to find out exactly what this artifact is and a whole other land filled to the brim with discoveries. The best thing about this departure is that we learn so much of Father Kevin Graham’s back story and get all of the loose ends tied up from the previous games, which greatly pleased me.
Trails in the Sky the 3rd plays very similarly to the previous games, being a traditional turn-based roleplaying game. One of the main differences this time around, is that the enemies have varying levels of affinities to different elements such as time, space, and mirage. Other than that, actual gameplay remains relatively unchanged from the first two games, which can only be seen as a blessing. Fans of turn-based roleplaying games are not going to find a better series in the modern era than the Legend of Heroes and all of its’ combined entries.
Okay, so I briefly mentioned earlier that the structure of the 3rd is a drastic change from Trails in the Sky and Second Chapter. But what exactly does that mean? The 3rd is a very linear focused game. Fans of the series may be used to adventuring across the land with Estelle and Joshua, partaking in different main story missions, completing an abundance of side quests, and exploring different locales. This is not the case with the final game in the trilogy. A majority of the time will be spent in an alternate dimension known as Phantasma, which is basically one long dungeon. It’s actually easy to compare this game to more of a dungeon crawling roleplaying game than a traditional style RPG.
While trapped in Phantasma, Kevin soon learns that a lot of his friends and allies from the first two games are also trapped within this weird land of shadows. As I said, the 3rd actually wraps up a lot of plot points and holes that were left in the previous two games. This is done through the usage of character doors that can be found within the dungeon. A door will represent one or more characters that fans of the series will no doubt know, and opening the door will present the player with a number of cutscenes and story elements that explain what happened to each one. There are an insane amount of doors as well, offering up a significant amount of important lore and story that fans are not going to want to miss out on. One of the few negatives about the game can be seen here though. It’s such a huge departure from what the other two games were, that being stuck in basically one location for fifty to sixty hours definitely doesn’t feel as rewarding and exciting, no matter how good the story and characters are.
Sitting down to write about Trails in the Sky the 3rd has proven to be a difficult task, as it isn’t very often when a newly released game is so heavily dependent on finishing the two games that came before it. I cannot stress this enough, but if you haven’t played through Trails in the Sky and Second Chapter yet, you owe it to yourself to go through them, even if you made it this far into the review and know certain things that are going to happen. After that, I encourage you to explore other titles in the Legend of Heroes franchise. Hopefully one day we’ll actually get the Crossbell Arc of games (Zero and Azure) localized in English, but until then, definitely check out and enjoy Trails of Cold Steel I and II while we await the third release of that series.
And how could I forget to mention the soundtrack?! Nihon Falcom is one of the best when it comes to modern compositions for video games, and Trails in the Sky the 3rd is no different. The sound team over at Falcom is always stepping up their game and attempting to surpass themselves with each new game, and I must say, they typically succeed in this manner. Seriously. Look up any soundtrack for their games on YouTube or Spotify. You won’t be disappointed.
Trails in the Sky the 3rd is a bittersweet release that fans have been crying out for ever since completing the first two games. XSEED has delivered on a promise that many thought wouldn’t be able to happen. A great send-off to a trilogy that introduced a ton of people to the franchise. Just be aware that a majority of the game takes place in one location. This is a must-play for anyone that has invested time in the first two games. Anyone else, I encourage you to hold off until after playing through the original two.