Game of the Month - May 2021

What platform are you playing the Cold Steel series on? I played the first game on Vita when it was originally released and enjoyed it although i never actually finished it (got pretty close, life happened and ended up watching the ending on YouTube). I’ve been thinking about getting back into the series but the considerable commitment of 3 60+ hour games is daunting. What are your thoughts on skipping 2 and going straight to 3? Or skipping 2 and 3 and going straight to 4?

Trails in the Sky is some rescapee of the early-mid 90s JRPGs, arguably the best period of the genre before tropes totally took it over, and it’s also pretty incredible in that genre. It means it’s got also a lot (LOT) of grind. But it’s a simple structure arched around a cast of not disgusting characters. Rarely for JRPGs, the world got so much content it actually doesn’t feel too stuck, also. That helped get me, at least, very engaged to the end.
Trails of Cold Steel is a modern JRPG: like most recent games, it tries to break the formula of old JRPG to streamline it (ie, Persona-lize it), but it also means its structure follows that of Japanese fiction in other popular medium, be in TV series, comix or whatever: each character must have its moment, each character must have two sides, each character must be annoying as fuck. That cattering to everybody and nobody makes it very bland for me, compared to the predictable but sweet storytelling of Trails in the Sky in my opinion.
In the case of Cold Steel, I’m a bit sad because the game system is super: I wished it simply featured a more standard pacing. Instead we got that fake free-roaming, talk-talk-talk part a lot of recent games are fond of, which not only totally breaks the pace in-game, but also breaks it narratively, by making you jump around the timeline.
I am guessing later games do away with it (I certainly hope so), @Rhamorim?
I’m a desperate Trails in the Sky fanboy, as can be read.

I haven’t played past the first one, but knowing vaguely how the game evolves, that sounds like heresy :O

Nioh 2: Moving in on the 100% Steam achievement. Annoying to have to do the killer boss rush quest on Way of the Demon though (NG++).

Sunless Skies: Really enjoying this one. I am playing Legacy mode and have lost numerous captains. Permadeath in a text-driven game is a bit weird but I don’t find it too hard to just skip through previously read stories. Without the constant fear of death I don’t think I would be so into this.

Yeah I decided to just get 2 on the PS5. If I’m gonna play the series I’ll play the whole thing I guess.

Playing on PC (and Turbo Mode is sometimes a godsend). I wouldn’t recommend skipping anything. Cold Steel 1 and 2 are like two halves of a movie. I can’t speak for 3 and 4 because I haven’t played them yet, but I expect them to be somewhat similar. I hear there’s a timeskip from 2 to 3, so maybe you could start from 3, but it builds on characters and events from the previous games, so if you skip anything you’ll most likely be losing a lot.

If you’re set on playing the most recent ones only, though, I think 3 would be a better starting point than just starting from 4. CS 4 has characters from all the Trails games - Liberl, Crossbell and Erebonia characters are all there, so there’s a LOT you’ll miss if you start with 4.

So far, not really. The first half of CS 2 is a bit looser than the overall structure of 1, but deep down it’s very similar. There’s a bit less mandatory talking (partly because the characters are well established at that point), but that’s it. The second half opens up in terms of where you want to go and who you take with you, but it’s still, story-wise, very much linear, much like 1. I haven’t played 3 and 4 yet, so I don’t know if that changes in any significant way, but I’ll let you know when I get there.

I’ll say this though - CS 2 has better pacing compared to CS 1. The focus moves from the characters to the story and events, and in that sense its pacing gets closer to what you see in the Sky games. There are lots of interesting events and turns, though they might feel tropey sometimes if you’re genre-savvy. ;)

So yeah, the Sky games have more charm, and more likeable/less annoying characters (arguably - I don’t find the characters in CS annoying), but the gameplay and overall difficulty curve is way better in Cold Steel, and as such I’m really enjoying the latter.

Early in the month replayed Skyrim - I cheated so much the first time around I ruined the game for my self (console commands) so a replay was in order. Enjoyed for several weeks before getting bored. Bought and played Castle Flipper (because I loved House Flipper) but it gets a a big meh from me. I decided to install and try some of the free Epic Games in that library - installed about 5 i think before getting to “Hob” which I’m enjoying more than a bit.

You have very precisely confirmed my initial impressions of CS1 after the first 10 or so hours of play. The idea of me ever caring about looks at notes Rean or squints Alisa seems so far fetched. Maybe I’ll boot up those fan translations of Trails of Zero/Trails of Blue, they seem a little more like TitS and the fanbase seems to think highly of them.

It’s hard to connect with them at first, but chances are by the end of the game you’ll care about at least some of the characters. But it can take a while. ;)

I really like most of the characters at this point, halfway into CS2. Even some I’m not actually supposed to like. ;)

I can attest the silent protagonist (Rean? Always called him Lynn in my head!) is quite a great character, especially given the limitations of such a role usually.

Rean might be a bit too “perfect” (which can be a problem with most protagonists), but yeah, he’s a great character. The rest of Class VII is pretty great too, once their introductory character arcs are finished. You grow attached to all of them, which helps because the first half of CS2 is all about finding them and bringing Class VII together.

The support cast is great too. Lots of likeable characters there, including even many of the “villains” - most of those have relatable motives and moments that remind you of their humanity. And that really helps with the many twists and turns the story throws at you.

Anyway, I think I hijacked this thread long enough. I really like the series, that’s all. ;)

Well, maybe we need a thread for the Trails people to continue nerding out :)

That thread lost its mysterious name. So now you have to hide talk of that series in other threads. This is the way.

I applaud that explanation!

That thread was for Trails in the Sky specifically, not Legend of Heroes as a whole, was it? Maybe I should create a new thread for Cold Steel and name it

“Great JRPG series with a name that might be a reference to trains, tanks, or mechas, all at once”

Do it!

And I did. :)

Serious play:

The Little Acre: Probably never would have played this if it wasn’t on XGP. Promotional art made me think it was some weird kid-and-dog story, turns out it’s a decent little LucasArts-style adventure game about a father & daughter caught up in a weird sci-fi story. Nice art, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Some folks will probably think it skips way too much backstory, but I kind of liked the focused presentation.

Lost Artifacts, Gnomes Garden Lost King, and Royal Roads: I’ve been going through these little logistics games like popcorn at a movie. I think I’ve finally run out of them.

The Gardens Between: Cute puzzler, but less substance than I thought there might be.

Hidden Through Time: Never played a hidden-object game before, but it was cheap and I was after achievements. Probably won’t play one again. It’s either super-easy or maddeningly difficult to find those little objects.

Costume Quest: Did CQ2 last month, did this one and the DLC this month. People really do play back-compat games. Very DoubleFine-ey. Can definitely see how they improved the turn-based combat in the sequel.

Plants vs Zombies Battle For Neighborville: Having real single-player content for the first time is interesting, but the multiplayer modes are pretty limited and grinding for cosmetics and XP is only so much fun. There’s a reason this was not a full-priced title. And oh, the offers to buy in-game currency . . .

Red Faction Guerilla Remastered: Yeah, that’s not the official name, but I’m not typing that. Still holds up, but 2 very hard crashes have rendered the game unplayable. As in, can’t load any saves. Booooo. [EDIT: Had to clear local saves and re-sync]


Biomutant: Seems like they are planning to release a patch fixing my complaints about the first couple of hours of gameplay. Maybe I’ll wait a bit, then.

Supraland: This one is interesting. I thought it was a 3rd person survival game, but it’s a 1st person action-RPG. Should mess with it some more before it leaves XGP.

Hero Express: I didn’t think I’d like this as much as I do. It’s a silly little 2D driving game with a gameplay loop of: do the run, earn & apply upgrades, go a little further each time, finally win. Great for killing an hour or so.

Monster Sancutary: 2D pokemon metroidvania. Pleasant if not compelling.

Steampunk Tower 2: Literal tower defense. This one steampunk tower in particular. Lots of fiddly upgrading business to try to make the off-time engaging.

Beholder: This was weird. You are an East German-ish landlord-informer messing with your tenants’ lives and ratting them out to The State. You can choose to be truly crappy and oppressive or just regular crappy and oppressive. Kind of got in my head.

Wow. I’d heard the name Beholder plenty of times, I had no idea it was about that. I’ll have to try that out. I’m sure I probably own it on some platform.

As always, thanks for your impressions of various games.