Just last night, I finally beat this incredible game after trying to play it since November of 2020. I have quite a story to tell with this one, but we’ll get to all of that soon enough. Starting off, I’d like to give my actual official opinion of the game after having played it all the way through, at last. Honestly, even though this game is just merely the prologue to a much, much longer story, I felt that it could stand well on its own. This game is definitely slow and takes a long time for the plot to get going, but the slowness doesn’t make it bad, if you ask me. This game fulfills its purpose by getting you attached to the characters and the kingdom of Liberl, one of the three main countries on the continent of Zemuria. It makes you, the player, spend plenty of time in this world, getting to know all the characters both playable and otherwise, and even though the plot may take a while to pick up, it has a warm, cozy feeling to it. It really makes you feel at home in this kingdom, and the more you play and uncover, the more you wish to protect everyone and everything within it and beyond, especially as you start meeting people from the other countries in Zemuria. I absolutely loved this game, and though I may have had a difficult time with many of the boss fights, even I, someone who struggles with most video games, managed to beat it on the standard difficulty setting and enjoyed every second of the game.
Now that I’ve stated my official opinion, I’d like to start with my own personal story, then talk about the things I liked and slightly disliked about the game specifically.
My personal story with this game is a bit weird. It starts with one of the games that came long after it: Trails of Cold Steel. At the time of being introduced to it, I was getting burned out on the RPGs I’d been playing mostly at the time and asked a co-worker of mine to recommend RPGs that weren’t Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei, or Dragon Quest. I just wanted to try something different. On that list he sent. Trails of Cold Steel came up. It was a somewhat familiar name. At least, the Trails name was familiar. I’d seen it years before when I watched an old friend stream one of the Trails in the Sky games, but that was long before I knew anything about the series. At any rate, I got Trails of Cold Steel and absolutely fell in love with it. It made me want to look into the rest of the series and play as much of it as I could, knowing that all the games followed a single plotline. I found out that the original Trails in the Sky was originally on the PSP. At the time, I was unemployed and unable to purchase any new games, so I got the game on an emulator at first and played it that way.
I made it pretty far that way originally, but then my girlfriend and I moved to Ohio, and the computer I was using got busted in the move, so I lost all that progress. I decided to give it another go using my old, rather terrible laptop, and it worked just fine, much to my surprise. I ended up making it much further that way. I think I even got to the end of Chapter Three before I stopped playing. I was finally at a point where I could afford things again. Understanding how much I knew I’d love this series, I wanted to get the games officially and support the wonderful creators that came up with this amazing story, so I bought the entire Trails in the Sky trilogy on Steam. I had to restart from the beginning for a fourth time (the third time I didn’t mention was for a Let’s Play I planned on doing for the PSP version that I had to quit due to accidentally saving over my file), but that wasn’t an issue. I was admittedly pretty burned out on the first two chapters of the game because of this, but I still pushed through, eager to see what resided beyond the parts of the game I’d already seen so many times.
At long last, after months of playing, my first journey through the kingdom of Liberl came to an end. I was definitely in tears by the end, I will most definitely admit, but I loved it. Seeing this world from the perspective of the game’s central protagonists Estelle and Joshua Bright was an unforgettable experience, and one I will think of for many years to come. Especially now that I’m playing its direct sequel, of course. But that is my story with this game.
To jump into specifics, I’ll start with the things I didn’t like real quick, because there weren’t many things to dislike, to be honest. Now that I’m thinking about the game from as much of an objective standpoint as I can take, there’s really only one thing I even sort of dislike, and it’s hardly anything. The only thing that I wasn’t a big fan of was how slow the story can be at times. I personally had no issue with it; like I said, I enjoyed every second I played of this game. But when recommending this game to people, it’s a little difficult, because a lot of people tend to lack patience. A lot of people out there aren’t playing a video game to read a book; they want to jump right into the action, which I don’t fault them for at all; that’s what most video games are about anyway, but that is not what the Trails series is about. The Trails series does more than just provide a source of entertainment; it’s an experience, something to truly dig into and enjoy. Something worth investing your time in. It is indeed like reading a book, I’d say. Dialogue among characters is a major focus on this game, and that brings me to the things I really liked.
While we’re on the note of dialogue, let’s talk about that, shall we? The writing style of the Trails series is something that really stands out to me. After playing Persona 3, the game that essentially changed how I view games in general, something I always appreciate in a video game is what I call an “honest writing style.” By that, what I mean is that the dialogue between characters has a human feel. Not everything is grammatically correct all the time. People shorten words or use abbreviated versions. They often use strange combinations of words. They have differing dialects depending on regional differences. (Though that last one is something to be used carefully, I’d say. You definitely don’t want it to be overdone to the point of being offensive, like what some Dragon Quest games do with their heavily-forced Spanish accented characters.) Trails in the Sky excels at that, and it really gives the whole game a more human feel to it. It makes you feel like the characters in the world are very real, including the NPCs.
That brings me to another note on this same topic. Something that the Trails series does that I absolutely love is how they treat their NPCs. In every region you go to, there’s a collection of NPCs with their own stories, and if you take the time to talk to them as you progress the plot, you get to see their stories advance. They don’t stay static. They move forward and grow, just like you do and the protagonists do. They endure their own hardships along with yours, and sometimes, their lives even change depending on your own actions. I can understand why some people wouldn’t have the patience to go around and talk to every single NPC every time the story progressed; even I didn’t when I was at the end of Trails of Cold Steel because I was just ready to progress the plot, but it’s really rewarding if you’re someone who appreciates good writing and wonderful attention to detail.
Another thing I love is the game’s central protagonist: Estelle Bright. I always appreciate when a game actually has a female lead as the protagonist, and Estelle is absolutely incredible. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys, so I’ll just leave it at saying that she is a wonderful protagonist in every way and I’d recommend playing it just to see how her story evolves throughout the game.
To wrap things up, this game is, as I’ve said, an experience that goes beyond simply playing a video game. It has so much humanity within its storytelling. The music portrays the game’s emotions perfectly. The writing for every single character blows me away with how well it’s done. The kingdom of Liberl itself is full of so many wonderfully strange people and mysteries. I cannot recommend this game enough. If you are even remotely interested in playing, this game is on Steam for a pretty reasonable price for how much story and gameplay you get with this game, if I recall correctly. If you haven’t played it before but decide to try it because of this, feel free to let me know how your journey through the kingdom of Liberl goes! Or if you have already played the game, also let me know! I always enjoy meeting fellow Trails fans.