First Impressions: Trails of Cold Steel III (Spoiler-Free)

We’re maybe 10 hours into Trails of Cold Steel III after months (and what felt like years) of waiting for its release in America, and so far the early returns are really good.

The most noticeable change is the graphics. CSI and CSII were not phenomenal-looking games even by PS3 and Vita standards, let alone against games of the last six years on the next-gen consoles. The PS4 remakes brought a few welcome changes like 60 FPS, but even then, they were showing their age pretty hard. That’s not an issue with CSIII. While the game may not be cutting-edge by today’s metrics, it still looks gorgeous compared its predecessors. The new HUDs are smooth, character models have beautiful little details to them, the increased draw distance makes towns and exterior maps feel way more alive, and the new S-Crafts are light years ahead of the past. It’s hard to give the game too much credit for this — you would absolutely expect vast improvements with the power of a new system at Falcom’s disposal. But it still looks and feels very nice.

It’s still early for the new cast of characters, but so far I like all of the new additions to the party. Altina flashes fun bursts of personality at times and we seem to be getting more of her backstory; Juna has a chip on her shoulder, but it never feels abrasive; Kurt is stoic and poised but not at the expense of being interesting. The two other folks who joined the squad in the prologue (Ash and Musse) seem a bit one-dimensional in the beginning — I’m assuming that’s by design and we’ll see more from them later.

The soundtrack is strong so far, as expected. Spiral of Erebos is quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks from the entire series and we’ll have a post dedicated to it soon. As usual for Falcom titles, the town themes and route music set the tone for the mood really well, even if they generally aren’t the type of songs I would listen to outside of the game.

The one strange thing is the pacing, though some regression is to be expected after the breakneck pace CSII featured in the last chapter and epilogue. We’ll see if this proves to be the case later in the game, but to this point it feels like we’re playing CSI all over again. We’re back in a school setting, there’s new students to meet, classes to attend, free days to be had, etc. Obviously Rean’s role is different and that adds a new, interesting layer to things. But after being thrust into civil war and souring over Erebonia with the Courageous and having a major impact on the eastern side of the war, the stakes almost feel too small right now. I expect that like CSI and CSII, that will change as we approach the halfway point, and then go off the rails near the game’s final act.

You can view our video series with the playlist below — it’s among the most successful projects we’ve done on YouTube, which tells you about how dedicated this smaller fanbase can be at times:

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