Extracurricular Questing

Better than extracurricular studies.

Not that Rean doesn’t have those, too. But he spends his supposedly free days undertaking various tasks at the behest of others; diligently completing each within its specified time frame. Tasks that have included, but are not limited to: procuring coloured bath salts, making deliveries to instructors, tackling absurdly dangerous monsters, and feeding a mysterious black cat at different times of the day. Not that anyone ever asked him to feed her. But he is wholly committed to ensuring that she is well fed, and is often seen scouring the campus looking for her.

But that’s hardly surprising.

What is surprising is how immensely satisfying combat mechanics can become so dreadfully dissatisfying in gimmicky boss encounters. I had nothing but praise for the complexities of combat prior to those encounters, but that praise diminished rapidly with each painful passing encounter.

Equipping different kinds (and colours) of Quartz is crucial to capitalising on elemental efficacy. Knowing how (and when) to interrupt or delay enemies is crucial to controlling the turn order. Understanding status ailments is crucial to either avoiding or dealing ludicrous damage. But none of this mattered with these gimmicky boss encounters, as they were often immune to status ailments (or being delayed) and their elemental efficacy was such that they rarely took additional damage from Arts. They don’t seem to take damage from regular attacks, either. They’ve also got ridiculous amounts of health. And they will instantly kill the entire party should some arbitrary condition be met, despite being relatively harmless otherwise. Artificial difficulty of every conceivable form was demonstrated during these ludicrous encounters.

Found a cat. Never leaving.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is an unorthodox narrative-driven JRPG which is frequently– and unashamedly– punishing, but gimmicky encounters have made it such an infuriatingly polarising experience. These encounters didn’t add anything to the experience besides needless frustration, which (usually) led to shuffling Quartz around and using your own gimmicks to defeat them before they defeated you. Thankfully, these encounters are few and far between, but that doesn’t excuse the disservice they do to an otherwise enjoyable adventure.

Which is why I loathe them.

Because I’ve genuinely enjoyed the majority of the time that I’ve spent with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, and I was looking forward to continuing its fascinating story in the sequels, but these encounters have truly drained the enthusiasm that I once had for this subseries.

Not that my scathing judgement should discourage you from experiencing this exhilarating narrative-driven JRPG for yourself. I just detest artificial difficulty. The abrupt introduction to (and implementation of) Divine Knight mechanics was slightly irritating, too. Collecting different kinds of Master Quartz, acquiring legendary weapons, and finding rare accessories feels (somewhat) pointless when it doesn’t contribute to your success. If you can overlook this infrequent unpleasantness, then I highly recommend The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel for its captivating characters and delightfully cohesive ever-evolving world. I could probably write a thousand words and still fail to convey my feelings towards this experience, so I do hope that you’ll forgive me if this post comes across as inherently (or unfairly) negative.

Have a nice week, all!