REVIEW: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

REVIEW: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

Earlier this month the final game in the Sky trilogy was released. While deviating from the first two in some ways, it is no less an amazing experience.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: JRPG
Developer: Falcom
Publisher: Falcom
Release date: May 3rd, 2017

One Final Tale

Early this year, I finally knuckled down and played Trails in the Sky, an RPG I bought when it came out a couple of years ago because everyone was gushing about it. It had a bit of a slow start (to make a huge understatement), so I shelved it, and I feel bad that I did; once I was out of the prologue, I didn’t stop playing that and then Second Chapter until a couple of months later. The two games form the two halves of a single story, and both are very good.

I shouldn’t really need to tell you that, though, as if you’re looking at a review for the third game I’m going to assume you’ve played the previous two. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be throwing around spoilers casually, but if you have no experience with the Trails series I don’t know how much this review will help. On the other hand, if you have played the past two games you might be wondering if this one is strictly necessary, as Second Chapter seemed to wrap the story up pretty decisively. For that I can definitely offer some insight.

A World with Different Rules

The 3rd starts off a few months after the end of Second Chapter, and delves greatly into the fallout of that game’s climax. It’s also something of a lower-deck episode, focusing on characters who might not have received much focus in the first two games. That’s the reason for the different title, since the story of the previous main characters, Estelle and Joshua, has been pretty well completed already, although they do appear.

Instead of the two of them, you have a different pair of leads: Kevin and Ries. Ries is a new character, but you’ll remember Kevin from Second Chapter; he was only a supporting character, but one interesting fact that came up about him was that, rather than being a wandering priest of the Church of Aidios, he was in fact a member of the Gralsritter. They’re essentially the Church’s inquisitors, investigators, and if need be, executioners. While he only had a secondary role, Kevin was integral to why the heroes actually won at the end of Second Chapter, and I have to assume that was deliberate on Falcom’s part to foster interest in the character.

The prologue of the 3rd illustrates the difference between Kevin and Estelle. While the first few hours playing as Estelle had you doing busy work around her town, your time with Kevin sees you infiltrate a rich businessman’s party, beat up all his guards, steal the artifact he’d been abusing, and then leave by diving out of the window onto your getaway airship. The main story is focused on Kevin’s back story and how he came to hold his position in the Church, and he’s quite an interesting character.

After going to investigate a new relic and meeting up with Ries, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen since childhood, Kevin and her are caught off-guard when the relic activates, drawing them into a strange alternate realm filled with monsters. This takes the form of a massive, multi-level dungeon — while the previous two games had you exploring the nation, 3rd has you dungeon crawling for the most part. That might not be a change that’s up everyone’s alley, but it goes along with this game being different, and I like the change in focus, myself.

I picked Hard difficulty at first, and so far it’s been a pretty good challenge, but also a fair one. I have to imagine it would be challenging on Normal as well, albeit in a lesser sense. A couple of the early bosses have forced me to use everything at my disposal, and in one case, actually seemed balanced around abusing Kevin’s super move, Grail Sphere, which is capable of shielding the whole party for up to two hits. It says a lot when such a powerful move can feel like a necessary part of your arsenal.

That’s not to say 3rd is completely without the world building the series is known for, of course. Scattered around the many areas through which you travel are Moon, Sun, and Star doors, which will all open once a certain condition is met, and reward you with a plot scene. Usually these conditions involve having particular characters with you, but there are different ones. These scenes are used to flesh out secondary or minor characters, or just give you a different perspective on a main character that you never saw before. You get tangible awards as well, but since the characters are so likeable — and well translated thanks to the team at XSeed — you’d almost be fine with just the story.

Since this is the last Trails in the Sky game, a lot of the plot is also meant to tie into other series under the Trails banner, set in different countries than Liberl. The two games that came out directly after this one have yet to be translated, but the series after them, Trails of Cold Steel, is already available in English, and its first two entries are confirmed to be coming to PC. If you plan on buying them, this game could serve as a nice lead-in, if not a strictly necessary one. Overall I would say unless you absolutely hated the combat and dungeons in the first two Sky games, 3rd is just as much a great RPG as them, and easily worth playing.

Written by
Justin Brett
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