Trails Of Cold Steel III Review – Back To School

There can be something daunting about a series that has run on for years, that people inevitably ask what is a good jumping on point. That, of course, has happened with the Trails series, while this story started with the Sky trilogy many people may find that the older games are harder to find and get into. Trails of Cold Steel III promises that it can be welcoming to both new and old players and that new fans shouldn’t fear. However, is that even true?

A Fresh Start

Trails of Cold Steel 3 features a mostly new cast of characters, the new Class VII with Rean, the protagonist, acting as their teacher. This sets up a dynamic as his students react to Rean and his new status as hero in the Erebonian Empire. Introducing these new characters and having them be a focus is a good start for allowing new players into the franchise.

However, there is a lot of information being passed from past games that I can see a new fan being confused at first. This includes certain phrases that are unique to the Cold Steel games, such as the Soldat Units. I’m not even going to include the references to characters from the Crossbell arc and Sky arcs which play a heavy deal in the introduction of Juna, a transfer student from the Crossbell region.

There is so much information that the game feels held back by being tied down to focusing on Rean’s point of view. In fact, taking on Juna’s point of view would have made for a better jumping on point as she learns more about Erebonia. Despite this complaint a new fan could actually start with Trails from Cold Steel 3 and would only need some background information to follow along with the story.

The start is relatively slow and introduces one of the major components of the game, which is the school life. 

Don’t Forget Your Homework

School Life for lack of a better term is where the more laid back of the game is. The basic flow is that Rean has a general objective to complete during his free days. While doing this players can talk to the students and townsfolk and decide to spend time with certain characters to upgrade their relationship.

This will be familiar for players who started with Trails of Cold Steel I where this section is an introduction or transition between two separate chapters. So, players shouldn’t expect this to be too in depth, instead it is a bookend to ease tension and lead into the next life. So, players can’t join a club or anything similar.

However, there is still some side content that players can enjoy even beyond the school life portion of each chapter, such as fishing. Fishing has been a staple in trails for a long time now, and has changed considerably since its introduction in Trails in the Sky SC.

This is no different as the mini-game has evolved to become an entirely different game relying more on timing rather than mashing like in Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2. This initially felt weird but as I got the hang of it, this version of the mini-game felt great and only needed a bit of adjustment to really learn.

Despite this lack of mechanical depth school life is a good way to learn about the other characters and start to care about them. Rean as a teacher, now worries about every student, not just Class VII. In fact, once players attempt to advance the story past a certain point Rean will mention that there are more students to talk to.

Talking to them can lead to events to play out and special quests that can upgrade Thor’s campus and unlock rewards. This makes talking with each student rewarding, however, players can cheat a little bit. This game shows certain marks for events on the minimap, so players can see who they have already spoken to.

Talking to everybody can drag the school life section on a bit but it is rewarding and those wanting a more lived in world will appreciate that each NPC will have something new to say after story events. However, Thors is a military academy and fighting can’t be avoided.

Like Toy Soldiers

Thors has a special curriculum for its students, after all, joining the army is a viable career path for anybody. So, each month the students are expected to go out into the field for real life combat practice. This is where the Trails series as a whole shines.

Combat is very similar for those who have played any game in the series before with three separate meters to keep track of. The first is Craft Points, shortened to CP, that players gain anytime when a character attacks or is damaged. This resource fuels Crafts which are powerful attacks that also have special effects, like canceling an enemy’s spell or lowering their attack and defense.

The next is Energy Points, or EP for short, that fuel powerful spells called arts. These spells can be learned by anyone as long as they have the correct quartz equipped. These quartz can also enhance the characters stats and the type of elemental damage they can do. This makes the magic system very versatile, as while certain characters will have more EP than others no spells are locked to a certain character.

Finally, Brave Points, BP if you’re cool, fuel special dual attacks and the new mechanic for Trails of Cold Steel 3, orders. Players obtain these points by simply landing a critical hit or bypassing the enemy’s defenses. Their partner character will then launch a follow-up strike that gains one BP.

These points can be hard to obtain but will carry over each fight with a maximum of five points. This makes it a long time to stock up points so strategic use of orders is key to success. Orders can increase the party’s attack, reflect attacks and other powerful buffs that can turn the tide battle.

In fact, early boss’s require players to be smart about which orders to use and when, making combat varied. However, there is a caveat in that crafts are the most powerful attacks to use, making Arts more situational as crafts can bypass defenses allowing the accumulation of BP.

The next advantage crafts have over arts is that they are generally used the same time the player selects to use them, while arts have a casting time to use. This time is displayed on the left turn bar, so players can see when a heal or attack will cast but if a craft can do the same thing it’s usually better to just use the craft.

This makes most characters play the same, even though each character can learn any spells. The best strategy generally has each character learn at least one healing spell and a buff to play around each character’s crafts. Despite this complaint, battle is fun and the addition of orders adds a layer of complexity that is appreciated, and even through the advantages of crafts, players can use arts and still win battles easily.


Trails of Cold Steel 3 is a fantastic follow-up to the Trails series, however, I feel that’s what it is, as a sequel to the previous installments. While new players could in theory start here, too many references to previous games and prior knowledge of the world could leave newer players confused. Forcing some required reading in the library which, ironically, makes the title more daunting for newbies.
Despite this there is enough new here that newer players willing to put in the time will have a blast with a battle system that looks and feels more polished. A story that aims to start with a new generation of students, while veterans can check in with the characters that they already know and love. It may not be perfect, but Trails of Cold Steel 3 knows how to make me want to go back to school, and maybe try to kick some ass.


  • Orders adds another layer of complexity to combat
  • Characters and world changes as the story moves forward


  • School life is a little lacking
  • A rather awkward start for new players

Trails of Cold Steel 3

Very Good

Trails of Cold Steel 3 is a fantastic follow-up to the Trails series, however, I feel that’s what it is, as a sequel to the previous installments.

Estelle Mejia
PS5 version reviewed.