GAME REVIEW | Fronting a Badass Preacher Man in the 3rd "Trails in the Sky"
Trails in the Sky finally concludes in this installment of the first arc in the Trails franchise. Thankfully it took significantly less time than the beast that was Trails in the Sky Second Chapter to come out. While the oddly titled The 3rd was available on the PSP, the time period for that release was closed awhile back. But thankfully a PC version of the game was made, and XSEED has delivered us the conclusion to this arc. While it's not as good as the last two entries, it still acts as a great epilogue and fan-disc, while also being a bridge for the Crossbell and Cold Steel games.
The first thing I should mention here is that this is the third game to a series, and as such the game expects you to have played the previous two entries. But the plot of Trails in the Sky is about Father Kevin returning from his last job following the events of the previous game. He retrieves an artifact that he drops off at a secret Sealing room underground in a city, under its cathedral. However there seems to be an interaction with the artifact and Kevin. He and his partner Reis then are surrounded by a bright light, and wake up in a bizarre dimension known as The Phantasm. Now they have to found how to get out, and along the way they'll find many of their friends from the last two games, including characters like Colonel Richard and Renne.
It's at this point that the game diverges from it's strong narrative perspective, and instead opts to tell Kevin's story through a means of dungeon crawling. There are no towns to explore or NPCs to talk to. Just getting through each layer of this one massive dungeon. Not that there's a problem with that, but if anyone was looking forward to the series signature world-building via NPC chats or exploration, they'll be disappointed. And while there is still a perfectly good tale about Kevin and Reis in here, the method by which it's delivered is a bit bizarre to be honest.
As for the reason that the game also feels like a 'fan-disc,' it's because the other characters can go through doors with certain conditions, and possibly go through a battle trail or something, and then are rewarded with a side-story segment. These segments can be interactive, but some are story only. (This means you might be waiting around for awhile until the segment is done.) Then you are rewarded with some money and an item or skill. These segments basically replace the bracer requests from the last two games. In addition there's a hub that serves all recovery and shopping functions. You can also buy basic items and equipment in the various section of each layer at Stone Monuments. These locations also let your party fast travel between areas, which is a feature that would later be used in Zero and Ao, and the first two Cold Steel titles.
The side stories are fun and the gameplay is still enjoyable, although not much has changed mechanically. Its music is also good, even if many tracks are recycled from the last two games. However one area of the game that fell flat is in regards to the point of no return potentially making the end-game more difficult than it needs to be. The final dungeon makes you use every character by splitting the troupe up into four different 4-person teams. This setup's problem is that the game still doesn't scale your teams levels, so backseat characters that don't fight don't gain experience. Since that's a thing, you might have bad stats or terrible equipment to be able to deal with the stronger enemies in the dungeons.
Thankfully enemies award weaker characters with more experience based on their levels. But this is also ham-strung by the fact that the max amount of experience a character can get at a time is 9999. So they can't even catch up as fast as possible. This means that you better prepare before going into the final chapter dungeon, although the developers really should have taken the opportunity to tweak the system a bit. Aside from this one blemish and the bizarre format of the dungeon crawling, Trails in the Sky the 3rd is a fine spotlight on Kevin and Reis, as well as a good epilogue to the Sky games and bridge to the Crossbell titles. I highly recommend checking it out!
The Good: The story is less involved in this game, but the game does some nice supplement epilogue content for the characters.
The Bad: Level scaling is a bit of a mess since this game does require a bit of grinding.
The Ugly: The Final Chapter is a point of no return and forces you to use characters that you might have neglected otherwise.
SUMMARY: While not as good as the previous two installments, Trails in the Sky the 3rd provides enough epilogue to close the book on a few characters, while being a great bridge to Trails of Cold Steel.
Promotional consideration provided by Marc Bianchi and XSEED Games