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Review: Trails Through Daybreak Elevates the Series’ Legacy

The Legend of Heroes: Trails series of games is something of a paradox. It’s both underrated, yet somehow recommended to the point of annoyance on JRPG forums. As a longtime fan, I can vouch for its depth, intricate storytelling, and beloved characters. The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak not only honors this legacy, but it elevates the experience to something new.

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak begins a new story arc of the Trails series in the Calvard Republic. The game follows Van Arkride, a young man working as a Spriggan, essentially a sort of mercenary-detective hybrid. This game ushers in the second half of the Trails game series, which began in 2004 with Trails in the Sky. This means it features interconnected story arcs set in different nations on the continent of Zemuria.

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The first thing that sticks out about Trails through Daybreak is its scale. It’s not just that it seems bigger than past games, you can actually feel the greater scope in every way. Van’s story starts in the capital of the Calvard Republic, and from the jump, it feels alive and detailed. Per Trails tradition, the NPCs and world-building are on point here. However, here it feels richer and deeper than ever.

One of the standout changes in Trails through Daybreak is the introduction of a second combat system. Initially, I was skeptical about having two separate forms of fights: Field battles (real-time) and Command battles (turn-based). However, my trust in Nihon Falcom was well-placed. Field battles are primarily for dealing with mobs in the overworld, while tougher enemies are handled in Command mode. Bosses fights take place exclusively in Command Mode.

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So, If you’re concerned that the series is moving away from turn-based combat, rest assured. The tactical, turn-based system we love is still here, and it is improved and faster than ever. The link system from Trails of Cold Steel returns, only it is more fluid and allows for on-the-fly link formation. Field battles significantly speed up traversal, a huge improvement in a series sometimes criticized for its slow pace. In older games, crossing the map meant multiple drawn-out battles. Now, Van and company wipe mobs quickly in real-time.

If you have to switch to a turn-based fight if a field enemy is really giving you trouble, a single button press launches you into Command mode completely seamlessly in Trails through Daybreak. There is no loading and hardly any transition at all. In fact, this can even be a strategy. If you manage to stun an enemy in Field mode, then launch Command mode, you’ll begin the turn-based fight with the advantage. However, the opposite is also true. If you get knocked below a certain health threshold in the field, you’ll be forced into Command mode. This time, however, enemy gains the advantage. The whole system adds way more depth than I expected. There are so many occasions where figuring out how to approach enemies and which mode to use and when determined me getting past an area.

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The completely overhauled and simplified orbment system is another major highlight in Trails through Daybreak. Gone are the days of flipping through help screens to figure out the exact combination of quartz to get the spell you need. While Trails of Cold Steel made strides in the right direction, this game goes even further. Slotted Quartz shards now give buffs and passive effects. Each shard contributes to your potential “shard skills” based on their layout. This retains the strategic depth, without locking essential spells and attacks behind complicated setups.

Van’s party gains magic through the use of drives. Each character equips a drive with a set loadout of magic attacks. Also, there are a couple of empty slots for “plugins” to further customize abilities. As someone who could easily spend up to an hour tweaking orbments in past games, this method is significantly faster while still allowing for detailed character customization.

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It’s just so incredible to be playing a Trails game that looks this good and is this fun to play. Trails through Daybreak has bells and whistles I hoped for in past games, and it just feels like a fresh take on the series. I’ve reached the point with the series’ gameplay that I’m not even sure what I could ask for to make it better. Trails through Daybreak is just damn good.

Playing on PC, I never encountered technical issues. I’d call the game very well optimized. However, one aspect that new players might find surprising is the sparse voice acting. Despite the series’ acclaim, Trails games are relatively budget titles compared to their JRPG peers, resulting in limited voice acting. With a massive as the script in Trails through Daybreak is, it’s no surprise. This has been the norm since the Trails of Cold Steel arc. It’s just the nature of these games production and doesn’t detract from the game. However, for new players it may take getting used to.

Trails through Daybreak‘s storyline nails the pacing. In true Trails fashion, the game starts simple and builds to a grand climax. It’s darker than many previous entries and seems to be steering the series in an intriguing direction. I’m eager to fan discussion about the game after playing it.

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Van’s cases as a Spriggan frame the story and lead him all over Calvard with a variety of different characters. New to the series, Van can actually make choices in these cases that affect his “alignment”. This system can unlock specific dialogue with certain factions and can affect who will work with Van at certain points in the game. The system does not effect the ending.

The cast of characters is incredible, every bit as lovable as in past entries, and some are even more memorable. Characters from past games make appearances, and while new players may miss some nuances, the game does a good job of establishing their importance. Newcomers might find this extensive backstory daunting, as the game follows several games’ worth of story and conflict. Be prepared to miss some character development and events if this is your first entry, especially from returning characters. However, if you can’t or don’t want to go back to start Trails in the Sky this game really works hard to keep you in the loop. It’s not exactly perfect place to start, but if you’re going to hop on at the new era, this is where to do it.

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Trails through Daybreak builds on everything I love about one of the the greatest JRPG series of all time. It’s such a grand adventure, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this arc goes. if you’re already a Trails fan, picking up this game is a no-brainer. You likely already own it in Japanese. For new players, this might be the game that finally gets you to check out the series.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak will come to the PS4, PS5, Switch, and PC on July 5, 2024.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails Through Daybreak

Trails through Daybreak begins the second half of the Trails subseries of the Legend of Heroes series. The game follows Van Arkride and a wide cast of characters through the Calvard Republic.. PC version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Trails through Daybreak is a triumph for both long-time fans and newcomers to the series. For veterans, it builds upon and expands nearly every aspect that makes the series great, from its intricate storytelling to its deep character development and strategic gameplay. For new players, while it’s a challenge to dive into such a complex series, the game makes a commendable effort to provide an accessible starting point into the rich world and lore without feeling overwhelmed.

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Cory Dinkel
Cory Dinkel is a freelance writer for Siliconera since 2023. An award-winning digital journalist, he has worked for local and national news outlets for nearly a decade. His favorite genre is the JRPG and he will not be taking questions during his "There is Not a Love Triangle in Final Fantasy VII" speech.