Trails of Cold Steel 2 Relentless Edition (PS4)
Ok, this 2nd entry into the Trails of Cold Steel series offers up the same basic principles the first game established in its 50+ hour story. So, for those of you expecting something different or new with this sequel, well don't count on too much being new. The one factor this sequel DOES improve greatly upon its predecessor at is the freedom offered upon players by the open world and transportation access the game throws our way. Whereas before, you were pretty much secluded to either Thors Military Academy halls or the location where you were at during the monthly field study, this game for the most part of the game, offers many locations (most previously visited in the original) for you to travel to and visit at the players behest. While there are some exceptions to this as a result of progressing to certain parts of the story mode having restrictions, you are still offered a lot of time between quests to visit towns such as Celdic, Rean's hometown of Ymir and many many others. That sense of freedom was not present in the first game and is a welcome feature in this spectacular sequel
The combat system is thankfully unchanged, however that's not to say there aren't any new features. While your party members will still have to utilize their Arcus Links with one another to stay ahead in battle, the new Overdrive feature gives players an even more favorable advantage than before. Now, if 2 characters have surpassed the new Trials that are scattered throughout Erebonia in what is called Trial Chests, they gain the ability to use Overdrive with one another while linked together in battle. Basically, Overdrive gives 2 characters the ability to act for 3 turns consecutively, and upon engaging Overdrive get a boost in CP, EP and health. Also Arts are cast immediately and all crafts performed are guaranteed to connect and guaranteed to inflict critical status. This comes in handy quite often during the later tough boss battles and if utilized correctly can spell victory if used with a strategy. The Trial Chests I mentioned before are Blue Chests that will give you characters names with whom can open whichever one you may happen upon, and once the designated characters are an active part of you party, they will start the battle by themselves (as partners but no more party members will be able to join in the fight), and these Trials are essentially a test of your skills with the 2 party members. They usually consist of a pretty tough opponents but once the trial is cleared those 2 characters will thenceforth have the Overdrive ability. Other than that, the battle system roughly remains the same as the last games, and you will still need to build relationships when available to do so on spare time and bonding events.
The story itself kicks off right where it left off, with Rean being defeated by Crow & his Azure Knight. Having fallen into a state of despair, Rean gets separated from his beloved classmates and once he awakens he is alone with Celine the cat. After some deliberating on the matter and encouragement from loved ones, he resolves to reunite with Class VII and bring an end to the war with the Noble Alliance and Reformist Faction that has just begun. The cause of this war was the assassination of Chancellor Osbourne who Crow murders at the end of part one. There are TONS of interesting developments throughout the story and it never gets too dull, and all the characters who you met before return with even more time and opportunity to further develop their own character arcs. You see a lot more of characters who you may not have seen all that much before, and even get accompanied by a couple of huge key characters for awhile as travel and battle companions. This sequel just feels more impactful and thought out and while the first game felt a lot like one big drawn out introduction, this sequel certainly gets into more of the heat of the action and the war raging throughout Erebonia can be felt and is reacted to by all the NPC's. Tons of side quests as before, and you still get graded and awarded with AP at the end of sections. There are even a good bit of new villains introduced and the game can get dark and weigh heavily upon players who don't take the time and opportunity afforded to level up their characters and stay at the top of their game. This is just a much more fun, and memorable adventure and the moments where these classmates are pouring their hearts out to one another are all just as touching and heartfelt as the first games. This entry sets things up hot and heavy for the inevitable 3rd Trails game which has yet to be released, but coming soon. And if this one is anything to go by, then the 3rd games gonna blow our minds!! This relentless Edition is a huge recommendation on my part, coming with the beautiful Blue Steelbook case and Official Soundtrack (which by the way is an amazing and unforgettable score), and honestly there has never been a better time to pick up this bundle and great deal of an epic and unforgettable JRPG!! Awesome and underrated, I cannot recommend it enough!!