I have so many words to say right now that it’s hard to find the exact right place to start but I am writing this as someone that has only very recently heard of Trails in the Sky and completely new to the series but I am already feeling myself ready to completely gush about how much I have loved playing this game for the last week or so. I’ve always loved and enjoyed a variety of video games but RPG’s have been my ‘thing’ when looking for something to completely immerse myself into. I think the mix of storytelling, worldbuilding and going through a journey with a character both physically and usually emotionally has always been a big appeal so I’m always happy to listen to other people’s recommendations when it comes to these types of games. It’s also not uncommon for me to start becoming slightly obsessed with the fandom surrounding other games and actually books now I come to think of it – I genuinely worry sometimes the amount I think, talk, look at fanart etc of A Court of Thorns and Roses as an example – I suppose I can put it down to the autistic part of my brain wanting to fully consume and know everything about something when I find something I just fall in love with.
Finding New Games to Play
I have been mostly consumed by one game for the past eighteen months or so which has mostly been an enjoyable and positive experience. However for the past six months or so I’ve not found it as compelling as I once did and that’s been a source of frustration for me in a time where I’ve been lacking in focus, motivation and dealing with some personal things I’ve been dealing with. My usual methods of escapism have been alluding me for quite some time and it ended up with me really needing to take a step back from what I was doing in FFXIV – which really wasn’t very much – but I was stuck with not having much to do and no other games were really gripping my focus or attention. After I finished levelling all of my jobs in FFXIV it felt like the right time to sort of push myself into doing something else but I wasn’t really sure what. For the first time in what feels like a very long time I don’t feel like I have to log in all day every day and that I can actually just focus on doing things I want to do and at the moment I am pretty content with just doing savage raids with my static group and occasionally doing fun content with friends who are also not online as much at the moment.
I’ve written before how I was hesitant about playing Final Fantasy XIV because I was going to have to deal with other people in the social aspect of the game. Although I went in with the intention of not really talking to anyone it turns out that the social part of an MMO is something I’ve enjoyed quite a lot and getting to know other people that have not only enjoyed playing video games but have absolutely loved Final Fantasy as a series just as much as I have has been a truly wonderful experience. I’d like to think I’ve made some genuine friendships with other people and as time has gone on the conversations that started out as raid mechanic call outs, strategy planning or casually chilling doing treasure hunting have turned into hanging out just because and talking about other things we’ve played and absolutely loved. One such conversation lead to my introduction to Trails in the Sky and after listening to someone speak with such fondness of a game made me curious and lead me to purchasing it on Steam and I have not regretted that choice one little bit.
I’m not usually one to read lots of reviews about a series prior to playing something but a glance over the reactions on steam to the game being positive within the community – and hearing someone who I have, I suppose, looked up to and followed in the footsteps in a way in Final Fantasy XIV and therefore come to respect and appreciate the opinion of – lead to me already feeling it would be something I’d enjoy but I didn’t quite anticipate it gripping me just the way it has done. I would say I had fairly high expectations but for a game that was just under £13 it wouldn’t have been a huge loss so to speak if I hadn’t enjoyed it. However, the age of the game originally being released in 2004 in Japan meant it was going to be quite different from what I’ve been playing lately, although I did start another (and finish this time) playthrough of Final Fantasy IX in the summer…I digress, it didn’t put me off but I was told it was more of a slow burn type of game with most of the world building coming through from reading dialogue not only from the characters interactions but other pieces of information you can pick up through the game.
Being someone that has such fond memories of playing earlier text based RPG’s such as Final Fantasy, prior to voice acting being introduced in FFX and many Dragon Quest games alongside other JRPG’s a written game isn’t really something to put me off playing. On one hand reading the information helps me process things a lot more as I’m more active whilst playing whereas I can get distracted by lengthy, acted out cut scenes. However, as I haven’t really been able to focus on reading in general lately I wasn’t sure if Trails in the Sky would be a game I could fully get into but I’m glad to say that wasn’t the case at all. It’s also been nice having someone around to talk to about it as I’ve played through although they haven’t given much away at all which in some parts I think has been equally frustrating for them having to navigate spoilers.
Playing Trails in the Sky
I can only really describe Trails in the Sky as completely charming and having everything you’d expect from an JRPG but also I suppose just giving that little bit more by having character portraits full of expression during dialogue scenes. The characters you control around the maps are chibi like versions which I suppose are commonplace in older RPGs and something I’ve always found quite endearing but seeing the full scale faces and expressions has been a really nice touch and added to, not only the humour of the interactions between characters, but also some of the more touching, emotional moments. One of my absolute favourites has been reading hidden messages and references to other media from empty treasure chests.
Each character you come across has their own unique personality and way of handling scenarios and that is so clear cut in the dialogue you have and the situations you find your characters in. Playing as Estelle Bright, who is accompanied by her adopted brother Joshua on their journey around the Liberl Kingdom to become senior bracers you see this truly beautiful friendship and dynamic between the two really flourish. Estelle is exactly the sort of main character I adore; one that isn’t afraid to keep her opinions to herself but with that kind of youthful obliviousness of coming-of-age characters that I have always loved in these sorts of games and probably why I still love and appreciate YA Fantasy novels.
Estelle is not a complex character but she is flawed which is what makes her fun to experience going through the story with. She is impulsive and quick to act which sometimes gets her into sticky situations and I like that through the gameplay she progresses at a really nice pace without losing that initial charm and spark about her. She is brash, opinionated and a little hot headed in comparison to the much more collected, strategic Joshua and the balance between them is what makes the game feel so utterly wholesome. Joshua, on the other hand, is much more reserved and sometimes almost calculating although their are plenty of interactions that play out in which you see a real gentle, heartwarming side to him too. However, with the way the game begins with Estelle’s father Cassius bringing an injured Joshua home with very little explanation and a secretive past did leave me to I suppose, I wouldn’t say suspicious, but I knew that eventually his story would come out and it wasn’t going to be an easy one to witness.
The cast of characters throughout the game are all built with their own unique histories and styles which makes it easy to immerse yourself into Trails in the Sky
It’s pretty clear from the start of the game from a conversation Estelle and Joshua have with their mentor Schera that the trope between the two is going to be a ‘childhood friends to romance’ dynamic which is something I suppose I don’t usually like in any type of fiction or setting. I have always been an enemies to lovers trope appreciator because I think the tension between characters is always interesting and exciting to witness particularly when they’re on opposing sides to something. Their are just very few couples that have evolved from friends to more that I have enjoyed the dynamic between but I think it’s the opposing characteristics of the two of them that add to that wholesome charm. They’re also both only sixteen so the game doesn’t focus on an outright romance between the two but as people point things out to Estelle more and she starts to process feelings she didn’t really consider or had potentially brushed off before it becomes a recurring underlying theme. So not only does Trails in the Sky focus on overall character progression by playing through quests and having to do things as Bracers but also watching Estelle become more aware of herself, her feelings for Joshua and what that might mean for them in the future is incredibly sweet.
Trails in the Sky is full of wholesome content and is overwhelming charming. The world building and character interactions make for an interesting gameplay experience.
The way Trails in the Sky unfolded was such an enjoyable experience and each new town you visit just builds layer upon layer of intrigue, mystery and development for the characters and the plot. I actually found it a really nice, easy to process style of gameplay to follow and nothing felt too heavy or overwhelming at one time. You learn what’s going on at the same time the characters do and there is an option to learn more with the addition of news articles and books you can pick up and read about the world Estelle and Joshua live in. The quests include a variety of escort missions, fetch quests and combat based monster killing which adds a really nice level of diversity to the game play. The combat is time based and strategic which I tend to prefer as it gives you a little bit more time to think and plan ahead. The orbment and quartz system did take me a little bit of time to get used to but eventually I ended up with some really well balanced characters that had a mix of offensive and support spells. It was reminiscent of using Materia in FFVII a little but more complex I felt.
I’ve come away from Trails in the Sky eager to continue and start Second Chapter which I promptly purchased and downloaded ready to go as I want to spend more time in this world and with these characters unveiling what is going on. I still have many unanswered questions about events that unfolded and I really can’t wait to see what will happen next.