Now Is the Perfect Time to Get Into the Most Overlooked RPG Series

Get in while you can.

Trails Through Daybreak
NIS America

There are plenty of big RPG series out there, but none have managed to craft an epic saga like the Trails franchise: a continuous overarching narrative that’s played out across ten plus games. Even just looking at the list of games makes getting into the series feel daunting, especially when new players hear how much new entries lean on previous characters, events, and plot points. If you’ve been curious about Trails but just couldn’t make the jump, this year provides the perfect opportunity with Trails Through Daybreak. The eleventh entry in the series can be seen as something of a soft reset, bringing a new story and characters that make it a great onboarding point, and NIS America is releasing a demo on June 4 to make that even easier.

For a bit of background, the Trails series takes place on the continent of Zemuria, which is split up into a number of different counties and city-states. A huge focus of the franchise is the leaders of these countries vying for power, all while a shadowy organization called Ouroborous pulls the strings from the background. The two biggest countries are the Erebonian Empire (where the Cold Steel quadrilogy takes place) and the Republic of Calvard. We won’t dive into the overall story and lore, as you’ll find all that out as soon as you start Daybreak, but just know that Trails is a series heavy on storytelling and characters. These are meaty games that typically take at least 30 to 40 hours, but the larger titles like Trails of Cold Steel 3 can last up to 100 hours.

Daybreak is the first game in the franchise to fully take place in Calvard, and it introduces a brand new cast of characters with an ostensibly “new” story. The catch, of course, is that like the rest of the series, Daybreak makes heavy reference to the events of past games, and there are definitely details that you’ll miss. That being said, this is the best starting point the franchise has had in literally a decade, since the first Cold Steel.

The nature of Daybreak starting a new saga means that it’s going to introduce a lot of concepts and new elements, weaving those into the tapestry the franchise has already built. New players can use Daybreak as a foundation for knowledge, then start picking up previous games if they find Trails is something they dig. Having a demo makes this even easier, letting you get a taste of what Daybreak is all about before shelling out money, and save data can be transferred.

What’s really interesting about Daybreak, however, is that it’s not just a great place to start because of story, but because it finally pushes forward the franchise’s tried-and-true gameplay formula. Up until now, Trails has used the same turn-based combat system in all of its games, iterating on that system with each entry and providing new wrinkles. But the basics have always stayed the same.

Daybreak brings a fresh twist by fusing that turn-based combat with an action twist. The game has a turn-based mode and an action-mode and encourages players to swap between these on the fly. But these systems work a bit differently than you might expect, the action mode is meant to be used on the field to give yourself an advantage, before diving into a proper turn-based mode. In general, a lot of Daybreak’s changes are going to make turn-based battles feel more interactive and fast-paced, which again should help ease new players into things.

Daybreak brings a fresh story and cast of characters, but also brings some huge improvements to the series’ gameplay, making it the most approachable game yet.

NIS America

The other factor here is the franchise's future as the sequel to Trails Through Daybreak, Crimson Sin, has already been released in Japan. The next game in the series, Kai No Kiseki - Farewll O Zemuria, is scheduled to release in September 2024. NIS America handles localization for Falcom games and has slowly been catching up with the Japanese releases over the last few years. With that in mind, Crimson Sin is likely to release sometime in 2025, meaning anyone who starts with Daybreak has a year to go back and play the rest of the franchise, if they want.

Learning the setup of the world and the basics of gameplay systems in Daybreak will give you a basis to understand the rest of the series, just know you’ll be getting less refined and generally slower-paced experiences.

If you do love Daybreak and want to go back, the best way to experience Trails as a whole is to simply start at the beginning. Luckily, the entire franchise is available on Steam. Start with the Trails in the Sky trilogy, then move on to the Crossbell games Trails From Zero and Trails to Azure, then the four Cold Steel games, and finally Trails Into Reverie.

Trails has come a long way in the two decades since the first game released.

NIS America

I know that’s a lot of super long games, but Trails is one of the few franchises that I have no hesitation saying it’s worth it. This series liberally rewards any investment in its world and story, by delighting you with character arcs that play out across decades and side quests that feel relevant five games later. Zemuria feels like a living breathing world with characters that grow and change in meaningful ways, countries that go through political and social upheaval, and the looming specter of fantastic villains.

Trails is unlike anything else in video games, and you need to jump on now before the series rockets toward its climactic conclusion in the next few years.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails Through Daybreak launches on July 5 for PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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