Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation Vita
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 03/07/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
If you read my reviews of Trails in the Sky and Trails in the Sky SC, then most of what I have to say about Trails in the Sky 3rd is going to sound pretty familiar. Those three games all look, sound, and play virtually identically, so the only real distinction between the three games is the story, the characters, a handful of extremely minor tweaks to gameplay mechanics.
3rd takes place about six months or so after the events of SC and focuses around Father Kevin Graham and his squire, Sister Ries. While the focus may be on Kevin and Ries, all of the major characters from the previous two games return here; by the end of the game, you have a whopping sixteen playable characters. Your party is still limited to four characters, but you do have the option of setting a “support” character that can give passive buffs. What passive buffs you’re given depends on the character you select as your support. As far as game mechanics go, that’s really the only major change from SC other than a quick travel option. There are a couple of minigames, but they’re honestly super forgettable.
A friend of mine described Trails in the Sky 3rd as feeling like “post-game DLC for SC” before I started it; having finished 3rd, I can absolutely agree with that. It doesn’t really expand on much of the overarching story from the two previous games so much as just add a little detail to a couple of things here and there and flesh out the characters’ backstories a bit. Some of these backstories are fantastic; the look at Estelle’s and Joshua’s lives right after Cassius adopted Joshua and the background for Kevin were super interesting. Seeing Renne’s past filled out was a brilliant albeit sad and disturbing little side story. Some of them, though, were frankly kind of boring. Kloe had a pretty lengthy side story, and I was honestly so bored during it that I couldn’t keep my focus. I ended up spending as much time scrolling through Facebook on my phone as I did actually doing the story. Most of them were at least moderately interesting, though.
Without giving away story spoilers, I’m honestly not sure what more I could say about it. Because of how the story is set up, it felt a lot harder to get mira than in the two previous games, although part of that impression could be because of how many playable characters I ended up needing to upgrade armor and weapons for. The game takes place in a sort of “pocket dimension” of sorts away from the normal world, so it felt a lot more empty and isolated given the lack of NPCs to populate the world. That’s not a negative per se, but I personally thought it felt a bit lonely. Between the lack of NPCs, the lack of grandiose feeling with the story that the two previous games had, and the fact that the game is around 10 to 15 hours shorter than the two previous games, it overall just felt like a step down in quality to me.
Trails in the Sky 3rd is by no means a bad game. On the contrary, it’s a very competent RPG with well-written characters and an interesting scenario. The biggest problem the game has is honestly its pedigree; the game is good, but the two that came before it are just so much better. Judged on its own merits in a vacuum, it’s a solid JRPG, but when played and considered in context to the first two parts of this trilogy, it comes out just feeling kind of okay. I absolutely recommend playing it if you’ve played the first two Trails in the Sky games, and if you’re planning on playing Trails of Cold Steel, I definitely recommend playing through the whole Skies trilogy; having played the first two Cold Steel games, there are a lot of allusions and references made to the Skies games that I didn’t notice during my playthroughs of Cold Steel 1 and 2 but really appreciate in hindsight. Just don’t expect Skies 3rd to be as good as Skies or Skies SC. It’s good, but it’s definitely the bronze medalist of that trilogy.