Trails into Reverie is essentially an epilogue to the Trails of Cold Steel series. It brings every character — and we mean every character — back for one last hurrah as yet another threat casts a shadow over the continent of Zemuria. Just to get it out of the way: if you haven't played through the four Cold Steel games, as well as the two Crossbell titles (Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure), then we'd say Reverie is pretty much impenetrable.
Telling someone to play through at least six lengthy RPGs just so they can understand what's going on in the latest game is obviously taking the piss, but as we've said before, the deeply interconnected world of the Trails franchise is its greatest asset. For those players who have stuck around and immersed themselves in the many adventures of Lloyd Bannings and Rean Schwarzer, Reverie is a glorious celebration.
It's also a very unique Trails title in that its story is told through three distinct 'routes', each one focusing on a specific character or group. The first two star the aforementioned protagonists, as they're torn away from their now relatively normal lives and tasked once again with beating the bad guys. In some ways, both Lloyd and Rean's routes feel like retreads of concepts and story beats that were already dealt with in previous games — but there's just enough energy and action to their tales that simply seeing everyone team up again makes for an entertaining journey.
It's actually the third route that steals the show. It follows several new characters who underpin the overall plot, but what makes this party so intriguing is that they're not your typical heroes. They're led by the masked and mysterious C, whose goals seem to clash with the good guy antics of the larger cast. C employs the help of Nadia and Swin — two teenage assassins on the run — and there are some great character dynamics at play here, as the young duo are slow to trust their faceless leader.
While the overall plot of Reverie does feel a bit like it belongs in a movie spin-off to a 1,000-episode anime, it's these character-driven moments that hold everything together. The game positively revels in reintroducing fan favourite figures, and this fact becomes abundantly clear during its numerous action-packed, fully animated cutscenes. There's no question that developer Falcom has really stepped up its approach to cinematic storytelling — Reverie being a sign of things to come in the fresh Kuro no Kiseki arc.
Speaking of Kuro, Reverie also acts as something of a bridge to the newest Trails titles (currently only available in Japan and Asia). Without spoiling anything, the latter half of the plot places a spotlight on the wider repercussions of current events, with Calvard — a nation that's regularly referenced throughout the franchise — being a key talking point. It almost feels like a cheeky introduction to Calvard as a setting, and it's yet another example of how the Trails games expertly weave themselves together to form the bigger picture.
But for us, Reverie truly excels in its gameplay. While the dungeon design and largely fantastic combat mechanics aren't that much different from what you'll find in Cold Steel 4, there's an unexpected joy in having access to so many playable characters. Overwhelming at first, perhaps, but being able to tinker with such a huge range of party members is a strategist's dream come true. What's more, Reverie — in contrast to prior games — showers you with powerful accessories and stat-boosting quartz right from the off, allowing for a sense of tactical freedom that's simply unmatched elsewhere in the franchise.
Now, not everyone will enjoy the process of micromanaging over 50 heroes (and antiheroes), but you can always gear up just a handful of your favourite fighters and stick with them, while also making use of the game's handy party menu in order to automatically equip members with recommended loadouts. It's all made somewhat approachable, which is impressive when you consider the sheer size of Reverie's roster.
If you're anything like us, though, you'll absolutely love transforming characters into borderline broken monsters — and this is why we got hopelessly addicted to exploring the True Reverie Corridor. A huge, partly randomised, and endlessly replayable dungeon that grants worthwhile rewards, the True Reverie Corridor is a brilliantly worked time sink where the Trails combat system can be enjoyed to its fullest.
The Corridor also boasts a hub area where you can talk to characters, organise your dream team — everyone is eventually playable in the Corridor regardless of their story route — and even play a range of minigames whenever you like (the in-depth Pom Pom Party and Vantage Masters included). While you do have to tangle with the Corridor itself at set points in the story, it is a mostly optional excursion, offering up some peak dungeon crawling should the temptation take you.
Despite being one of the shortest Trails titles in terms of main story length — it took us around 40 hours or so — the True Reverie Corridor adds some serious weight to the overall package, providing hours upon hours of satisfying turn-based battles and delightfully breezy optional activities. The Corridor as a whole is basically a game within the game, and it has the potential to keep Trails super fans busy for a long time.
Really, our only criticism of Reverie boils down to story-based character bloat. An issue that's bled over from Cold Steel 4, there are just way too many characters present in some scenes, all of them getting an unnecessary line of dialogue just in case you forgot they exist. This becomes a particularly noticeable problem during the game's closing act, where you've literally got over 40 characters standing in a room together. It looks ridiculous, and it slows the otherwise well paced plot to a crawl.
Trails into Reverie is an all-star excursion that feels like one big franchise festival; your more traditional Trails campaign being the spine of what can be a brilliantly robust RPG, complete with more than enough gameplay depth to keep even the most hardcore players happy. As an epilogue to the Crossbell and Cold Steel games, it can seem a little tired in terms of creativity, but its faults are easily overlooked when you're back in the saddle with all of your favourite heroes.