The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak


Review by · July 5, 2024

In The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak, the blurry line between law and chaos is painted with shades of gray. You play as Van Arkride, a “spriggan” taking on all types of jobs for people that fall between the cracks of society so long as they don’t overstep his honor code. Located in the Republic of Calvard’s capital city of Edith, it isn’t long before the office of Arkride Solutions’ workforce expands with a colorful array of characters drawn into the spriggan’s sphere. Things in Calvard are a little uneasy now that the prosperous nation, under the helm of a new president, prepares for its reparations from the Erebonian Empire to end. There are murmurings of a potential economic recession, and the racist dregs of Calvardian society rear their ugly heads with renewed anti-immigrant rhetoric as their political minority becomes more vocal and violent.

To make matters worse, a mafioso organization called “A” uses the unrest to emerge from the shadows. What uncertain future awaits Calvard as dark forces converge closer to home? And what will Van and his comrades at Arkride Solutions do when they come face-to-face with a threat that could destroy not just the Zemurian continent but the entire world? Will Van be able to bear the nightmare in the face of a foe who wants nothing more than to drown others in overwhelming fear?

I’d be remiss to say much more about the overall narrative of The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak because a myriad of complexities and plot twists lie at its core. I was always impressed by the story’s sheer scope and became equally fascinated and entranced by its tale. Trails through Daybreak doesn’t pull any punches, showing humanity at its lowest and highest in equal measure. The Republic of Calvard feels genuinely alive with a cast of characters at its soul that are written uncomfortably believably at times, as much of the racist and anti-immigrant talk hits far too close to home in our current political climate. Yet, the game carries a message that shines upon human decency despite our differences and the discovery of found family in poignant detail. I’ve been a longtime fan of The Legend of Heroes: Trails series, yet I can easily say that Trails through Daybreak surpasses my fond favorites of the past titles in surprising ways. While still part of an impressive interconnected story, Daybreak could be as welcoming a starting point for series newcomers as the first Trails in the Sky title.

The “newcomer” friendly feel stems from Trails through Daybreak’s role as the first game in a new region’s story arc. Past Trails games talk about the Republic of Calvard, but Daybreak is the first time a story has featured it squarely. While there are some returning characters from previous entries, such as bracers Zin (a key figure and party member in the Trails in the Sky trilogy) and Fie (a member of the first Class VII from the Trails of Cold Steel games), most of Trails through Daybreak’s main story wisely centers around a new cast of characters. This arrangement allows players to grow and learn about past and current events alongside the characters, with stellar writing covering previously tread ground in a way that never feels intimidating. Even said returning characters, or those influenced by plot events or other characters from previous games, feel like they can stand on their own within this story without relying much on the player’s prior knowledge, another testament to the strong script work. While the game contains easter eggs for those familiar with past Trails titles, it doesn’t penalize those who might be coming into the series with fresh eyes nearly as much as Trails of Cold Steel or Trails into Reverie did.

It’s great that Trails through Daybreak can be enjoyed by both returning and new Trails series fans because the heart of the story lies with Arkride Solutions. The game perfectly sets up these main party characters along with their lovely found family dynamic. Part-timer Agnes is crucial to the plot, and I appreciate how believable she is as she isn’t a powerhouse fighter or someone with a checkered past. Despite relatable self-confidence issues, she strives to forge her path. Even with her understandable teenage crush on Van, she’s refreshingly encouraging and supportive of other women.

Feri is a bright-eyed young girl who contrasts with Agnes as a child soldier. While scarily capable, Feri possesses a heartwarming naivety. Aaron’s “dudebro” leanings and his habit of calling Van old are annoying, but he has an incredible backstory and insightful lines. Concierge Risette is a fascinatingly capable character who becomes a prominent sister figure. Quatre is an idealistic student and standout in the cast for me, and I love how sensitively the game explores gender identity with him. For spoiler reasons, Judith was the character I was most wary about. Yet, I found her compelling and an excellent addition to the cast. Bergard is a powerhouse martial artist who deftly proves that older characters can still be competent, a trope that Falcom excels at.

Van is the glue holding the ensemble together. Despite a suspicious job and worldly views, he has a secret heart of gold, taking the younger characters under his protective wing. He’s understanding and compassionate but still knows how to stand his ground. His mysterious connections to the darkest corners of Zemuria and his reactions to people crossing his moral lines are fascinating. I love how obsessed Van is with all things sweet, along with his infatuation with his beloved truck. He’s a standout main character with plenty of quirks!

Not only does Van provide a home to his employees, he has an interesting backstory with two occasionally opposing figures: Kincaid of the CID and Elaine of the Bracer Guild. Kincaid believes in doing whatever works for the greater good, occasionally manipulating the system. Elaine leans towards the lawful side, prioritizing civilian life. The trio’s interactions are telling of how close they used to be. Tentatively reconnecting with them is a clear sign of Van’s personal growth, especially the potential rekindling of romantic feelings between him and Elaine. I love their relationship, as both have their paths to follow while still caring about one another. It’s one of the most well-written and believable romances I’ve seen in an RPG.

Other characters play essential roles, such as a pair of performing Central Eastern sisters; Daswani, a police inspector who begrudgingly tolerates Van; Dingo and Marielle, investigative journalists; the eccentric-but-kind family Van rents his office space from; and Agnes’ overprotective classmates. Random NPCs have stories that evolve as you progress, such as a boy who dreams of being a bracer, a mechanic who fears people, a singer trying to hide his true love, and a family dangerously close to collapsing. There’s so much detail in Daybreak’s world. Even the antagonists are a cut above, ranging from likable or sympathetic to those who are outright sadistic and do genuinely despicable things.

I could talk about Trails through Daybreak‘s fascinating characters and the meticulous detail put into their individual stories until I’m blue in the face because they all have such engaging personalities and backgrounds, so instead, I’m going to dive into gameplay. Van and the rest of Arkride Solutions usually begin their days exploring town areas and completing 4SPGs, which are requests for a spriggan’s aid and are often attached to the back of communal bulletin boards in city areas. You must complete a set portion of these 4SPGs to advance the main story, with the game’s maps differentiating mandatory and optional quests or events through color cues. While not necessary to complete a playthrough, even the green optional side quests and blue extra story scenes shed further light on the characters or narrative for those who are story completionists. While optional and mandatory events are noted helpfully on your fast travel map, you have to enter specific areas to find the hidden blue events on the area maps. I give Trails through Daybreak kudos for not containing fetch quests with minimalistic plot connotations, something that previous Trails titles were often guilty of.

While exploring, Van can spend a limited amount of free time to witness additional story scenes with important story characters, from fellow party members to surprises like the enigmatically mischievous Renne or the famous movie actress Nina. Seeing these connection events lets you learn more about the characters and potentially boost stats or acquire helpful items. It’s a system similar to Trails of Cold Steel, but its narrative implementation is vastly improved in Trails through Daybreak. You only have limited free time points, though you can gain more by completing side quests. A player choice element is involved since you must choose which character events you want to see.

Speaking of choice, Trails through Daybreak offers surprising narrative freedom in approaching situations. Accepting 4SPGs can raise three specific morality levels: law, gray, and chaos. Decisions made during missions will also see these individual alignment statistics rise. Depending on how high or low you are on the L.G.C. scale, specific later options in the story might not be available to you. For instance, I tended to lean more towards law and gray despite having some chaos points crop up, so I didn’t always have access to the more chaotic plot options. In the fifth chapter, your alignment affects who you can potentially have Arkride Solutions ally with. I love how not clear-cut this morality system is, as the game goes with the mindset that there are no strictly right or wrong approaches. Case in point: I sided with a group of warriors during one event who lived by a strict moral code that demanded they meet any loss of civilian life with extreme, fatal retribution. This decision is a chaotic move despite how you could argue their response was quite justified given the events that had preceded it. It is fascinating to discover what decisions count for which alignment direction and how much influence your decisions impact the game’s plot in a spiderweb of choice. I especially imagine the replayability options for Chapter Five are pretty high in that regard!

Trails through Daybreak‘s dungeons are streamlined and easy to navigate using your trusty map. Those already familiar with the turn-based battles of previous Trails games will no doubt find the combat easy to pick up, even with some noticeable changes. You still have your materia-like system of equipping orbments that grant special magic skills or status boosts to your characters. During combat, you move freely across a limited portion of terrain, able to attack or target only those within your set range. You can move characters during their turn to better positions, offering strategy in targeting foes, healing, utilizing shard boosts, or preparing/avoiding an enemy’s AOE attack. You can also overlap two party members’ spheres of influence, chaining together an attack combo or having one character boost the effects of a spell or special character-specific moves known as Crafts. Raise your CP bar high enough through your actions during a fight, and you can cut into the battle with a potent attack called an S-Craft. During specific battles, Van can transform into a creature named Grendel. This form is a powerful fighter in its own right, with a unique skill set.

The big difference between Daybreak and previous Trails titles is that there are two different battle systems, as there’s a second, more action RPG adjacent combo mode. This mode seamlessly bleeds into the turn-based mode with just the press of a button, as the character you’re controlling performs simple combos on enemies while raising a gauge that allows you to perform a stunning move eventually. This approach supposedly provides an edge in the fight regardless of whether or not you opt to continue whaling on the enemy or switch over to turn-based. Unfortunately, the AI responses for the rest of the party during this type of combat are so slow that they hardly join in. I often found that my lead character had defeated the enemies before they lifted their fingers to help. The action-style combat is serviceable enough to dispatch weaker enemies, but I rely more on turn-based combat overall.

Visually, Trails through Daybreak is one of the best-looking 3D Trails games out there, even though it clearly does not have a budget on par with big-name titles like Final Fantasy XVI. The character models are expressive and have quite a bit of detail, especially for more prominent characters. I also love the game’s overall artistic direction, finding the visual novel artwork used for flashbacks particularly striking. That said, the pool of minor NPC character designs, while an improvement over past games in terms of body types and the like, is severely limited, and you often differentiate between NPCs through different hair colors. The game also has a strange “jiggle” mechanic at times with particular female character designs that can be highly off-putting, which is a shame when I feel that other fanservice elements of that nature were toned down or more tastefully done than past games in the series. Case in point: phantom thief Grimcat gets called out for her ridiculous outfit numerous times, though the game notes that she’s an adult woman who is opting to wear such clothing instead of skirting the line with a much younger character.

Speaking of fan service, Trails through Daybreak has a much darker, more mature storyline than previous Trails games. Characters die in quite brutal fashions, and the game often implies sexual violence or human trafficking. However, I have to praise Daybreak for its surprisingly mature and sensitive handling of such heavy topics. It doesn’t take killing lightly, and the sexual and racial violence implied or shown is always conveyed as being horrific and never glorified, especially by the party and their allies. Even a scene at a strip club has surprising care put into it, with the central character shown to still have agency alongside the negative repercussions illustrated in the emotional aftermath scenes involving said character and their loved ones. A 4SPG even details the horrific outcome of a stalking case, so don’t expect the more cartoony, immature tropes we occasionally saw in Cold Steel. It isn’t that Trails through Daybreak doesn’t have silly moments, but it also treats its more serious plot components with the respect they deserve.

The game also has the most positive LGBTQ+ representation I’ve yet seen in a Trails game, with a sympathetic subplot involving a minor character being afraid to come out to their loved ones due to societal pressure as well as one of Van’s information broker friends falling under that umbrella while still being a supportive and caring figure befriending most others in the cast quite readily. It handles gender identity exploration in a non-fetishized way, and most characters seem pretty open-minded and accepting of different identities in general. It might not be perfect, but it’s a phenomenal leap from what it’s been at times.

Trails through Daybreak is a massive game with a lot of content, and I’m thoroughly impressed by the amount of care and detail put into the script. The fact that there are no noticeable grammatical errors or typos is incredible. The game also features excellent pacing, as I didn’t notice nearly as much of a “slow burn” start to Daybreak as I have experienced in past Trails games. I was thoroughly invested and engaged throughout the narrative. Loading times on the PS5 were so short I barely noticed loading screens, so story immersion never suffers. Some portions of the finale chapter feel like padding to tag on the last bit of the game’s eighty+ hours of playtime, but I’d be slightly more tolerant of that if I hadn’t been trying to finish under a review time constraint!

You can’t go wrong with the music in a Falcom game. The soundtrack is superb, full of catchy and dynamic battle tracks and emotive area pieces. The opening and these two sample tracks are just the tip of the iceberg for its gorgeous, evocative music. The English voice acting direction is also much improved from previous Trails games, with newcomer voice actors giving their utmost throughout their performances while returning ones sound better than ever. My only real complaint would be the utilization of partial voice acting for certain scenes, as it’s strange and makes it seem like characters are having one-sided conversations with themselves.

Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed by Trails through Daybreak. I love the Trails series, but I did not expect to enjoy the start of this new story arc nearly as much as I did. The more mature and complex storyline, handled with surprising thoughtfulness and filled with believable characters, really drew me in. Given how enjoyable previous games were, most gameplay aspects are polished to a shine I wouldn’t have thought possible. Trails through Daybreak is easily one of the most robust starter games of the series and an almost perfect entry point for newcomers if they don’t want to start with Trails in the Sky FC. It might even be my new favorite game from the series, at least until Trails through Daybreak II comes out! I can even easily say without a shadow of a doubt that it’s by far the best game I’ve personally played this year. Fans should pick up Trails through Daybreak, as should anyone simply craving an excellently made and wonderfully written JRPG experience!


More newcomer-friendly than many previous Trails games, phenomenal story and characters, turn-based battles at their finest, fascinating morality system with plenty of choice and replayability options.


Finale pacing has more padding than necessary, partial voice acting takes getting used to, minor character designs lack variety, action RPG battle system isn't as refined as the turn-based one.

Bottom Line

The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak is a must-play for JRPG fans.

Overall Score 93
This article is based on a free copy of a game/album provided to RPGFan by the publisher or PR firm. This relationship in no way influenced the author's opinion or score (if applicable). Learn more on our ethics & policies page. For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview.
Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling is a reviewer for RPGFan. She is a lover of RPGs, Visual Novels, and Fighting Games. Once she gets onto a subject she truly feels strongly about, like her favorite games, she can ramble on and on endlessly. Coffee helps keep her world going round.