Trails in the Heart

Optimism

The Protagonist

Sincerely Good Church

  • Despite being the dominant religion, no intolerance towards minority religions is to be seen. Even full syncretism is fully welcome, and when the lack of existence of a religious war at lore is taken into account, it can be safely assumed the religion is at least has spread mostly peacefully across the continent of Zemuria.
  • Priests mostly are sincerely fatherly and wise, less interested in how an individual lives their religion and more in spiritual guidance and help.
  • “Heresy” is not about mere theological disagreements, it is only reserved to genuinely evil magic and wanting to reach to divine power, which is proven to be dangerous to the very core of the world itself. The only character that called “a heretic” so far is also the most irredeemable character the series.
  • The doors of the churches are open to everyone and people just pray at their own accord, no pressure from their community or an inherent guilt tripping in their religion.
  • The church is sincerely helpful to people. Handling the early education, medicine, a support network in times of crisis, uses it’s influence to peace between nations.
  • While being fairly rich, being somewhat secretive and having much cultural and social influence, they strictly don’t hold, nor aspire for any political power. What makes this really idealist is that this doesn’t stem from a history of secularization like in real world — quite the opposite, by the start of the game their actions in their recent wars actually increased their influence — they are just plain not interested in anything besides advocacy of peace and possesion of dangerous artifacts whatsoever.
  • Unsurprisingly the only difference between a pious person and less pious person is how often they attend prayers or how much they mention Goddess in their speech. religious conservatism doesn’t exist here. The Church is not interested adherence of strict gender roles, how people dress, how much beverage they drink or even homosexuality in any way. On the other hand, there are no characters that dislike religion either, everyone is just chill about it in general.

Economics

Collective Achievement

  • First, it gives your accomplishments a sense of weight, and makes non playable characters feel fleshed out, as I talked more about it here.
  • Second, it really makes overall peacefulness of the game more grounded. This is best seen in the cliché of being able to walk into people’s houses freely, it totally makes sense here; you aren’t taking anything anyway and people don’t have much reason to distrust each other. Liberl is, overall a peaceful country. I mean, even its aristocracy relinquished their titles peacefully. This also achieves so that when the game becomes more darker, it’s disruption is seen more directly, in the same way a stain on a bright white cloth attracts more attention than large amount of dirt on a pale-gray one.
  • Third, it is really what sells the narrative of the game. No matter how lighthearted, even cheesy the game can come across, inherent belief in people makes its optimism grounded and even realistic. It’s easy to get idealistic when your game revolves around only few characters and when you can look at isolated cases which is deliberately built to make player think in a certain way. But by taking it’s optimism into a real source we can both relate and continuously search in our everyday lives, people. When people stand together every crisis can be solved, any adversary can be defeated, no matter how mysteriously and inhumanly strong they are.

Mixing Up Dark and Light

  • Gameplay rhythm. Dungeon exploration+battle/story/some quest cycle really gives a breather room to the events. The pacing of narrative is just dense enough to give you tension and relaxed enough to fit to gameplay speed and give place to warm, funny, wacky side events.
  • Relatedly, the progression of events also fits the change of moods. The game starts very humbly, as a very low-tension adventure which might feel slow to some players, but how the game increases the tension is important to achieve an emotional balance and keep the optimistic air, and when you stay around enough to game becoming truly serious, it will pay all the more because you spend so much time with characters, twists feel all that impactful when the game made you use to the peaceful atmosphere, your adventure feels truly grand when you actually went to your more low-key everyday life.
  • This combines with good character writing, and especially good minor NPC writing, it really feels good, as if you are in a slice-of-life story sometimes, great adventures are cool and all but, sometimes personal stories even small anecdotes can feel tingle your heart-strings. Sometimes you just want to laugh and cry alongside them. Even saving a country can feel just a part of witnessing character’s lives rather than “main important thing”
  • The length of the game also contribute to this. Personally I like dense, to-the-point stories quite a lot, content-oriented narrative design in contemporary gaming started to feel old when I spent 300+ hours on Skyrim. But here, extra content feels all the better, not only Liberl is a nice place to be in and the characters are interesting enough to spend more time with them, everything you do feels so integrated, from gameplay, to quests. Also the harmony between different elements in the game makes everything you do much more connected and less just for the sake of game, or even worse, for padding. It’s really delightful to see that the developers actually respected to the players’ time and were careful to make your every action meaningful whether that action is slaying snails, talking to a minor NPCs in a house, fishing mini-game or uncovering a massive conspiracy. Trails games are one of the few series that is so long — each passes 60+ hours — and are deserving of the every single of hours they demand.
  • Of course, we can never discount music. The soundtrack truly excels at guiding your mood, as I talk about it here.

The End of The Arc

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I am Umay, @nyxworldorder from twitter, a trans woman, 25, writing about media and politics, mostly video games though.

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NyxWorldOrder

NyxWorldOrder

I am Umay, @nyxworldorder from twitter, a trans woman, 25, writing about media and politics, mostly video games though.

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