Game: Triangle Strategy
Genre: Strategy RPG
System: Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam & Windows)
Developer | Publisher: ArtDink; Square Enix | Square Enix
Price: US $59.99 | UK £49.99 | EU € 59,99
Release Date: March 4th, 2022
No review code was used. This game was self-purchased.
When I reviewed Triangle Strategy‘s demo last year, I was on the fence. Now, having completed the actual game, I found it exceeding expectations.
Between the enjoyable main plot, an impressive number of dialogue decisions, well-designed battles, and replay value, it’s hard not to give this strategy RPG a Two Thumbs Up.
A Story-Heavy SRPG
I’ll talk about the story first because there’s quite a lot of it! Many cutscenes are optional “side stories.” Most can be skipped—which is a boon on my second playthrough because the side stories aren’t terribly engaging. But the main story is actually pretty good, not some throwaway plot.
Triangle Strategy goes for the realistic. That’s a plus point if you prefer realism to over-the-top humour. Also, who’s good or bad isn’t as clear-cut as it seemed from the demo.
The plot is centers on young Serenoa Wolffort, who must defend the interests of his noble house while navigating relationships with his own King and two other nations.
I liked the English voice acting, despite a small handful of main characters sounding “wooden.” You can switch easily between English and Japanese voice-overs to see which you like better. By the way, in my demo review, I called the music unmemorable. But the finished game’s soundtrack is excellent; its grand themes properly set the mood for a historic conflict between three nations: snowy Aesfrost, green Glenbrook, and desert Hyzante.
Speak Your Convictions
The most unique feature of Triangle Strategy is its conviction system. In this system, your dialogue choices determine the course of the story.
While you do spend lots of passive time watching cutscenes, there are plenty of times you’re called upon to pick a dialogue option. There are usually three options, corresponding to three “convictions” or outlooks: Morality, Utility, and Liberty (the triangle of Triangle Strategy).
Picking a dialogue option will boost your score for that particular conviction. The game keeps a running score of all three convictions, but tallies are hidden during the first playthrough (and revealed in New Game Plus mode, after Chapter 5).
If I’m not mistaken, during voting sessions you need a sufficient score in a particular conviction to persuade Serenoa’s council of companions.
Voting sessions take place when Serenoa and the council must make an important decision between two or three political responses. The demo showcased an example of this: do you surrender a wanted companion to their enemy, or shelter them?
Change the Future
Before voting, you may talk to each council member to change their minds. Besides conviction score, success in persuasion may require possessing the right information.
That crucial information can be discovered during the “exploration phase” of each chapter. While exploring a town or upcoming battlefield, you can talk to various people and also pick up useful items.
The vote often determines where your next battle takes place. This provides some replay value since vote outcomes lead to different battlefields and enemies. This doesn’t happen in every chapter, only several chapters out of twenty. But along with the game’s multiple endings, it’s enough to warrant a second playthrough.
I agonized over the final vote, which determines which of the game’s three endings you’ll experience. It’s a worthy climax, and the three endings are sufficiently diverse and interesting.
“No Mercy on the Battlefield”
And now we come to combat, the actual meat of the game. The combat does not disappoint. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I racked up to many late nights. It helps that the game is nice to look at, the visual effects are downright stunning.
If you’re a Fire Emblem fan, you’ll find Triangle Strategy‘s combat is familiar enough. I find Triangle more interesting, though, because of these additional elements: TP, positioning, and terrain.
TP (tactical points) are action points that each character may spend to perform special abilities. You must manage this resource carefully because characters only regenerate 1 TP per turn while many abilities cost 2 TP.
Positioning your characters strategically, including which direction they face, really matters. It’s the difference between life and death (though there are no permanent deaths in Triangle Strategy).
Attackers deal more damage when standing on higher terrain, or when striking targets from behind. Targets also receive more damage when sandwiched between two attackers.
Terrain can be exploited through elemental magic. Some terrain squares are freezable or flammable. Burning squares cause damage to units that pass through, while frozen squares slow movement. When frozen squares are melted to puddles, they can conduct a widespread, paralyzing Lightning attack.
Quick Battles Take Long Preparation
The combat scenarios are diverse enough to encourage switching up companions, matching the right abilities to the situation.
I like that you don’t go into combat blind. Before each battle begins you may survey the terrain, enemy units, and turn order. You can easily access the Encampment, your portable base, to upgrade characters, either through special items or “mental mock battles.” At the Encampment, you can also buy items and chat with recruited companions.
While weapon upgrades feel inconsequential, mental mock battles are a fantastic aid for levelling up characters fast. The key to quick levelling is to involve characters in fights above their current level. Mock battles are a great help if you find main story battles too hard.
But level-grinding this way isn’t necessary. Even under-levelled characters can take down tougher enemies if you select the right team and position yourself strategically on the battlefield.
Or, you could simply turn the difficulty down a notch. The game’s difficulty comes in four levels and can be changed anytime except mid-battle. Regardless, the AI doesn’t seem terribly smart, and after awhile you can guess how enemy units think.
Most of the time, I didn’t resort to playing my tiny handful of Quietus cards. In fact, I often forgot I had these powerful trump cards. An example of one is “Rejuvenate,” which revives a fallen companion to full health. Each Quietus can be used just once per battle and only if you have sufficient Quietus points to spend.
One last thing about combat: It’s awesome that even if you lose a battle or retreat, you keep XP and all other points gained. Consumed items are replenished too. So no time is truly wasted in a lost battle.
Under the Banner of House Wolffort
You can’t talk about a Fire Emblem game without talking about the personalities that make up its cast. Triangle Strategy, on the other hand, may not boast as many stand-out characters, at least in terms of appearance or lovableness.
But they’re still characters I came to appreciate, though more for their combat abilities than anything else. Altogether, you can recruit some 30 characters, which is a decently-sized offering.
Besides fan-favorite Anna, the spy who can take two actions per turn instead of one, I made frequent use of hawkrider Hughette, who can leap cliffs and inflict enemies with status ailments like Blind or Immobility. I also liked using Corentin’s “Wall of Ice” which does exactly what it says: a three-square wall which delays enemies from advancing.
The “support conversations” that Fire Emblem is remembered for aren’t entirely absent in Triangle. If you deploy a character in battle frequently enough, you’ll unlock cutscenes which develop their personal story a little.
The game may not sport a friendship-romance system like Fire Emblem‘s or a job system like Final Fantasy Tactics. But what it focuses on—overall plot, decision-making mechanics, and simple but engaging combat—it does well.
New Game Plus
I completed the game at a leisurely pace of 58 hours, on Normal difficulty. If I hadn’t engaged in so many optional mock battles, the count would have been about 40 hours. Given the length, I was grateful for the frequent opportunity to save, including one quicksave slot for mid-battle pauses.
Battles take about 30 to 60 minutes, though usually closer to an hour. Because battles are engrossing, they don’t feel too long. I did wish, though, for a faster way to equip and un-equip accessories.
It’s not often that I’m motivated to replay a game in New Game Plus mode. But I was really keen to replay Triangle Strategy to experience its fourth and secret ending, which I don’t recommend trying on the first playthrough. Best to enjoy the game blind your first time!
On New Game Plus enemy levels are higher, but you keep everything earned from a previous playthrough: characters, XP, abilities, items, Quietuses, and all points.
When I feel like speeding through familiar battles, I switch the game to Easy difficulty, then bump it up to Normal again for battle scenarios I haven’t experienced before.
Triangle Strategy is absolutely worth the asking price, even if you only play it once. It performs well in so many departments: gameplay, story, visuals, music, controls, and replayability. I’ve had no major complaints.
It may take inspiration from venerable classics like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, but Triangle Strategy feels modern enough to be accessible to newcomers. And thanks to the adjustable difficulty, it’s suitable for both SRPG veterans and beginners alike.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up