Triangle Strategy Release Date Teased; Free Demo Available on Switch Now
I missed out on the HD-2D delight of Octopath Traveler as well as the Bravely franchise, so it was with severe FOMO that I decided to check out Square Enix’s blandly titled project Triangle Strategy. (The free Switch demo is available in the Nintendo eShop as we speak.) What started out as a frustrating exposition dump (despite the warning that I’d be dropped into the middle of the story and wasn’t expected to know exactly what was going on) soon hooked me thanks to a mature if familiar feudal fantasy story and delightfully retro-modern visuals. Plus, I’m kind of invested in the future of Prince Roland, whatever fate I ultimately choose for him. (Now’s a good time to mention that some spoilers will be discussed.) … do I really have to wait until 2022 for whatever project Triangle Strategy ultimately becomes?
It’s been longer than I can remember since I played a demo for more than a couple of hours (with the exception of the so-frustrating-I’m-losing-sleep-over-it Kobayashi Maru.) And honestly, I was close to giving up on pTS when the first hour (again, in the middle of the game, Chapters 6 and 7) was all story and almost no action. An endless list of characters with fantasy-sounding names from an equally endless list of fantasy-sounding nations, regions, principalities, and towns rolled on by, all essentially telling the same setup in a variety of ways: The death of one noble at the hands of another caused the cousin of the victim to wage open war against the nation of murderer, despite the peace that had existed amongst the three nations since the bloody Saltiron War. (If this all feels very Game of Thrones or [Insert Swords and Sorcery Saga Here], you are correct.)
The player, not surprisingly, plays as a young lord who has just inherited the title of a noble house under fealty to the king, who’s just been usurped. This puts you smack in between your loyalty to the crown and its young prince who took the life of the rival noble, and the new leader who rules with an iron fist and a razor-sharp mind bent toward strategy and domination. And you’ll have to navigate this perilous new path through a combination of dialogue choices (few and far between), exploration (same), tactical combat (nicely balanced throughout), and even votes cast by the entire party; your choice alone will not decide the vote, but you can sway your fellow party members to your side.
Granted, that is a lot to try to get across for a demo, but project Triangle Strategy repeats its own lore often enough in the demo that you just want to mash right on past the umpteenth explanation. The same goes for mission objectives when you finally (finally) get to do some actual strategic, tactical combat. (You do not have to tell me three separate times to open a drawbridge and defeat the enemies standing in my way. You do not.) But there was something so charming about the way the rest of the game was set up — a retro design inspired by classic Super Nintendo-era RPGs with the modern technology to really make every little detail pop, a staple of HD-2D games — and the expansive cast of characters you get to meet along the way. I just had to keep on playing. I’m so glad I did.
I played through the demo twice, owing to a pretty huge plot point in which you can either hand the offending murderer Prince Roland over to the usurping Archduke Gustadolph to maintain the peace, or fight for Roland’s safety and sovereignty at the cost of your closest friends and even the very townspeople you’re charged with protecting. That decision is first addressed in a vote before the Scales of Conviction. Some of your party is in favor of handing Roland over, some are in favor of protecting him, and some are undecided; they’ll each make their case if you talk to them. But if you explore your town and talk to your people as the young lord Serenoa, you’ll learn some interesting things that might help you sway your party members one way or the other.
After you’ve persuaded your team in which ever direction you choose, you’ll go before the somewhat mythical Scales of Conviction to decide Roland’s fate: Fight to protect him and you’ll have to risk the town’s safety to battle the brutal General Avlora and the soldiers of Aesfrost. Opt to hand him over and you’ll find yourself in a tenuous alliance with the Aesfrostian archduke … who soon tricks you into attacking your longtime ally, Lord Falkes. Either way you’ll end up fighting, and either way a lot of stuff will burn in the process, but boy does it feel better to fight the battle you choose rather than the one you get duped into. But just the fact that you can diverge along different paths in Triangle Strategy is a huge selling point for me, especially in an era of so-called RPGs that have opted for the illusion of choice over meaningful branching narratives. (Looking directly at you, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Last of Us II and pretty much every other major story-driven release of the last few years.)
I’m now invested in the fate of House Wolffort and its allies. I want to know how and why Prince Roland ended up taking out Dragan and causing this whole bloody mess to start in the first place. I hope that that reveal will help to influence my decision as to what to do with Roland (though I’ll definitely be playing both paths at some point to see what happens.) I also want to see how the RNG of new characters joining your party works in the final game; I met Medina the (Cutest) Pharmaceutist, Julio the … Accountant (? I forget), and a very fashionable shamaness I would very much like to get to know. (None of these characters actually joined my party in battle despite appearing in my menu, but that’s probably due to the nature of the demo. Same goes with permadeath, which doesn’t happen in the demo version but I sure hope comes to the final release.) And when it comes to the core characters themselves, I’d love to see how the relationships play out, be they friendships, rivalries, or romantic entanglements.
Overall, the tactics and abilities available to you should feel pretty familiar if you’ve played fantasy tactical strategy games before. (Ice Wall is indeed OP when it comes to siege-type levels and battlefield manipulation.) The balancing of characters feels okay but not great so far; your big, bruising shield-bearer is kind of papery and really doesn’t have any defensive buffs save for an expensive knock-back. Some of the movement isn’t intuitive and it’s not really spelled out either; expect a fair amount of trial and error to figure out how to approach a given fight. Triangle Strategy isn’t exactly trailblazing a new path here.
However, the story, the characters, the lovely visuals, and the promising balance of combat vs. progression is enough to have this fantasy nerd hooked. The voice actors may change, the title may change (don’t bet on it), and even some of the names and final art may change, but right now, I’m on board. And so begins our long wait until 2022…
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