Triangle Strategy

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: March 4, 2022


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Switch Review - 'Triangle Strategy'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 28, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Triangle Strategy is a tactical RPG where you command a group of warriors as Serenoa, heir to the Kingdom of Glenbrook in a tangled plot where your decisions make all the difference.

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Triangle Strategy takes places on the content of Norzella, which is divided into three kingdoms: Glenbrook, a land of farms and plenty; Aesfrost, who are rich in minerals; and the theocracy of Hyzante, which has a monopoly on precious salt. The three have long been in conflict, but they recently reached a peace accord, and things are looking up. Players take control of Serenoa, scion of the Glenbrook noble house of Wolffort. Serenoa was engaged to be married to Frederica, a minor princess from Aesfrost as a token of peace. No sooner had the two met than a shocking false flag attack by Aesfrost triggers an invasion of Glenbrook. War has once again returned to Norzella, and it is up to Serenoa and Frederica to navigate the twisting politics of the land and find a way to preserve as many lives as possible.

While the Triangle Strategy world has magic, it's a surprisingly down-to-earth story. The major conflict in the story isn't about evil elder gods or terrible monsters; it's a conflict between three kingdoms about natural resources, specifically salt. The mundane origin works in its favor because it's a source of real-world conflict and keeps the plot focused on the political and personal machinations of the various cast members. I found myself engaged with the overall story, even if the villain writing is sometimes weak.

Probably the biggest gameplay mechanic in Triangle Strategy is the Conviction system. Throughout the game, you'll be tasked with making choices that fall into one of three categories: Liberty, Morality or Utility. Choosing one raises Serenoa's invisible Conviction meter, which influences the allies that join him. It's nearly impossible to make every character join, so changing your choices on a playthrough can significantly impact who ends up in the final party.

More important is the Scales. Serenoa is reliant on his allies, and that includes drastic choices. When you come to a branching path in the story, your most loyal followers join in a war council with you. Each one can vote on which path to take. Serenoa doesn't vote directly but can influence the outcome by talking to holdouts. This can be done by gathering information between chapters or selecting options that you think are best. Be forewarned that your convictions will play into this. Convincing a character to do something you've shown you believe in will be much harder than trying to enact a war crime after you've been steadfast and resolute for the entire game. It's not difficult to sway votes to your favor, but it's a neat element.

On the surface, Triangle Strategy looks and plays like a familiar strategy-JRPG. If you've played similar titles over the years, you have a good idea of what awaits. You and the enemy take turns moving and attacking with your units until one falls. Triangle Strategy doesn't have permadeath, and you can retry stages with the experience you've gained, so in terms of punishments for failure, it is pretty light.

The game can be surprisingly rough. There are a lot of things to take into account. For example, if you attack an enemy while a friendly unit is just behind them, that friendly unit will attack at the same time. This also applies for enemies, so getting surrounded can be a disaster. Height also plays a major factor, and if you're not above the enemy, you're fighting at a disadvantage. Certain tiles also have advantages or disadvantages, such as grassy tiles being vulnerable to fire magic. The damage numbers are high for both sides, and if you position poorly, your characters can die in a few attacks.

Ability usage in Triangle Strategy is governed by TP. Every character gains one TP per round and can hold a maximum of three (it gets upgraded later). Most actions that don't involve attacking, moving or using an item require at least one TP. This means you can use certain skills every round if you want because you'll always be TP neutral, but using a skill that takes two or more TP means you might have to wait longer to replenish. It's an interesting system, but once you get the ability to manipulate TP, it becomes a lot easier to break it. You also have special Quietuses, which are very powerful skills that you can use once per battle with any character, but you have a limited number of Quietus Points to spend, and stronger skills cost more points. They refill each battle, but they're something you have to strictly consider.

One area where Triangle Strategy shines is in character design. There are a bunch of different characters, not all of whom are available on a single playthrough, and many have distinct skills. It's one of the most versatile and interesting casts in an SRPG, with very little overlap between similar skill sets and a lot of cool characters. More importantly, it also means there's a lot of room for non-combat styles to shine.

Take, for example, Jans the Blacksmith. He's not the best at combat, but he can build traps and ladders. Ladders allow you to move characters to higher elevations, and traps knock enemies around and delay their movements. Having him on your team can change the course of a tough battle by providing more mobility. There are characters who can create decoys, change the weather, manipulate terrain, and even reverse time. There's such a distinctive list of characters, and the fact that each one is different makes them shine, even if some are better than others. Characters also level incredibly quickly in combat if they're not roughly at the intended level for the area, so it isn't difficult to bring a new character up to standard if you need them.

This also opens up a lot of room for synergy. Some characters have moves that work extremely well with others. There's an elemental synergy to almost every magic spell. Fire melts ice into water, water conducts electricity, and wind spreads fire, and so on. A combo of fire-ice-lightning magic can massively amplify the damage done by an individual mage. Some potential ways to use your characters include provoking enemies into AoE range, using one character to funnel TP to another character for constant high-damage attacks, or using a character who attacks twice to provoke multiple support attacks from a stronger ally.

This makes the moment-to-moment gameplay in Triangle Strategy extremely fun. There are many different combat options available, and the level design offers multiple ways to use them. When fighting on a bridge, you may want to bring characters who excel at pushing enemies to shove them off the side. When fighting at a height advantage, bow users and magicians shine. I swapped my team regularly based on what I was facing.

There is one area that I wish the game was stricter on: making the hard choice actually hard. It does this sometimes, and those are some of the best moments. About one-fourth of the way through the game, you're given the chance to betray a minority group to assure peace for the rest. Refuse, and you're forced to enter a difficult fight against the strongest foe thus far and a huge army of soldiers. You have a secret weapon: special fire weapons can wreck invaders at the cost of burning down parts of the village. If you're having trouble, you can resort to flames, but if you use clever tactics, then it's a difficult fight but you preserve the homes of your people. This is what Strategy does best: Combining the gameplay and the choices you've made.

Sometimes it feels like it doesn't go far enough. Much of the time, when you're presented with a morally dubious choice or ethical dilemma, you find out afterward that there's a relatively easy way out of it. I'm not saying that I want to be party to ethnic cleansing (one of the most horrible choices in the game involves that specific option), but it would be nice if choosing to forgo those paths made it tougher to stick to your convictions. It's a minor complaint, but it weakens the game's central conceit.

One of the side effects of the unique characters is that you can't customize them too much. Each character has two different upgrade trees: class and weapon. Upgrading a character's class changes their looks and allows them to access higher-level skills. Upgrading their weapon allows you to buy special passive and active abilities using resources. The bulk of the upgrades are boring "+1 to stat" kind of things, but higher tiers can be more interesting. It's a very static system, though. At best, you can gear characters toward being better at AoE or single target, or offense versus defense, but that's about it. There are accessories you can wear that grant bonuses like "character always acts first in battle," but they're few and far between. It's not a game-breaking flaw, but if you liked Final Fantasy Tactics because it let you create a Calculator who could nuke the entire map, then Triangle Strategy doesn't let you do that.

The core game is fairly long with around 20 chapters, many of which include multiple fights and lengthy cut scenes. There are multiple branching paths, some of which are rather long, and it also features multiple ending paths. A single playthrough probably takes 40 hours, even on subsequent go-throughs. It's a meaty game that provides ample replay opportunities.

Triangle Strategy has a simple art style that evokes later SNES or early PS1 games like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, with a similar "HD" style to Octopath Traveler. It is not a graphical powerhouse, but it's clear and charming and has some surprisingly nice animated touches.

The soundtrack is quite good and sets the mood for battle, but the voice acting isn't great. There are a few good performances, but a lot of characters sound stiff or awkward. It's not enough to ruin the game, but it's a surprisingly lackluster voice performance considering how often Square Enix knocks that out of the park.

Triangle Strategy is a little too safe to call a new classic, but at the same time, it's one of the best SRPGs I've played in ages. The solid level design and fantastic character variety keep the game engaging all the way to the end. The plot is a touch mundane, but I ended up being quite fond of most of the characters. Triangle Strategy is an example of a title that does almost everything right. If you're a SRPG fan, then Triangle Strategy is right up your alley; if you're not, it's a great place to start.

Score: 8.5/10

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