Square Enix's new tactical RPG makes players tackle a storyline full of schemes, tension and decisions, which are damaged by a poor pace.
"Si vis pacem, para bellum." It is interesting, at the very least, to get such a game as Triangle Strategy during these troubled times we are living. Square Enix's new game puts the players in the eye of a storm formed by political tensions when a fragile peace is being broken in a continent, causing all their parts to fight each other for power and control of resources. Sure, it sounds terribly familiar considering our situation.
Coincidences aside, Tomoya Asano's team returns to the attack with a tactical RPG that knows how to tackle combat, unit management, and the progression and similarities of the characters. Triangle Strategy is not Fire Emblem, but Final Fantasy Tactics combined with a typical story straight out of A Song of Ice and Fire, or Game of Thrones, if you would rather watch the series before reading books.
The main character is Serenoa Wolffort, son of the head of the Wolffort family, one of the most important in the Kingdom of Glenbrook, which is formed by the Norzelia continent along with the Grand Duchy of Aesfrost and the Holy State of Hyzante. It goes without saying that, even though the three nations are in peace after a brutal war, it is weak and it doesn't take a long time until it breaks due to power ambitions, the trouble among leaders, and the secrets that go far beyond how this medieval fantasy looks at first sight.
This is an ad:
The way all the plot builds up is the major asset in Triangle Strategy, though it sacrifices the pace of the game in exchange. You may have to deal with conversations and scenes for more than half an hour (or almost an hour) between battles. On top of that, every dialogue is important since they provide key information when it comes to taking decisions, which alter the course of the story. Usually, this is reflected in the options of the (Convictions) that you choose while being Serenoa and speaking with others, even though the main moments come when using The Scales of Conviction.
Using it implies a voting, normally between two factions of the opposing characters, in which you must talk them into voting in favour of your interests. That decision may benefit your people, but sacrifice others, and vice versa. Some moments may be especially difficult, and they may put you between a rock and a hard place, even if the plot thickens more than needed when you see that characters that had a certain voting intention end up voting for a different thing.
To help us dealing with these moments, Square Enix introduces an Exploration Phase that may be useful to study the land for possible future wars. You can collect items, chat with characters, and you can also perform small quests which are mainly based on talking with people and letting things happen. The most important thing about them is the fact that they unlock dialogue options that may completely change the course of certain choices and the overall plot. This is vital, since Triangle Strategy has several endings depending on our convictions and decisions.
This is an ad:
It is worth noting, however, that they are the only thing that gives you some freedom of movement. There is no world map in this game to move freely, and there are no towns to find and visit. There is a map to take you directly to events, and when it is time to investigate, you move around limited areas that open in a totally linear way over the chapters in which the story is divided. Eventually, they almost end up buried under tons and tons of dialogue. Seeing that the map shows an optional event in a place, going there and checking that it appears just to read a few lines between two characters (there are a lot of them) gets tiresome, and the worst part of it is that they may be required to activate a feature in the main event in a chapter of the game (which appears in red). The problem is, some of them slow down the progress, and they are only useful to delve into the lore a little bit deeper.
If there was any doubt, the pace is slow, though the story has some really good moments and very unforgettable characters. All the cast is completely different, and you can have a very varied selection of units in your team, with more than 18 exceptional individuals in both the combat style and the nature, and you also recruit them according to the path you build along the game. It is true, however, that there are obvious classes such as wizards, supportive, swordsmen, lancers, archers, etc.
This leads us to the most solid feature in Triangle Strategy (alongside a HD-2D style that looks better than ever, and excels even more in the use of light and shadow —with some amazing surroundings and particle effects): its battles. Even though we are looking at a limited RPG, in terms of exploration, to give importance to freedom of choice, the game does not falter at all in the combat system.
This is an ad:
Every battle demands attention and reflection. From the beginning, you choose which units will fight and where they will be located, and you must take into account the kind of enemy you face and how the battlefield looks. The weakness and strengths not only depend on the type of unit and its equipment, but the setting also plays a major role: the grass may be on fire and it may burn enemies or companions, rain may cause puddles that can favour electric shocks, or even ice can cause you to slip and fail an attack.
This "environmental" layer is added to the usual elements in these type of games, typical mechanics such as spells, ranged attacks, hand-to-hand or in-field battles, enhancers, items, attacks from the rear, or even combos when surrounding a character ahead and behind. The fact that the character's degree of equipment is limited is surprising. Triangle Strategy doesn't let you choose armour or weapons, you just improve the ones you already have or equip accessories to boost certain traits. It challenges something that seemed to be set in stone in the genre, and it succeeds because it gives weight to its surroundings, a strategy that demands the player to study the locations and the enemies in order to achieve victory.
That is the reason why having such a limited number of battles is a pity, even though there is a bunch of optional battles that you can unlock in the Encampment (you can have access to it from the menu where you buy items, raise the class of a character, improve their weapons or their attributes). Asano's team should have tipped the balance in favour of action rather than conversation, since it would help to keep the interest and enhance some of the mechanics that take little time to connect with the player.
Triangle Strategy is a game with many positives and negatives. It has a very interesting main idea, but the way it's carried out doesn't help it. It looks beautiful, the soundtrack is wonderful, it demands attention from the very first minute, and its storyline is full of twists (some as tough as unexpected), but it always lets the player take the lead. Sure, sometimes it is difficult to make things go in favour of your decisions because of very random reasons, even though all the responsibility of the outcome ends up being yours, at the end of the day.
The change of direction in the development team after Octopath Traveler was as unexpected as the complex plot behind this adventure, and although we would have liked to fight more and to enjoy a level of complexity in the character development, we cannot deny that we enjoyed every single battle, even though some of them led us to despair more than once. Another interesting and attractive RPG for the lovers of the genre that enlarges the Nintendo Switch collection, even though not everybody will find it appealing.
7 / 10
A very well weaved and surprising story, with several endings. The battle system is deep, but accessible. The soundtrack and the looks are wonderful.
The pace of the game is extremely slow. The behaviour of some characters is unpredictable when voting. More battles are missing. A touch of character progression would do it good.