Triangle Strategy Review: Old Grudges, New Conflict
Triangle Strategy is the story of three nations who have been at each other’s throats for decades, fitting considering the game’s title. They’ve fought for so long that old grudges have hardened, and peace seems nearly impossible. Yet somehow, at the start of Triangle Strategy, the three nations have managed to bury those old grudges and move forward together toward peace. They’re even working on a new mining project meant to strengthen the ties between these nations. It looks to be the start of a new era.
If you’ve played more than a few video games, or watched movies, or read books, you probably know that’s not going to last. No one wants stories about peace, seemingly. Conflict drives stories, and soon enough, these nations are back to fighting. I won’t spoil how that comes about, but you’ll take on the role of Serenoa Wolffort as his house is thrown into an unexpected conflict that has his entire kingdom in disarray.
The Eye Of The Beholder
The conflict between these nations provides the bulk of the story in Triangle Strategy, and it’s consistently told in a fascinating manner. Over twenty chapters, the game consistently defies easy characterization and simple choices. The other nations you deal with are far from morally pure, but they each have their own motivations, which aren’t cartoonish. Their aims may differ from yours, and they may do things we’d consider villainous, but their goals aren’t necessarily bad. Some of them are even rather understandable. Likewise, your own nation has made serious mistakes in the past, and some of the choices you’ll make throughout the game put you in difficult positions.
That’s because a big part of Triangle Strategy is making those choices. At various points in the game, you’ll enter a sequence featuring an artifact known as the Scales of Conviction. Your party disagrees on how to move forward, so you’ll hold a vote. You’ll get a short time to try to convince the core group of characters of which path you’d like them to take, and then everyone will vote. Whatever wins is what you’ll do moving forward. Getting the path you want requires having connected with those characters and knowing them well enough to influence them, which leans into the unique personalities each of them have. Some characters won’t go down certain paths no matter what you do, but most can be shifted with the right preparation and choices.
Getting It Right
Early in the game, these choices are rather simple, and some don’t have a significant impact on the story. By the end of the game, though, you’ll be making crucial decisions that can radically shift the narrative to the point where you’re going to war with different countries and making completely different allies. Characters will join or leave your team based on what you decide. I was especially impressed by a late-game decision where the three choices you’re offered are all awful, each requiring you to sacrifice something that, by that time, felt essential. Yet I could think of no better alternative considering where the characters found themselves. It’s excellent storytelling.
This relies on the group of characters the game puts around you, people from all of these nations, all with their own motivations and goals. Serenoa himself is forced to make various deals and spread his loyalties as the game goes on, and it’s fascinating to see him torn between his friends, all of whom have excellent reasons for how they feel. The only real issue I had with the story by the end was how it marginalizes so many of the interesting characters who join you over time. I know not all players will have them, so integrating them more fully into the narrative would be challenging, but why some soldier I’ve known awhile but who admits he doesn’t know much about what we’re dealing with gets a vote on the Scales but those with vast experience are left to wait outside never makes a lot of sense.
I’ve written a lot about Triangle Strategy without even touching the primary gameplay, as a strategy RPG, and there’s a reason for that. It isn’t anything wrong with that combat; it’s actually some of the most in-depth and well-executed combat the genre has seen in years. Instead, it comes down to the game’s balance and where I start to have a few issues with the game. I like almost every element within the title, but the balance of them feels off. Three or four hours into the game, you’ll have only gone through a handful of battles. You spend a lot more time reading Triangle Strategy than you do playing it, which won’t be for everyone. There are often twenty or thirty-minute stretches where you just go through story sequences, and that only increases if you check out the optional side stories around the game’s map.
Still, when you finally do get down to fighting, Triangle Strategy is consistently excellent. Each of the characters you recruit to your team has their own style in combat and their own abilities. No two characters feel like carbon copies of each other, despite having a huge variety available by the time the game is over. That means you’ll truly get the chance to customize your team and build your own strategies to take on the game’s various challenges. Those characters can work together very well, too, using different elemental abilities to chain attacks together to build devastating combinations. Customization of each character is more limited than in some similar games. Still, there are class upgrades, ability upgrades, and accessories to give a bit of a boost that you can set everyone up with.
Some levels give you interesting side objectives, too, such as avoiding detection or needing to defeat a specific character. I would have liked to see more of this as what is here is well done, but a bit too often, things just come back to needing to beat everyone. Still, when the combat feels this good, it isn’t a major complaint. Different maps set you up on interesting terrain, and often the difference between a good choice or bad choice prior to a battle is how you’ll be positioned going into it.
Making Each Battle Count
I also really like that each battle actually matters. There are no random fights here, no small groups of roaming nobodies to beat up. Each time your group goes to battle, it’s for an important reason that directly impacts the story. This leads to memorable battles, even if it also contributes to the lack of balance between story and combat. If you need to grind a bit, and you probably will, there’s a series of mental mock battles available at your encampment, which are positioned as strategy sessions between your team but which lead to real growth. Some of them are interesting enough to be worth playing even if you’re at a good level already.
Really pulling the entire game together are the aesthetics. Triangle Strategy looks fantastic, really nailing the HD 2D look Square Enix has been building up since Octopath Traveler. This is the best-looking game in this style, yet with the diorama-esque scenes really coming together in an exciting way. A nice soundtrack helps as well, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the best in the genre. The closest thing to a misstep the game makes here comes in the English voice acting, which is mostly solid to good, but with a few performances that feel like they belong in an entirely different game.
Triangle Strategy does almost everything well. It looks great, sounds good, plays great, features an excellent story, and offers enough variance in its multiple paths to provide significant replay value. There’s no one element it gets wrong. Its biggest issue comes in how it puts these various elements together. If you’re okay with long story sequences with the combat taking a bit of a back seat, you’ll love Triangle Strategy. Despite the balance of these various elements feeling a bit off, each element is so well executed that this is still a must-play for fans of the genre.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch(Reviewed); Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Artdink; Players: 1; Released: March 4th, 2022; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Triangle Strategy.