I’ve played triangle strategy forever now. Long before the game’s release – Nintendo is one of those publishers that usually give us really good enough time to review a game. And yet here we are, weeks after its release, and I still haven’t written about it for VG247. That’s not a reflection on the quality of the game, which is excellent – but it shows what kind of game it is.
Triangle Strategy in particular is – as the title says – a slow burn. The game’s launch is particularly slow, but even when the story really picks up speed and starts rolling at its natural speed, it still feels pretty icy. It’s a game that’s often a little too buttony and dated – yet so compelling that I keep coming back to it, chopping it up into small chunks here and there to work my way through an engaging narrative and engage in suspenseful, deeply tactical battles.
Obviously, the biggest touchstone in the development of Triangle Strategy was Final Fantasy Tactics and its spiritual ancestor, Tactics Ogre. These creations by Yasumi Matsuno (who, to be perfectly clear, was in no way involved with Triangle Strategy) were also quite spongy and self-serious, although I also think it’s perfectly fair to say that they lost their Shakespearean ambitions a lot implemented more than Triangle Strategy ultimately does.
In this way, this latest HD 2D project from Square Enix bears a close resemblance to its predecessor, Octopath Traveler – a game that was replete with wonderful ideas drawn from classic inspirations of all time, striving to make them whole interweave that was greater than the sum of its parts. That’s something this crew, led by producer Tomoya Asano, is still pursuing.
And yet… maybe, despite what I’ve just said, it’s actually more than the sum of its parts? Maybe that’s why I’m still playing it, still digging through it, even though it’s not the kind of game that gets me hooked and absolutely stuck with it. A big part of this is combat, which is a wonderfully streamlined yet pleasantly varied combat and character development system that leads to exciting and challenging encounters.
It’s certainly a simpler approach to tactical RPG combat than Disgaea or Fire Emblem, swapping things like friendship mechanics or combat systems designed to build up ridiculous, oversized damage numbers for more gradual, informed progression. Where complexity matters, it does so with clever and easy-to-understand concepts, such as B. how magic can interact with the terrain and distort the state of the battlefield – like casting lightning element spells on bodies of water to carry them, the effect of the spell at a further distance, or burning away wooden barricades with fire magic.
As you prepare for battle, you’ll have to make tough decisions about who you’re bringing into battle, with each character not only carrying a typical RPG role, but also some unique twists based on who exactly they are as a person . It’s satisfying stuff.
All of this is good, because the narrative that brings you to these combat encounters is a mixed experience. The overarching story is steeped in political intrigue, and shades of gray that aren’t often done well in games are here – but individual characters aren’t nearly as compelling as in this title’s rivals, or even as in Octopath Traveler. The voice-over work is qualitative across the board, at least in English, and this combines with a generally lengthy storyline to often take the urgency out of things a bit.
But for all of this, brilliance is buried beneath the muddled delivery. The game’s reflections on democracy are offered through a series of votes taking place in the melodramatically named “Scale of Conviction” system, in which Triangle Strategy’s characters vote on a key issue that often has significant implications for the character and story will have. As a player, you can not only vote for yourself, but also try to influence the votes of NPCs. This requires knowledge of your allies, but exploration and even some actions in combat also affect how much you can affect the outcome of the votes.
This system is further enhanced by the fact that many of these decisions are by no means easy. Some of them are brutal, while others may see you wanting to manipulate a group of do-gooders to do something morally reprehensible for the greater good. Each character is different and has a unique attitude and worldview, so it’s up to you to choose your battles to find your desired path through the story. It’s an interesting system, bordering on brilliance, and it adds a lot to the narrative to make it more compelling overall.
And of course it looks good too. This HD 2D stuff that Square Enix created becomes its own brand for a reason – it’s a nice way to revitalize the look and feel of classic RPGs in a modern context. This game is as awesome as Octopath and has stronger menus and things like that.
So yes – I love Triangle Strategy a lot. But I’m not done with it yet either. I keep hacking away at it between Elden Ring and the new Street Fighter update, even going back to cyberpunk.
Soon it will probably share my time with the Chrono Cross Remaster. It feels like that kind of game; something lovable, memorable and satisfying – but maybe nothing to eat. And I agree with that; It’s well worth the price of admission, and I really hope that the ideas expressed in the Scales of Conviction system will be explored further in other games.