Triangle Strategy - Tactics Advanced
With a small handful of exceptions like Fire Emblem, Tactical Role-Playing games haven’t been in vogue since the glory days of the PSP, but in recent years, as small pocket of new faces have emerged in the space (think Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark), it’s prompted the once undisputed king of the genre to get off the throne, and back into the fray. Yes, Square-Enix, the creators of Final Fantasy Tactics, and Tactics Ogre, some of the most acclaimed TRPGs of the century are back with Triangle Strategy. The question is, can it harness the magic that made their prior tactics titles so incredible, and modernise them in a way that makes Triangle Strategy relevant for a 2022 audience? Well in 2022, Tactics have been advanced.
We’ve spoken a lot about thrones so far, and that’s simply because a throne, and the power and influence it affords an individual is profound. As Serenoa Wolffort, son of the legendary Symon, it comes as a shock to you as well as the world when quite suddenly Symon surrenders his crown to his son, giving Serenoa that aforementioned influence. Determined not to rule with an iron fist, and to form a world based upon democratic process, this results is constant decision making, decisions that are categorised in three ways, under the titles of Morality, Liberty, and Utility. Based on the decisions you make Serenoa’s troupe, as well as others you encounter in your journey will either side with, or against you. The consequences or you actions and choices, are represented in a voting process, where everyone with a say casts their vote with the ‘Scales of Conviction’, the result becoming the narrative direction of the game. There’s always an opportunity to influence the vote in the moments before they’re submitted, but while the decision seem minor at first, their importance to the shape of the world becomes greater, the deeper into the game you progress. Very few of these voting moments felt insignificant, and almost all seemed to create large narrative divergences based on the outcome reached – it will likely leave players excited to explore the alternatives through repeat playthroughs.
The huge cast of characters, both those that form Serenoa’s council, as well as those on opposite sides of conflict, and even the average denizens you encounter, have been extremely well realised in Triangle Strategy. Despite being trapped in some frankly far too lengthy dialogue sequences at times, I couldn’t help but still be infatuated by everyone I encountered and what they had to share. There were constant nuggets of information being shared from all and sundry revealed incredible depths to the world Square-Enix have built in Triangle Strategy. Yes, there is a huge amount to digest at times, and the conversations can substantially halt momentum on occasions, but once the game gets its claws into you, it doesn’t let go.
Of course, it’s always possible that the plot doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, but in that case, perhaps the tactical role-playing action will. Channeling the likes of genre classics, Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre and even more contemporary elements from titles such as Fire Emblem, Valkyria Chronicles, and Fell Seal, the combat of Triangle Strategy consistently engages. The grid based systems with impressive levels of verticality are well designed, and complement the myriad of environmental obstacles to contend with (and utilise to your best advantage) in ways that are truly exceptional. Layer those with back and side attacks, dual attacks if you can surround an opponent on both sides, alongside the various combative capacities of your party, and you’ll wish that, like the dialogue, the combat scenarios never end. Sadly however they do, obviously if you’re successful, but surprisingly often due to fail-states. Triangle Strategy isn’t an easy game, and with a few wrong moves, it’s quite easy to find yourself in a hole that is hard to dig your way out of. Of course when you do make a mistake, or you’re jumped somehow, it’s incredibly satisfying to string the right moves together to regain the upper hand in the scenario – ultimately it’s the tug of war in the combat that will strike the greatest chord with players.
In an attempt to give you time to prepare for an upcoming encounter, Triangle Strategy does sometimes get in it’s own way and show it’s hand too early. Before encounters, players will almost always get an opportunity to scout the environment, to look for advantageous positions, things to exploit, or bottlenecks to capitalise on, which while great, does foreshadow what is to come and dampen curiosity as to how an upcoming narrative sequence will play out. Beyond scouting the battlefield, players can also retreat to their encampment to train, acquire new items, converse with ally NPCs, and more. It was a relief to first learn about this, because the game’s first few chapters come at you with very few chances to pause and assess your team’s dynamic or do anything else to better your chances of success. Along with being unable to train or engage with anything other than the narrative for the first few chapters, it was also a bit confusing to thrust players into the world map, with nothing but the primary objective available to them. Very few side-conversations were available, and in some cases there were none at all, which just made it confusing in these moments when the world map would appear, you’d zoom out, only to learn there’s nothing else to do but to progress the core narrative further. When the encampment eventually becomes available, as do the other broader interactable options.
It’s hard not to talk about Triangle Strategy, much like its predecessor Octopath Traveler, and not highlight the incredible HD-2D engine that powers it. The World of Norzelia contains the standard fantasy environmental biomes, but each section of it that you visit, even within one of those biomes, still has its own unique look and personality. From the snow-covered towns, to the rumble covered plains, each region really pops off the screen, as do the cast of characters themselves. Though their faces look oddly blurry, the animation work applied to everyone in the worlds adds more life to them that their simplistic pixel-based design should ever historically grant them. Not to be forgotten, but the musical backing and voice-acting are equally sensational, with a number of tracks sure to become staples of my gaming related music playlists in the future, and some vocal delivery that again shines brighter than most contemporaries.
It’s hard not to be sucked in by one of the three key pillars of the Triangle Strategy experience. From the combat sequences, to the narrative, or the decision making and outcome influencing, Triangle Strategy gives players so much to sink their teeth into and be swept away by. It can be slow going at times, when the game lays the plot on thick, and you may at times grow weary of hearing about every single thought that pops into the minds of your team, but nestled within that is constant character growth, continued world-building, and connections to be formed. Triangle Strategy, is the Tactics genre – advanced.