Triangle Strategy Nintendo Switch Review – Written by Mark Walker
Triangle Strategy, as you know, is developed by Square Enix but it was also worked on by Artdink, a studio from Japan, which was founded in 1986. That might not ring a bell but they worked on a very famous strategy game that was published by Maxis, known as A-Train. There have been other releases but by far this collaboration with Square Enix is the biggest to date and with Tomoya Asano (producer Bravely Default) behind the wheel, there are many who have purchased and pre ordered this game well in advance of any review. Let me tell you right off the bat, you made a fantastic choice! Thanks to square and Nintendo for the review copy is Triangle Strategy going to reach the pinnacle of this genre mountain or struggle scalene it and end up wrecked…angle. Let’s find out!
Without spoilers, the narrative of triangle strategy is centred around the kingdoms of Norzelia, the three of whom make up the titular triangle, Aestfrost, Hyzante and Glenbrook. With the main protagonist Seranoa a part of the latter. He is heir to house Wolfort, one of the three high houses of Glenbrook and best friend of Roland, the prince of the region. Throughout the storyline, there are a number of major choices that you’ll need to make using what’s known as the Scales Of Conviction. These choices range from destinations to vastly important story changing decisions, it’s up to you to try and influence those in your group to the choice that you wish them to make. To do this, you might have to wander around the local area gathering extra information about the two, three, or even four choices available; all the while gauging the information you receive to try and help you make the decision yourself. You can then go back and reason with your group making several choices to try and convince them based on the characters that you’ve come to know.
It’s not simply a case of choosing the option that’s unlocked from the dialogues that you’ve been on, you genuinely have to think about what each character has experienced over the course of the game and which persuasive statement they’re most likely to respond to. Initially, it felt like a system that was just there to decorate an arbitrary choice: as I progressed, however, I found that I was able to choose the right responses much more accurately to persuade my group because the storyline had done such a good job of crafting solid and specific characters for each and every one of them. Triangle strategy is a story behemoth with multiple branching choices, whereas a lot of RPG stories focus on one key theme or idea the triangle almost feels like a metaphor for the lore of the three kingdoms, which is weaved throughout the entire game.
There are at least three or four moments where these narrative strings come together to form a real eureka moment. For some, the level of storytelling might feel a bit too much, particularly in the earlier part of the game: you’ll be sitting through more dialogue, than you will combat. On the contrary, though, by the time I fought my first battle, I felt like I had a good understanding of who these people were and why they were fighting in the first place with the constant references to the Salt Iron Wars which ravaged the Three Kingdoms. With this younger generation coming up forgetting some of the hard learned lessons of the past, something which in the current climate hit home even harder!
Triangle Strategy then isn’t a story of right and wrong. It is filled with incredibly difficult decisions which operate in grey areas that left me painstakingly weighing up the pros and cons. And when 20 hours into the story, I found myself faced with the consequences of one of my earlier decisions, I felt genuine remorse, not something I expected. Really, it’s incredibly impressive.
Throughout the 50 or so hour long campaign you’ll build up a mighty army and there’s a specific icon for when a new person wants to join your retinue; selecting it will bring up a story segment of how they’re introduced to you. It gives you a brief origin story almost of where they are and where they’ve come from.
The combat then is tactical turn based combat reminiscent to many genre classics. With such a large character selection to choose from, you can select up to 10 for each fight and then place them on the battlefield. You’ll want to make considerations for elevation, direction and obviously enemy position. When battle commences the game offers you what’s known as simulation mode. This allows you to play out moves without playing out moves, so that you can see their consequences and the amount of damage they’ll do. There are also colour coordinated areas on the floor so that you visualise exactly where and when you’ll be within the enemy’s reach. A subtle but incredibly important mechanic is that your characters will level up as you play during combat, they might gain an entirely new ability, but if the fight is too difficult, you can simply retreat and retain all of the experience to fight another day.
Combat is expertly balanced and you will rely on every single class in the game; take the spy Anna, for example, with her Surmount skill to get up to any height. She can then throw a poison dagger from behind for critical damage and disappear entirely for two turns. Or Roland, with his lance that can peirce two enemies in a straight line and as the battles rage on your characters might be engaged in fierce dialogue and further exposition. Each fight has a set objective. Sometimes this might be to kill one specific person or in other to merely survive. The set goals change the way that you have to play and your approach to them will also evolve as the game goes on. I found that the archers are a hugely powerful class, especially when combined with their elevation, they can be devastating in a fight.
As mentioned, levelling happens during the combat itself. And when you have new lower ranked players join your team, it can be tempting to leave them on the bench but experience gained is much higher in those latter fights. While potentially I would have preferred the experience to just be evenly spread amongst your entire retinue; this is better than nothing. During combat, your players have access to what’s known as TP (Turn Points). TP are represented with small glowing symbols. These are what allow you to use your special abilities, you won’t be relying on magic or any stamina and at the start of each turn you gain back one more of these. The controls are also so incredibly straight forward: you can use the bumpers to quickly switch between all of the roster and the Simulation Mode is inspired.
Until you get your hands on triangle strategy yourself, it’s really difficult to articulate why combat feels so different here. I think it’s the personal touch. The feeling that you know these people but also that your decisions could quite literally change the outcome of their lives and mark my words, they will. If you pull off a particularly difficult strategy, you’ll be rewarded with Kudos points. This is one extra system which isn’t discussed a great deal, but back at your encampment you can spend these to unlock permanent skills that can be used once per fight and you’ll also be rewarded with medals which are the currency used to upgrade your characters further still. This advances their base class and unlocks new abilities, with every single character having their own skill tree for you to advance as well. You can do this by using raw materials gained either in the training area or through combat. There’s a solid RPG base to the whole game.
Finally, there are a series of investigations experienced in Exploration Mode, you may have a set piece of information that you’re trying to uncover and you’ll need to question the local populace, gradually uncover more clues and even find hidden journals. Now, importantly, you can choose to not do any of that. You could move on and just say you found no evidence only to find out that it has a massive impact on the storyline going forward. Thankfully, you can save and load at any point and you may well find yourself going back to try and change the outcomes. Nine times out of ten you will genuinely be able to; that’s not to say that decisions are right or wrong but once again, my “grey area” might be very different to yours.
In summary, the story, gameplay and controls are all incredible. The narrative delivery may feel a touch long winded (particularly in the earliest stages) but it’s all important for setting the scene for what comes later. The combat is as good as it gets in this genre, and it forces the player to use everything at their disposal. Even with a few moments of just longing for the action, it’s still exceptional. Story and gameplay combined score 19 out of 20.
You can move the camera freely with the right stick and the cursor with the left and controls are really precise. I think it would have benefited from some form of touchscreen integration when playing in handheld but other than that – they’re perfect. Controls also score 19 out of 20.
I love the HD2D art style that Square have opted for in their most recent releases. I was pleased to see though that you can turn off the shallow depth of field which can give the image a slightly blurry look. There are some stunning locations on offer it’s not only the artistic choices and the use of colour but also some of the animations; smaller details like the movement of fabrics or the glistening of a waterfall amidst battle set this one apart. Plus every single character is voice acted and the composer (Akira Senju) actually adapts the music to match what’s going on on screen! Whereas there’s no on screen bar to show the balance of a battle the orchestrated score will match what’s happening and when the situation becomes more dire so to will the audio. It’s this and hundreds of other small details which make this game stand so far above what it could otherwise have been.
There are a few performance issues in some stages. Specifically, in some of the latter areas you’ll have up to 30 different players on screen in combat and the frame rates can become a little unstable. In handheld play text sizes are all fine although a text Size option would have been nice. Overall, visuals score 18 out of 20 and the excellent voice acting as well as brilliant orchestrated score means audio scores top marks: 20 out of 20!
Triangle Strategy retails at £49.99 or your regional equivalent but there is the Tacticians Limited Edition which is £90: that includes some really nice goodies and a pack of cards. The game has a reasonably small download size of 5.8 gbs but will take up 7gb plus any updates that come out for it after the 50 or so hour long campaign. You will also find a New Game + mode and there are multiple routes throughout the experience; it’s certainly a game that’s going to have a great deal of replayability.
I’m not allowed to give you any details of what’s in that New Game + mode but suffice to say Triangle Strategy holds a great deal of value, which scores 19 out of 20
For many, Triangles Strategy is going to come as a bit of a surprise. Surprising that one more game needs to go in to the ever expanding backlog! With its hundreds of branching choices that directly impact the narrative, multiple endings and a New Game plus I am going to sit down and play the whole thing through again, it gets a SwitchUp score of 95%. I absolutely loved.