Triangle Strategy, the latest 2DHD offering from Artdink and Square Enix, is most likely not the game you’re expecting it to be. A gorgeously rendered pixelated world that initially sold itself on the premise of three warring kingdoms, locked in intense and intricate turn-based tactical battling – well, it is all of those things but it’s also so much more.
A glacially paced foray into political and social systems led by an ever-evolving group of well-meaning but youthful new leaders in a very old world, Triangle Strategy bolsters immaculate gameplay with a shockingly compelling narrative.
Triangle Strategy Review
In a rather pleasant surprise, Triangle Strategy is primarily focused on its narrative. The balance between story and combat tilting far more toward the former than I could have anticipated. This is, on the whole, a very good thing – the world of Triangle Strategy is far more complex than first meets the eye, each corner of Norzelia housing layered lore and intrigue. To fully onboard players into this location, however, the game’s opening hour or so is weakened by the weight of exposition, proper nouns and character introductions.
Triangle Strategy‘s best boy Serenoa Wolffort is in a pretty rough spot. Having grown up in the shadow of the great Saltiron War, which saw Norzelia nearly tear itself apart over the allocation of its sacred salt resources, Serenoa finds himself the heir to a great military household in ostensible peace times. Norzelia’s three countries have held this peace for thirty years now, with the trade routes overseen by the Kingdom of Glenbrook, the iron studiously mined by the Grand Duchy of Aesfrost, the precious salt supplied by Hyzante in the eastern deserts.
In a bid to further solidify fair and equal relations between the three countries, a joint effort has begun to mine a new vein discovered in Glenbrook. To celebrate the venture, Serenoa is to be married to the illegitimate Aesfrost princess, Frederica, her mother having deep ties to Hyzante and her very existence a political timebomb. Gathering his most trusted advisors and friends, including the Glenbrook prince Roland, the gang set off to inspect the new mining facility when a storm of greed, poor choices and the momentum of history hits, threatening to bring about Saltiron War 2: Electric Boogaloo.
With conflict’s flames stoked once more, Serenoa and his crew venture forth into a brewing war that pushes their connections to each other and their respective states to the limit. The overarching narrative isn’t particularly groundbreaking, serving more as a backdrop to the more intricate and impactful character work that results from extensive and nuanced worldbuilding. Voice acting is hit or miss most of the time, in both English and the slightly better Japanese track. And while the static nature of Serenoa’s goodwill can be a little dry at times, the decisions he is forced to reckon with and the colour array of characters he’ll meet in the process more than makeup for any protagonist woes.
In Triangle Strategy your choices will impact how the state of the world changes, the game and the land itself governed by three core principles – Utility, Morality and Liberty. Throughout the campaign, Serenoa will make countless choices that strengthen his resolve in any one of these core tenants. The Serenoa you create through those choices then goes on to drastically impact his ability to engage with the party when the time comes to make big decisions, occasions marked by a ceremonial weighing of the Scales of Convictions. Each party member can cast a vote, deciding between different courses of action, while Serenoa is voteless and must sway the decisions in his favour through conversation preceding the vote. These instances were always engaging, frequently pitting my logical impulses against my personal feelings for a particular party member or way of the world.
With decisions made, Triangle Strategy shifts gears and becomes an approachable and reliably fun turn-based tactical RPG. The loveable band of fighters you’ve been working so hard to keep happy during the game’s narrative all step up to the plate here, providing you with a small army of diverse warriors to take into any given battle. Conflict plays out on diorama-like stages that you can freely move the camera around, allowing you to scope out the full range of pathing, elevation and terrains. Combined with the variety of abilities your crew has at their disposal and Triangle Strategy‘s combat is as engaging from the first to the last clash.
Your party can level up during battle sequences, negating the need to wait until the next fight to use that sweet new ability you just learned. This gives the flow of the game a tangible sense of progress at all times, combining new abilities with your steadfast favourites on the fly to change the flow of a fight is thrilling. I also thoroughly enjoyed the small roleplaying opportunities these fights allowed for – often I would ensure Serenoa and Frederica were close by during combat, her magic the perfect addition to his sword skills.
Mechanically speaking, Triangle Strategy is also shockingly approachable. My experience with this kind of tactical battle system is extremely limited but the game does a fantastic job of both tutoring and maintaining a healthy difficulty balance. Death isn’t permanent, health items are plentiful and for those looking for something more challenging, you can always bump the difficulty up a notch. As it is, the Normal experience perfectly matches the predominantly narrative-focused experience, an occasional thrill alongside the lengthy adventures of Serenoa and co.
While battle effects and the general world of Triangle Strategy are beautiful to look at, the game’s crisp 2DHD art direction is somewhat hampered by the Switch’s hardware limitations. I played most of the game in handheld mode and found that certain effects looked stunning while others were washed-out and blurred. Character models are lovely at a glance but the game does little with them beyond some fairly basic movements during narrative-heavy sequences, making for prolonged cutscenes where there isn’t much to look at beyond the wallpaper.
Small technical gripes aside, Triangle Strategy is a triumph in both compelling fantasy world-building and engaging tactical battle mechanics. Serenoa leads a fun and likeable collection of characters into a surprisingly dark story about war, greed and the new kids on the block just trying to make it all work out in the end. I was deeply invested in the goings-on of the world, making the combat encounters all the tenser as I sent my crew into battle against a variety of challenging and fun foes and arenas.
Its balance between narrative and combat may not be for everyone, but Triangle Strategy flips the script beautifully and asks you to care more about the world and its people than the battles they rage.
Even when those battles are also wicked fun.
Triangle Strategy was reviewed on Switch using digital code provided by Nintendo ANZ.