Triangle Strategy – Interview with Emma Ballantine

Described as ‘most likely not the game you’re expecting it to be’, Triangle Strategy is the latest title from Tomoya Asano (Bravely Default, Octopath Traveler) and Artdink (A-Train). Released on 4 March 2022, Triangle Strategy follows in the vein of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Final Fantasy Tactics as a single-player tactical RPG.

Featuring Asano’s distinctive HD-2D, the gameplay takes place in the ‘gorgeously rendered pixelated world’ of Norzelia. This fictional continent is made up of three countries (Glenbrook, Aesfrost, and Hyzante) on the verge of rekindling an ancient conflict over scarce resource deposits.

Players take on the role of Serenoa, heir to the Wolffort House in Glenbrook, and are accompanied by childhood friend Prince Roland, fiancée Princess Frederica Aesfrost, and Wolffort steward Benedict. Together, the foursome attempt to navigate and quell the burgeoning war.

Here we speak to Emma Ballantine — voice-over veteran behind titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Final Fantasy XIV — about her experience portraying Aesfrost and working on the game.

Triangle Strategy Emma Ballantine

TAHLIA: What was the audition process like for Triangle Strategy? Do you remember the moment you’d found out you’d been cast?

EMMA: The casting process was quite secretive, as it often is with video games. The game had a code name and I initially only knew it was a fantasy tactical role-playing game. I was given a short paragraph introducing Frederica and about 10 lines to prepare. The audition was on Zoom (as we were in the depths of lockdown in the UK) so I was sitting in my little studio cave in darkness reading her lines. I found out I got the part about a week later and was really chuffed. I only knew at this stage that we were recording a demo, potentially recording the whole game around four months later. I was very intrigued and excited to get in the booth!

TAHLIA: Can you recall what initially appealed to you about the project?

EMMA: The script felt really rich and I loved the moral predicaments weaved into each character’s journey. One of my favourite things about video games is the detailed relationships and connections between the characters — which Triangle Strategy is so, so full of.

TAHLIA: Frederica is a really interesting character — an illegitimate Aesfrost princess, yet the game’s driving moral force. How do you describe Frederica Aesfrost and her role in the story?

EMMA: I absolutely loved voicing Frederica. She carries the weight of war heavily on her shoulders and so wants to make the right decisions, to honour both the past and the future. She has a quiet strength that burns away under everything and it was great to explore that in her journey — to find the moments where she plays it lightly and then the moments where she really steps into her own, and into being a leader in her own right. She’s also one half of a beautiful love story with Serenoa.

TAHLIA: Can you walk us through what your character preparation looked like?

EMMA: I approached the prep from a few different angles. There were some technical elements, like focusing on the accent (I’m originally from Scotland!) and rehearsing pronunciations. I played around with some different voices for Frederica at home — changing up the pace, tone, and pitch whilst looking at a picture of her until something clicked and felt right. That was the voice I’d take into the booth. But it’s always good to have other ideas up your sleeve in case the team wants to take things in a different direction, so you have options.

Then there was research and background prep. I wanted to absorb as much of the material [as] possible. I could piece together a lot of this from the script and bios, but working with the creative team in the sessions themselves was also vital to fully understand and realise the history and context of each scene.

TAHLIA: Was there room to improvise during recording?

EMMA: Yes, there definitely was to an extent. The director Jason is really great at letting actors try different things. I would usually give a few different readings at first, before we honed in on what exactly we wanted to get across in each line or scene. That’s something I love about voice acting — the performance is concentrated into one medium, so you can get really detailed about what exact energy you want to put across through the voice alone.

TAHLIA: The story has four possible endings, and Asano has said the main campaign alone should take ‘around 30 hours’ to complete. In addition, returning players have access to the New Game Plus mode which offers the ability to see how certain decisions influence subsequent events. You’re obviously a very experienced performer, but did this present any unique challenges for you as a voice-over actor?

EMMA: We worked hard to try and pull Frederica back in moments and not give too much away. Frederica doesn’t let her guard down easily and we wanted to bring this into her voice, especially in the earlier parts of the game. She then both simultaneously softens as she lets people in, and becomes stronger and more self-assured as the game progresses. It was a fine balance and a nice challenge to pause and play against some initial instincts.

TAHLIA: Just two weeks after its release, Triangle Strategy had sold more than 200,000 copies in Asia, and 800,000 copies worldwide. Which is no small feat given it launched soon after AAA titles including Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West — and on a single console too. Has gaming played a big role in your personal life? Are there any games you’ve found yourself particularly hooked on?

EMMA: I used to play loads of video games growing up and they were a big part of my childhood. My faves were games like Crash Bandicoot, Pandemonium, Donkey Kong and Mario Kart! There was also a lot of Grand Theft Auto in our house (my brothers were obsessed). I don’t play as much as I’d like to currently, but I feel like that might change soon. I still pinch myself daily that I get to do this as my job!

TAHLIA: Triangle Strategy raises some poignant questions about our choices and their consequences — especially in today’s world. What would you like players to ultimately take away from the story?

EMMA: I can’t speak for SQEX or any of the creatives on this point, but for me personally, I see this game as providing an amazing opportunity to explore the human condition. Compassion, empathy and the complexities of moral conundrums would be my dream takeaways.

Triangle Strategy is now available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.

For those wanting to try before they buy, the first three chapters are available as a free demo from Nintendo’s eShop. If you decide to purchase the full game afterwards, you can seamlessly carry over your progress from the prologue.

Special thanks to Emma Ballantine and her team at Just Voices for their time. You can follow Emma and her future projects over on Twitter and you can see her in the Prime Video series The Devil’s Hour.

Tahlia Norrish
Tahlia Norrish
Tahlia Norrish is an Aussie actor, writer, and founder of The Actor's Dojo. She credits/blames an early obsession to Pokémon for her continued love of anime and gaming.

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