Subtle and sublime are descriptors that most aptly fit the $59.99 Triangle Strategy. Subtle, because the strategy-RPG’s highly accessible gameplay elements, impeccable balance, and narrative integration aren’t immediately apparent. Sublime, because the sum of its parts elevate the game, producing one of the most polished titles for the Nintendo Switch. On top of that, excellent combat, engaging story facets, and diverging campaign routes keep you engrossed for the lengthy, 50+ hour game. It’s just a shame Triangle Strategy has such a banal name, because the game is anything but.
Parley Between Houses
Triangle Strategy takes place in a realm called Norzelia, and focuses on three kingdoms—Glenbrook, Aesfrost, and Hyzante—that form the titular Triangle. These nations formed an alliance following the devastating Saltiron War, but the armistice is faltering by the time the game starts. You assume the role of Serenoa Wolffort, heir to Glenbrook’s most prominent house, and friend to the kingdom’s prince, Roland. It doesn’t take much for the powder keg to ignite, and what follows is a winding political adventure that touches on religious manipulation, fabricated fear, discrimination, and the ignorance of a generation removed from the ravages of war. These themes come through in the varied combat situations; rich playable characters; and branching, player-influenced story.
At key points in the narrative, you’ll find situations that require you to make a critical choice. This isn’t as clear cut as simply selecting the appropriate text box; your party has their own stake in the decisions, too. You influence the party members by speaking with them, sharing information you’ve learned while exploring, or reasoning with them based on their personality. The story diverges based on who casts what vote in your favor, so Triangle Strategy has surprising replay value. The story can significantly shift and pivot based on these decisions, which is in turn dependent on what you’ve learned through the story. It gives you a surprising amount of agency, since it feels like you are making genuine connections and decisions for your entourage.
Between combat and story scenarios, you can explore the quaint locales or watch events unfold in other regions that affect other factions. Still, the story exclusively follows Serenoa and his house, which keeps the plot concise. There is a lot of dialogue in this story-driven game: When you’re not making decisions, you’re watching numerous cutscenes. This is particularly true early in the game, when Triangle Strategy is still establishing its world and characters. This makes the pacing feel a bit sluggish, especially if you just want to move dudes around on a grid. The action picks up as the plot advances, but this slowness doesn’t dissipate entirely.
Take Up Arms
Conflict is inevitable, and once the wheels of war begin to turn, Serenoa and his party must wade through increasingly more difficult and dangerous skirmishes to make progress. Combat is a standard, turn-based affair—at first glance. You can take 10 units into battle, configure their position on the map, and use their attacks and special abilities to eliminate the enemy threat. The grid-based maps are reminiscent of the maps you find in Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem. Triangle Strategy shakes things up by adding layers of additional mechanics to this standard combat frame, while also giving you a suite of tools to make informed stratagems on-the-fly, making encounters thoroughly engaging and addicting, yet still fiendishly challenging.
Triangle Strategy offers a simulation mode at the start of a turn. This lets you play out moves without committing to them, so you can see the damage they’ll do. Like Fire Emblem, Triangle Strategy has boldly colored grids that denote movement and attack ranges, so you can clearly and easily see what each unit is capable of delivering in combat.
You’ll lean on every class that the game offers, thanks to Triangle Strategy’s excellent gameplay balance. Roland, for example, is a cavalry unit with excellent range. His spear attacks have a massive range that extends two tiles ahead of him, essentially letting him strike two targets in one turn. Anna, on the other hand, is a highly mobile assassin who can climb any elevation with her special ability, backstab for critical damage, and make herself un-targetable for several turns. Every unit you recruit has unique abilities and perks, and all of them are incredibly useful.
Unique terrain features enrich fights. Height gives units an attack advantage, so archers raining arrows from on-high are amazingly potent. Special abilities can create unique combos or environmental hazards. For example, you can set fire to a tile with fire magic, then unleash a wind-based ability or spell to spread the fire in your favor. There are numerous combinations like this in the game, which really opens up the strategy.
Triangle Strategy is generous with information. Hovering over a tile shows which enemies can attack it, for example, minimizing the chances of a bone-headed decision that could cost you the unit, or potentially the battle. The game even suggests which party members to take with you into a battle, and lets you buy supplies or rank up units before you jump to a proper battle. These are wonderful, highly convenient perks, yet they do not diminish the overall challenge.
As your roster and abilities expand, so do the challenges each scenario presents. One fight may limit you to a platform-heavy stage with spike-riddled pitfalls, for example. A later stage may plop you on a highly flammable tile set. Another may put you on an uphill battle, where you fight a gauntlet of enemies as you make your way to the top. The combat experience is a fine one. The only real missed opportunity is the lack of any touch-screen controls. As a Nintendo Switch title, I would have liked it to select and move units with the touchpad when playing the game undocked. Triangle Strategy is fine without them, but the feature would be a tremendous convenience when playing on the go.
Classic Visuals, Modern Aesthetic
I’m a big fan of the high-definition, 2D look that Triangle Strategy employs, previously seen in Octopath Traveler. The set pieces are packed with detail, despite their seemingly pixelated façade. Every colorful diorama has some eye-catching visuals to match the deliberately dated sprite work, like the soft glow of light from windows at night, the glisten of running water, or the gentle flutter of fabric in the wind.
Likewise, the music is fantastic, and dynamic, to boot. The orchestral score matches the flow of battle, so it’s triumphant and upbeat when you’re in the lead, and much more dramatic and dire when the situation is grim.
Triangle Strategy runs at 30 frames per second on Nintendo Switch, and the frame rate remains fairly consistent throughout the game. There are a handful of late-game situations where the framerate dips, particularly during highly populated fights, but it isn’t too frequent, thankfully.
A Winning Stratagem
Triangle Strategy is an entrancing strategy-RPG with top-notch combat, a captivating story, and a great cast of characters to familiarize yourself with as you determine Norzelia’s fate. The story scenes and dialogue-heavy interludes can slow the game’s pacing, which can make the game feel like a drag if you aren’t enthralled by the plot. On the flip side, if you are engrossed by the story, the decision-driven plot and excellent characterization are a huge plus. Paired with the excellent combat mechanics and charming visuals, Triangle Strategy boasts a winning formula, and easily stands alongside established franchises like Fire Emblem, Disgaea, and Final Fantasy Tactics.
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Triangle Strategy (for Nintendo Switch)
The Bottom Line
Triangle Strategy is an outstanding tactical-RPG that brilliantly marries narrative-based decision making with polished fantasy and strategy elements, making it a must-buy game for genre fans.
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