I’d never claim to be a great general. Whenever I play Stellaris, my beloved race of pacifist alien jellyfish all tend to end up as tasty delicacies on the plate of the local space predators. Let’s say nothing about how my entire empire ended up being ruled by horses when I played Crusader Kings. It’s embarrassing, really. Fortunately, somewhat more understandable strategy-RPGs like Triangle Strategy allow me to get a better handle on the subtleties of tactics while not offering me so many choices that I fall flat on my face. It’s a mercy, really.
The continent of Norzelia has seen some hard times. The three great powers of the continent – northern Aesfrost, southern Hyzante and central Glenbrook – have been locked in a great war over Aesfrost’s iron resources and Hyzante’s salt resources. Don’t worry, you’ll rapidly come to understand just why salt is so valuable that blood might be shed over it. While the war is over and a tentative peace has arrived, tensions remain high. We follow Glenbrook noble Serenoa and his friends as they navigate the eruption of another conflict that threatens to consume Norzelia.
Does the above sound interesting to you? Let’s hope so! If it doesn’t, you might rapidly find that this isn’t the game for you. In contrast to its spiritual predecessor Octopath Traveler, which was an experience that prioritized gameplay over character development, Triangle Strategy is all about its plot and characters. You’ll either come to love your cast of heroes or you’ll end up dropping the game, since the story-to-combat ratio here is probably around 3:1 in terms of time you’ll spend doing each. That’s not a complaint per se, but more of an observation.
If you enjoy grand strategy at all, you’re bound to have a good time following the three nations’ machinations. What’s more, Serenoa will play an increasingly significant role in the conflict, both as a fighter and as a statesman. In order to do so, Serenoa and his allies will make use of the Scales of Conviction. As you explore the world and make decisions during dialogue, Serenoa’s convictions will strengthen in certain, hidden directions. When it comes time to make a key decision, like which nation to ally with, the heroes will converge and cast a vote on what should be done.
A properly-convicted Serenoa who wields a silver tongue can convince his allies to see things his way, allowing you to make significant changes to the way the plot flows. There’s plenty of replay value on offer here when it comes to going back and see how the world might have changed if you decided to do things just a little differently.
You don’t spend a huge amount of time fighting, as mentioned. This is a game with a story first and battles second. When you are fighting, though, Triangle Strategy owes a lot to the classics of the strategy-RPG genre, particularly Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics. You’ll typically field seven to nine characters per battle, with each focused on a particular set of skills. There’s no real customization here – everyone’s good at what they’re good at and you can’t really switch that up. Serenoa’s always going to be a somewhat-tanky melee powerhouse, for instance, while his fire-flinging fiancee Frederica is going to be your ranged artillery.
It’s possible to adjust character stats slightly by upgrading their gear, but you won’t be turning anyone into something they weren’t already.
That said, the fun comes in when you start using the characters together and emphasizing their strengths. Combining Frederica’s fire magic with a friendly cryomancer’s ice will allow you to get the battlefield nice and soggy. It’s hard to fight while drenched, offering an advantage over your foes, and that advantage becomes even more pronounced if you then electrify the water and fry those fools alive. Triangle Strategy’s simple on the surface, but you’ll need to put its mechanics to work to progress.
You’re often overpowered and almost always outnumbered, so making the most of your fighters is of paramount importance. You can take a break and grind levels if you find you need to do so, so unlike some early SRPGs it’s not really possible to get stuck for lack of experience.
Triangle Strategy also earns some points for being absolutely gorgeous. It’s a similar HD-2D sort of game to Octopath Traveler, meaning it captures the essence of classic 2D games while bringing the style forward to more powerful hardware. Environments, characters and battle animations alike are a treat. Outside of some annoying load times, Triangle Strategy’s presentation is hard to argue with and definitely serves as one of the game’s selling points.
All that said, strategy-RPG fans who are in for the long haul when it comes to plot will have a great time with Triangle Strategy. Serenoa’s story spans around fifteen to twenty hours, depending on how difficult you find combat and how much time you spend grinding, and if you enjoy the journey you’ll probably want to revisit the game to see different plot branches. Combine all that with the wonderful graphics and Triangle Strategy makes for a superlative RPG experience on the Switch.