Hands On: Triangle Strategy Delivers Deep Turn-Based Combat To Match Its Incredible Art

Image: Nintendo / Square Enix

As we’ve already reported, a brand new demo for Square Enix’s upcoming tactical RPG, Triangle Strategy, dropped onto the Switch eShop during the latest Nintendo Direct and it’s a pretty generous offering, giving players a chance to dig into the game’s prologue with all progress carrying over to the main game, should you choose to pick it up when it releases on 4th March.

We’ve been spending plenty of time with Triangle Strategy over the past week and can tell you that the prologue, which should take you a solid two or three hours to blast through, does a great job of introducing a bunch of the game’s central characters as well as giving you a handful of battles to get stuck into that slowly layer on tactical elements, resulting in some pleasingly strategic early enemy encounters.

Triangle Strategy, which shares a similar visual style to Octopath Traveler — dubbed HD-2D by Square Enix and being put to use in other games, notably the Live A Live remake announced in the Nintendo Direct — but is not a sequel to that game, sees us transported to the fictional land of Norzelia in the aftermath of the “Saltiron War”, a long-term conflict waged between the continent’s three nations Glenbrook, Aesfrost and Hyzante. Players assume the role of Serenoa Wollfort, a legendary warrior and heir to the throne of the House of Wollfort, as he and his comrades set out to navigate their way through a brand new conflict which threatens to erupt from the uneasy truce that’s just about being held between the three factions at the beginning of the game.

With regards to the political machinations which are the focal point of the story in the game’s early stages, Triangle Strategy employs a “conviction” system which sees Serenoa make key choices in response to certain narrative encounters, and your responses here will bolster one of three convictions – Utility, Morality, Liberty – which together make up the young Wollfort’s world view and influence how the story will unfold. You won’t get to dig into this aspect of the game too much during the demo, but it’s certainly an aspect we’re looking forward to watching develop as we dive deeper into this one in the weeks ahead.

Producer Tomoya Asano, who previously worked on both Octopath Traveler and the Bravely Default series, has spoken of how Triangle Strategy would drop some traditional JRPG aspects in favour of a more tactical flavour, and in this regard the gameplay we’ve experienced so far has made some nice changes to the usual ebb and flow of proceedings. You won’t find yourself filling the shoes of multiple protagonists à la Octopath Traveler here, with the story as we’ve seen so far concentrated on Serenoa’s journey, helping to keep the whole experience more focused rather than constantly whisking you off to other narrative strands for extended periods of time.

You won’t find yourself filling the shoes of multiple protagonists à la Octopath Traveler here […] helping to keep the whole experience more focused

You will still have the opportunity to view different aspects of the story and various goings-on outside of camp Wollfort by jumping into story sequences that pop up on the world map from time to time between missions, but the main thrust, at least in these early hours, keeps you locked into Serenoa and his party of friends.

The constant random combat encounters of traditional JRPGs have also been axed — at least as far as we know from our time with the prologue — and battles are now fully contained events that are signalled before they take place, allowing you to prepare your squad, return to the game’s encampment area to buy supplies, level up weapons and promote characters before settling in for fights that can last a good long while as you attempt to outsmart some rather tricky foes.

It all makes for a rather nice flow overall, with plenty of detailed exposition sequences and narrative choices to be made, interspersed with big meaty battles and free roam segments that allow you to wander around the game’s wonderful little settlement dioramas. Triangle Strategy certainly lays the foundations for its story well, taking its sweet time to introduce factions and characters and very slowly working towards the turning point that sees trouble rear its head towards the end of the prologue demo.

Putting together chains of attacks to take down enemies here is satisfying stuff and making the effort to think a few moves ahead can lead to big rewards

In terms of the battle system itself, it’s a turn-based affair taking place on a grid layout that highlights where your active party member can move to during a turn, with plenty of indicators of safe spots as well as information on enemy lines of sight, potential attack damage and which of your foes are currently within range. There’s a handy simulation mode that you can use during fights to safely test how your moves will play out, ample opportunity to position troops pre-battle and kudos awarded for pulling off special moves and blazing a trail through your foes with style. Kudos can then be spent as an alternative form of currency, so it quite literally pays to play clever during face-offs here.

Taking the high ground plays a big role in scraps too, with increased damage dished out should you attack from a vantage point, and you’ll also need to constantly and carefully consider unit positioning, as placing a squad member on either side of a foe can see you activate follow-up attacks, striking once with your active party member before having a comrade automatically attack from the opposite direction for a double damage combo. Putting together chains of attacks to take down enemies here is satisfying stuff and making the effort to think a few moves ahead can lead to big rewards as you utilise the powers of your entire party to rip through opposing forces.

Even during the handful of hours you’ll get to experience in the prologue demo, there’s lots of opportunity to tool around with that follow-up attack system as well as getting your head around the various skills that party members bring to the fight. Serenoa, for example, is a straight-up swordsman who does decent damage with his base level attack and can also stagger opponents for a turn with a stronger strike. Frederica gives you pyromancer opportunities, with the ability to set fire to both enemies and grid squares, Anna is a spy who hides in the shadows and can dish out two attacks per turn, Roland takes on foes with his lance from horseback, and both Benedict and Geela work from the rear of the pack to provide all-important healing and defense/attack buffs.

Elemental attacks play a big part in the action here too, and there’s strategy to be employed in freezing both enemies and areas of the battle map or even setting fire to frozen areas in order to create wet zones that can then be turned into death traps with a quick blast of electricity. You can also purchase oil jars that give you the ability to lay down fiery traps and create impassable walls of flame to help you decimate your foes and control the battlefield.

There’s plenty to get to grips with in the opening hours of Triangle Strategy all told, and although we reckon the narrative pace may be a little on the slow side for some players, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying what we’ve sampled of its mix of political intrigue, free roam sections and those great big juicy battles. We’ll be continuing our adventures in Norzelia over the next few weeks as we prepare our review of the game, but for now we highly recommend you jump into the prologue demo and check this one out for yourself as it’s certainly shaping up to be something pretty special so far.

Triangle Strategy launches on Switch on 4th March. The demo is available now on the Switch eShop.

Will you be diving into the Triangle Strategy Prologue demo? If so, make sure to let us know how you’re finding the opening hours of the game in the comments!

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