Triangle Strategy Starts Too Slowly, But Shows Promise With One Cool Feature

Triangle Strategy has a free demo that encompasses the first three chapters of the upcoming tactical HD-2D turn-based JRPG. Those three chapters take about four hours to complete, which sounds like a fairly decent chunk of the game if you’re looking to check it out prior to deciding whether to buy it–and since your progress from the demo carries over, you don’t have to worry about playing those four hours over again. But a huge portion of that four hours is scene after scene of story exposition. There’s a potentially good game here with Triangle Strategy, but it takes way too long to set-up its fantastical world and get to its most promising feature.

In Triangle Strategy, you play as Serenoa Wolffort, a young man who has recently taken control of House Wolffort. Serenoa lives in the continent of Norzelia, a land that has entered a strained peace as its three countries–Glenbrook, Aesfrost, and Hyzante–agree to a truce in order to avoid all-out war. Glenbrook is most well-known for its military might and managing trade routes, while Aesfrost and Hyzante control the continent’s most valuable resources, iron and salt, respectively.

Now Playing: Triangle Strategy Update Trailer | Nintendo Direct February 2022

Alongside becoming the new lord of House Wolffort, Serenoa must prepare for his arranged wedding with Frederica Aesfrost, a union designed to unite Glenbrook and Aesfrost, pressuring Hyzante to remain in the proposed alliance or risk becoming the weakest country. It is a fragile peace at best–the first few hours of Triangle Strategy constantly imply that the continent is a powder keg, and everyone is warily eyeing each other while holding lit matches.

Triangle Strategy endeavors to impart all of Norzelia’s backstory prior to actually putting the plot in motion, making for one of the slowest opening arcs I’ve ever seen. It certainly doesn’t help that so much of the setup involves tired tropes that aren’t all that interesting. Like, Serenoa is a good-natured man in a cynical world, whose desire for peace and cooperation attracts a large number of followers and allies. And despite her noble birth, Frederica faces discrimination for her pink hair (a physical signifier of her Rosellan heritage–Triangle Strategy’s stand-in fantasy race for “marginalized people”). And who could have possibly foreseen that the religious country that preaches freedom for all and is also supposedly devoid of any and all crime is actually *gasp* not all that of a great place to live if you don’t buy into the teachings of the ruling faith? Everyone who’s ever played a fantasy JRPG before, that’s who. It’s all stuff that’s been done before (and better) in other fantasy games.

Granted, these are all storylines and tropes explored in many recent HD-2D JRPGs, like the Bravely Default series and Octopath Traveler. And given the fact that Tomoya Asano–producer for the Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler games–is leading the team on Triangle Strategy, it’s not a huge surprise that Triangle Strategy is exploring themes and tropes we’ve seen in those games. I just wish Triangle Strategy would have broken free of those storylines (and it very well could since I’ve only played the first four hours). It’s disheartening to see Triangle Strategy seemingly just retread old ground as opposed to doing something new.

All that said, Triangle Strategy’s opening three chapters have two saving graces: combat and character relationships. The game’s tactical turn-based battles play out like something seen in Fire Emblem, with different characters taking on specific roles, encouraging some semblance of planning and purposeful consideration to every fight. It’s fairly straightforward and approachable in the game’s opening chapters–you don’t have to be a strategic wizard to win fights.

Triangle Strategy shows the most promise in how it tackles the evolving relationships between its characters. House Wolffort isn’t like the other houses–it doesn’t follow the direction of its one lord; instead, the leader of the house picks their seven closest and trusted companions and they in turn vote to decide the best course of action. It is the lord’s job to listen to their advisors’ words, potentially trying to sway them if need be but always following their lead.

This means that your direction in the campaign is not entirely your own. All of your companions have their own goals and dreams, each of which evolves depending on how the story develops. Their relationship to Serenoa can also change depending on his convictions and ideals, which are defined by the choices you make in conversations and the decisions you make in battle.

Triangle Strategy’s demo only offers a taste of how this can play out, presenting the opportunity mid-way through the preview to visit Aesfrost or Hyzante as a representative of the king. You don’t have enough time to visit both, and you’ll get different stories and companions depending on where you end up. But you can’t just pick which to go to–your party picks for you. Prior to the choice being made, you can see where everyone stands and then try to convince people to change their position if you so desire. The dialogue options you have at your disposal in those moments are determined based on what information you learned from previous conversations, and your ability to sway others to your cause will depend on how they think of you. So while some folks may be easy to convince, others may prove significantly more difficult.

In my playthrough, I did my best to convince my seven companions to visit Hyzante, and though I did manage to secure enough votes in my favor, I didn’t talk everyone into agreeing with me. It made what would have been an already harrowing RPG choice–it’s implied that your decision to go to one country over the other may impact Glenbrook’s relations with the other two nations–even more stressful. After thinking it over and making my choice, I had to accept the realization that it was completely possible that my party members would decide to do something else. As they one-by-one cast their votes, I waited with bated breath to see where my companions were choosing to take me.

It’s an intriguing enough feature that I will probably give Triangle Strategy the benefit of the doubt and see how the game’s story unfolds past its slow opening chapters. I’m running under the assumption that the alliance uniting Glenbrook, Aesfrost, and Hyzante isn’t going to last very long–the game has utilized numerous fantasy tropes already, so what’s one more? And in a typical RPG, where I alone decide the fate of the story, I’d probably aim for a return to peace. But Triangle Strategy doesn’t leave it up to me–this is a story where my companions’ decisions carry more agency than the protagonist–and that opens up the potential for my fate to be an interesting surprise.

Triangle Strategy is set to launch for Switch on March 4.

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