While the combat of games from yesteryear like Final Fantasy Tactics have been given new life and fresh polish in Triangle Startegy providing a load of fun, the rest of the package needs some work.
When I first heard about Triangle Strategy, I thought it was a dream come true. Strategic turn-based combat, a story of three nations staring at their neighbour’s resources and a prince out to prove himself. It reminded me so much of FF Tactics that I think my heart skipped a beat. Yet, while the combat of those games from yesteryear has been given new life and fresh polish, the rest of the package needs serious work…
The game starts with you following Serenoa, a young nobleman in a powerful house known for its usefulness in the last conflict. Even though what is called the Saltiron war happened 30 years ago, tensions and animosity still run high in the three kingdoms that were involved. And now, a joint venture between the three nations is underway in your neck of the woods, making your demesne the centre of a lot of powerful people’s attention.
The story has its charm, though I battled with how heavily the game would foreshadow events
Get ready for a political-charged narrative as you try to navigate the various schemes and machinations of all three nations and the various players within them. The story has its charm, though I battled with how heavily the game would foreshadow events. As an example of this a character would be shown scheming about using you for their plot just moments before arriving to make an apparent sugar-coated deal with you. If you (understandably) opted against the deal it would then immediately show the plotters angry at their failed plot and unleashing some horrid battle for you to deal with instead. I feel like if the story spent more time just focussed on Serenoa and what his friends knew, rather than giving you a chance to see every big player’s story and planning, there would be more time to feel betrayed, or more time spent weighing up options about whether something was really a plot against you or not.
The real battles
When not watching the political drama unfold (and watch you shall!) the game offers some rather superb combat. I daresay that if they halved the time taken between fights to go do more fighting, the game would be all the better for it. Combat plays out in a grid, with each unit getting a turn. It isn’t anything new if you have played a Tactics-derived game, but the way Triangle Strategy has refined the process is a load of fun. For example, if you move somewhere and realise you can’t attack from that position, you can undo that move and pick a better square, which really helps for those times you press a button by mistake, or if you misread an ability. Characters can make actions and then move, something that would normally end a turn in most tactics games.
Combat plays out in a grid, with each unit getting a turn. It isn’t anything new if you have played a Tactics-derived game, but the way Triangle Strategy has refined the process is a load of fun.
To add further depth and fun, attacking from the high ground is beneficial to you, as is flanking enemies and attacking from behind. An attack from behind will always be a critical hit, and if you attack a unit that you are flanking with a buddy, your buddy will get a free attack in too. By using clever positioning, units will get several attacks in, which really helps against the heavily armoured targets and boss-type enemies. Each character you command brings their own advantages too. Your chief attendant can buff allies, or allow you to take your turn immediately, while your fiancee is a powerful fire mage. The spy in your team can go invisible and perform two actions every turn, letting you poison enemies or tear them up with her dagger. As the game progresses you meet new people that bring all sorts of skills to the battlefield. One mage can turn units around with a wind spell, opening them up to back attacks, while a mounted healer can rush into combat to do area of effect healing.
Despite these positives during battles, I found it really annoying that the more I wanted to get to know the various people that made up my retinue, the faster the story would develop. There is never a moment of downtime in this game, meaning that the only moments you get to spend talking to your various friends are generally about massive ‘life and death’ stuff or something big and imminent that you need to vote on. I would have loved to see my characters grow over time, friendships developing or watching characters open up to one another on a long journey, but every time you deal with a massive battle or some life-altering event… the next one is right there, hot on its heels. You never process or resolve anything, it just ramps up again.
Even the game’s big namesake, the three defining moral paths that you can attempt to follow, feel lost as massive moments play out.
Even the game’s big namesake, the three defining moral paths that you can attempt to follow, feel lost as massive moments play out. Serenoa apparently leaves everything up to a vote, using special magical scales that his friends place coins in. While he doesn’t vote, that doesn’t stop you from trying to convince people to do what you would prefer the outcome to be. The problem is it just takes up more time; Time that you could be talking to characters and having their stories develop, but that instead ends up being them simply discussing the finer points of whether you should do A or B.
Still, if you can handle the odd line (or two!) of dialogue and the many cutscenes you have to watch, the combat is something absolutely great, with some really fun and challenging conditions to win. I can’t help but feel like Triangle Strategy bit off a bit more than it can chew. A politically-charged tale of three disparate nations, including internal power struggles, dozens of characters, a morality system, branching paths and a compelling tactics battle system that builds on 40 years of tradition and pedigree? That is a tall order for any studio. I just hope it does well enough for Triangle Strategy to spawn another title, something leaner and more focused. The world deserves that game.