Triangle Strategy (a working title), revealed during the latest Nintendo Direct, is a new tactical RPG developed by Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler team. Like Octopath Traveler, Triangle Strategy also features the same “2D-HD” visual style. The game is set to release sometime in 2022, but a vertical slice demo dropped alongside the latest Direct and I finally found some time to dig into it over the weekend. If the rest of the game lives up to this demo, it may just be the Final Fantasy Tactics sequel I’ve been waiting 20 years for.
The demo gives us a taste of some of the game’s earlier chapters (around 6-7) and the story we’re introduced to, at least so far, is unfortunately a bit generic, but it works. You play as Serenoa, the lord of House Wolffort, a member of the Kingdom of Glenbrook. The game’s continent of Norzelia is broken up into three powers: Glenbrook, Aesfort, and Hyzante. These three powers exist in an uneasy truce following a major resource-driven conflict. When our adventure begins, the Kingdom of Aesfort, led by Archduke Gustadolph, invades the kingdom of Glenbrook and what results looks to be a very Game of Thrones-esque narrative full of political intrigue and, more importantly, player choice.
The things you say and the actions you take as Serenoa can have both a major and minor impact in how the events of the game play out in Triangle Strategy. Your actions have an impact on a hidden Convictions system, which are broken into three categories: Utility, Morality, and Liberty. The choices you make and how strongly you align with those convictions can make the difference between which party members will join your party, for example. Later, you’ll be introduced to the Scales of Conviction, a system that plays directly into the game’s branching narrative by allowing a consensus opinion to form around major decisions. Serenoa has his own vote, but must abide by the majority choice of his party in the end. That said, Serenoa can attempt to persuade party members to his position by using information he gathers in the world.
So far, I haven’t been blown away by the overarching story, the generic medieval tropes work as a foundation, but I suspect I’ll be more impressed with the ways the game allows me to guide that narrative with my choices. The voice acting, however, is outright atrocious, with the game’s lead of Serenoa being the worst of the bunch. It’s fan project level bad in many cases. Hopefully, it’s placeholder and we’ll see improved VO in the final release, otherwise I’ll probably end up turning off the VO entirely.
Where Triangle Strategy really impresses is in its gameplay. While it’s true there are similarities to FFT, it’d be fair to say that the game overall has more in common with the Tactics Ogre series. Combat plays out on grid based battlefield with aspects such as height, positioning, and terrain types all factoring in just as they would in both games, but where Triangle Strategy leans more towards Tactics Ogre is in the larger party sizes and the way the player can interact with the environment. The latter of which is one of the most interesting wrinkles of the combat formula.
One of my magic users could create walls of ice on the battlefield to physically block opponents. In another battle, I found myself fighting in a field of wheat that could be set ablaze by enemies as well as one of my fire slinging spell casters. This was a danger for my team, but also a boon if used properly against my enemy. I could set the field ablaze and use my tank to ram other units into the flames, for example. I could also nullify the threat entirely with a party member I was able to recruit due to the decisions I made in the story. This unit was a shaman with the ability to call in a rainstorm that puts out flames across the entire map and floods certain tiles. It’s a joy to have to consider these decisions in battle. Do I leave the double-edged sword threat of fire available as an option for both me and my enemy? Or do I remove it from the board entirely? This option wouldn't even be available had I not recruited the shaman earlier on.
One key difference between both FFT and Tactics Ogre is that it’s unclear if Triangle Strategy will feature some sort of Job system. All of the units I’ve encountered so far are characters with specialized classes as part of their identity. There doesn’t appear to be the sort of generic units you might find in FFT or TO or any ability to customize characters’ progression outside of gear. Perhaps TS will work similarly to Octopath Traveler, in the sense that characters will have the ability to later pick a secondary Job to focus on. Absent a system like this, I do worry about the game’s replayability. There’s certainly potential for replayability when it comes to the narrative, but the reason games like FFT have endured for as long as they have comes down to the almost endless ways one can configure a party, and that’s something that’s missing from TS in this demo.
Some minor nitpicks aside, I came away impressed with my experience playing the Triangle Strategy demo and I can already tell it will be one of my most anticipated games of 2022. If you’re a fan of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, or Disgaea, you should stop reading this right now and go download the Triangle Strategy demo on your Switch.
Have you played the Triangle Strategy demo? What are your thoughts so far?