As De La Soul rightfully pointed out, three is the magic number (other notable numbers include Number Two, who is Captain Picard’s second in command, and there’s obviously the Fantastic Four and then the Famous Five). Square Enix have harnessed the mystical power of three with the three-sided Project Triangle Strategy – sadly only a working title – all set to be a veritable Toblerone of tactical RPG goodness.
Following its announcement in this week’s Nintendo Direct, a Project Triangle Strategy Debut Demo was released on the Nintendo eShop, which we eagerly downloaded.
In the land of Norzelia, three mighty powers reign – Glenbrook, Aesfrost, and Hyzante – each a distinct kingdom with their own landscape and trade. In fact, trade is at the heart of Project Triangle’s conflict, with each nation controlling a vital resource that its neighbours are after. That nutritional pyramid scheme spills over into all-out war, known as the Saltiron War, presumably because those were the key commodities that they needed that day. A few packets of beef crisps could have probably solved it all.
Despite the end of the salt and iron shortage, just as peace was settling across Norzelia, Aesfrost decided they weren’t actually too keen on peace, and invaded Glenbrook instead. In response, House Wolffort, highest of the three high houses of Glenbrook – Square Enix are really pushing the power of three here – sends out Serenoa, a young Duke, to take up arms against the despicable Archduke. I was surprised to discover that there’s four people in your party, though I suppose you could also say that Serenoa has a trio of companions.
The demo drops you into Chapter VI, entitled Remember Me and set on the very night of Aesfrost’s invasion, so we can assume that the first five chapters are the build-up to this key moment, or maybe we’ll get a taste of the Ironsalt War to sate our hunger.
It’s clear from the very start that Project Triangle boasts the same dedication to fantastic audio as its predecessor Octopath Traveller, and obviously shares the same sumptuous HD-2D art style. Besides the emphatic orchestration that perfectly underscores the unfolding drama (though we’d argue there aren’t enough triangle solos), the key speech is all spoken and delivered in an engrossing, believable way. It’s helped along by well-written lines of dialogue that we can only hope will be carried throughout the rest of the game.
Octopath’s mature writing remains a highlight of that game – outside of the H’aanit’s painful to read Middle English – and if we’re following one grand narrative rather than eight, Project Triangle can avoid the slightly underwhelming conclusion of its predecessor.
Gameplay is comprised of multiple phases, and players will find exploration sandwiched between story sections and battles. These sections allow you to explore the area, talk to other characters, nab items, and stake out terrain features that might help you in the coming battle. Conversation during these sections may include, you guessed it, three options that can influence certain character’s actions, strengthening their resolve or pushing them further away.
It’s all related to the three major guiding convictions – the Dairylea triangle of conviction, if you will – made up of Utility, Morality and Liberty. Your choices will shape Serenoa’s convictions, altering his own outlook, as well as those around him, which has the potential to be an interesting mechanic if it’s followed through.
As a turn-based tactical RPG, Project Triangle will immediately speak to fans of similar fare like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea and Fire Emblem. Just as in those games, positioning of your characters will be crucial to success, as will the use of terrain features that give you an advantage. There are some nice additions to the formula, including a nod to Octopath in the need to hold onto action points in order to deal more damage, but fans of tactical RPGs will likely feel right at home from the start.
Octopath Traveller was one of the most visually arresting RPGs of the last few years, and Project Triangle leans on the same engine to startling effect. If you’re a fan of classic RPGs of the past, from Grandia through to the early Final Fantasy games, the art style is going to speak to you on all sorts of levels. This is undoubtedly a modern game though, and the way the water sparkles and the magical effects explode, all the while appearing like a perfectly formed vignette, will have your synapses firing with glee.
If we’re looking for a downside, it’s that the HD-2D art style and viewpoint occasionally made it hard to discern characters and enemies during the combat section. That said, by the end of the demo, I’d become much more adept at moving everyone around, and with the game not expected until 2022, it’s fair to say that the team have plenty of time for making sure everyone pops from the landscape too – Square Enix will be asking for feedback on the Debut Demo with a survey at some point.
Joining a host of marvellous triangular things, Project Triangle Strategy could have a narrative as fluid as a PG Tips tea bag, a cast of characters as sweet as a Toblerone, and gameplay with the snap and crunchy of a Dorito. They do only have one shot at it – really, for the magic to work it needs to be a trilogy – but from every angle, Project Triangle Strategy looks like another glorious RPG from Square Enix. This is definitely one to keep an eye-ess, oh-ess, sea-ee ell-ee-ess on.