Most fans of tactical gaming would automatically look to a platform that needs a desk, monitor, and keyboard and mouse, but there is another way. Truth be told, Nintendo’s consoles have always been a reliable place to find a spot of strategy, with genre greats like Advance Wars and Fire Emblem the kind of exclusives that are worth buying a Nintendo-flavoured piece of hardware for.
Triangle Strategy from Square Enix is seemingly so strategic it put it in the title, but even from the opening three chapters we’re able to preview – the same three chapters now available in the updated eShop demo – this tactical RPG feels like a game more interested in the tales it can tell rather than the number of spaces you can move.
Let’s begin with the obvious fact that putting stories into this genre is no bad thing. Triangle Strategy builds its world and its narrative with meticulous care, mixing in a healthy dose of (heavily sanitised) Game of Thrones-ing alongside a power struggle ripped straight out of Dune.
Three mighty powers reign in the land of Norzelia – Glenbrook, Aesfrost, and Hyzante – each a distinct kingdom with their own landscape and trade. Aesfrost is a wintry realm, with equally chilly residents, and they sit on an immense iron deposit. Mining is a way of life for them. The Sun-kissed Hyzante meanwhile is off in the east, controlling ‘salt’, a substance that may be a condiment, though it could also be more than that. They speak about it like it’s the spice melange from Dune, but I haven’t quite decided if it is genuinely just something you put on your chips.
Glenbrook is the third kingdom, and it’s where we start out. It serves as the mediator between the other two kingdoms. It’s also a military power house, and well respected by both sides. The fact that a new mine has been discovered in Glenbrook only serves to strengthen them, but even here they’re collaborating, taking the knowledge and support of the other kingdoms to assist in discovering its delights. There’s hope in the air that this could help to cement the somewhat wary peace that Norzelia is experiencing. Anyone that’s played the eShop demo (either new or old) will know that’s probably unlikely.
You take control of Serenoa. He’s the son of Lord Wolffort, and his sole heir. Their family is second only to the royal family of Glenbrook, so they’re pretty well-to-do, and he’s also been betrothed to a younger daughter of the Aesfrosty monarchy. Do you see? Even in marriage they’re mediating.
Your central party revolves around Serenoa, and you swiftly gain members to your cause. Thankfully they all fit the RPG archetypes you’re going to need, from a powerful lancer and his trusty steed through to a sneaky thief who can surreptitiously find a second turn. They’re all well designed, with the opening punctuated by a serious case of getting to know you. That individuality follows them onto the battlefield, and you’ll easily find the rhythms of battle, and their character types, to fit like a well-worn strategic glove.
The tactical action is, at the opening, pretty forgiving, but there’s the sensation that it’s lulling you into a false sense of security. As is the way for this particularly tried and tested genre you need to focus on placement of your characters, whether that’s finding the high ground to cause extra damage, or to sandwich opponents between two characters so you gain a follow up attack. As your characters level up new skills become available, and I’m sure once you’re deep into the game the tactical options are going to have your head spinning.
However long you spend mulling it over, Triangle Strategy looks beautiful. Marrying the stylings of Octopath Travelller with the isometric landscapes means that this is a game that looks wholly modern while being utterly respectful of the past. RPG fans won’t be able to help themselves when they get their hands on it in a few short weeks. I’m just hoping that the time spent on tactical action does eventually outweigh the storytelling.