Project Triangle Strategy (a working title) is brought to you by the same developer of similar strategic role-playing games you might have played, including Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, and more recently, Octopath Traveler. In which case, this game, being Square Enix’s latest HD-2D title, will make you feel right at home. If 2018’s Octopath Traveler especially whisked you away into a trip of nostalgia via its charming graphics, head-bobbing soundtrack and thrilling combat, all mixed in with fun yet gripping storytelling, this new demo should be getting you the most excited.
Even if tactical RPGs are new to you, however, there’s still a lot to love. This is said to be an early representation compared to how the final product may turn out, but if Square Enix stays on this path, we may be looking at another classic. Although there’s a variety of appealing aspects of this slice of the game to talk about, we’ll head right into the story first since its divergent paths are without a doubt the game’s greatest strengths thus far.
There’s going to be some minor spoilers ahead, but I won’t go into anything major, so you can download it now and enjoy the big surprises for yourself.
The Project Triangle Strategy demo is playable on Nintendo Switch via a free download on the Nintendo eShop.
STORY – YOUR CHOICES ACTUALLY MATTER
Giving us fair warning right at the beginning, the Project Triangle Strategy demo starts you off part-way through the tale, in what appears to be at a climax of the game’s complex political intrigue and conflict. Whilst initially strange to drop a player in the midst of a heavy narrative, it’s clear that this is for the sake of better showcasing the battle system. Invaded by the oppressive Aesfrosti army following the Iron Salt War, the conquered kingdom of Glenbrook has had its capital occupied and the king held captive. With stakes raised early over bloodshed, crown prince Roland attempts to escape part of your large party of companions, including those from Glenbrook’s honourable Bannermen, House Wolfort.
Despite being in the middle of the narrative, the sneak peek delivers Project Triangle Strategy’s exposition quite well. With a mere introduction of several minutes, the opening segments remain concise, engrossing us in the narrative enough to make us care about our heroes without feeling too overwhelmed before heading right into the first of its two strategic battles.
With the main element of the story being sheltering a particular ally from their allies, it eventually diverges based on your biggest choice, which ultimately results in one of two paths playing out differently for the rest of the playthrough. What’s also wonderful is that the narrative and gameplay that follow are experiences totally unique from one another, making this chunk of Project Triangle Strategy worth a revisit even after you’re met with the demo’s end screen.
What’s more, these story branches can depend on you influencing other characters by the voting system. Optionally exploring other areas, speaking to townspeople and gathering intelligence, you can uncover key bits of information that can influence your party – ultimately changing their decision and altering the final outcome of the story. Any game encouraging you to go the extra mile, using your head to figure out alternatives instead of going the extra route always hints that you’re playing a decent title, and Project Triangle Strategy is doing just that.
Although the reception of the tactical RPG’s voice acting seems to vary across outlets, it’s in my opinion that most performances are quite strong across the board. As far as the introduction to this role-playing title goes, anyway. Only one or two of the large number of characters showcased thus far gave sketchy performances. Although, the full game looks to have dozens, if not hundreds of characters in total. When experiencing a dense and complex narrative that this game looks to present, one bad display of voice acting can disrupt immersion entirely. Before the finished title hits storefronts, let’s hope Square Enix does a thorough assessment of quality assurance checks and call for re-recordings where necessary.
A nice touch, though, is that whenever a character’s speaking, you have access to a profile button that shows off their full character design, name and house allegiance – a straightforward solution to the inevitable “who’s who” you may have after long breaks between play sessions of the full game.
Pacing, on the other hand, is an interesting one since how you view it depends entirely on your preference. In between battles, players are taken to the world map, where there’s a selection of cutscenes to view – some optional, along with the main cutscene that takes the story forward. After viewing one of the optional scenes, you’re taken right back to the world menu where you’d select the next scene. From one perspective, this gives players more agency, letting them decide whether they want to view all of the extra lore or get right into the core story.
However, after viewing all of the cutscenes myself, it ALL seems to be part of the core story. If going straight into the main scenes, there would be characters/places mentioned of which players would be totally lost on. On top of that, continuously making you navigate back and forth from a menu to each cutscene undoubtedly breaks the flow. This format could just be for the sake of the demo, making the average optimistic predict a far more cohesive narrative in the final product.
GAMEPLAY – PROJECT TRIANGLE TACTICS
Battle systems between games in this genre often share mechanics that make new titles easier to get into, and Project Triangle Strategy is no different. As said, those like Final Fantasy Tactics and Octopath Traveler are the biggest that comes to mind. Stats seem to work as you’ve seen them before – character’s speeds decide the order they act in each round, which they move around a grid-based battlefield to execute actions.
Each with their own class and abilities, characters can move around and perform an action once each, whether that’s attacking, using an item or one of their unique techniques. At the end of each turn, you even decide which direction your character’s facing – a crucial element since more damage is taken when attacked from the side or the back.
The positioning mechanic in its battles is part of what makes Project Triangle Strategy an interesting one to play. Not only does hitting a target in the back result in a critical hit, but there are also combination attacks, where characters on opposite sides are able to chain blows together for even more damage. That doesn’t mean battles are easy, though. Along with high amounts of health, the AI for enemies can be quite unforgiving if you slip up, taking any opportunity to hit hard where they can. This added pressure makes for a surprising thrill in continuously weighing the risk of rushing to dominate the enemy versus holding them back in waiting for the opportune moment to strike.
Octopath Traveller players will also love the way skills work. Like Octopath, characters start battles with one TP (Technical Points) each. TP increases by one for each character at the end of each turn or when they’ve performed certain feats like killing a foe, a combo attack or a backstab. Project Triangle Strategy really makes you hit ahead in this way – “If I move this character here, I could use this next character to perform a combo attack, kill this enemy, THEN have enough TP to cast THIS skill during the next round”. If you’re like me and love spending 10 minutes every turn overthinking about those ahead, you’ll fall head over heels with this game’s combat.
Each of the characters we played as had their own class, though we’ve yet to find out anything regarding a job or class system, which is a tad disappointing. You’ll find your obligatory list of classes you’ll have no doubt seen before – Archer, Soldier, Mage, Spear Knight, etc. – but we won’t know if there’ll be an option to mix in a secondary class per character like in Octopath. Each class we’ve seen though has its own unique ability, which you can factor into your strategies. The Spy, for example, can perform two actions per turn in exchange for its low health; whilst the Archer can utilise attacking from elevated terrain for additional range, all making for great combo possibilities.
Graphics and Audio – That Square Enix Flavour
In line with other fantasy strategy entries in its portfolio, Project Triangle Strategy is equipped with a graphical style and soundtrack that fits in Square Enix’s brand of high quality, like a publisher’s signature. Coming back with an HD-2D presentation, the game hits your eyes with waves of fantastical retro nostalgia, as well as being modern with exquisite detail in its environments. From the glistening waters to rustic villages, every scene grabs you as if you’re playing through a pop-up storybook.
Whether you’re on the world menu or in the heat of battle, the music has been perfectly crafted to set the mood with a variety of whimsical orchestral tracks. This is another of those titles from this company where you can just put the controller down and let the music take you. This soundtrack is a charming mix of relaxing and extraordinarily intense for the ears, making for a mesmerising Spotify playlist if officially released like other games.
Project Triangle Strategy was previewed on Nintendo Switch via a free demo on the Nintendo eShop.