Triangle Strategy review: Building something greater

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Title: Triangle Strategy
Developer: Artdink
Publisher: Square Enix and Nintendo
Platforms: Switch
Release Date: March 4, 2022

In University, I studied Literature and Literary Theory. Triangle Strategy caught this self-fancied intellectual with its emphasis on philosophy and decision making. I missed out on the demo that was released last year, so the full game is my first experience with Triangle Strategy. And what an experience it is.

Triangle Strategy review: Building something greater

Triangle Strategy is one of the smartest role-playing games I’ve played. Everything about the game’s design goes back to the central thesis of choice, and with its rich narrative, deep combat and beautiful aesthetics, it makes for a perfectly balanced game that elevates what an RPG can be.

Parallax perfection

Triangle Strategy’s graphics blew me away. It’s the same “HD-2D” that we first saw in Octopath Traveler, but Triangle Strategy’s free moving camera brings a new dimension to it. Right at the game’s start screen you’ll be able to see how drop dead gorgeous the environments look in 3D space.

The parallax makes the set pieces feel alive, and combined with the tilt shift the game feels like a tiny scale model for a tabletop war game.

Square Enix
Square Enix /

The water really impressed me. It may always look like a small puddle, but those small puddles really sell a sense of scale. It’s consistent between the world map and the smaller maps, making it feel like both were pulled out of the same board game box.

Adding to that sense of scale is how the game uses the location maps and the world map. The world map is always visible in the background, making everything feel unified and part of the same physical space.

Norzelia and your place in it

Speaking of worlds, the one presented in Triangle Strategy is one of the best I’ve experienced in a piece of media. The story setting is enthralling with its grandeur, and charming with its details.

Set in the aftermath of a major resource conflict, you play as Serenoa Wolffort, a young lord thrust into leadership. The story is one of political intrigue and subterfuge as the three nations of Norzelia vie for power. I’m not going to touch on the story, as learning about Norzelia and its complicated history of strife is best experienced first hand.

Characters are equally complex, and there’s always a great sense of suspense and tension as their political ambitions and obligations clash with each other.

The narrative is also a master class in worldbuilding. Details are never added, rather, the world is always expanding. The game gives you information, and then expands upon them in future chapters. Knowledge is a key mechanic in the game, as learning more about the world opens up more dialogue and decision points for Serenoa.

Square Enix
Square Enix /

You select the next Chapter or Side Story by going to them on the map. Constantly revisiting this world map hammers home your place in the world, and you’re constantly aware of your location and the location of other factions.

Knowing and living in this enormously detailed world makes conversations tense, as you can really empathize with the other characters when you understand their own personal and geo-political backgrounds. It makes the decisions you make as Serenoa weigh harder, and I spent a lot of time debating on what was the right thing to say.

Choose your own adventure

The key gameplay element of Triangle Strategy is the dialogue. Conversations will often lead to a decision point, where you can pick one of three options for Serenoa to say. Each option corresponds to a Philosophy: Morality, Liberty or Utility.

Selecting that Philosophy’s option will earn you a point for Serenoa’s Convictions, but the game will not tell you what Philosophy you actually picked.

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Which dialogue option matches which Philosophy isn’t always obvious. The writing can be extremely nuanced, and I had a lot of fun debating with my girlfriend about what we thought they were. Sometimes I felt like I was back in school, discussing rhetoric and dialectics again.

How Serenoa’s Convictions are specced will determine what kinds of options will be available to you as the player. When the story points branch, you’ll need to convince your party characters which path you want to take in a vote. Your success with turning them to your side will be based on your Convictions and the lore you’ve collected.

The world sucks you in, and the decision points keep your mind engaged on the story. Combined with some excellent pacing, you’ll never feel like you’ve been playing Triangle Strategy as long as your play-time states.

There is fun to be had in exploring the different routes and options in future runs, but a big part of the magic and intrigue is choosing what you think is right and seeing where the story takes you. The puzzle will be cracked eventually, but I recommend playing your first run without consulting a guide.

All of the dialogue options feel like something the character Serenoa would say. He retains a sense of identity that’s hard to keep in a JRPG. He’s not a blank canvas for you to put yourself in, rather it feels like you’re guiding him.

As the story progressed, I started developing my own version of Serenoa. Dialogue options would come up that I thought my Serenoa wouldn’t say, and sometimes this clashed with what I would personally choose. You can roleplay in the truest sense here, as these small decisions build up to create the character Serenoa.

Higher ground

Combat encounters are tactical RPG perfection. Triangle Strategy uses a simple, elegant system that rewards knowledge and good positioning.

You get bonus damage when attacking from higher ground. You can form coordinated attacks when your units surround the enemy. A backstab is always a critical hit. Combat is easy to learn, but becomes deeply complex as victory conditions change beyond defeating the enemy in later chapters.

Square Enix
Square Enix /

You can’t change your characters’ classes, but each one does something unique. Their skills are also unique, and have varying effects on the enemy, positioning and even the terrain. The abilities are expected for their class; it’s no surprise the tank has a taunt or that the healer heals. Like the basic combat mechanics, these numerous simplicities add up to form a deeply complex and rich system.

More. 5 beginner tips and tricks for Triangle Strategy. light

You’ll have more characters join your party depending on your choices, and some of these units have interesting abilities. Your enemies are equally diverse, and you’ll want to check out their stat blocks before the encounter begins to prepare for their techniques and weaknesses.

Since each character does a specific mechanic, their value on the team is irreplaceable. Even characters who share jobs have unique variations that set their play styles apart from each other. For example, Erador can taunt more enemies at once than Lionel, but Lionel has a debuff built into his taunt.

Everything is precisely balanced; nothing is overwhelmingly punishing or advantageous in terms of damage. If you put your back to the wall to avoid a backstab, you’ll be more vulnerable to being slammed into the wall. Breaking your team’s formation to surround an enemy for follow-up attacks makes you vulnerable to the same.

The game gives you so many options for how you want to take encounters, and much like the design thesis of the rest of the game, getting these incremental advantages adds up to something great.

Geometrically sound: The conclusion

There’s only one knock I can make against Triangle Strategy: the English voice acting is rather wooden. I’m talking middle school Shakespeare performance tier. Luckily, the Japanese voice cast is phenomenal and you can switch it over. You’ll recognize Kensho Ono (Giorno in Jojo, Diluc in Genshin Impact) as Serenoa, and he’s such a perfect fit.

Like how a triangle is the strongest shape, the game’s foundational elements are so solid that the entire package is elevated to a great peak. The entire game balances its themes perfectly in its story, and its mechanics in its gameplay. Both come together to create an unforgettable experience, making Triangle Strategy one of the most compelling RPGs you can play.

Triangle Strategy (Switch) Score: 9/10

A treat for the eyes and brain, Triangle Strategy is a delightful and deeply engrossing experience. It perfectly balances each of its gameplay aspects and is elevated with a rich lore that makes you want to keep playing. A masterfully crafted game from bottom to top that any Switch owner needs in their collection.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.