Does Triangle Strategy need permadeath?

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Triangle Strategy is the newest tactical RPG on the scene. Inevitably, it’s going to be compared to Fire Emblem, especially the Switch’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Fire Emblem’s hallmark feature is permadeath, so why doesn’t the mechanic appear in the competing Triangle Strategy? Here’s why the game is stronger without it.

What is permadeath?

Permadeath is a mechanic found in RPGs that removes characters from your team when they fall in battle. It does what it says on the time: if a character dies, they’re gone forever.

It’s a punishing mechanic that raises the stakes in a tactical RPG. Combined with likable characters, it makes for tense gameplay where your decisions in battle matter more.

Triangle Strategy is a game all about decisions, so why doesn’t the game have permadeath? While your decisions matter in battle, your decisions outside of combat matter more. Most of Triangle Strategy’s decision making takes place off the battlefield, as you choose dialogue options that develop the story.

This makes the story more impactful and the characters more personable. In a game like Fire Emblem that’s designed around permadeath, the mechanic has the drawback. The characters have to be likable so you care enough if you lose them, but their role in the story has to be somewhat inconsequential.

In Fire Emblem, the story’s all about your Lord characters.  The allies along the way are ultimately disposable, as the story needs to have a recurring cast of characters to tell a proper narrative.

This is most evident during cutscenes where all of your surviving characters come together. Their dialogue adds their opinions, but they don’t interact with each other. They feel like they’re all disparate in their place in the story.

Three Houses actually fixed this, with extra dialogue between characters if they survive together. It’s a little touch that goes a long way, and I actually think Fire Emblem is at its best without permadeath. The option to have it still brings along design and writing implications.

In Triangle Strategy, the characters take on lives of their own. The lore of the world and the characters’ place in them is important to understand, and each of the main characters have a true impact on the world and story.

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When they argue, you feel the discord. When everyone comes together in solidarity, you feel empowered. The characters are stronger because they have “plot armor”, and serve to immerse you in the world. They have depth beyond the tropes they embody, something Fire Emblem has struggled with before Three Houses.

Triangle Strategy does not need permadeath, and is better without it.