The most recent Nintendo Direct contained many exciting announcements, but few caught my attention as much as Square Enix’s surprise reveal of Project Triangle Strategy.
When the game’s trailer began, I thought it was a sequel to Octopath Traveler, seeing as it used the same beautiful combination of 2D character models and 3D environments. But, it soon became apparent this was an entirely new IP, as combat was shown to be top-down strategy instead. Nintendo spent a large chunk of time in the Direct discussing the story and the complexities of the combat system, and I was intrigued by what I saw.
Project Triangle Strategy releases in 2022, but a free demo was made available immediately after the Direct. Despite its awkward working title, it looks to be a fantastic tactical RPG providing a compelling story, deep combat system, and fascinating character persuasion mechanics.
Project Triangle Strategy’s demo picks up midway through the campaign and notes that the player might not fully understand story events. Instead the devs wants us to focus on combat. However, I found myself quickly invested as the demo threw me directly into the meat of the adventure.
Project Triangle Strategy tells the tale of three kingdoms at war over precious resources, and the demo commences with the invasion of one of these territories. The player assumes control of Serenoa and his group of warriors as they attempt to flee the castle grounds with Roland, the prince of the kingdom at siege.
From the onset, stakes feel incredibly high, and that strong momentum is carried all the way to the conclusion. The plot shocked me multiple times, as over the course of the roughly two-hour demo, one of your comrades is killed and a king is publicly beheaded.
From the gorgeously hand-drawn 2D character models bursting with personality to the 3D castles and towns, Project Triangle Strategy is visually alluring. Dialogue is communicated simultaneously through text boxes and lively voice acting, and though this method suffices, the player must stop the dialogue to see the speaking character’s 2D model — I wish it could be visible alongside the text box instead.
The soundtrack is perhaps my favorite part of the presentation. In typical Square Enix fashion, the orchestrated music is lush and sweeping in emotional moments, and high octane thrilling in the heat of battle.
Speaking of battle, the combat system promises to provide a delicious level of complexity. Akin to the mechanics of Final Fantasy Tactics, the player commands ten units on a grid-based battlefield, all with varying classes, weapons, and abilities. Some have strong attack and defense and assail head-on with swords, some are frail, but strike from a safe distance with a bow or magic, and others act as support units buffing stats or healing HP. The key is navigating units’ strengths and weaknesses to move them into the most advantageous positions, instead of directly attacking with all units. If the player can manage to surround an enemy and attack from behind, it will initiate a pincer attack and nearby friendlies will strike to deal large amounts of damage.
Characters have a large variety of abilities ranging from moving up an adjunct unit’s turn, teleporting other units, and even turning invisible. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around all the tactical potential in the two fights the demo provides, but it certainly left me eager to experiment.
Tactical RPGs are known for their branching storylines, but Project Triangle Strategy re-invigorates this concept with the mechanic of character persuasion.
At critical junctures in the plot, Serenoa and company will vote on what action to take, and this determines how the story will proceed and who will join your party. This mechanic has potential to be fantastic, as the player must understand characters on a personal level to sway them — some respond to strong leadership, others require you to praise them to join the cause. It allows the player to get to know the characters on an intricately deep level. Only one of these votes occurs in the demo and it’s unclear how many will unfold in the full game, but it provides the opportunity for multiple endings and plenty of replay value.
After playing the demo, Project Triangle Strategy instantly became one of my most anticipated Switch exclusives, and even at this early stage, it seems to be in a great spot developmentally. Those looking for a complex and innovative challenge after finishing Fire Emblem: Three Houses or Octopath Traveler will want to add this to their wishlists!
— Alex Prakken