Triangle Strategy - The Best SRPGs Have the Dumbest Names

Webpage (lots more information and screenshots).

Strategically command a group of warriors after being entangled in a surging conflict between three nations. Key choices you make will influence the story and outcome of this grand conflict. The stunning HD-2D visual style blends 3D environments and modern effects with pixel-art characters and details.

Coming to the Switch March 4th, but before you non-Switch folk roll your eyes and click your left side-mouse to go back, it is from the team (or at least the publisher) that gave us Octopath Traveler, which did get to the PC about a year later. I am confident this will make it’s way around to other platforms in due time.

I hate the name of this game, I really do, it’s hard to talk about it with a straight face. It summons to mind maybe a mobile game where you match triangles or something. Ugh. But this is from the folks who brought us the terribly named (but solidly competent) RPG Octopath Traveler, and they are not good at names. Really, they are maybe a bit too literal - Octopath used the number 8 for quite a few things, and Triangle Strategy leans hard on the number three (number of weapon upgrades for each character, number of jobs for each character, number of factions, number of high houses within factions (I think), number of choices you are often given in dialog, and etc.)

But aside from the name, I am confident this game deserves its own thread and the spotlight for a bit, because I played through the original demo that came out a year ago and it was very cool, and last night I wrapped up my 3.5 hour time with the “Prologue demo” that came out last week which featured the first 3 chapters of the final game - including your first major choice - and the save can be loaded up and continued in the final game.

So what exactly is TS? And yeah, I’m abbreviating this nonsense the rest of this post. At first I thought it was going to be the next Final Fantasy Tactics - and in many ways it is. Another amazing entry in the wonderful SRGP genre that has a terrible name (paging “Let Us Cling Together”), but the more I play it the more I feel like it’s maybe a bit closer to Fire Emblem than Fell Seal or Tactics Ogre. Mostly because the cast of characters is very distinguished and important to the tale - no randomly named Freelancers here to level up into what you want (at least, so far), rather these characters start with a specific job (Pyromancer or Spy, for example). These jobs (much like Fire Emblem Three Houses) can be upgraded at specific level thresholds with the use of Medals of Bravery you can collect, however. Up three jobs for each class.

But it still feels like a Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy in the most important way - the battles. Fire Emblem is closer to a Wargroove or Advanced Wars in this respect - you move a little unit up within range of an enemy on a large battlefield landscape and watch a little zoomed in cut-scene of the attack play out. Tactics games, including TS, keep the action all fixed on a single field, often with a lot of verticality. There are a bunch of gameplay mechanics at play here, as well, including rear attacks guaranteeing critical hits, lots of different status effects, free-attacks if you have an ally directly across from the unit when you strike it (which can trigger from ranged attacks, as well). You have items, a huge variety of skills even very early in the game that run the gamut from powerful attacks that can delay units along an initiative bar (this plays more like Fell Seal in that way as well - units take turns, it’s not “my team goes in whatever order I want and then your team goes” which I think is how FFT and Fell Seal work, iirc) to potent buffs that last long enough to feel worth dropping.

Here is a little clip of me playing one of the “Mock Battles” available in your encampment, showing off some of what I talked about above but also the games incredible animations and gorgeous visuals. I love everything about this, it really speaks to me on a personal level. I like how you control the action, of particular note. You don’t move and then attack - you select the tile you want to end up on, select the action you want to perform from that tile, and then when you’ve picked targets it all plays out. So no “rolling back to the start of the move action because I realize I can’t target this guy from here” and no “oh shit I completed my move now I’m fucked and can’t roll back to move somewhere else.”

The game also features a cool Simulation mode where you can see what any of your selected characters abilities will do against any other target on the map. This is a good time to show off the neat little tutorial pop-ups that are feeding you information in a really fast and friendly way.

And like FFT and Tactics Ogre before it, this one seems to have a very deep and well written story (so far). I just love the written dialog - I’ve seen some folks complain about the English voice over work but I think it’s quite good (though to be fair, I’m playing this upstairs with my wife while we watch TV so I tend to have all but special effects volume low or off), and I am really happy with the writing and the characters and the story being told here. To the point where I’m actually reading the lore books and notes, and reading the character card for everyone as they speak (more on that in a bit). It starts off with a long running war having come to an end and each of the three major factions come together for a time of peace. That peace will soon be shattered, as we saw in the first demo that starts off in chapter 6, but in chapters 1 to 3 while it’s clear something is boiling under the surface everyone seems cool and the game kicks off with a tournament to celebrate the new venture that brings all the major nations together.

However, this will be taking quite a dark turn around chapter 6 (last year’s demo). The thing I do NOT know is, will it play out the same in my game as it did in that old demo? In chapter 3 you have a choice to make and I have a feeling I made a very different choice than the one pre-made for you in that first demo. Will the events be the same, but the characters and villains change? I’m very curious - here is a game that, like the outstanding Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together, gives you several very important decisions to make that will completely branch the game off into different tales, possibly providing additional reasons to play through several times.

In chapter 3 I am given a choice of which nation I wanted to visit, and the one I chose led me to that particular capitol city where I learned a lot about the characters key to that nation and uncovered a plot and aided them in resolving said problem, making friends and allies. I’m sorely tempted to load up my game and play the other choice, and not just because I’m itching to play this some more and the wait until March 4th is going to be agony (thankfully lots of great games are coming in the next week to tide me over), but because I am very curious where chapter 4 goes with such a major choice being made.

So I’m a big fan of the games tactical combat chops, combat looks and feels just about perfect. I’m a big fan of the games visuals, musical score, and sound design. I’m loving the story and the characters (one other complaint I have seen a bit of is with so many characters with fancy fantasy names who is who? The game has your back here - it has an amazing UI and one of the features is when someone is speaking you can press X to get a portrait and character card detailing who they are at any time - as well, you can press L during a conversation to review the dialog log and even click on a line to have it re-delivered again). One caveat - the story is long in the telling. It’s a good, slow burn for my money - I don’t want them dive right in, because this is a compelling world with interesting characters, and I don’t want it to end any time soon, but I did play almost two hours before my second battle. However, things speed up quite a bit once you get introduced to the world, is how it feels in Chapter 3.

There are a lot of mechanics and concepts at play here, from the Fire Emblem style of showing you which enemies are going to attack which tiles in a preview, to a Divinity Original Sin style terrain types. For example, if you cast a fire spell on a target standing on snow, you’ll create water tiles. Among other properties, water conducts electricity to other, nearby wet tiles.

But there is yet more, so much more. Depending on choices and story paths you take, different characters will join your entourage (in the first demo, doing the hard thing did yield me two very cool sounding characters). There is an encampment you can visit which contains all sorts of sundry vendors and facilities, such as upgrading your weapons and improving them to mock battles that feature a variety of tactical challenges and rewards or spending Kudos earned in the game from a wide variety of clever playing (attacking from height, attacking from behind, targeting 4+ enemies with an AoE spell, etc.) on cool powerful abilities you can use globally in combat or other fun items only available from this vendor.

This is to me the game I’m the most thrilled for this year - more so than even Elden Sign, Warhammer 3, or even something as wildly potentially game changing as Breath of the Wild 2. I have every reason to believe it’s going to be the next big SRGP - we’ve gotten many over the years but most aren’t great, imo, and the last really, truly good one was probably Fell Seal, which was great but lacked the visual depth and charm of what TS is giving us.

Is anyone else chomping at the bit to play this? Anyone else try the demo yet?

Oh I know this will likely be my most played game this year. Already preordered the physical edition.

But I want to hold off from playing the demo until the full game arrives and I can binge without limits!

Everything I’ve seen about this makes me think I will love it (Let Us Cling Together is among my favorite games ever). And your write up has done nothing but solidify that impression.

I think I played the demo last year (was the demo called Triangle Strategy?) and it didn’t really click with me a lot. It’s hard to judge just playing a demo though. I’m optimistic but I’m really hoping it has an amazing story.

Oh I see there’s a demo showing off the beginning of the game (sorry, I missed that skimming the original post lol). I’ll definitely download it and give it a shot.

I’m intrigued. Totally.

I’m a big, big fan of Octopath Traveler (although I only came to it in the last couple years, on PC), so of course I love the look of this. My only hesitation is that several times I have gotten excited for a tactical RPG–FFT, Jeanne d’Arc, some other indie efforts–and found myself not having the energy to spend 30 minutes maneuvering several units around only to discover that I took a totally wrong approach to a map and have to try again. But that’s my problem, not the games’. If this can find a way to be snappier than most games in the genre, or less punishing, then it might be perfect for me. Maybe I just need to play it on easy (if that’s an option)!

As far as the name, I kind of love this team’s approach of basically taking their working titles and saying “No, actually, that’s the game’s name!” I mean, at least Triangle Strategy seems to mean something in the context of the game… Does Bravely Default make any sense whatsoever?? TS and OT say to me that the team is very focused on the game’s design and structure, which seemed to bear out in OT pretty well! Honestly, I’m kind of excited to know what absurd name they’ll give their next offering.

According to Producer Tomoya Asano:

The concept is expressed in the title “Bravely Default”. … I can finally explain this (laughs). This means “with courage, give up promises and responsibilities to be fulfilled.” I would like to express “independence” by acting with my own will, rather than doing what I was told indiscriminately.

I’m gonna send this explanation to the bank instead of my next loan payment.

I have been hoping this will eventually make it to PC (just like I hope the other Bravely games will come to PC eventually). I’m intrigued although the press material makes the, uh, “triangle decision system” (or whatever it is) sound a bit hokey.

Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together (PSP Remake) was a very solid redesign of the original game. One of the great innovations it brought was a full rewind system (I think it was 50 moves) that took a lot of that pain away except for really thought battles (which it made “doable” anyways, so overall a huge improvement).

Why adoption of this took so long to catch up is baffling to me (you need to design limitations around it, but it takes away the “screw up two turns and make winning impossible” problem), but it’s been catching on lately, with Fire Emblem Three Houses offering a very solid implementation too.

Now, I don’t know if this will have a rewind system, but I sure hope so.

What it seems to have is the explicit layout of the enemy AI actions as you select your move. Ported directly from Three Houses and another stroke of brilliant design that smoothed out some of the genres rough edges.

Oh, a rewind system is a pretty nice innovation! Be curious if TS has that.

Not that I’ve seen - but it has tools that other games in the genre (including Tactics Ogre) did not have, which includes the aforementioned simulation system where you can see what attacks will line up against which enemies before committing to anything. It let’s you move around and put your character where you want to test things out before you commit to anything, it shows what the AI will target, and it is very transparent with it’s information (this includes an easy to read and understand UI).

But it also has a difficulty level, something many games in the genre forgo. It also doesn’t seem to be interested in punishing you for losing a character (which is why the rewind was so important in other games - losing one character was often permanent and resulted in a reload). So I just don’t think it’s necessary here, honestly.

I think it’s really well done - I’ve done it for two major decisions so far, one in the first demo and one in the new one, and I like that when you explore around the area and talk to folks you can unlock pieces of information that can later be used (if you chose) to sway someone to vote your way. And at the oneset of each voting session, everyone has their own stance and opinion so if you want to influence how things go, you can talk to the ones that are voting against your own desires and try to sway them. Even with the unlocked information you may have gathered, you may not succeed, and however the characters vote is how the game goes, and I think that’s kind of interesting. We’ll see how it goes long term, but it’s very cool in the demo(s).

This sounds really promising! If I’m understanding it right, it’s a bit like Into the Breach’s perfect information system.

Damn. This is almost enough to get me to buy a Switch. Seriously. I love this sort of game, and @Scotch_Lufkin, your write up was primo. When I was a mag editor, I’d have hired you. Well, I’d have to cut your word count down a lot, but still…:)

Man they really love their fanfic level dialogue in the first hour of this thing. Hopefully the quality and pacing both improve from here because woof.

Tbh reminds me of the opening of Tactics Ogre, which was not the speediest…

But yes, every scene could be cut to a third and be better for it.

Yeah, like I said - you either will get into it (I did) or you’ll roll your eyes and just want to hurry into the next battle. Thankfully you can can tap R to fast forward, which is very effective.

@TheWombat Thanks for the kind words!

I did wrap up playing the second half of Chapter III with a different option and it was structurally very similar (cut scene, meet folks, set up, explore a bit, battle) but I enjoyed the story here just as much as when I picked the Aesfrost capitol, and just like in that chapter I was given a new character for my party but I like this one a lot, so I’m torn as to which path to stick with. Also I’m really curious about the events in the Aesfrost path and how things might change if I didn’t go that route. March 4th is far enough out I may just start a new save game after all and see how I feel in the moment.

Oh, I set text speed to instant and VO to the less-embarrassing Japanese and plow through it. And yet.

If I ever get to actually play the game there’s a ton of potential for sure. The presentation is absolutely delightful as well, for sure.

Well, ymmv will vary of course, I’m personally enjoying the world building and getting settled into the characters, and I find the writing to be of Tactics Ogre/Final Fantasy War of the Lions level - which I really enjoy the style of, so it’s a little easier for me. Note that I’m playing near a loud TV so I don’t have any comment on the voice work, but what I have heard of it while playing elsewhere in the house has honestly been fine and I don’t really understand that critiscm. I think voice work has to be very cringe for me to notice it being actually bad, but I also tend to read faster than people speak their lines, so I’m one that skips the dialog when I read it.

But what I was saying is that you don’t even have to wait for the text to display and then take the time to read it, in addition to what you are doing there is a literal skip (fast forward) button. I used it when I was replaying the second half of chapter 3 - it zips right through the cut scenes, so if you aren’t interested in anything but the crunchy tactical combat and don’t care to follow the tale, you can absolutely do that.

Also, related, I noticed that same button will rapidly animate whatever action is happening in battle, so you can spot-speed through as desired there, as well.

If I’m going to play this thing through I’m going to pay attention to the story and probably get into it. I just can’t believe that JRPGs and their offspring still haven’t figured out how to pace the opening acts to actually include more gameplay.

Yeah, no kidding - much as I like TS so far, it’s baffling that you can go the first two hours and only do the one fight. It’s a lot of fun, which makes the wait to the next battle all the more frustrating - but with the encampment system and the practice battles in there plus the game’s action heating up (remember, it’s a time of peace when the game opens) I suspect this is one of those problems that has a solution the further into the early game you get. Or I would hope and assume, at any rate.