The hope of Tactical RPGs?
The latest Nintendo Direct, the first of this 2021 uncertain but full of potential, has certainly caused discussion for the titles presented and the same for those absent. While many pined for the absence of the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (lukewarmly buffered by the announcement of the Skyward Sword remaster), we were immediately struck by the presentation of Project triangle strategy: the new Square Enix title that intends to pay homage and at the same time brush up on the classic tactical RPGs that, especially in the 90s, saw particularly prestigious exponents. An operation openly on the same line as what has already been seen with the surprising Octopath Traveler, with which it shares the enchanting visual style.
Fascinated by the recognizable 2D-HD style, we were the first to think that the guys from Acquire were working on Project Triangle Strategy, but in reality it is the studio ArtDink (formerly authors of very niche Japanese tactical and managerial titles), assisted by Netchubiyori Ltd. Of Octopath Traveler we find only a few key personalities from the production ranks of Square Enix, including the producer Toyoma Asano to supervise the project, Naoki Ikushima as a character designer e Shizuka Morimoto to pixel art.
At the end of the presentation a preliminary demo of the title was made available which we downloaded immediately; After taking some time to play it thoroughly and grasp its characteristics well, we can already tell you that Project Triangle Strategy is looming as one of the most promising titles coming to Nintendo Switch.
In the demo we find ourselves in an intermediate phase of the game (certainly to be able to show us all its features), and already from the preamble that introduces us to the events in progress Project Triangle Strategy is outlined as a game full of dialogues and cutscenes. Like his illustrious models of the past, his is a story of conflict between various nations, and as such it will revolve around many personalities. If you are not used to this type of plots, the first step to overcome will be to record in your mind the numerous names of the various kingdoms and characters.
We are in the land of Nortelia, divided between the Kingdom of Glenbrook, the nerve center of commerce, the Grand Duchy of Aesglast, which bases its economy on the export of iron from its mines, and the Holy Empire of Sabulos, which in its desert territory has control of the salt resources. The latter two commodities are particularly important in Nortelia's life, and for this reason the three nations have fought against each other in the past to secure control. After several years of what was called the War of Salt and Iron, the three territories finally reached a peace agreement.
The game's story meshes right at the beginning of the demo, when the Grand Duchy of Aesglast decides to launch a surprise attack against Glenbrook, penetrating with its army to its capital. The main protagonist is Serene, a young head of the house of Wolfhort, one of the chief vassals of the king of Glenbrook; at the news of the invasion, he immediately leaves for the besieged capital accompanied by Roland, the king's second son, and Frederica, his betrothed and sister of the Archduke of Aesglast. We will avoid telling you about subsequent events so as not to spoil the surprise.
As you can already guess from this preamble (and from the complex s between the characters) we are dealing with one exquisitely mature and political fictional plot, which promises plots, betrayals and twists hidden in every corner. The point of view of the protagonists will not be the only one available to us; from the game map we will be able to access optional cutscenes that show us the reactions to the events of the various other characters in the world, both opponents and allies. If you've been hooked on the power intrigues and conspiracies across the continent of Westeros from Game of Thrones you'll have a good idea of what to expect. To help us remember the multitude of personalities involved, a useful option comes up that, with the press of a button, shows us the artwork and the description of the character who is speaking during the various cutscenes, all very well dubbed.
The narrative is only one of the main “phases” in which Project Triangle Strategy is structured. The second is that ofexploration of the environments at some specific times, typically just before a battle. Already in this we see the willingness of the developers to get out of the classic tracks and to expand and renew the game formula. Traditional tactical RPGs, in fact, are structured (usually) with an alternation of cutscenes and battles, and the only way to explore an arena is during the fight itself.
ArtDink on the other hand allows us to roam freely on specific terrains and cities, talking to villagers (if any) and looking for hidden objects. Surely we are not facing a revolutionary feature, but as mentioned it is not at all common for a tactician, and the resulting thickness is felt; in addition to the fact that gathering information from NPCs plays a crucial role in one of the game's most important mechanics.
During the adventure there will be occasions in which we will have to make important decisions, but unlike other games it will not be the protagonist alone to choose for everyone. The decision will be made with an "oligarchic" vote in which the characters of the party will take part, each of whom will have his own idea based on his own character and values. These are schematized by a system of Beliefs: pragmatism, morality and freedom. Macro-categories that govern the thoughts and actions of each and to which the protagonist adheres through the dialogue options. In any case, individual beliefs are not immovable and by talking with the respective characters we can convince them to change their minds and therefore vote in line with our choice.
During the demo we had to make a crucial decision for the fate of a character and the with the Grand Duchy of Aesglast (we do not spoil the details), but the majority of the characters were against our choice. So we went down to the city, we talked to the inhabitants and collected information; we then went back to the voting room and talked to each of them choosing the right arguments to convince them to change their minds; in some cases the information acquired unlocked new dialogue options and proved decisive.
One of the most interesting features of Project Triangle Strategy is that such decisions will actually change the course of the plot. During our first game we chose to clash openly against the Grand Duchy of Aesglast and therefore we faced their forces directly at the gates of our stronghold. In a second game of the demo we instead took a more diplomatic approach and avoided that specific battle, but only to find ourselves fighting in a completely different arena against an allied faction later on!
Even depending on the choice we made, we were able to enlist two different characters among our ranks, and this already gives us a foretaste of a high dose of replayability. Clearly from a single situation it is impossible for us to know how large the ramifications foreseen by the game will be based on our choices, but the premises have certainly fascinated us.
Obviously that of the battles is the third of the phases in which we will be involved. If in Octopath Traveler we have seen the reverberation of titles like Final Fantasy VI and the chapters of SaGa, to build the gameplay system of Project Triangle Strategy the developers have taken inspiration quite clearly from some of the major classic masterpieces of the genre: Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vandal Hearts II and partly Fire Emblem. Anyone who has even a vague idea of the type of experience will immediately find themselves at ease.
Among the peculiarities of the mechanics we find the overcoming of the system of mana or magic points in favor of Turn Points, very similar to the Power Points of Octopath Traveler. Each turn the characters will gain a PT that they can use to perform a spell or special technique, or choose to accumulate by simply performing a simple attack, use an object or simply remain inert; clearly the most useful or powerful skills will require more PTs, so it will be up to us to manage them as best as possible depending on the situation.
In particular, in Project Triangle Strategy it will be essential to manage the control of the battlefield. We are not just talking about the importance of high positions, of catching opponents from behind or closing them between two units in order to trigger combined attacks (all of which are relevant to victory anyway). The game's most fascinating gameplay feature is indeed the possibility of exploiting and modifying the morphology of arenas thanks to the elements. The easiest way to explain it to you is to give you some examples. In one battle, we created ice barriers to hinder our opponents, and that ice once destroyed made the squares it was on more difficult to cross, reducing the mobility of units. Again: one of the characters we recruited was a shaman capable of making rain and creating puddles on the ground; once we attracted the enemies on the right wet squares we cast a lightning spell on them, multiplying the damage done. Another battle took place in a wheat field and we were severely targeted by the fiery arrows of the enemies who, in addition to hitting us, set fire to our square, increasing the damage; if we hadn't had our shaman to fight the flames, the fight would have been much more difficult.
We have learned all this from just three battles and frankly we can't wait to see all the uses and situations that the full game will contain. The first battle didn't worry us too much, but the second ones were already more challenging. The enemy artificial intelligence seemed more than adequate to test our strategic sense and the ability to exploit the territory.
From what we could see from the demo, Project Triangle Strategy has all the credentials to replicate the success of Octopath Traveler and establish itself as a small neo-classic masterpiece. The only aspects that have not convinced us are some graphic uncertainties in some situations and the dissonance between the Spanish adaptation of the written dialogues and the English dubbing that in some cases puts in front of substantial differences in the tone of the characters and sometimes even the transposition of the names of the characters. Fortunately, there is still time to adjust the game (starting with the provisional name of the game). In addition to this, with its intriguing gameplay potential and its fascinating graphic style that will delight all lovers of pixel art, Project Triangle Strategy is already one of the most promising titles of 2022. If you are a lover or interested in generally follow our advice and go and try the demo now.