Project Triangle Strategy was the game that stood out the most to me in the recent Nintendo Direct. Not only because of its less-than-ideal name, but the trailer made it look like a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics, a series that hasn’t seen an entry since 2008.
As a huge fan of the series, I was very excited to see that the Octopath Traveler team were trying something different. With the now expected demo from the team, I wanted to see whether Project Triangle Strategy could live up to my expectations and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
Living up to an RPG legend
Against all odds, I was completely gripped by the story presented in the relatively brief demo. Project Triangle Strategy sees three nations, each in the possession of the world’s most important resources living in a fragile peace. The demo puts you at a point where this peace is shattered. You play as Serenoa, the heir to a noble house (much like a certain Ramza). He finds himself in the middle of a conflict between two of the nations; one housing close friend Prince Roland, the other the home of his fiancée Frederica. After Roland’s family is killed or taken hostage before his eyes by Frederica’s brother in a bid for political power, he is protected by Serenoa as they flee his crumbling nation. The setup is great, with the political turmoil and theme of class echoing Final Fantasy Tactics in the best way possible.
Amending some old flaws
The setup benefits from the characters. The cast of the Project Triangle Strategy demo is surprisingly varied. They all have different viewpoints and ideologies that come into conflict. This comes to a head in the gameplay, where you have to convince them to vote for your course of action. Getting to know the characters and informing your decisions based on your knowledge of them is something that I wanted more of in both Final Fantasy Tactics and Octopath Traveler. Each decision has unforseen consequences making you wonder what would’ve happened if you went the other way. Seeing such interesting characters (even if the villains are a little on the nose) was much welcomed. The side content comes in the form of alternate perspectives on the events from the various noble houses of the world. This provides insight into the impact of your decision as a player has on the world.
A Familiar Battle System
To someone who has played the Final Fantasy Tactics games, Project Triangle Strategy will feel familiar. Attacking from behind will still do more damage and magic has the same area of effect, but there are some changes to keep it fresh. For example, you can follow up attacks by surrounding enemies and MP has been replaced by TP. TP is like BP in Octopath Traveler and the Bravely Default series, where it accumulates each turn. Leaving it to build up opens up stronger moves, at the risk of wasting a turn. Another diversion from the Final Fantasy Tactics blueprint is the specificity of each unit. This is much closer to Fire Emblem and perhaps detracts from some of the customization that was so prevalent in the Final Fantasy Tactics series. I personally enjoy trying to build the perfect party for each battle, so I appreciated this change.
Things I Didn’t Like
While I enjoyed the Project Triangle Strategy demo, there were aspects of it that I hope the full version will improve. Firstly, the optional party members don’t fit into the story. While it’s somewhat nit-picky, the lack of a conventional world map system means that there is no reason that Serenoa would suddenly drop everything to visit a remote village and find a shaman to help him. Compare this to Final Fantasy Tactics, where towns and villages are spread along the way to your destination, so a stop or a chance meeting fits into the story. There is a hint of a sidequest system in the demo’s barebones camp system, but the map needs filling. The other problem, which is more subjective, is the voice acting. I feel the voices don’t match the script, so I played the demo without voices and the experience didn’t suffer for it.
Simply put, the visuals and soundtrack of Project Triangle Strategy are nearly perfect. I’m a sucker for the HD-2D visuals, which this time invoke the aesthetic of Final Fantasy Tactics excellently with its multi-layered environments and grounded fantasy locales. Sadly, it sometimes obscures the map, so you can’t get a clear view of what’s happening. The music, however is always fantastic, with each piece emphasizing the tone of a looming war or a fierce battle perfectly.
If you look past the almost AI generated name, Project Triangle Strategy has a lot to look forward to. If you’re a fan of Strategy RPGs or even if you want to play something different with a lot of character, atmosphere and some good old fantasy politics. It takes inspiration from Final Fantasy Tactics without feeling too derivative. The improvements to the formula coupled with a bit of polish around the edges could make this game one of the strategy RPG greats when it releases next year.
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