When we previewed Triangle Strategy's opening hours just a few weeks ago we came away suitably impressed by its slick mix of choice-driven narrative, detailed world-building and satisfyingly strategic combat action. It's a setup that immediately engaged us, introducing a strong cast of characters, embroiling us in some fascinating Game of Thrones-style fantasy politics, and setting the stage for what we dearly hoped would be a grand tale full of drama, epic battles and tough decisions to come.

Thankfully, now that we've spent some 50 or so hours with the finished product, we can report that Square Enix has fully delivered on the promise of its prologue demo. Triangle Strategy is a fantastic tactical RPG that serves up an engrossing tale, top-notch battles, multiple routes through its excellent campaign and several wildly different endings that you'll absolutely want to dive back into the game in order to experience. This one barely puts a foot wrong.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Assuming the role of Serenoa Wolffort, players are thrust into the political landscape of Norzelia, where three kingdoms, Glenbrook, Hyzante and Aesfrost, are just about holding together an uneasy alliance that was formed in the aftermath of the great "Saltiron wars". Of course, by the time the prologue is done here, that alliance has been all but shattered and what follows is a twisting, turning delight of a campaign that somehow never loses its momentum, slowly building to a fantastic finale that sees you get to choose exactly how you wish to see your version of Serenoa's story end.

It may take its sweet time at points — we've already seen plenty of comments in the wake of the demo wondering if the game continues to feature so much in the way of lengthy conversations between battles (it absolutely does) — but the pay-off is so worth it. This a game that sinks its hooks into you, introduces a fantastic cast of characters that you'll grow to truly care about, thrusts you into impossible situations and affords you the opportunity to make genuinely meaningful choices that affect who lives or dies and who and what will be destroyed as you make the sacrifices necessary in order to prevail.

It's an impressively mature and complex campaign in many ways, too, one that manages to successfully mix its political and more fantastical elements, injecting plenty of real-world issues regarding religious manipulation of the masses, fabricated fear as a means of control, slavery and racism into its tale. Honestly, we're not going to detail a single moment of the story here as any spoilers would entirely ruin the impact of the thing, but Triangle Strategy just absolutely delivers on the narrative front.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Producer Tomaya Asano, who also worked on Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler, has spoken in the past of how he wanted to take this game in a slightly different direction, away from some of the more traditional aspects of JRPGs, and it's a decision that's worked wonders for how the action in Triangle Strategy flows. The narrative structure here is tight, and there's no unnecessary dilution of the core crisis by shifting the player's focus into the shoes of multiple protagonists; you're pretty much locked into the story from Serenoa's point of view and it makes proceedings all the more intense and memorable as a result.

Yes, you'll be given ample opportunity to hop around the world map between battles and watch how events are unfolding in other regions and with other factions through short cutscenes, but the main thrust is always kept on House Wollfort and the escalating dangers that you and your allies face as the story progresses. The core gameplay loop here consists of lengthy narrative elements, big beefy battles and short periods of exploration that allow you to wander around the game's beautiful little dioramas — and it's a loop that works really, really well in keeping the player invested at all times in what's going on across a lengthy campaign.

Much has been made of the "Scales of Conviction" choice-driven aspects of Triangle Strategy in the build-up to release and to this end the game also manages to fully deliver on its promise. In these instances you'll be given two or three different resolutions to a major plot point, the situation is carefully explained in detail, characters in your party voice their opinions, and then you'll have the opportunity to attempt to convince any who are wavering to stand with you before everyone casts their vote and a decision is made that branches the narrative out in a different direction, as neatly illustrated by a timeline map showing you how you've diverged from the main path. It's cracking stuff that both directly affects the story and works to give you enough agency that you're kept absolutely embroiled in what's going on, to the point we found it hard to put down, playing just one more hour here and there to see how the next big dramatic point would play out.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

So, in terms of the story, beyond some hilariously OTT dialogue in places and a few rough edges to the English voice-acting, all is truly well and good. But what about the combat? Well, Triangle Strategy serves up a feast in this respect, too, with some excellent set-piece battles that introduce lots of well-designed systems that are underpinned by genuine tension thanks to the game's consistently excellent world-building. You aren't just fighting alongside a bunch of random NPCs here, oh no, you're going up against it with your dearest friends and comrades, characters that you actually care about. Thank goodness there's no perma-death or we may not have been able to take it.

The tactical RPG elements here play out in a fashion that Final Fantasy Tactics and Advance Wars fans will recognise immediately, with the game's turn-based battles taking place on a grid system that highlights where your currently selected party member can and can't move during a turn. Strategic layers are then piled on, with each member of your sizeable entourage wielding a suite of upgradeable powers and abilities that you'll need to make full use of in order to come out on top of encounters.

You'll want to plan in advance to make use of the game's clever follow-up attack system, whereby putting one unit on each side of a foe instigates a double assault — a move that's invaluable in taking troublesome enemy battlemages and healers down quickly — as well as taking advantage of the high ground wherever possible, as attacks from height deal extra damage. You'll also need to consider employing various well-timed elemental combos of magic to soften up packs of enemies, use a mage's powers to soak an area with water or melt an icy patch into a puddle, for example, then zap the place with electricity and frazzle a bunch of foes at once. There's opportunities aplenty for the strategically minded here and always another way to approach a problem when you take the time to really sit back and consider all of your options.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Triangle Strategy also does a wonderful job of feeding you lots of useful information in a user-friendly fashion, showing you which enemies can assault you from any given spot when you hover over a position, giving you a preview of the damage you'll dish out with any of your attacks and allowing you to simulate entire moves before committing to them fully, minimising your chances of making horrendous errors of judgment during battle. (NB: we still made many horrendous errors of judgment during battle.)

You'll be given the opportunity to sort your troops pre-fight, mulling over your options and choosing which combatants from your constantly evolving roster you wish you to take into action. The game continues to help out as much as it can here, even flagging up recommended party members and giving you ready access to your encampment area in order to buy supplies, rank up individual units, level up weapons and so on, before you progress to the battle screen proper. Here you can position characters where you want them — healers and support at the rear, tanks to the front and all that sort of thing — before surveying an overview of the battlefield, checking your specific objectives and then diving in.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Played on Normal difficulty, the opening few hours provide a good tutorial for the meatier fights that lie ahead, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to get used to moving your party around and to get a feel for each character's strengths and weaknesses. We quickly developed go-to units and rarely went into battle without Anna the backstabbing assassin who can hide in the shadows, Roland and his deadly lance attacks, Hughette's debilitating ranged arrow shots, and both Benedict and Geela providing constant healing and combat buffs from the rear of the pack.

As you progress through the campaign, and depending on the choices you make, you'll fill out your roster with a whole bunch of brilliant characters — we ended the game with some eighteen in our ranks — each of whom provides you with unique and useful tactical options. Heck, you can even flirt with enemy soldiers in order to distract them should you choose to roll with exotic dancer Milo in your crew, or simply confuse the life out of foes with the wordsmith, Lionel.

There's a good amount of variety introduced to the game's combat through stage-specific gimmicks, too, with some fights taking place on small platforms where you can be pushed and bashed onto spikes, an encounter that sees you given the ability to set fire to huge swathes of the battlefield, burning your enemies in large numbers as they approach, and confrontations that see your surrounded on all sides, charged with the task of fighting your way uphill in order to engage foes who have a huge tactical advantage. Without these flourishes the combat here would still be top-notch stuff, but the variety that's added as a result just elevates the whole thing that little bit more, making for prolonged engagements that we never minded having to replay when we failed, something we honestly can't often say about games in this particular genre.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

In terms of difficulty options, things do get fairly tough in the second half of the game, with a pretty constant onslaught of fights to batter your way through, and we even dropped down from Normal to Easy mode on more than one occasion in order to make progress, something we highly recommend you do if you're frustrated as it takes nothing away from the thrill of battle. You'll still need to think several moves ahead, there's still a challenge to be had, but you'll be less likely to spend multiple hours banging your head against a brick wall. Easy mode is well-implemented and gets a big thumbs up from us.

Once you've seen the credits of the campaign for the first time you'll also gain access to NG+, so don't feel as though dropping to Easy first time out will see you missing anything, there's plenty of time through NG+ and repeat visits in order to see all of the game's endings for you to improve and then crank that difficulty dial up.

With regards to performance, this really is a beautiful game — with a sumptuous orchestral soundtrack to match — that shares the same trademarked "HD-2D" art style as Octopath Traveller and we didn't encounter a single frame rate stutter, glitch or bug in our entire extended time spent playing. Loading times are unobtrusive, conversation text is perfectly readable in handheld and busy battles are easy to parse, even on the Switch's portable screen. Square Enix has, in short, done a wonderful job on the technical side of things here.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Overall then, Triangle Strategy is a complete delight. This is a top-notch tactical RPG with slick and strategic combat, a brilliant story full of big choices to be made and a wonderful cast of characters to get to know as you fight for the future of Norzelia. It's the kind of special game that makes a proper impact, leaving you with lasting memories of people and places, great big battles and tiny victories snatched from the jaws of what seemed like certain defeat. Some folk may find the pace a little on the slow side at times and, as we've already mentioned, there's some seriously OTT dialogue and rough acting here and there, but these are infinitesimally small issues in the face of everything this one gets right. With multiple paths to take through its massive main campaign and several explosive finales to make return trips for, this is one great big meaty adventure that we highly recommend you get stuck into.

Conclusion

Triangle Strategy is an absolute triumph for Artdink and Square Enix, a fantastic mix of satisfyingly strategic battles, an excellent choice-driven campaign narrative and top-notch world-building, all of which come together to form one of the finest tactical RPGs we've played in a very long time. There's an absolute ton of content here, with a huge story featuring multiple paths to take depending on the choices you make and several properly impactful endings to enjoy on return visits. Serenoa Wollfort's epic journey is a joy from start to finish, a grand and ambitious adventure that stands proud as one of the very finest examples of its genre on Switch.