Finished my second big RPG for the year! Triangle Strategy by Squaresoft is a new "spiritual successor" to one of all-time favorite games, Final Fantasy Tactics.
- This game was great! Although the name seriously lacked imagination. "Triangle" because there are three main factions and three conviction values in the game, and "Strategy" because it's a strategy game!
- I really liked the story, even though it was a "Oh we are a small group trapped between warring powers" plot that's typical for these kinds of games. There's decision points and branching paths along the way, and each of the major factions represents a certain "philosophy", i.e. one of the big factions represents ruthless "freedom" while another one claims to bring equality as long as you believe in their Goddess (basically a theocracy). Many of the decisions have you weigh between options of utility, freedom and morality. Do you indulge or participate in this illegal activity in order to protect yourselves? Will you give up people under your protection to save your own skins? Etc. One indication of how much I liked the story is how many quotable quotes I included in my screenshots below!
- The one thing I don't like about the story is that the decision points are made by participating in a "debate" among your close advisors where you have to convince them to follow a particular route. I'm fine with that gameplay-wise, but it makes your leadership seem weak or wishy-washy that you can't decide without having a vote. (Although you do cast the tiebreaking vote.)
- Gameplay, mostly consisting of the tactical battles, was excellent. Very reminiscent of Tactics Ogre:LUCT and FFT. Spellcasting and special abilities use a resource called "TP", which regenerates 1 per turn (most spells and specials will cost at least 2 TP), but you have some units that can restore or recover TP. There are even some units that are straight-up adaptations of unique units from FFT like the calculator. In between battles, you can go to your encampment to upgrade units and buy items and fight mock battles (for non-story grinding). And you can go to the encampment any time outside of battle, even while prepping for a story battle!
- Graphics: I'm not a big fan of the whole 3d pixel art style that I think they started with Octopath Traveler (I have not yet played that game.) While it's not a big deal, I feel like this game would have been better served by having high-res sprites instead. The character portraits are great though.
- Units: Unlike FFT, you can't recruit "generics" to your party, so all your party members are specific recruitable characters (there are 30 such recruitable characters in the game). Each one has a specific skill set (no job switching here!) Some recruitables are only accessible once you get your "convictions" up to certain levels. Convictions are hidden counters that go up depending on your actions and choices in the game. So unless you spoil yourself, you're unlikely to be able to recruit everyone in your first playthrough.
- New Game+: After finishing the game once, you can play on NG+. You retain everything from the previous playthrough (recruits, items, resources, etc) and each fight is scaled up to a higher level. Additionally, all conviction values become visible, and you can see what the conviction values required for particular recruits are.
- Difficulty: One thing I like about this game, compared to another strategy RPG I played last year (Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which was way too easy) is that it feels appropriately difficult. I played most of my first playthrough on Hard difficulty, which meant I had to grind and redo some battles. Redoing battles isn't that painful, because you retain Exp and Kudos (awards which you can redeem for certain items) even if you lose, so there is always some growth no matter what. I gave up on hard difficulty near the end of the game, as the bosses became a bit too tedious. I played my second playthrough (NG+) on Normal difficulty. Normal difficulty was manageable with no grinding, but even then you still have to make sensible decisions and unit placement; poor decisions can mean a unit getting surrounded and dying (luckily there is no permadeath in the game.)
- Completion: After finishing my first playthrough, I read up on the different endings. There's a decision point near the end where you have to choose one of three paths, and each one of those leads to a different ending. The game warns you about the point of no return, so I kept a save from that point. That means to get the additional two endings, I only needed to load from that point and play the last few chapters of each branch. Additionally there is a secret ending that you can get as long as you followed the so-called "Golden Route" in the previous decision points. After getting the three normal endings, I did a NG+ playthrough to go for the golden route. I must say, the story in this ending is great and I'm sad that most people won't get in on their first playthrough because it's "hidden". Getting all four endings is "complete" enough for me; there is actually some content I haven't done: the branching paths mean there were some other branches that required an additional playthrough to get to, and there are additional mock battles available in NG+ that I never bothered with. And because some of the recruitable characters required going through particular branches, I ended the game missing 2 recruitable characters. I briefly considered a third playthrough to try all that stuff, but all my units are already at the level cap! So, that's it for me in this game.
- Playtime: My final save game is at 64 hours. The save from my first finish is at 45 hours, so the NG+ run took me around 19 hours, which isn't too bad. The Switch says my playtime is "more than 70 hours" (apparently technology limits how accurate playtime tracking can be); I assume the difference corresponds to me going for the two alternate endings I played off the first playthrough. HLTB says average completionist runs take around 96h, so that's not too bad, even though my runs weren't really "complete".
As usual, I end this entry with my plethora of screenshots. Fair warning: Some of these should be considered spoilers!
(Click photos to view full-size)