Third-Party is a series of guest blogs where developers talk about specific games, mechanics, levels, and more. This week we have Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou writing about Triangle Strategy.
My name is Alex and I’m the game director and lead developer at Polygon Treehouse. Our debut game Röki is an art-led narrative adventure praised for its interactive storytelling and was nominated for two BAFTA Video Game Awards.
I enjoy playing a wide range of games from tiny indie gems to sprawling triple-A epics but as you may have guessed, storytelling in games is something close to my heart and I take a great interest in examining and dissecting the narrative techniques and flow of the titles I play. This is true for one of the games I’m playing at the moment, Triangle Strategy.
Triangle Strategy is a turn-based strategy game from the creators of Octopath Traveler (one of my favorite JRPGs of recent years). It shares the distinct hybrid ‘2D-HD’ pixel art visual style of Octopath, but, in a very surprising move, not a great deal else. Really. Triangle Strategy is a whole genre jump away so those expecting a direct sequel or even vague spiritual successor to Octopath Traveler should proceed with caution. However, that quirk is not a reason to avoid the game – its story and the manner of its telling make it more than worth your time to saddle up.
The game weaves a complex epic tale of three rival factions; their noble houses, a brewing war, and all the skullduggery that surrounds it. It’s a lazy comparison but if you think ‘Game of Thrones’ you’re at least in the right ballpark.
Other notable games in the genre – games like Advance Wars, Wargroove, or Final Fantasy Tactics – all have an element of story but they are the lightweight connective tissue that connects battles rather than anything of real substance. This is where Triangle Strategy differs. Its story is hefty, dense, and intricate. It’s a bold move.
When the game first launched I’d read some comments from early adopters complaining that the game was overly wordy and there was evident frustration at not being able to jump straight into the action, which is totally valid. If you’ve signed up for pure fisticuffs, I can see why you’d bounce off. This ask however is not without merit – in fact, it is an investment that will pay the player back tenfold.
The critical factor here is that the game is character-based. You take turns to move your growing band of heroes around a battle scenario and orchestrate their exploits. Because of the game’s heavy investment in narrative, these characters are not just cookie-cutter stand-ins, but rather characters of depth, each with a place in a larger plot, with their own history, motivations and responsibilities. So whilst Triangle Strategy greedily asks for your time and attention in engaging with its story, pays off by giving each battle meaning; skirmishes where you actually sympathize or even care about the heroes you are guiding. It’s in this emotional connection where the game elevates itself from its stablemates.
Triangle Strategy also forces you to ask difficult questions of yourself at times, quite literally. At key junctures, you will be faced with three conversation options to situations where there is no real right answer. There is no right or wrong, everything is a compromise and each decision is a difficult call where something or someone will suffer. It was in these moments where I felt the real responsibility of leadership. Considering how many games there are about war and conflict, it’s alarming that this is the only game I can recall that made me feel this weight of burden.
For the story adverse, Triangle Strategy does give the player the option to not wallow in certain narrative threads of the story and to speed progress towards the next fight. That being said, I can imagine it would still prove bothersome if you have zero interest in the game’s story whatsoever.
Ultimately, it’s a brave choice to buck the trend of making increasingly easy-to-consume media but what Triangle Strategy asks of the player, it gives back more in return. For my money, that’s a good trade.
Written by Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou on behalf of GLHF.