During yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, the creators of Octopath Traveler revealed the next game in their HD-2D series, Project Triangle Strategy (it’s a mouthful but a working title) for the Switch. Alongside the announcement, Nintendo revealed that a demo was going up on the eShop as a debut preview for fans to check out — much like Bravely Default 2 and Octopath Traveler before it.
I’m pretty keen on strategy RPGs and indifferent on triangles, so I figured I should give this demo a shot in the vain hope that it would be like Final Fantasy Tactics, my most beloved of strategy RPGs. Based on the demo alone, it doesn’t quite hit those highest highs, but Project Triangle Strategy definitely feels like an attempt at getting there.
The demo warned me at the outset that it takes place somewhere in the middle of the final game’s story. It added that I would be unlikely to understand what the heck was going on. I could not believe to what extent that warning undersold my confusion. There’s very likely some political intrigue at the heart of PTS’s narrative, but free of context, it simply sounded like a deluge of proper nouns thrown around in a hailstorm of people occasionally getting stabbed. I’m totally sensitive to the fact that this is not, by design, indended to make sense for me just yet, but that easily begs the question of why on earth anyone decided to start the demo with a 10-minute story setup I could not possibly wrap my head around.
As a successor to Octopath Traveler, PTS inherits the same graphical style of sprite-based characters and a mishmash of different model and texture quality heavily aided by shimmering effects and a soft focus filter. This isn’t to take anything away from the game — whatever witchcraft it uses to look both nostalgic and modernly pleasant is fine by me. The visuals are aided by appropriately video game-y music, an area where Triangle’s predecessor also shone.
I wish I could be as celebratory about the entirety of its audio, though. Perhaps our new COVID reality is hitting voice acting quality harder than we think, but wow. The line reads in PTS are all over the place. They go from fine, to good, to low-budget PlayStation 2 localization all in the same scenes. It is a demo, just to reiterate, so I hesitate to make any judgments on what the game might sound like when it actually releases in 2022, but I hope we’ll be spared this particular voice acting pass in a year’s time.
Gameplay is what I was most curious about. It’s also more-or-less what I would expect from a game that is clearly cribbing from Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle. Each character gets initiative to determine their move order before you clash with enemy units. At first I felt the enemies had way too much HP, but the game encourages players to surround foes and chain attacks together to quickly whittle their health away with combination attacks. It’s a neat little system that also puts your units at risk by making it fairly easy to get caught between two enemies, as well.
When you release a game demo, the ideal result should be to make players more interested in the eventual, full game. The bare minimum is to not send them running for the hills. I’d say the Project Triangle Strategy demo leans far more toward the former than the latter for me. I’m not utterly blown away, but I didn’t expect to be. Instead I mostly got what I wanted from it. Probably worth the free download to see for yourself.