Triangle Strategy has exposed my inability to make responsible choices

Between a full-time job and a passionate side hustle in freelancing, I never seem to have enough hours in a day of 2022.

Consequently, matters of lesser importance are being shoved further to the back; chief among them, any semblance of a social life and my growing stack of unfinished video games.

The latter, clearly, is the more pressing issue, as it has been deeply entrenched in my identity since I was but a wee one. Even as my scope of interest has become more limited (see also: my stunning disregard for what many have already dubbed the game of the year), I am incredibly behind on the flourishing library of Nintendo Switch titles.

I’m still only a few hours into Pokemon Legends, yet to pick up my copy of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and truth be told, forcing my way through the second playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses — hindered every step of the way by my reluctance to cooperate with that treacherous whore, Edelgard.

Among the teetering pile is Triangle Strategy (which I am still inadvertently referring to as Project Triangle Strategy), Square Enix’s latest tactical offering, and the second entry in the gratifying HD-2D catalogue.

As someone whose mettle in the turn-based strategy genre was hardened by the crippling permadeath of Fire Emblem, I’ve found myself blitzing recklessly through Triangle Strategy’s combat sections.

My practical tactical brilliance.

Oops, sending my mage to directly engage the opposing general has led to her being surrounded and decimated by enemy forces? Worth it, she got to hit him in the face with a fucking book, and that’s hilarious no matter how you look at it.

Because my loyal minions will respawn after a successful mission no worse for wear, I’m experimental, even perversely curious with how I employ them in battle. It’s not quite as heartless as Advance Wars’ methodology of replacing dead soldiers with sufficient funds, but it does carry a similar cavalier attitude towards the wellbeing of your party members.

Then, it happens.

One of the characters approaches Lord Wolffort with a query of some kind. It can be as critical as how best to strike at the upcoming foe, or as trivial as how he is enjoying the party he is attending.

Three options appear onscreen, each carrying their own ramifications and bound to upset someone in some way.

Do I answer heroically? Pragmatically? Drunkenly?

At least I understand this conversation.

You can glean which of the three values — morality, liberty or utility — will likely be boosted by any particular answer, but whether it will benefit your current situation is constantly in a state of flux.

What if saying, “get out of my face, you loser, your presence disgusts me and so does your hair” isn’t the path towards befriending a new colleague? How am I to know how this particular NPC ticks, and moreover, whether someone else is in earshot who might react entirely differently?

As the title suggests, these values make up a core element of Triangle Strategy, and there isn’t necessarily a wrong way to play the game. Your decisions will affect the roster and eventually how the story ends, but you won’t make a critical error such as, say, choosing a pair of nice boots over the life of poor old Shura.

However, I’m something of a perfectionist — in gaming alone, as the rest of life I treat with apathy and spite — so I earnestly desire to take the path that will prove ever so slightly better in the long haul. And so, I’m spending large chunks of gameplay scouring the internet for guidance, that I might instead respond that, “your hair is nice and smells of strawberries”. Whether or not it is true is of no consequence, as long as it makes me popular.

Undermining a tense political endeavour will surely win me their favour.

The issue is compounded even further when the Scales of Conviction are introduced. Early on, the party is presented with the chance to visit one of the two neighbouring nations. Immediately, I returned to the online walkthrough to learn of the results that awaited me at each destination, and was advised that the reward will be one of two party members.

Alright, I can’t necessarily go wrong here. Though most state that the Aesfrosti archer will prove more helpful at this stage than the magic-caster of Hyzante, they are both, at least, credible additions to my squad.

But now, I’m trying to work out which location would prove best for morale, as each team member has their own justification for wanting to go one way or the other. Benedict, my loyal steward, is keen to explore Hyzante’s Ministry of Medicine, while the ranger Hughette would like to gauge the true strength of Aesfrost’s soldiers.

The spy, Anna, doesn’t care one way or the other, leading me to believe that she will betray the nation and stick a knife in my back at the first opportunity. As much as I’d like to sway the conversation towards her execution for treason, the others are too distracted to hear me out.

Not only can you listen to the explanation behind each ally’s rationale, you can even try to debate the matter with them, convincing them to change their vote. At first, I was tempted to make everyone choose Aesfrost except for Frederica — who longs to visit her mother’s homeland — that we may all point and laugh at her.

In the end, counterintuitive though it may be, I elected to simply undermine all of their reasons on either side and try to persuade everyone to change their vote. It was the stupidest possible way to handle the situation, and no doubt Geela (the only one who I was able to swindle out of her initial preference to see Hyzante) felt like an idiot when Aesfrost lost, 2 to 5.

Serenoa, you gossipy bitch.

Why I hold so much stake in these fictional decisions that will only have superficial repercussions is beyond me, really. I’ve spoken ad nauseam about how this kind of thing always tests my resolve in gaming, and I have now convinced myself that I lack the decisiveness to lead Glenbrook to glory.

I’m destined, it seems, to live out a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein my desire to make the most measured and responsible choices will somehow correlate to unmitigated disaster.

“The bleedin’ kingdom is up in flames,” Erador will wail. “Why did you suggest we should arm the children with firebombs, you git?!”

I chose Erador to express dismay in this simulated outcome, as his dialogue is the most fun to write, but you can substitute in anyone else, if you’d prefer.

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