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Unicorn Overlord Review – Masterful Blend of Art and Strategy

Vanillaware is a developer that stands out for its commitment to creating new IPs. Their latest game, Unicorn Overlord, is a brand new genre for them, combining their trademark visual style with elements of a strategy RPG. The game’s combat system can be described as a cross between Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics, but with a deep strategic layer that requires careful management of factors such as party members, equipment, and levels.

Unicorn Overlord takes place in a high fantasy setting, primarily in the continent of Fevrith. The story follows Prince Alain, who seeks to reclaim his rightful throne from the Zenoiran Empire. The opening prologue shows Alain’s mother, Queen Ilenia, ruling the Kingdom of Cornia until a rogue general named Valmore attacks her throne one fateful night. Although Ilenia doesn’t survive the attack, she sends her son away with a loyal bodyguard named Josef. The narrative picks up several years later, with Alain now all grown up and armed with his mother’s magical ring, the Ring of the Unicorn. He sets out to build a liberation army to free the world from the clutches of Valmore, who now rules the Zenoiran Empire.

The Fire Emblem franchise is only available on Nintendo consoles, which is why it’s refreshing to have a similar game on other platforms. Unicorn Overlord is an excellent substitute, surpassing Fire Emblem in several aspects. Although it’s a strategy RPG at its core, the game offers unique elements that make it stand out. One of these elements is the combat system, which has several factors to consider. The Renown system, for example, is the Liberation Army’s reputation, while Valor is a Stamina system, and Honor is a reward for completing missions or objectives that can be used to improve the party or hire new crew members.

At first, Unicorn Overlord might seem overwhelming, but the game gradually opens up over time. The battles are fast-paced and don’t drag on for too long. The game even has a fast-forward button to speed up or skip battles entirely and see the results. The game starts relatively easy, with the ability to deploy up to three parties with two members each on the battlefield. As you progress, more parties can be unlocked, and the number of participants in each can be increased up to six, with a leader assigned to each.

Battles in this game happen in real-time and you can move freely on the world map outside of battles. This is one of the coolest aspects of the game. While on the world map, you can explore, find resources, talk to locals, and move your character around. The world map is huge and full of main missions and side content, which can be overwhelming. You can trigger a mission manually, and this will start the real-time battles on the world map. You can assign and release parties from your garrison, which is your headquarters. Each battle will have different objectives and winning or losing conditions, depending on the mission. Some missions will require you to rush to the boss and defeat it to complete the mission.

At the start of each battle, you can deploy your parties depending on your valor level. Each party deployment takes one bar of valor, so it is important to choose your party carefully, keeping in mind the enemy’s weakness. Each character in the game has a specific class assigned to them, which is usually weaker or stronger than a particular class. For example, archers can be useful against flying enemies, and magic users benefit in a fight against brutes with strong physical defense. Balancing and leveling up your party members is usually a fun experiment.

The formation of party members plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of battles. Although you are not controlling every action of the party, you can issue commands to help the flow of the battle. Characters learn new skills as they level up, and their stats receive a boost, but experience points are only distributed to the party that initiates and wins a battle. Winning a fight with the enemy in a single turn is not always possible, but depending on who comes out victorious at the end, for example, the one who takes the least amount of damage, you can have another go at attacking the enemy.

The game has a significant emphasis on the story mode, which follows a classic Vanillaware style. The characters are shown close on the screen with dialogue boxes that advance the narrative. You can also come across cutscenes like these, even for the side missions, so it’s essential to experience the full story if you want to. While it is possible to focus only on the main objectives, the side missions are also well-written, with some rewarding content upon completion. In fact, given the difficulty of some of the battles in the game, doing the side missions becomes an essential way to level up and prepare your party.

In the game, you have the option to hire members for your Liberation Army through side missions or other means such as using Honor to hire them, finding them on the world map, or persuading them to join you. However, you have limited customization options as you can only select the character’s weapon, armor, and accessory. Skills are automatically unlocked when you reach a certain level milestone. To unlock more parties for deployment in battle, you will need to improve the Liberation Army’s reputation by gaining Renown.

The game offers a range of difficulty options to choose from. If you enjoy strategic battles, you can select the Tactical Difficulty. Alternatively, if you just want to enjoy the story without worrying too much about winning every fight, you can choose the Story difficulty. I chose the middle difficulty option for a balanced experience, but I still found it challenging and died a lot.

Unicorn Overlord surprised me by the amount of content it provided. The game offers high-quality writing, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, and engaging gameplay like Fire Emblem. Although the battles may feel repetitive over time, the option to skip or fast-forward through them helps to make it less tedious, leaving only the micromanagement aspect of the party to deal with.

Overall, I highly recommend Unicorn Overlord for its stunning visuals, enjoyable and compelling gameplay, solid writing, and excellent soundtrack. In my opinion, it is one of the best games released by Vanillaware, even surpassing the likes of 13 Sentinels.

Unicorn Overlord Game Information

  • Price: $59.99
  • Publisher: Atlus
  • Developer: Vanillaware
  • Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
  • Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher
Score
9

Summary

Unicorn Overlord blends Vanillaware's signature artistic flair with a complex combat system reminiscent of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics, set against the backdrop of a rich high fantasy narrative. The game not only provides a deep strategic experience with its innovative combat mechanics and expansive world exploration but also excels in storytelling, offering a compelling tale of liberation and the quest for justice, making it a standout addition to the genre.

Total Rating

9.0
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Ali Haider

Ali Haider loves to dabble in multimedia projects. He has a passion for editing and managing YouTube videos and loves writing in his spare time.

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