Home Reviews 4.5/5 Review Unicorn Overlord Review

Unicorn Overlord Review

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When a game comes with some additional ’16-bit soundtrack arrangements’, you should know exactly what era it is championing. And Unicorn Overlord does that with aplomb; mixing the best bits of the olden days with some unique and underutilised gems from modern gaming too.

A tactical RPG, Unicorn Overlord is the latest game from Vanillaware. They of Odin Sphere and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim fame. But this marks their first foray onto Xbox consoles. And for many, Unicorn Overlord should represent an opportunity to delve into their impressive back catalogue. If they can tear themselves away from this new offering.

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An impressive journey

First impressions may differ however: Unicorn Overlord starts with a tale of a young boy named Alain who has been forced into exile. The leader of the army of Cornia has laid claim to the throne, usurping Alain’s mother Queen Ilenia in the process. In her last moments, Ilenia passes the Ring of the Unicorn to Alain and his guard Josef. It is this item that will symbolise his right to the throne when the time is right.

Some time later, Alain is leading the Liberation Army against the rebellion leader, who now goes by the name of Galerius. Alain soon realises that the Ring of the Unicorn has another power; that of the ability to wipe the effects of unknown mind control magic against those that fight for Galerius. With this new power and an ever increasing army in tow, he sets his sights on what is rightfully his.

Unicorn Overlord isn’t exactly breaking the mold with this tale, which is somewhat of a surprise considering Vanillaware’s track record in this department. But other aspects do more than make up for this lacklustre storytelling.

To call Unicorn Overlord a tactical RPG is a bit misleading. Rather than controlling individual units, you take charge of several small groups of up to six units in a single formation, in more of a real-time strategy fashion. You don’t even control the individual units. Instead, Unicorn Overlord has ‘borrowed’ the Gambit system from Final Fantasy XII and inputted it in here, almost wholesale. That’s not a bad thing, because the Gambit system was one of the best things about Final Fantasy XII, and more games should implement it.

Its inclusion here means that you can tailor attack plans and strategies before heading into battle. When selecting a squad to attack with, you can even see how the battle will play out before confirming your decision. It negates any potential risk, but does that mean that everything is played out for you beforehand? After my time with it, I am not sure how much I like this. It is certainly still enjoyable, but I never really felt I had to adapt my strategies.

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Units are key

What is unpredictable is just where your next recruitable party member is going to come from. There are over sixty in Unicorn Overlord and they can be found just about anywhere: complete a side quest, building up run down towns and villages, sell enough items to a vendor, literally anywhere. There is a mining minigame found on the world map and I would not be surprised if one turned up there as well.

Many party members also have unique class types. This is far from a simple rock-paper-scissors battle system, it is incredibly deep. When creating squads, you’ll find that formation, class types, speed and more must all be taken into account. This is likely where you will be spending the majority of your time, tinkering with battle setups to find the perfect mixture.

It’s also when deep in these menus that I was quite grateful the actual battles can be a bit passive. Between fine-tuning formations, units and Gambits/tactics, there is little time for anything else.

But of course, Unicorn Overlord has plenty of extras. The overworld map is chock full of secrets to uncover, loot to find and enemies to defeat. Progress far enough and you can even pit your party against others online in the arena.

There is also the Rapport system, which plays out like the Drink Links from Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Party members that are in the same formation will form bonds over time, and reaching a certain threshold unlocks a unique conversation to be found on the world map. These aren’t elongated side stories similar to Drink Links, but are insightful vignettes into the personalities of each character. For such a wide cast, it is impressive that the writing feels unique and diverse, complete with backstories and relationships.

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Let battle commence

And they all look individual from each other too. Again it is seriously impressive how we, as the player, can recognise each member in the cutscenes. Though, there is a comprehensive Library that has information of every single party member. This trove of information includes details on all factions, locations and more, providing useful info for those heading into the late game or players returning after long periods away from Unicorn Overlord.

Whilst sticking with the visuals of the characters, the overall visuals are of a very high standard too. Once again, Vanillaware have opted for a 2D art style for Unicorn Overlord, but given the nature of the old-school genre, it all lends itself perfectly. Don’t let that fool you though, the world map and character models are incredibly well detailed even in a 2D environment. Battles themselves are also fought on the world map, so you get plenty of time to appreciate the work gone into it.

Whilst the story may be somewhat lacking in Unicorn Overlord, it kind of works, because you will be far more invested in the battle system. Playing around with formations can not only yield interesting results, but allows the individual character stories to fully blossom. Unicorn Overlord isn’t so much about why you are journeying, but more about who is joining you, who stands in your way and how good you look whilst progressing.

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Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
unicorn-overlord-review<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Incredibly in-depth battle system</li> <li>Highly detailed world and characters</li> <li>Plenty to explore and discover</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Let down by a poor main plot</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, SEGA</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Nintendo Switch <li>Release date and price - 8 March 2024 | £59.99</li> </ul>
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