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Unicorn Overlord Review | An RPG Masterpiece 10 Years in the Making

90
Story
7
Gameplay
9
Visuals
10
Audio
9
Value for Money
10
Price:
$ 60
Clear Time:
60 Hours
Unicorn Overlord has unquestionably lived up to its name and the anticipation surrounding its release. It’s definitely the undisputed "Overlord" in the tactics RPG genre right now and has the potential to rival giants like the Fire Emblem series and Final Fantasy Tactics. After a decade of anticipation, Vanillaware has delivered a polished masterpiece. While the game's fantasy storyline is quite generic, its captivating visuals, endearing characters, amazing side-quests, and meticulously crafted tactical RPG gameplay more than compensate for any perceived shortcomings.

Unicorn Overlord is a tactical fantasy RPG ten years in the making, published by ATLUS and developed by Vanillaware. Read our review to see what it did well, what it didn't do well, and if it's worth buying.

Unicorn Overlord Review Overview

What is Unicorn Overlord?

Unicorn Overlord is a tactical role-playing game that has been in development for a decade. The game boasts a visually striking pixel-bit HD-2.5D art style reminiscent of classic SNES RPGs. Its gameplay blends tactical and real-time combat, offering an exploration RPG experience akin to renowned titles such as Ogre Battle and Fire Emblem.

The game unfolds within the fictional realm of Fevrith, where a once-thriving and tranquil kingdom comprised of five nations has fallen under the rule of the rogue general Valmore. Under his banner, the disparate nations are now unified as the Zenoiran Empire. Players assume the role of Alain, the crown prince of the now-fallen kingdom of Cornia, and son of its late queen, Ilenia. Bereft of his mother a decade prior, Alain embarks on a quest to lead a rebellion, wielding the Ring of the Unicorn—a special artifact bestowed upon him by his late mother.

This ring holds the power to free individuals from Valmore's mind-control spells. Alain's mission is clear: to reclaim the conquered lands and restore peace to the fractured nations by vanquishing Valmore once and for all.

Unicorn Overlord features:
 ⚫︎ Unique tactical RPG with overworld exploration and real-time battle system with automatic battles
 ⚫︎ Stylish and Gorgeous 2-5D Vanillaware Artsyle
 ⚫︎ Developed by Vanillaware, creators of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and Dragon’s Crown.
 ⚫︎ The Soundtrack is composed by Mitsuhiro Kaneda, who also did the soundtrack from 13 Sentinels
 ⚫︎ Tons of Unique Party Members, Classes, and Side-Quests

For more gameplay details, read everything we know about Unicorn Overlord's gameplay and story.


Unicorn OverlordUnicorn Overlord
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Unicorn Overlord Pros & Cons

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Pros Cons
Checkmark Beautiful Vanillaware Art
Checkmark Engaging and Unique Battle System
Checkmark Tons of Amazing Side-Quests and Overworld Activities
Checkmark Likable and Interesting Characters
Checkmark The Main Plot is a Predictable Fantasy Story

Unicorn Overlord Overall - 90/100

Unicorn Overlord has unquestionably lived up to its name and the anticipation surrounding its release. It’s definitely the undisputed Overlord in the tactics RPG genre right now and has the potential to rival giants like the Fire Emblem series and Final Fantasy Tactics. After a decade of anticipation, Vanillaware has delivered a polished masterpiece. While the game's fantasy storyline is quite generic, its captivating visuals, endearing characters, amazing side-quests, and meticulously crafted tactical RPG gameplay more than compensate for any perceived shortcomings.

Unicorn Overlord Story - 7/10

The storyline of the game is definitely its weakest aspect, as it adheres to a conventional narrative of good versus evil, centering on a young protagonist's journey to reclaim his throne from a tyrannical emperor. This narrative structure shares similarities with plots found in older Fire Emblem games, and its simplicity appears to be a deliberate homage to classic fantasy gaming tropes. Personally, I found myself mostly invested in the plot, particularly drawn to the underdog story they were going for. That said, I do wish the game delved deeper into its hints of darker undertones, explored more morally ambiguous scenarios, and showed us more of its political aspects. 

Unicorn Overlord Gameplay - 9/10

Initially, I approached the gameplay with some hesitation due to its departure from most Tactical RPG mechanics—combat is basically automatic. However, I soon found myself engrossed, relishing the process of setting up and customizing my team and units to execute the perfect strategy against adversaries. While overworld exploration can feel somewhat tedious, the experience is enhanced by stunning visuals and captivating music.

Unicorn Overlord Visuals - 10/10

The game boasts a stylized retro pixelated art style reminiscent of beloved SNES RPGs. However, true to form, Vanillaware has elevated this nostalgic aesthetic with its signature artistry. The result is a visually stunning experience, characterized by exquisite lighting, intricate shadows, vibrant coloring, and meticulously crafted sprites.

Unicorn Overlord Audio - 9/10

The involvement of Mitsuhiro Kaneda, renowned for his work on the soundtracks of Tactics Ogre (PSP) and 13 Sentinels, ensures that the music in the game is nothing short of exceptional. Kaneda's compositions capture the essence of a medieval fantasy world with flair. Notably, one standout song, the first map theme featuring Ilenia, stands out as a cinematic orchestral masterpiece reminiscent of the iconic themes found in games like Nier Automata.

Unicorn Overlord Value for Money - 10/10

Priced at $60, this game provides exceptional value and replayability. With its extensive campaign, an abundance of sidequests, and robust customization options, players can expect hours and hours of fantasy fun to be had. The depth of customization allows for the creation of various unit types and teams tailored to different scenarios and strategies, ensuring prolonged engagement and enjoyment.

Unicorn Overlord Review: An RPG Masterpiece 10 Years in the Making

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Initially, I was taken aback by the ten-year development cycle of this game. Yet, having immersed myself in its world, I now understand the painstaking effort that went into making this beautiful creation. It's undeniably a labor of love, and I sincerely hope it receives the recognition and success it deserves. Full disclosure: I don't have the nostalgic ties to 16-bit RPG games it was inspired by like Fire Emblem and Ogre Battle, so my perspective is free from nostalgia bias. That being said, there's very little about this game that I don't adore...except, perhaps, its main storyline, which warrants a closer look.

Generic Good vs Evil Storyline
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I might catch some flak for saying this, but I had high hopes for a deeper narrative in this game. While it's clear that the story aims to pay homage to the simpler fantasy tales of yore, I couldn't help but wish for more complexity, particularly in terms of political intrigue and moral ambiguity.

With a premise centered around the Ring of the Unicorn and themes of mind control, there was ample opportunity to explore the psychological and existential ramifications. Unfortunately, these aspects felt somewhat overlooked.

Everything Else Is Amazing
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However, the game compensates for this by delving into its characters and their personal journeys through engaging side quests. Despite their simplicity, these characters manage to tug at the heartstrings, particularly with the support of the outstanding English dub.

I'm incredibly grateful that the characters in this game aren't just charming but also incredibly useful during gameplay. Each character serves a purpose and has its own unique class, offering a wealth of strategic possibilities and team compositions to explore. The heart of the experience lies in its addictive tactics gameplay, which may not appeal to everyone due to its automated battle system. However, the thrill comes from meticulously preparing team compositions, positioning, and skill conditions to overcome challenges effectively in battle.

Adding to the intrigue is the game's real-time combat system, a departure from the typical turn-based approach. Characters navigate the overworld in a top-down view, with a ticking timer adding an element of urgency. Initially skeptical of this mechanic, I found it to be a fantastic addition that elevates the importance of decision-making. It effectively balances the challenges of real-time gameplay. Moreover, the inclusion of a time-stop button allows for careful planning and strategic maneuvering, ensuring players can navigate the battlefield with precision.

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Playing this game is akin to assuming the role of a seasoned general, directing your army with precision and strategic finesse. The ability to customize your team beforehand, selecting the optimal skills and passive abilities, adds a layer of depth to the automated battles.

Moreover, the AI's performance is commendable, ensuring that your carefully laid plans come to fruition on the battlefield. With its blend of elements from renowned titles like Fire Emblem, Ogre Battle, and a touch of Final Fantasy 12's class system and resource management, the combat experience is truly perfected in every way.

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Exploration in the game is a delightful experience, offering more than just battles. The overworld is teeming with opportunities that contribute to both world-building and empire expansion. Players are tasked with rebuilding towns, a task that yields valuable equipment, quests, and units.

What sets exploration apart is the meticulous attention to detail in its world design. Vanillaware's expertise in sprite art breathes life into the game world, infusing it with a unique personality and charm. Despite the 2D Spirte look, compared to other triple-A titles, the world feels meticulously crafted, stylized, and alive ensuring that exploration and battles never grow stale.

In summary, Unicorn Overlord has proven to be well worth the extensive wait and the $60 price tag. With its captivating gameplay and depth, it stands poised to contend for a spot among the top three best Tactics RPGs of all time, rivaling esteemed titles like Fire Emblem. In a year brimming with remarkable RPG releases, Unicorn Overlord emerges as a formidable contender, showcasing the genre's enduring appeal and innovation.

Pros of Unicorn Overlord

Things Unicorn Overlord Got Right
Checkmark Beautiful Vanillaware Art
Checkmark Engaging and Unique Battle System
Checkmark Tons of Amazing Side-Quests and Overworld Activities
Checkmark Likable and Interesting Characters

Beautiful Vanillaware Art

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For those unfamiliar with Vanillaware's distinctive art style, it revolves around a 2.5D aesthetic and animation technique. This approach incorporates multiple layers of background, creating the illusion of depth without the need for a third dimension. A key aspect is their unique hand-shaping method, which enables artists to craft characters and environments that appear three-dimensional, despite being rendered entirely from two-dimensional pixels. This results in pixel art that feels remarkably animated and vibrant, breathing life into the game world.

Beyond the stunning art, the use of lighting, coloring, and shadows further enhances the depth and beauty of both the world and its characters. While I'm still undecided on whether it surpasses the visuals of titles like Triangle Strategy or Octopath Traveler, there's no denying that it ranks among the best in terms of artistic prowess. It's a style that I sincerely hope more games will embrace in the future.

Engaging and Unique Battle System

Unicorn Overlord offers a gameplay experience reminiscent of Ogre Battle infused with elements from Final Fantasy 12, Fire Emblem, Suikoden, and Symphony of War. While I'm personally unfamiliar with Ogre Battle, Unicorn Overlord draws significant inspiration from its strategic battle system. Initially, the depth of gameplay in Unicorn Overlord may seem daunting, as players are tasked with balancing numerous aspects such as unit management, formation strategies, class assignments, timely deployment, map time limits, and customizing teams to secure victory. But don’t worry because the game will teach you all that slowly but surely and you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

This game introduces a creative overworld map feature that seamlessly blends real-time combat with strategic maneuvering. Players have the freedom to navigate their units across the map, engaging in battles upon encountering enemy forces. While combat sequences are automatic, players exercise full authority over their strategic preparations, including unit formations, equipment selection, and tactical positioning to name a few.

Among the myriad features awaiting discovery in Unicorn Overlord, there are definitely more to look out for like unit mobility and valor skills that stand out as intriguing mechanics that add depth to combat. However, to preserve the element of surprise and ensure players can fully immerse themselves in the excitement of exploration and combat, I'll refrain from revealing further details.

Newcomers to Unicorn Overlord need not fret, as the game offers a range of difficulty options to accommodate varying skill levels. Whether you're a seasoned tactician or a newcomer to the genre, you can choose from Story, Normal, Tactical, and Expert modes to tailor the experience to your preference. While I initially had reservations about the automated battle system, it quickly proved to be an addictive feature that immerses players in the role of a commanding general. While direct control over individual characters may be lacking, the ability to strategize and implement tactics adds a layer of depth and engagement to the battlefield that I never thought could be possible.

Tons of Amazing Side-Quests and Overworld Activities

Unicorn Overlord boasts an abundance of engaging side-content. From Liberation Quests, which challenge you to free oppressed areas and test your leadership choices, to Side Quests delving into the personal journeys of characters, and Overworld Quests, ranging from wrangling runaway chickens to completing specific tasks, there's no shortage of activities to partake in. These quests imbue each town with a lived-in feel and offer plentiful rewards, including new units, experience points, currency, and renown.

Renown functions as a level-up system, allowing you to enhance services available in towns. While these quests primarily consist of stage battles, they are remarkably diverse and feature unique win conditions. While optional, I highly recommend tackling them alongside your main quests, as they enhance the somewhat generic main plot, deepen character development, and bolster your roster with stronger units.

Likeable and Interesting Characters

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The characters in Unicorn Overlord, while lacking in deep complexity, are very likable and charming which grows with each side quest undertaken. Through these side quests, players are allowed to delve deeper into the characters' backstories, motivations, and personal growth, fostering genuine bonds that transcend mere alliances.

The gameplay mechanics further reinforce these connections, as pairing characters into units unlocks unique conversations and dialogues, enhancing the sense of camaraderie and vitality within the party. Notably, the rapport system boosts character stats and adds a layer of depth to relationships. Currently, my standout favorites are Travis and Yahna, because of their interesting backgrounds and quite compelling arcs. And yes, for those inclined, Unicorn Overlord even offers a romance and marriage option which I won’t spoil but it is really wholesome.

Cons of Unicorn Overlord

Things That Unicorn Overlord Can Improve
Checkmark The Main Plot is a Predictable Fantasy Story

The Main Plot is a Predictable Fantasy Story

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While searching for flaws in Unicorn Overlord, I found myself lost as my only major problem revolved around the game's main storyline. Without delving too deeply into specifics to preserve the experience for others, I must admit to a sense of disappointment in this aspect. The main plot failed to captivate me as much as the side-quests, which are more character-driven and engaging. The overarching narrative follows a cliché good versus evil trope, with a forgettable main villain attempting world domination.

There were missed opportunities to explore the moral complexities of mind-controlled enemies becoming allies through the Ring of the Unicorn. Additionally, the game lacks depth in political intrigue and scheming, despite an intriguing world and lore. Ultimately, the plot falls short, presenting a generic fantasy tale with uninspired writing and predictable twists.

Is Unicorn Overlord Worth It?

TRPG Fans and Newcomers Should Pick This Game Up!

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Despite my reservations about the main storyline, Unicorn Overlord emerges as a standout masterpiece in its genre. A clear must-have for TRPG enthusiasts, its appeal extends to newcomers as well. Serving as an excellent entry point into the tactics RPG genre, its manageable length and status as a standalone title make it approachable and welcoming. Priced at $60, it offers exceptional value, and I eagerly anticipate the possibility of future DLCs to further enrich the experience.

Unicorn OverlordUnicorn Overlord
PSN IconPSN Switch IconSwitch Xbox IconXbox
$59.99

Unicorn Overlord FAQ

What was the budget of Unicorn Overlord?

Though the exact budget remains undisclosed, a recent tweet from Vanillaware CEO George Kamitani sheds light on the financial aspect of Unicorn Overlord's development. Kamitani revealed that he personally financed the game's development after the project exceeded its budget. Despite this financial setback, Kamitani expressed confidence that the extensive ten-year development journey was well worth the wait.

Who are the Main Characters in Unicorn Overlord

Within the impressive ensemble of 60 unlockable characters in Unicorn Overlord, the narrative gravitates around four central figures. Alain, the rightful heir to the fallen kingdom of Cornia, takes the lead, accompanied by Scarlett, a priestess of the Palevian Orthodoxy, Lex, Alain's steadfast best friend, and Josef, the esteemed godfather who guided and nurtured Alain until the fateful day arrived to reclaim his throne. Serving as the primary antagonist is Gallerius, formerly a revered Cornian general known as Valmore, who betrayed his allegiance to ascend as the Emperor of the resurgent Zenoiran Empire.

Is There Multiplayer in Unicorn Overlord?

Yes, after a certain point in the game, you will be able to unlock online multiplayer arena.

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Unicorn Overlord Product Information

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Title UNICORN OVERLORD
Release Date March 8, 2024
Developer ATLUS x Vanillaware
Publisher SEGA
Supported Platforms Nintendo Switch
Genre Strategy, Role-Playing
Number of Players 1
ESRB Rating Teen
Official Website Unicorn Overlord Website

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