Unicorn Overlord Review - A Unique and Engaging Experience 34534

Unicorn Overlord Review – A Unique and Engaging Experience

Over the years Vanillaware created some of the most visually striking games out there. Whether you look at Odin Sphere, or Dragon’s Crown, their style is recognizable in an instant. With their latest experience, Unicorn Overlord, they kept their beloved art and went back to the RPG genre. With interesting gameplay, a unique setting, and extremely stylish art, is it an absolute must, or is it just a pretty looking game?

Unicorn Overlord starts with a fairly standard premise. You follow the Queen of Corina, who is currently fighting against hostile forces that mean to take over her kingdom. Fearing the worst, she leaves her son in the hands of her most trusted knight, Josef. Unfortunately, Cornia falls to Valmore, but his ambition doesn’t stop there.

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After a brief time skip, Prince Alain is ready to fight for his nation. He is given a treasured heirloom his mother entrusted Josef with, and shortly after encounters a familiar face that is now on the enemy side. After defeating him the ring breaks a curse returning him to the man Alain knew as a child. This suggests there is more to what happened in the past, ultimately lighting a fire in him to continue the fight against Valmore.

While the initial premise isn’t overly unique, Unicorn Overlord does a great job of grabbing player’s interest. The initial plot moves fast, with it not dancing around certain reveals, or delaying expected outcomes. To further enhance the narrative, there are also a wide variety of side quests, and people around towns you can communicate with.

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Overworld You Can Interact With

This is an absolute delight to see, as interactive townsfolk are becoming increasingly rare. For every title that offers a little more for those willing to seek it out, there are another four, or five that limit these areas to quests/shops. In addition to that, Unicorn Overlord‘s approach to certain things is refreshing.

Along with standard features, like player choices, shops, and the occasional person with a side quest, exploring certain areas of the map can reveal optional battles. These can unlock new locations, resources, heroes, or just change the overall flow. What stands out is how natural they feel. Simply turn a corner, and there is a town that needs saving. Even if the core ideas are interesting, gameplay is an acquired taste.

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Before engaging in combat, players need to manage gear, attack patterns, and formations. These are fairly manageable as mechanics unlock overtime. The basic idea is to create teams that are able to accomplish set goals. These include mounted warriors to make quick work of invading forces, shielded enemies to block, rangers to safely dispatch foes, and so forth. Once everything is set it’s time to head into battle.

On a basic level Unicorn Overlord is rather straightforward. Stages have set objectives, time limits, and problems that must be overcame if you want to win. Basically, capture key locations, or kill specific forces without taking too long. To further complicate things, enemy units will have their own mechanics to be aware of.

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Not on My Watch

It isn’t possible to send your strongest fighter to win every battle, as each unit has specific weaknesses. This makes things more interesting, especially due to how combat flows. Since players need to transverse over an area, a lot can change in a moment. I might want to have my ranger kill their rangers, but they might move towards taking out a unit weak to their action.

Where things get interesting is the actual combat. Before battles players can use Valor skills to give them an edge going into a fight. As I mentioned, this isn’t a turn based, or action RPG, so units do a predetermined attack rotation. There will be slight variations based off other skills, though they will generally do the exact same thing each, and every time. After a full rotation occurs, a winner will be declared. Generally speaking, the side that advances further wins, though matching your opponent results in a draw.

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A Favorable Outcome

The winning side will be able to continue controlling their unit, whereas the losing side will be briefly stunned. After this later attacks might play out differently, typically at the losing sides disadvantage, until all units in that group fall.

Even if this sounds rather simple, each unit has a set amount of engagements before it must rest. So even if I want to finish the enemy I just defeated, I might need to save my resources for a later battle. Likewise, this can be used to stall out enemies, something that is especially true if you can mitigate losses.

All of this makes for an engaging experience, though it can also be rather boring. Since there is only so much you can control, battles can lack an impact. In a lot of ways it’s closer to a real time strategy (RTS) game, which is not particularly popular on consoles.

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Such Wonderful Style

Unicorn Overlord also makes the unfortunate mistake of overloading the initial couple of hours with tutorials. I can understand the thought their unique experience might confuse some people, but it makes things grind to a halt. Not only that, some of the tutorials are rather obvious. One example was explaining rangers are ranged attackers. I sure hope this isn’t a revelation to most players, as it goes without saying. Now that isn’t to say they lack any value, the obvious details also touch on gameplay elements, it’s just poorly done in general.

Shortcomings aside, Vanillaware did an amazing job with their models. Where they stand out the most are all the little touches. Having soldiers look up at mounted enemies, topography changing how a battlefield looks, to a wide array of eye catching designs. It’s enough where players will want to literally see everything because it’s such a delight to view.

Unicorn Overlord Review Verdict

Unicorn Overlord: At its core I think Unicorn Overlord is a great experience. Between the amazing visuals, gripping narrative, and depth there is a lot to experience. It's unfortunate it makes some annoying choices like overbearing tutorials, but these are quickly forgotten long term. In the end enjoyment comes down to whether you like the gameplay loop or not. Some will love the quasi-RTS battles, whereas other people will find the lack of control annoying. Where you fall on this range will likely dictate how much you enjoy Unicorn Overlord. Mark

von 10

Editor’s Note: Unicorn Overlord was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.

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