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Unicorn Overlord is a tactical RPG masterpiece

Vanillaware’s tactical role-playing game Unicorn Overlord is a beautiful mix of old mechanics and new-age graphics, with over 65 unique recruitable characters and a rich storyline.

Fantasy game "Unicorn Overlord" logo and characters illustration.
Image: Vanillaware

If I approached you on the street and suggested that you play Unicorn Overlord, I wouldn’t blame you for looking at me like I was crazy.

Vanillaware’s wildly successful tactical role-playing game may not boast the best or most descriptive name or the draw of the PlayStation 5’s best exclusives, but it is one of the best games this year, regardless.

So, what is Unicorn Overlord? As a Tactical Role-Playing Game (or TRPG), It mixes old mechanics with new-age graphics. TRPGs generally have you control units on a larger map.

These units engage in combat with each other, ultimately eliminating one from the field. In Unicorn Overlord, when two units fight, the battle will automatically play out based on your unit’s tactics, abilities, and equipment.

Great game, silly name

Illustration of fantasy characters preparing for battle.
Image: Vanillaware

On paper, Unicorn Overlord sounds basic. However, the meat and potatoes of the game aren’t solely about smashing units together and winning battles; it’s also about the tactics used.

Each unit has strengths and weaknesses that differ from those of other unit types. Units also have unique abilities to damage enemy units, strengthen friendly units, and reposition. 

In a standard mission, you usually work to liberate towns, achieve goals that will lead to the recruitment of other main characters, and manage units on the battlefield.

It sounds like a slow chess game, but a 90-second battle can be 10 minutes of tactical manipulation when push comes to shove.

Unicorn Overlord’s story is probably the most cliche part of the package. You play as Alain, the exiled son of the fallen queen of Cornea.

You are raised to be a savvy leader and begin a liberation army to free the nations of Fevrith and overthrow the evil that orphaned you and many others.

There are a few interesting twists as the story continues, but not much had me on the edge of my seat.

Gotta ca-recruit them all!

Fantasy strategy game battle scene with units and HUD.
Image: Vanillaware

What is much more exciting is that there are over 65 different and unique recruitable characters. These are outside of the generic ones that are hired at camps.

These characters each have a backstory and will contribute to the story as it plays out. Many can be recruited after battles if they meet specific requirements.

These characters can also really turn a 180 on you. Early on, a maniacal evil sorcerer comes off as needlessly cruel. If you decide to spare him post-battle, he joins your rebellion, and you learn that his mother denied him love and recognition.

Many characters grow like this as the game progresses.

There is a battle in Unicorn Overlord where two armies are about to face off. You are tasked with siding with one to crush the other.

If you take your time in the world to do a few extra quests and liberation missions, you are presented with a third option. This allows you to provoke both armies on a central battlefield and ultimately recruit both leaders without any loss of life.

A true standout game of 2024

Fantasy knights battle in game with fiery explosion effect.
Image: Vanillaware

This is really where Unicorn Overlord starts to shine. The game has much to do; different scenarios can play out based on the units you build.

Your choices have consequences; some will play out quickly, while others may change how the story ends. On top of this, the world itself is filled with plenty of things to do that will fill your time.

These extra activities include mining for materials and treasure maps, completing liberation battles, completing extra gear quests, and building rapport with your characters.

Until I finished the game 100%, there was always something extra to do in addition to managing all of my units and their gear.

Unicorn Overlord takes everything great from games like Tactics Ogre and Fire Emblem and gives it a beautiful coat of paint that only Vanillaware can deliver.

Add in full voice acting and a blissful orchestrated soundtrack, and Unicorn Overlord is one of the can’t-miss games of 2024!

Unicorn Overlord

The deep layers of Unicorn Overlord's tactics combine into one of the best games we've played this year.

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04/18/2024 05:31 pm GMT

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Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, MOBA fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games.

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