Unicorn Overlord Preview – A tactical adventure that will auto-battle for your time

Unicorn Overlord header artwork

As with so many fantasy adventures, Unicorn Overlord begins with everything going horribly wrong. The opening tale charts the rise of the evil Zenoiran Empire, and the crushing defeat of the nation of Cornia.

Valmore, a former Cornian general, is a suitably villainous villain here, with some true Machiavellian motivations and the most dangerous of all evil characteristics: the belief that he’s right. On his way to the throne, he slaughters the Cornian queen Ilenia, but with the foresight that all is lost she dispatches her faithful knight Josef and charges him with Alain, her young son and heir.

From here Valmore takes on the name Emperor Galerius – is this really an eviler moniker than Valmore? – and wages war upon all of the neighbouring continents, spreading his evil influence across the entire world.

Unicorn Overlord world map

Unicorn Overlord offers an intriguing take on tactical combat, mixing elements of RTS with the visual presentation of Fire Emblem, though battles play out automatically according to various predetermined rules. You deploy units from Command Points, using Valor (which is gained from defeating enemies and liberating towns and fortresses) to unleash your forces upon the enemy.

When you engage an enemy unit in battle the combat plays out based upon a series of factors. Each unit’s initiative dictates the order that they attack in, and then they use Action Points to perform actions, as well as Passive Points for any abilities that are triggered by an opponent’s moves. Combat continues till all Action Points are consumed or the opposition fall. If they’re not out, the loser will be knocked back and made immobile, giving you the chance to perform the knock-out blow.

Unicorn Overlord combat

I didn’t know how to feel about just how hands-off the combat is, but it takes very little time for its nuances to become clear. Each unit that you own has a 6×2 grid layout, and you can add characters to that grid in a variety of layouts. Depending on how you position them dictates how they respond in combat, so you can position a lead character to take the damage while your rear guard performs the damage-dealing in return, or slot them next to each other to work in tandem.

Different character classes then play into the mix, with cavalry, infantry, ranged and magic-users amongst the different options. In turn, each of these have their own skills, with new ones unlocking as they level up, suddenly giving you an array of options to choose from.

Things become really interesting when you add in each character’s strategy. Like Final Fantasy XII you can set each character’s behaviour so that they respond in exactly the way you want them to in battle, attacking, healing or using specific moves in specific situations. This looks to be a system with untold depths, and it feels as though experimentation with different setups will be the order of the day.

Unicorn Overlord dialogue

Unicorn Overlord has all the hallmarks of a Vanillaware title, specifically its excellent hand-drawn visuals. As with Dragon’s Crown and Odin Sphere, the look of the game will likely draw in a huge number of fantasy fans, while its tactical charms will keep them around. It’s slightly more restrained than Dragon’s Crown, but the weight and physicality of each character means that they’re instantly recognisable and undeniably cool.

The only thing that Unicorn Overlord is a little too fond of is a flowery adjective when a simpler one would do. It feels as though the game’s dialogue and narrative has been run through Google Translate via the synonyms tab on Word, and it’s just about getting by on charm and compelling action so far. It might well be something that you get used to the further you progress, but if you struggle with overly archaic medieval language, be prepared for an onslaught here.

Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.