Games Technology

Unicorn Overlord: The Kotaku Assessment


There’s a satisfaction that comes from being informed you might be too weak to face a problem after which rapidly handing your enemy their defeat on a silver platter regardless. Being the David to your enemy’s Goliath and leveraging not simply bodily however strategic energy to beat the percentages is a thrill that by no means will get previous. That’s why irrespective of what number of instances I end a battle in Unicorn Overlord, I stay keen to search out my subsequent combatant and train them to not underestimate me.

The self-described tactical RPG (that’s in actuality extra of a real-time technique sport) involves us from Vanillaware, the developer behind video games like Odin’s Sphere and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, and it’s a marvel of system design that blends planning forward with fast-paced reactions. Simply whenever you suppose you’ve discovered all the pieces you’ll want to find out about how you can method and win its large-scale tactical battles, it unveils one more piece of the puzzle you’ll want to take into account. Whereas the narrative of Vanillaware’s newest launch doesn’t attain the heights that followers of the twisting 13 Sentinels could hope for, it doesn’t must—not when its fight is so meticulously designed and fascinating. Unicorn Overlord is likely one of the most spectacular techniques video games in current reminiscence, and it’s to not be missed.

Welcome to Fevrith, now let’s go to warfare

Unicorn Overlord takes place within the medieval world of Fevrith. Forged within the position of Prince Alain, the rightful inheritor to the throne, you might be charged with liberating the world from the clutches of an evil emperor. It’s all pretty generic and principally acts as set-dressing. All you actually need to know for now’s that Vanillaware’s techniques RPG is about assembling a military and successful battles throughout the map as a part of your play to reclaim the throne.

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Fireworks explode over a walled town

Screenshot: Atlus

These battles are the sport’s bread and butter. Scattered throughout the expansive overworld that’s the 5 kingdoms of Fevrith, encounters can vary from small skirmishes to huge, multi-stage battles throughout a big swath of the map. The sport eases you into the dimensions of fights in addition to the sheer quantity of techniques it’s important to interact with by means of the opening couple of hours (which make up the presently accessible demo). This early stretch consists of some battles that will really feel gradual to style aficionados, however it serves a vital objective, shelling out necessary data on the sport’s workings in bite-sized chunks. Earlier than lengthy, you’ll discover that battles are nothing if not fast-paced and stress-inducing (in a great way).

A typical Unicorn Overlord battle performs out as follows. You begin at a Command Publish on one facet of the map and sometimes should defeat a boss on the different finish and seize the enemy Command Publish. You summon models by spending Valor Factors, after which direct these models by means of the map. Valor Factors accrue over time by defeating enemy models or capturing enemy outposts. Along with appearing as a useful resource to summon your combatants, Valor Factors may also be spent to make use of characters’ particular skills, referred to as Valor Abilities. The opposite most important useful resource to maintain observe of is Stamina, which each and every unit has a set quantity of. Each encounter with an enemy unit consumes stamina, and when it’s depleted, a unit can not transfer or defend themselves.

Troops moving towards the enemy on a battlefield in Unicorn overlord

Screenshot: Atlus

All of this happens in real-time on the map, although you may (and may) pause at any time to take a second and assess your troop actions. And whilst you do inform models the place to go, they’re fairly self-sufficient with regards to really clashing with enemies. That’s due to the Techniques system, which is the very best riff on Ultimate Fantasy XII’s gambit system since…effectively Ultimate Fantasy XII. Earlier than battle, you’ll be able to tremendous tune how every character in a unit acts, akin to telling a healer to solely use a therapeutic spell when an allied unit’s well being goes under a sure proportion, or advising a cavalry unit to make use of a selected assault when clashing with a unit that has a thief in it.

It’s like extra-complicated chess

That’s the only rationalization I can muster, however it hardly scratches the floor of how complicated these battles turn into. A lot of that complexity is because of the sport’s unit system. Items are teams of fighters organized into two rows of three. Although you direct your models in actual time throughout the map, when two opposing models conflict, you’re despatched to a separate display screen the place these forces duke it out. The result is decided by the way you’ve organized the unit, and what every character’s benefits or weaknesses are in comparison with these of their foes. Whereas Unicorn Overlord attracts on many different techniques and real-time technique video games for inspiration, the most important affect is Ogre Battle 64, whose mixing of each genres was sufficient to safe it a cult standing. Like that Nintendo 64 title, Unicorn Overlord pulls from each spectrums of affect to create a fight system that equally values strategic planning and on-the-fly unit motion.

A unit screen in Unicorn overlord, showing how to organize and pick characters

Screenshot: Atlus

Items can embrace as much as six fighters, however Unicorn Overlord begins you off small with two models, every with a restrict of two characters. Every character has a category with its personal advantages. The Thief class, for instance, effectively dodges assaults, whereas Gryphon Knights provide the benefit of having the ability to fly throughout the map. Many of those characters are collected by finishing facet quests all through the world. Given the sport’s pretty fundamental narrative, although, essentially the most fascinating factor about these characters is their beautiful artwork design, however the full glory of the studio’s signature model is barely seen in cutscenes and through unit clashes. Whereas exploring the overworld or directing models on a battle map, Unicorn Overlord renders the world in a bite-sized, virtually chibi style. It’s certainly not ugly, however you may’t assist however want that your entire sport was rendered in its full scale.

Items may also be upgraded over time, providing you with entry to extra models and extra characters inside every unit—to not point out upgraded courses additional into the sport. That’s completed with Honors, one other foreign money earned by finishing varied duties like making deliveries and even rounding up chickens.

Two enemies clash on the battlefield in unicorn overlord

Screenshot: Atlus

Finally, all these techniques (and others which I haven’t talked about as a result of there’s simply a lot on this sport) come collectively in these superb large-scale battles I discussed. The sport opens up the world to you after you full your first large battle, just for it to supply up ever-more-complex fights, as if to say “you ain’t seen nothin’ but.” These larger battles that make up the sport’s most important quest are all extremely well-designed challenges that repeatedly add to or subvert what you’ve already discovered.

Placing all of it collectively

One notably memorable encounter comes within the kingdom of Drakenhold. After so many battles with the win situation of “assault the enemy throughout the map and seize the command submit,” you face one through which enemy forces encompass you and transfer towards you, whereas your job is now to defend the command submit. The sport tells you you could battle your strategy to a boss to finish the battle, although you would additionally attempt to make this a warfare of attrition and easily outlast your enemy. It’s an expertly executed twist that makes you rethink the way you’ve been enjoying the sport.

And this occurs in battle after battle. One other difficult encounter revealed that it was really a multi-stage battle after I had wasted various my models to defeat the boss, who then transported throughout the map and challenged me to beat them as soon as extra. (Tip: bear in mind to avoid wasting throughout large battles, which is one thing you are able to do!) Typically climate impacts battles and restricts your imaginative and prescient of the sector, making planning out motion that a lot more durable. However these twists on the components by no means really feel like an affordable transfer that’s meant to punish you. Relatively, they’re a problem to suppose smarter, which is what this sport is all about. Being strategic. Regardless of battles enjoying out in real-time, a lot of the result is decided earlier than you even begin an encounter. You need to take into consideration unit group, tools, and punctiliously tuning the Techniques menu. However once more, that doesn’t imply the real-time motion inside battles is unimportant. Guiding your models deftly by means of a map and difficult particular enemy combatants is a vital ability. A participant must grasp each key factors of Unicorn Overlord’s fight to succeed.

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The advantage of Unicorn Overlord’s deference to techniques is that in case you actually suppose strategically, you may at all times come out the victor. Throughout my time with the sport I used to be virtually at all times underneath the advisable degree for an encounter. As an alternative of grinding to outlevel my opponent, I prioritized taking time to plan the very best plan to beat them. This may result in deceptively easy approaches that make once-complex battles look like a breeze. One in all my most dependable setups revolved round wanting on the weaknesses of a boss and tailoring one sturdy unit composed of characters with benefit over the boss in query to take them down by means of organising the right Techniques and equipping the strongest gear. I’d then reserve one spot on the unit for a flying character as this allowed me to keep away from various smaller enemies in my path and beeline on to the boss, taking them out and ending the battle very quickly. With this method, I even accomplished one battle in fourteen seconds. You may’t actually grind to overpower enemies anyway, because the rock-paper-scissors-like system of strengths and weaknesses every character intrinsically has carries extra weight than their degree.

Precisely what it needs to be

A lot of Unicorn Overlord’s momentum throughout its tens of hours is maintained by means of these progressively tougher battles. What won’t propel you thru Unicorn Overlord is its narrative. It’s not that there isn’t one. Like I mentioned, a very good monarch is right here to rescue the world from the evil monarch. It’s simply that this narrative is so totally unoriginal, and the sport itself by no means appears to place a lot weight on it. The opening of Unicorn Overlord reveals that the enemy emperor was as soon as a trusted help to Alain’s mom, the Queen, however he betrayed them together with various different troopers. This units up the potential for an fascinating story about why these folks selected to insurgent, suggesting that possibly we don’t know the complete story. However inside the first half hour, it’s revealed that the majority enemies you face down are literally simply thoughts managed. You repair that with magic and transfer alongside.

The one characters that appear to make their very own selections are the grunts of the enemy forces. By and enormous, the high-born individuals who betrayed you get off scot free. This isn’t an fascinating commentary on how folks in energy can escape punishment within the fictional and actual worlds. It means nothing, as a result of the high-born villains had been mind-controlled and thus not chargeable for their actions.

Scarlett and Alain stand infront of an altar in a forest

Screenshot: Atlus

The try at bringing some degree of morality to the sport’s characters continues within the sport’s boss fights, however equally fails. You win and immediately the enemy gives you some sob story about their sick sister or how they’d no alternative however to affix the ranks of the evil empire. You then’re given the choice to spare them or sentence them to some punishment, be it execution or imprisonment. However for the reason that characters really feel so one-note and the battle lacks actual consequence, these selections are bereft of that means. It’s not like this story actually tries to do something with the ethical challenges confronted by a ruler within the midst of making an attempt to overthrow one other energy. So on the finish of the day it’s in your greatest curiosity to spare the enemy and allow them to be part of you, since you might at all times use one other soldier in your military.

A lot of this narrative weak spot additionally comes from Alain himself. Hes comparatively ineffective in fight, which makes you are feeling disconnected from him and his targets. To take the sport’s narrative and mechanical intertwining at a degree it actually isn’t engaged on, there’s one thing eerily darkish about Unicorn Overlord portraying the machinations of a monarch who’s assumed to be “good” giving little care to the folks he drafts into service, past their utility in gaining his throne again.

Because the instant follow-up to 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, the shoddy narrative of Unicorn Overlord is especially disappointing. 13 Sentinels confirmed that Vanillaware is able to telling a posh and emotional story, however none of that’s current in Unicorn Overlord. Relatively, this sport is a direct inverse of its predecessor. The place 13 Sentinels prioritized narrative over its occasional RTS segments, Unicorn Overlord goes all in on tactical fight and places narrative on the again burner. In one other world, Unicorn Overlord might have blended each narrative and mechanics to nice success in the identical approach that Fireplace Emblem: Three Homes does.

However Unicorn Overlord is just not serious about that, and albeit it doesn’t must be. This isn’t a sport that’s making an attempt to be a story masterpiece; it’s making an attempt to be a mechanical marvel, and it accomplishes the latter in spades. The endlessly ingenious and extremely well-designed tactical techniques at play in Unicorn Overlord make it an exhilarating problem to deal with. It isn’t only a sport that longtime followers of Vanillaware ought to take note of, it’s for anyone eager to play the subsequent nice techniques RPG. Unicorn Overlord is the sport you’ve been ready for.

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