Unicorn Overlord Review

Beauty in Tactics

Release Date
March 8, 2024
Developed By:
Published By:
Strategy RPG
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, XBOX Series X/S
Our Score

Last year, we got the modern port of Grim Grimoire, Vanillaware’s first attempt at a strategy RPG from the PS2. Due to my lack of experience in the strategy genre, I was nervous. I found a game with some core flaws, but VanillaWare is proving that their fundamentals for many aspects are solid. While a similar dread occurred before Playing Unicorn Overlord, that fear was scrubbed from my mind within a few hours. I may need more time to think about this, but Unicorn Overlord may be my new favorite from VanillaWare. While the signature style is here, everything is well woven together, creating an experience that I can only describe as “addictive.” Even if aspects aren’t what one would call original, the inspirations are proudly woven into this beautiful fabric.

The first source of inspiration would be the Fire Emblem series. The characters and story are very Fire Emblem in nature. Let me know if you’ve heard this one: A dark, long-forgotten nation suddenly returns to the land of Fevrith after being gone more than a century. This force, led by the imposing Galerius, invades Cornia and then proceeds to conquer the rest of the world. The only ones who can oppose Galerius are an exiled prince and his family’s treasure, Alain, and The Ring of The Unicorn. When Alain comes of age, he sets out to foster Liberation and free the world from Galerius’s rule. Pretty typical story. The characters are a little tropey but lovable. As you progress, you can recruit new characters by completing missions or even recruit certain enemies by defeating them. You will make choices that will either add a new member to your crew, or you can refuse and even execute them. The unique cast members have plenty of personalities, and their designs stand out from the small elements in their designs. Once again, VanillaWare’s penchant for gorgeously rendered games meets their high set bar.

Every aspect of Unicorn Overlord’s presentation is of the finest caliber. The artwork, which sports the usual hand-drawn style the company is known for, cannot be overstated. The use of color and lighting is especially prevalent here, and it dazzles. The backgrounds used for battles, story beats and conversations are sumptuous and will grab you. Which extends to the shops that make the spaces feel lived in. And yes, the “So delicious looking it’s almost real” food is here too! The sound work and voice acting also breathe life into this world. I must give credit to whoever worked on implementing the audio. Voices have appropriate changes in echo or clarity depending on whether the character is wearing a helmet or in spaces like large temples or offices.  The voice acting is solid overall and is complemented by a more flowery writing style that captures the medieval fantasy vibe. And lastly, the score. Basiscape once again proves why it is one of the best in the industry in composing. Unicorn Overlord could have had a very generic fantasy vibe. But the effort put forth here deeply enhances the experience. Different tracks play during the day and night cycles; each nation has a distinct set of tracks. Even 80 hours later, I still have not been tired of the overworld and battle themes.

The other portion that Unicorn Overlord does not borrow from much but ingrains and refines is Tactics Ogre/Ogre Battle. To me, this is the part that made Unicorn Overlord addictive. You start by building each squad that can be expanded up to 5 units as you gain more Renown. The genius of Unicorn Overlords battle system lies in the absurd potential and depth. There are 30 different classes that you find in the game, and more than half have a form that can receive advancement. Combine this with more than 60 recruitable characters and the ability to hire generic forms of the different classes, and you have nearly limitless possibilities. Each character can be customized with accessories, weapons that grant status buffs, and even new skills. The staggering amount of decisions almost gave me decision paralysis. Still, everything was doled out at a steady drip feed, making it easy to learn and supremely enjoyable. Despite that, I never felt like the game was too slow or that I lost interest. After a bit, I lost a decent amount of sleep because time would vanish while I played.

The real-time battle system in Unicorn Overlord is not only deep, but it is constantly engaging. Three significant elements that manage come into play. Team management is necessary to counter enemy movements and capture their forts and towns. You use Valor points to deploy units and use each character’s class skills. Each time you engage in a battle, your team will consume a stamina point, when exhausted you can still defend yourself, but you must either use items or risk resting to recover, which leaves you vulnerable. You will not use stamina if you garrison your unit on a defensible position like a bridge or watchtower. Garrisoning at towns and forts recovers your health and stamina over time and buffs while stationed. Defeating enemies, finding items, and capturing locations will grant you more valor points. The second element is the team management, I won’t go too far into this because you’d be here all day. But know that each class brings something unique to the table, and if your team cannot counter certain things, they can and will get wiped out. Permadeath only happens as an unlockable difficulty, so losing a unit stings, but it’s not always the end of the world.  The last element is time. Each level has a time limit. This does not decrease while in menus and issuing commands. If you run out of time, you must restart the level or revert to an in-game save you made.


I have only scratched the surface of Unicorn Overlord’s gameplay. Everything is so well woven together that I couldn’t help but fall deeply in love with this game. If you like strategy games with a ton of customization and don’t mind an anime-like styling, Unicorn Overlord is a must-play. The gorgeous presentation, music, and gameplay all come together to form a magnificent whole. I cannot recommend this game highly enough.

Unicorn Overlord Review
Beautiful inside and out
Unicorn Overlord is an exceptional title. VanillaWare once again proves they are a top class studio with a refined SRPG. The presentation, music and gameplay will have you hooked.
Incredible Character designs and landscapes
Moving Soundtrack
Deep, customizable and addictive gameplay.
Minor learning curve when using menus.