Unicorn Overlord Review – Fantasy and Numbers

Unicorn Overlord Review - Fantasy and Numbers

I am in danger of gaining several kilos playing Unicorn Overlord. Vanillaware’s next stylised game has me enamoured during a pivotal moment when my attention should be drawn to other larger developments. But here I am, playing this tactics-driven game and enjoying its busy work and numbers.

If reading by the cover, no one would give Unicorn Overlord a second glance. We are living in the era of Square Enix’s Random Name Generator, which has graced us with oddities such as Lost Sphear, Various Daylife and Paranormasight. Thankfully, Vanillaware got their hands on that name generator and had the good moral decency to assimilate the title into the narrative of the game from the very beginning so that we time-poor folk can understand immediately the premise of the story:

Your protagonist is a lord, the rightful heir.

And… I think the Unicorn is … God?


To be honest, the story is pedestrian and not the main impetus of interest. Prince Alain has grown up in relative seclusion after his home kingdom of Cornia was invaded by a rebellious general and his mother fell in the ensuing conflict. While he is completely aware of the burden that he will one day venture forth to liberate Cornia and its neighbouring kingdoms from tyranny, the moment is hastened by an attack on his secluded village. Armed with a relic of magical, royal and religious significance, Alain travels across Fervith to recruit allies and liberate nations. The journey across this world is meaningful, but primarily due to the instinctual need for acquisition rather than a direct and significant impact on the narrative.

Acquisition is necessary because it propels the best element of Unicorn Overlord – its combat.

Unlike other recent strategy RPG releases, Unicorn Overlord has an almost cozy approach to combat – a notion of active thinking and passive playing. This is a concept that could wander dangerously into idle participation but instead maintains a respectful balance that allows the player to maintain focus on larger agendas instead of the blow-by-blow. As such, the clash is not something that you actively control – it plays out before you in a dance of actions and reactions between your party and the enemy.


The strategy is less on each individual attack and instead on every decision that you make outside of that skirmish. Within the boundaries of each stage map, you deploy your units and then command them around the terrain to battle enemies, intercept key structures, and collect useful items. Deployment is facilitated by using valor points, which are also used for other actions on the stage map (such as buffs, debuffs, area-of-effect actions, healing, and even teleporting). Every deployment is also an opportunity to review the balance of the teams that are joining the fight, with each squad containing 1-6 recruits, and each recruit’s Leadership ability contributing an interesting passive effect to complement other party members.

I enjoyed this level of thinking before and after battle so much more because it freed me from the indecision paralysis of the battle itself, which has long been a problem when I have played strategy games. I did not need to worry about each individual attack – I trusted in the automata. There was not one stage with one battle, but a map with various structures and garrisons to approach through division and conquering. My reward was seeing my units gain experience and learn more AP and PP skills while they level up, and seeing how I could set up these skills similar to Final Fantasy 12’s gambit system.


The stages adapted into the overworld map seamlessly, which is where I spent the most hours travelling between towns and forts to help rebuild, purchase equipment, or even recruit additional heroes for the journey. Advancement opportunities abound with a multitude of “economies” – whether it be Honor points, renown, rapport, Divine Shards, or just good old-fashioned gathering of plants and wildlife for town deliveries.

All of these options can seem overwhelming, but somehow feel less daunting than a Fire Emblem entry or even the recent Tactics Ogre, and that may be because I did not feel the same pressure to be invested in the individuals and their narrative. As much as Vanillaware and Atlus may not want to hear it, Unicorn Overlord allowed me to step back from the emotional responsibility of the characters in its narrative. Each of the characters already knew their place in the greater design and the conflict was straightforward. This gave me the delightful liberation to enjoy the systems of play and their outcomes. I was able to just do the mental work, the active thinking and let the conflict passively play out in the background.

Unicorn Overlord was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by the publisher. 

Have you seen our Merch Store?

Check out our Most Recent Video

Find us on Metacritic

Check out our Most Recent Posts