Review: Unicorn Overlord (Nintendo Switch)

Unicorn Overlord, a tactical strategy RPG from ATLUS and Vanillaware, has captured my attention like no other game in 2024 so far. Spending over 100 hours immersed in this world has solidified my belief that this could very well be my game of the year. Set in the kingdom of Cornia, which has fallen under the control of General Valmore, the game follows Alain, the would-be prince, on a quest for liberation.

The story begins with Alain’s mother, Queen Ilenia, entrusting the Ring of the Unicorn to a guard named Josef before her last stand against Valmore. Fast forward ten years, and the island of Palevia is under attack by the forces of Zenoira. Alain, Josef, and a group of allies successfully repel the invaders and discover the true power of the Ring of the Unicorn, which has the ability to dispel the mind control that Valmore exerts on his subjects. With this newfound knowledge, Alain sets out to gather an army and free Cornia from the tyrannical rule of Galerius.

What sets Unicorn Overlord apart from other JRPGs is its dynamic world map. Rather than just a backdrop for travel, the map is a living entity that plays a crucial role in gameplay. As Alain explores the world to build his army, he encounters various towns and cities that can be liberated through battles. These liberated territories provide valuable resources such as armor, provisions, and even the opportunity to increase the rapport among Alain’s troops by sharing meals in taverns.

Exploration is not limited to towns; the map also features forts where mercenaries can be recruited, unit sizes expanded, and mock battles engaged in for practice. Hidden relics and strategic elements like disabling catapults add depth to the gameplay, rewarding players for thorough exploration and strategic thinking.

In the heat of battle, Unicorn Overlord truly shines. With over 60 characters to recruit, each possessing unique skills and class types, the depth of strategy in unit composition and customization is staggering. Arming and accessorizing units, assigning leaders, and activating skills at the right moment all play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of battles. Mock battles can be used to test strategies, but adapting to enemy formations on-the-fly is key to success.

Valor points govern the deployment of units and special skills during battles, adding an element of resource management to the gameplay. Choosing the right leader for a unit can grant specialized abilities, but a balance must be struck between offensive power and defensive capabilities. With countless items, skills, and unit tweaks available, there is a solution to every tactical challenge, rewarding players who think strategically and adapt to changing battlefield conditions.

While Unicorn Overlord excels in many aspects, there are a couple of minor drawbacks. The potential for overpowering certain unit setups can make battles feel repetitive, and the sheer number of soldier classes may overwhelm players with decision fatigue. However, these issues do little to detract from the overall experience of exploring the richly illustrated landscapes, engaging with heroic character designs, and enjoying the fitting music and solid voice acting.

In conclusion, Unicorn Overlord is a standout title in the realm of JRPG and strategy games. Its cohesive design, engaging gameplay, and immersive world make it a strong contender for game of the year. If you’re a fan of the genre or looking for a new gaming experience that blends storytelling with strategic combat, Unicorn Overlord is a must-play in 2024. Get ready to lose yourself in the fantastical world of Fevrith and experience the joy of a game that truly clicks for you.