Inverse Recommends

Unicorn Overlord Is Even Easier to Recommend During Its Early Prime Day Sale

It’s all going according to plan.

screenshot from Unicorn Overlord
Atlus
Inverse Recommends

In a lot of games, spending too much time in menus is a bad thing. Taking an hour to choose your equipment or sort your consumable items feels a lot more like doing chores than having fun for most players. But one of the best RPGs of the year turns that idea on its head, making fiddling with its menus every bit as exciting as duking it out in massive real-time battles. And if you haven’t yet discovered the unique joy of micromanaging your army in Unicorn Overlord, you can now pick it up much cheaper during an early Amazon Prime Day sale.

You may be familiar with Unicorn Overlord’s developer, Vanillaware, but that’s really no help in telling you what kind of game it is. Vanillaware has a reputation for leaping from one genre to another with abandon, releasing a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, a heady sci-fi visual novel, and an old-school tactical RPG in succession. One thing the Vanillaware name does tell you is that you’re in for an inventive twist on genre conventions with gorgeous hand-drawn art and a great soundtrack to boot.

Unicorn Overlord’s particular brand of tactics is (probably) like nothing you’ve ever played.

Unicorn Overlord’s large-scale battles play out with a mix of real-time and turn-based combat that will feel totally unique to a lot of players. The game’s developers say it’s heavily inspired by classic tactical RPGs, especially Ogre Battle. That makes it a glorious return to a long-dormant genre, but one that feels like a fresh twist in practice.

In Unicorn Overlord, everything is decided before you enter combat. Conflicts play out on maps dotted with command posts and other defensive structures, which both your units (comprising up to six individual soldiers) and enemies traverse in real time. From this screen, you can use Valor Points earned in combat to execute skills ranging from stat-boosting rallying cries to damaging storms of conjured fireballs, but to claim your victory, you need to get in close. When one of your units makes contact with the enemy, turn-based combat ensues.

Unlike other turn-based games, though, you’re no longer in control. In battle, everyone acts according to tactics assigned to them beforehand, meaning preparation is the real key to victory. Fortunately, Unicorn Overlord somehow makes getting your troops ready for battle just as exciting as controlling them directly in other games.

Watching your carefully planned tactics play out is satisfying every time.

Atlus

A detailed tactics menu lets you give guidance to your warriors, telling them who to target first and which skills to use in every situation. New equipment can even grant them unique skills, allowing for custom strategies that break the rules of their class. Outfitting a unit with the perfect combination of offensive and defensive skills to face whatever lies ahead of you feels like solving a tricky puzzle and outwitting your foe at the same time. And watching your meticulously crafted plans come to fruition in battle is a thrill unlike anything other tactics games can offer.

Unicorn Overlord thrives in battle, but it’s not a total slouch when the fighting ends. Exploring the game’s overworld presents you with seemingly endless optional battles as well as a few puzzles to liven things up. Combat is always more important than exploration in the game, but having the option to seek out minor battles between story-critical conflicts that can take an hour or more is a huge boon to the game’s pacing.

Unicorn Overlord’s story isn’t very memorable, but it’s still packed with interesting characters.

Atlus

The overarching story of protagonist Alain fighting to restore his usurped kingdom is nothing to write home about, but there are plenty of interesting characters with their own narratives in the margins. The tale of a disgraced knight trying to redeem his honor or a brigand fighting to free his homeland aren’t the most original, but they do lend color to the world and drive home the idea that each of your soldiers is a real person with their own motivations, even if it’s ultimately up to you to tell them what to do.

Unicorn Overlord may not be the game to start your action itch, but if you’re in the mood to work your brain more than your reflexes, it’s a must-play. There’s really no modern game that can match its particular brand of forward-thinking strategy, and seeing your plans come together in game will have you feeling like a tactical genius, even if you’re not nearly as organized in real life.

Unicorn Overlord is currently available for $35 on PS5, $44 on Switch, and $47 on Xbox.

Related Tags