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Unicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank you

Let's find out together, in this dedicated review, whether and how much Unicorn Overlord, Vanillaware's new strategic JRPG, convinced us

Vanillaware is one of the companies that keeps the undergrowth of the most classic JRPGs alive, thriving and shining, whether they are turn-based, strategic or anything else you can think of. After the excellent 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, the company has graced us with a huge free trial version of Unicorn Overlord with more than six hours of content. The philosophy of few but good has always rewarded Vanillaware with an excellent reception from the public and the press, who knows if it will have gone like this in this case too. Spoilers? Yes. Definitely yes.

Destroy Evil, then Come

Available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series S and Nintendo Switch, Unicorn Overlord tells the story of Alain, a very young prince who was torn away from the hands of his mother, Queen of Cornia, at a very young age due to the overthrow of power by General Valmore, who has since become a despotic tyrant of the kingdom. Entrusted to the care of the first knight of Cornia, Josef, Alain is left by his mother with a tender embrace and the Unicorn Ring, the key object for the subsequent reunification of the kingdom.

Government | Review Unicorn Overlord

In fact, the ring, and we will discover it from the very first hours of the game, is able to free the generals of Cornia from the mental yoke of Valmore, bringing them back to the right path. The entire narrative of Unicorn Overlord is in fact functional to reunification of the kingdom of Cornia at the hands of the Liberation army led by Alain, which will take more and more allies into its ranks. If, in fact, the game allows you to immediately unlock the bridge that leads to the final boss (singular choice, ed.), the fulcrum of the experience created by Vanillaware in this instance is the journey.

A long, treacherous journey made up of battles, victories and defeats, but also of many new acquaintances. As in any good strategic JRPG, the important thing is to have good pawns. And as in any good strategic JRPG, we can also pay the pawns with money, but the choice in this case would be too limited both in terms of choice and overall power and yield. The path to take is to complete every possible narrative bifurcation, main or secondary plot, which will inevitably lead you to obtain new allies, all wonderfully characterized and with a background that intersects with the others and with the main story.

Unicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank youUnicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank you

Majestic | Review Unicorn Overlord

There are many pieces, really many. And keeping track of all the stories and substories would be truly impossible if the developers had not made available a very convenient Library that records every event, every dialogue, every character encountered or even remotely named. In short, a truly vast archive with which we can look back everything we have seen up to that pointquickly reaching all the connected entries.

The most interesting thing, in this context, is the freedom given to the player in managing these narrative lines. Recruiting or executing any of the pawns is the simple faculty of whoever is in control of the pad: if you simply dislike someone you can decide to discard them and focus on the next one. If you have too many knights, ditto, if you simply don't like the design of the piece, ditto. Interesting, right?

You will have the same freedom, or approximately, when exploring the Unicorn Overlord game map. About why, inevitably, in some areas you will be bound by the continuation of the plot to unlock other secondary missions, but this happens very rarely and with such a high quantity of events to explore, battles to complete, resources to find and characters to get to know that you will hardly complete the areas in a short time. The fact that fast travel via the map is immediately availableFurthermore, it makes everything very fast and immediate, a factor which further amplifies the fun factor and the desire for completionism of the title itself.

Unicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank youUnicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank you

Fighting off the Powerful | Review Unicorn Overlord

On the game map we will encounter many points of interest: from cities to fortresses, obviously passing through the fights that constitute the actual game levels. They can be more or less complex and articulated depending on whether they are purely secondary missions or something more important, up to the plot levels which reach really interesting peaks in terms of level design and strategy. At the end of the various levels we will obtain different game currencies, from simple money to Fame points to Medals.

Fame is an ever-present indicator that is raised by all the feats accomplished by the Liberation Army and whose ranks serve to expand the number of formations that we can organize and deploy. The formations are literally the teams, made up of one to six pieces (the number of deployable pawns can be increased by spending medals in the fortresses) completely customizable both for the positioning and deployment of the pawns themselves. The game, through a long series of always accessible tutorials, gradually explains what the strengths and weaknesses of each class of pawns are and, above all, what interactions they will have with their teammates once deployed in formation.

The hoplite is a purely defensive class, and must therefore be placed on the front line, while archers and magicians, who are notoriously more delicate, go to the rear. Some interactions are obviously intuitive, others need to be studied and understood. Unicorn Overlord's team formation system may be simple to understand, but damn difficult when taken to high difficulty levels. Don't take this lightly: building a good formation is the key to defeating all enemy units, in any situation.

Unicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank youUnicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank you

Library | Review Unicorn Overlord

Let us therefore move on to the combat system, the beating heart, together with the purely strategic one of the training, of this review of Unicorn Overlord. Unlike what has been seen in other titles of this genre, think for example of the Disgaea series or the more recent Triangle Strategy, Battles in Unicorn Overlord flow automatically and, indeed, you can decide to skip the battle animation completely, as the result is already visible on the screen even before it happens.

The preparation takes place first, on the battlefield, when the formations of allied pawns can be moved to reach the enemy ones, with various detours for the collection of objects, buffs or for secondary interactions useful for expanding the story and relationships between the characters. You can also pause, to study the situation carefully, and stop the movements of all the pieces. When two enemy formations come into contact, the clash begins which will, as mentioned, the result already visible on the screen and which varies based on a multitude of different factors, starting from the composition of the formations themselves, moving on to the class of leaders, to the various buffs or aid received from the surrounding allied formations.

Unicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank youUnicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank you

Quarry | Review Unicorn Overlord

There is also a very useful characteristic on the battlefield which is Valor, the points of which can be accumulated by defeating enemies or capturing outposts and which can be used to deploy additional formations in battle and use active abilities of the pawns present on the field and which can be very useful for strengthening, reviving, healing allies or causing significant damage to enemies. There is also a huge amount of consumable itemswhich will gradually become more and more useful as the battles become more challenging, as well as the possibility for enemies to deploy barriers to break down to continue and so on.

In short: as we have already said, Unicorn Overlord's combat system belongs to that now restricted circle of “easy to learn, hard to master” that strategic enthusiasts like so much. However, although the amount of information you will receive will be truly overwhelming, don't worry: everything can always be called up via the Library, but above all the Vanillaware developers have managed to make the adaptation to the world of Unicorn Overlord is very slow and gradual. Step by step you will enter the loop and you will no longer be able to do without it. The only note we feel like making is on the cleanliness of the menus: too complex, especially in the first hours of the game, and especially during the battles. The presence of fewer voices on the screen, perhaps, would have helped make for a less impactful introduction.

Unicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank youUnicorn Overlord Review: Thank you, Vanillaware, thank you

Melancholic | Review Unicorn Overlord

For the Unicorn Overlord review we tested the game on PS5. We didn't encounter any technical problems, on the contrary. Artistically speaking the title is very inspired and features truly spectacular 2D graphics, with character sprites truly cared for in every detail, a perfect choice of colors and scary animations. All seasoned with unparalleled cleanliness and fluidity which, although it was necessary considering the type of game and the hardware it runs on, we didn't expect to be so pleasant.

The musical accompaniment and the entire sound sector are also excellent. Perhaps the Italian adaptation is a little too pompousbut ultimately… if they hadn't done it with Unicorn Overlord it really would have been a wasted opportunity.

Stage Clear

This concludes this review of Unicorn Overlord which arrived far too late. You will forgive us, but the world of Cornia and Alain's story captured us for so many hours that it was difficult to decide to get up and write something. We don't have big notes to make on a production by a team that, every time, we actually forget how limited the number of programmers is, because every time they pull out of their hat video games that are so interesting, well-constructed and varied that they leave us speechless. And now, yes, definitely: we're aiming for platinum.

Unicorn Overlord is currently available on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series S. Let us know if you are playing it below in the comments and stay tuned with us at for all the news, guides and reviews on gaming and tech themes! And if you are interested in game keys at advantageous prices, we recommend you take a look at the InstantGaming catalogue!

Points in favor

  • Interesting narrative
  • Rewarding combat system
  • Interesting and challenging team management
  • Fun exploration

Points against

  • Menu system a little too confusing
  • Definitely pompous Italian adaptation