Unicorn Overlord (Switch) [Revised 3/16/24]

Available Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5, Xbox X/S

Release Date: March 8, 2024


Unicorn Overlord is a tactical RPG produced by Atlus. Atlus has a pretty strong history with these types of games. The game revolves around an exiled prince looking to overthrow his mother's killer and usurper of his throne. You lead the prince and his loyal allies into various battles across the map. With each major victory, and even a few minor ones, you unlock new areas of the map to explore, towns to rebuild, and troops to recruit to your cause. The ultimate goal, of course, is to build and train an army worthy of vanquishing the oppressive dictator that now rules over your homeland and the surrounding kingdoms that he's conquered.


I played this on the Nintendo Switch. For a Switch game, it looked nice but certainly not the same level as some PS5 and Xbox games. But then again, those systems are more geared towards graphic quality whereas the Switch is designed to be portable. That said, I have no complaints about the visuals in this game. The character models are nicely detailed, vividly colored, and all have fluid animations. How the Switch version's graphics compare to the graphics on its other available platforms I can't say but for what the game is, I'm sure they'll be at least at the same level if not better.


The music is about what one might expect. Nothing spectacular but very fitting for the setting. Battle music is more dramatic and deep while exploration is accompanied with lighter music one might expect to hear from our own long-ago era of knights. There is no licensed music from major artists, which makes sense, and what has been created for this game is very "on theme".


The majority of the movement outside of combat is free roaming. You move the titular character around the map freely. Shining spots illuminate harvesting points where you can collect various materials used to deliver to town to rebuild them and gain access to each town's features once fully restored. There are locations that you can "explore". Exploration consists of if you have recruited the correct person to your army, they will have a short dialogue and then find a hidden item or perform a side quest action at the location. Other than that, movement on the map only serves to move your army from one point to another, as is the point with map traversal.


In combat, each unit type has its own strengths and weaknesses, as one might expect. This pro/con skill set encourages you to create teams of varying capabilities and even to shuffle troops between leader formations depending on the types of troops each fight will having you facing.

There are two different types of battles: stage battles and map battles.

Map battles are 1v1 encounters that you can more or less choose to have or avoid while running around on the open map. Your troops don't really earn XP from these fights but if you don't defeat the enemies they can be something of a nuisance, slowing down your movements and things of the like. Luckily, when you encounter one of these fights you can cycle through all of your available troop formations to see which gives you the best chance at success. Once you defeat one of these units they disappear from the map permanently but if you fail to defeat them, they will stay in that area of the map until you do. These unfriendly troops also have a line of sight and will charge you if you get within their range of sight.

Stage battles are the meat and potatoes for the game. These are the battles that your quests depend on and how you advance your troops. Stage battles are also timed. Players are required to complete the stage, i.e. beat the stage boss, before the timer expires. Troops ear XP and level up from participating in Stage battles, even if they were "knocked out" during combat. Granted, KO'd troops earn less XP than active/surviving troops.

Stage battles limit the number of starting troops you can deploy based on "valor". You start each Stage with 3 valor. Valor can be used to deploy troops OR use a unit's special skill. Valor is earned by defeating enemy troops, overtaking watch towers, freeing towns, and more. You can have up to 10 Valor at your disposal which allows you to deploy additional troops as the battles wage on and time ticks by. The Stage is considered defeated when the boss unit's troop is defeated. Any undefeated units automatically vanish when the boss troop is defeated.

You do earn rewards for the more things you do in a Stage so there is motivation to defeat as many units as possible, conquer the watch towers, free the towns, and anything else the Stage map offers but only as long as you can do so before the timer expires. Some Stages include certain interactions with specific characters that can influence post-Stage interactions, troop recruitment, and more so it pays to always be on the watch for those special opportunities.

However, unlike most other tactical RPGs, you do NOT control the combat of individual units in Unicorn Overlord. Not even the main character.

All battles are fought automatically. As the player, you are just an observer to the actual battle. Individual units act based on their "Initiative" and execute 1 move per turn based on their predefined Tactics settings. When you first start the game, Tactics is locked and the characters act using their default settings but later on you will unlock the ability to manage what each character will do in various conditions and priorities. Aside from issuing movement commands, using items, and spending valor to trigger special skills (all outside of combat), that's all the part you play in combat.


Final Thoughts:

I'm conflicted about this game. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing through the game. I have completed a sizable portion of it with no intent of stopping until I return the prince to his rightful place on the throne as a benevolent king. However, the $60 price tag that came with the standard version seems a bit steep considering that for the core part of the game, tactical combat, you're little more than an observer. There is still plenty of things to do in the game as a player but I play tactical RPGs for the tactical combat. This feels less tactical and more AI. Sure, I get to set the tactics my troops use in combat but I have no control over the situational tactics once combat starts. There is method for me to adapt as the battlefield evolves around me.

I would recommend this game to fans of Atlus and tactical RPGs but with a word of caution that this is not like 13 Sentinels or Shin Megami Tensi. For $60 I would want more though. For $40 (or less) this would be a standout title for me that I would shout from the rooftops for others to get. But at the current price, I think this is only for the hardcore fans of the genre and of Atlus. That isn't to say that the game isn't well done or is devoid of quality. It is a fantastic looking game with responsive controls, intriguing stories, and more but I don't like that I have so little control when it comes to the heart of the game's design, i.e. combat. It would be one thing if I had the choice to let AI fight for me or do it myself but when that choice is taken away from by the developers and put in the hands of AI for ALL combatants I just feel shorted.

UPDATE: I've have since finished playing this game since the post was first written. At that time I had only completed about half of the game. Having finished the game, my opinion of the game has changed somewhat. I still think that it was a wonderful game but my concerns about the price have vanished. The deeper into the game I progressed, the more complex the game became. Even though I was ultimately able to walk through the final battles with 1 formation of 5 units with little to no issues, the makeup of the team was important. Because I had uncovered the special gear and trained so much in the training areas so that I could conquer the coliseum, I had built a team that was nigh unstoppable, even against the game's final antagonist.

This was a game I thoroughly enjoyed, and one of few that I completed so fully. Most games I explore the world and grind to the point of the game growing boring and repetitive. This senseless repetition compels me to play something else with the idea of coming back to it later but I rarely do. This game kept my attention throughout the entirety. It took me only a few days to beat but that included days of gaming until 3-4am in the morning. Some days were 16 hours of straight playing. This is a game worthy of the price and one I have already recommended to a few friends who I know appreciate this genre.

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