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Unicorn Overlord Review (PS5) – A Bold New Step For Strategy Games

Unicorn Overlord PS5 Review – Channelling the very best of the classic strategy RPG genre, Unicorn Overlord is a deep and layered experience from the same team as 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Forgoing the sci-fi aesthetic that helped to set their previous work apart, Unicorn Overlord returns to a traditional medieval fantasy setting that sets the stage for a compelling character-focused narrative that has had me interested throughout its runtime.

With bold presentation and an equally bold new iteration on classic strategy formulas, Unicorn Overlord is a title that all fans of the genre should consider jumping into.

Unicorn Overlord Review (PS5) – A Bold New Step for Strategy

Reclaiming a Legacy

The plot of Unicorn Overlord follows the usurped prince, Alain, gathering a band of allies and trying to dethrone a war general who has taken the throne from the bloodline. Unlike similar games in its genre, Unicorn Overlord wastes no time in throwing players into the main conflict of the game and this relatively brisk pace was appreciated in getting the plot moving.

While Alain falls into the fairly generic archetype of a “friendly prince who can see the good in everyone,” I never found this particular character trait to cause the same frustrations that I have had in previous reflections of this archetype. Alain’s openness to perspectives and alternative solutions to violence were not unrealistic to a comedic degree.

This emerges in the possibility of changing the way that Alain responds to certain scenarios and whether or not it might be the best option to maybe let a criminal go if they had noble motivations and might be able to be redeemed. These moments allow players to have agency over the story and also allow people to shape Alain into the type of protagonist that they think suits them better. These choices do have impacts on rewards and progression too, so thought is always a consideration.

The vast array of characters that appear across the course of the game similarly reaches a high standard of writing, where familiar types of characters are explored in ways that don’t feel too familiar or repetitive. And despite dealing in fantasy and magic, the story remained grounded and believable, with these themes being handled in interesting and

I should mention that these comments on the story are largely based on early to midgame progression, due to the unprecedented scale of this particular title. Feasibly discussing the entirety of this game’s scope is far beyond possible for this primary thought.

Setting Out

Battles in Unicorn Overlord take place on a world map that remains consistent throughout the journey. Sprawling across five distinct nations, the roads are littered with battles and scenarios to take part in. These range from restoring settlements, and rebuilding fortresses to defeating local bandits.

The variety of objectives across a deceptively open map helped to emphasise the sense of scale throughout the game and was a pleasant surprise, as I was let loose to explore areas at my own leisure, the strength of my army being a natural limiter on where I could venture.

Unicorn Overlord’s surprising commitment to non-linear conflicts was an exceptionally refreshing inclusion that helped to reduce frustrations if I came up against a particularly difficult enemy. Early on, I found myself running into a brick wall before discovering that I was able to go down and around the fight that was causing me so much trouble.

This allowed me to discover and train units that would be particularly effective against the ones that were stampeding me, and this was a great sense of achievement that has remained true for my time with the game so far.

The Flow of Battle

Instead of taking turns, Unicorn Overlord adopts an active strategy system, where both allies and enemies are moving at the same time, with most battles having an overall time limit before it concludes. This lends a strong sense of dynamic action to the battles as players are faced with decisions about what exactly to prioritise.

While most battles end when the enemy command post has been taken over, other obstacles emerge throughout that might draw focus away. Reinforcements can emerge from smaller outposts that may not necessarily be on the main path, but may cause trouble if they manage to get behind your advancing army.

As a result, I never found myself mindlessly continuing towards the main objective, and considered spreading my army a bit further out. Various types of units have particular methods of getting across the map, so mobility also branches into the consideration of dealing with particular obstacles. Should you send a more fragile flying unit ahead to deal with artillery? Or keep your armoured units moving steadily forward?

On the standard difficulty, I found the game to be a fair challenge, with time limits being fairly generous but not complete pushovers as I steadily pushed myself to multi-task and consider more effective strategies, beyond equipping my characters with the strongest equipment. I appreciated not being able to blindly steamroll maps by just letting a stronger unit take the front.

Preparing for Battle

The battle system in Unicorn Overlord is full of intricacies and potential for player expression. While I enjoyed meticulously checking my unit’s equipment for particular load-outs, a helpful optimisation feature helps to alleviate some of the more granular work, particularly with unit behaviour.

Instead of battles following a defined order of actions, you can set your various units to behave in particular ways. Certain weapons offer abilities that can be employed in specific situations where they would be most effective. The freedom to change the minutia of my characters’ behaviours was a fulfilling experiment that was rewarding in my improved results.

Unfortunately, I felt that this system could be introduced better to players that haven’t encountered such minute customisation. A good half an hour was spent just getting to grips with the staggering amount of options from the beginning, and this becomes exponentially more throughout the experience. For those accustomed to it? Brilliant. But for newcomers, a guide may be a helpful tool.

An option to engage in “mock battles” is conveniently available allowing you to tinker with these finer settings in a safe environment that encourages experimentation. Permanent unit deaths are also not a part of the base experience in Unicorn Overlord, once again allowing for finer exploration with no need to constantly save and load to rescue your favourites from peril.

Permadeath is locked behind the hardest difficulty in the game and while part of me would like this to be available from the start for the veterans in the audience, the chance to learn the mechanics of the game in a safer setting is fair, especially with a system as complex as this.

Full of Character

It’s not only the battle system that has depth, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the range of characters on offer throughout your journey. While I’ve yet to fill out my roster even close to full, each member of the cast I’ve met so far has been a joy to learn more about and to fight alongside. Dialogue is dripping in the classic

As you organise your battalions into groups of units, they build their relationships and certain units can have conversations with each other outside of battle. While the main story generally focuses on Alain’s journey to reclaim the throne, these small side scenarios are a tried and tested way to flesh out interpersonal relations between the party. These even extend to resolving conflicts completely unrelated to the main story, but are equally as compelling.

This is generally helped by a presentation that is absolutely gorgeous from start to end. Taking notes from their previous work, Unicorn Overlord implements a similar art style with incredibly detailed animation work that allows each character to emote in brilliant ways. Despite cutscenes all playing out in a 2D perspective, these sequences come to life with dynamic animations and detailed character work, as well as varied backgrounds with incredible attention to detail. The lighting in particular scenes could fool you into thinking the game was actually 3D.

This sense of style envelops the overall experience to deliver a package that feels just as good to look at as it is to play; exploring the world of Fevrith and engaging in involved strategic gameplay is only helped by varied environments and a great soundtrack alongside it.

Unicorn Overlord is a triumphant foray into the strategy-RPG space that allows for great expression in the types of strategy that can be employed.

Unicorn Overlord is out now for PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series X/S.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Unicorn Overlord is yet another standout game from a revered developer that sets out to innovate on classic strategy conventions. It achieves these goals with style and substance, resulting in a game that strategy afficionados should absolutely consider jumping into. While I don't think this title is a particularly good entry point for newcomers to the genre, this game is clearly aware of its audience and it plays to those strengths. Spectacular.