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Analysis | Unicorn Overlord shines with good characters and tons of strategy

The Nintendo 64 was one of the consoles of my childhood and I remember going several times with my father to a second-hand fair in the city to buy or exchange cartridges. On one of these trips I came across a cartridge with a funny name, Ogre Battle, and decided to take a chance. It was a strategy RPG with a very peculiar design and from the first few hours it hooked me and ended up being one of the most memorable games of this time in my life. Since then, not even Fire Emblem has managed to give me the same feeling I felt when controlling those dozens of characters for hundreds of hours at the time and games of this type have become increasingly rare.

Unicorn Overlord – recently released by Atlus and developed by the brilliant Vanillaware – draws heavily from the Ogre Battle source, being almost a spiritual successor. The coolest thing, however, is that it managed to make me go back to that nostalgic period of decades ago without giving up my own identity and being a modernizer of the genre.

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Focus on characters

The story of Unicorn Overlord is basically what you would expect from a game of this genre, with a political conflict that involves several nations and characters from each of them. Alain is our protagonist, a prince who was separated from his mother, the warrior queen of Cornia, on the night that Zenoria, a newly founded empire of villains and traitors, took the castle by storm and took control of the continent.

The campaign begins 10 years after that day and shows how all other continents in this world were also subjugated by Zenoria in the period. With his master always by his side and friends who share his cause, Alain grew up being rigidly trained for the day when he would assume the role of commander of the resistance and try to take back his kingdom.

In control of an army of freedom, we are invited by Vanillaware to liberate five continents. The big focus here is on the characters. Each location visited and battle won usually introduces someone new, who has a whole arc, including relationships with members of our army and the villains of Zenoria. After completing this arc, the character usually joins your army and can be used in the battles to come.

Without having your feet on the ground, the world here is quite magical and the conflict soon stops focusing only on political bullshit and starts to include supernatural threats and exotic creatures. The result is always at least decent and apart from Alain's flat personality, always pure to the extreme and with few internal conflicts and significant evolution, the story is full of cool moments, whether on the dramatic side or the comic reliefs that made me laugh out loud. .

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The interactions between the characters give life and shine to each of them. By fighting in the same battalion or attending dinners together, they develop affinity. Those who have some connection with each other in the narrative participate in some short cutscenes upon reaching these levels of affinity, showing a funny moment of interaction, or telling more about each person's story. This creates a really cool connection between the different groups of people on the other side of the screen and we soon find ourselves rooting for some of them and worrying about their direction in the campaign.

The graphics are beautiful, with very competent art direction, which also helps a lot to tell the story. In the open world and when moving around in battles, each character has a beautiful pixel art figure. The more traditional 2D anime art comes into play in the cutscenes and dialogues, which is equally impressive in detail, color and with very convincing animations.

The catch here is that the entire text is only available in English, with no localization for Portuguese. As it's a heavy game in this part, anyone who doesn't speak the language will have difficulty connecting, but it's definitely worth trying, even if it's with a good old dictionary at your side.

Epic battles, but without much challenge

The battles in Unicorn Overlord are all tactical, but very different from what you might think. Although part of the action is in real time, such as selecting troops and defining where each one goes on the battlefield, the clash with the enemy is done in an “automatic” way, where everything that was defined before, such as equipment, class of troop characters and their positioning on the grid define the final result. At first it's really strange, but soon you'll be hooked on choosing attacks, equipment and positioning for each of the members that make up your army.

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But before the action takes place, there is always a period “between missions” in the game's open world, where, under Alain's control, it is possible to freely roam the continent and collect resources, talk to some characters and define the army's paths, liberating cities. and advancing the story in the process. This part is really cool because it provides a breather between longer battles and gives the combat a rest, so that it doesn't get so tiring. There are several small activities, such as mining, delivering resources to cities to evolve, searching for hidden items, buying weapons and items and even releasing secret points with faster battles and more troop sending strategies to win before time runs out.

Preparing troops before battles is also super important. Each battalion has a leader who has a special ability in the field, such as riding, providing support with magic, arrows or healing for battalions next to them, breaking barricades quickly and much more. In addition to this leader, with the improvements made over time, it is possible to place four more characters in this group, who are arranged in two rows.

Combining the almost 50 classes in order to create a competent battalion for a specific activity on the field is the game's greatest challenge. There is a lot of depth here, being possible to choose equipment, which attacks will be used, some only activated in specific situations and even leave commands defined in even more specific cases, such as when someone is poisoned or depending on the enemy's formation.

With everything well configured, you need to release troops little by little and defeat enemy troops to be able to send even more battalions into the field. When a battalion encounters an enemy, a battle begins until everyone uses up all their actions, where you do not control the characters, but you can watch your strategy unfold in real time, with various implications for whether or not you win the battle. whether or not the entire enemy battalion is eliminated.

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At first the matches are simple, but over time several layers of complexity are introduced, such as places where support battalions can be holed up to help any other friend who is fighting nearby, and increasingly complex maps, with dangers and opportunities. for each type of class.

You need to pay attention to whether or not your troops will have an advantage against the enemy. Cavalry is strong against infantry, but terrible against aerial enemies. There are variations within the infantry itself, such as assassins who are fast and dodge most attacks and mages focused on causing negative effects. This is repeated for each type of character and generates a series of opportunities to explore during each phase.

As the game is quite long, since it easily takes 70 hours to do everything, at times these battles get a little tiring, but there are always new features that bring some freshness. There are new characters and classes on each continent, different biomes and unusual situations, such as sandstorms in the desert that reduce the vision and movement of troops. I was always eager to see what was next, what would be added again, and I was always rewarded in some way, just like years ago on the Nintendo 64.

Another small problem is the lack of challenge. Unicorn Overlord is more like a great gateway to the genre than a game focused on hardcore players of my time, especially since there have always been very few of us. Only in the most difficult mode, where there is a limitation on the use of items during the phases and more intelligent enemies, is there any challenge and, even so, it is very calm for anyone who has understood the rules of the gameplay, not requiring minimum management. details of the units and very focused on having fun.

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The soundtrack is my final highlight, as it is epic and also borrows heavily from the Ogre Battle source, but with its own ideas here and there. And it makes perfect sense, since Mitsuhiro Kaneda, the score's composer, also worked on Tactics Ogre and must be a huge fan of the series.

Conclusion

Unicorn Overlord is that hidden treasure that emerges from time to time in each generation and brings back a dormant genre that many people don't know about. Its tactical gameplay is rewarding, its characters are super charismatic and the amount of quality content makes it worth the time and money invested. For those who like RPGs, even without having experience with this niche, it's worth giving it a chance.

Pros

  • Incredible art direction
  • Tactical battles full of depth and epic moments
  • Charismatic characters presented in droves throughout the journey
  • Lots of troop customization options
  • Striking and powerful soundtrack
  • Good gateway for beginners to the genre

Cons

  • Little challenge even on the most advanced difficulty
  • Falls into repeating battles at times
  • Main character without much personality or evolution

Grade: 9.0/10.0

A copy of the game for PS5 was provided by Atlus for the preparation of this analysis

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Analysis | Unicorn Overlord shines with good characters and tons of strategy

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