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Bursting With Style & Substance

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Enemy units surround Rolf in a battle from Unicorn Overlord

Ahead of my hands-on preview with Unicorn Overlord, the new tactics RPG from developer Vanillaware and published by Atlus, I was told that nobody had beaten the demo yet. So I made it my mission to see if I could change that. Cut to two-and-a-half hours later, and I can see why people were having difficulty. I was in the midst of a massive battlefield, juggling multiple units of soldiers across a sprawling map and getting into fights with enemies twice my level. But after 45 minutes of strategizing (and the occasional save reload), I came out the victor.

Despite the game’s insistence that I was woefully underpowered for this conflict, all it took was some clever strategizing and careful combat to turn the tide in my favor. This was the moment Unicorn Overlord clicked. If anything is the mark of a great tactics game, it is the ability of the player to leverage strategy over raw power and win. My time with Unicorn Overlord’s opening hours left me eager to challenge even more powerful enemies when the game releases, just to see what I can get away with.

Unicorn Overlord is something of an inversion on Vanillaware’s previous title, 2020’s 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Where 13 Sentinels put a heavy emphasis on story in the form of side-scrolling adventure segments interspersed with smaller real-time strategy combat encounters. Unicorn Overlord puts real-time strategy at the forefront, adding to and evolving in an exponential way upon its predecessor. We’ll get to the story later, but first let’s talk about gameplay. Because there is a lot to talk about, with the game’s systems becoming a melting pot of influences.

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