#Unicorn Overlord demo rekindles an outdated technique flame

Unicorn Overlord demo rekindles an outdated technique flame

After I convey up the “techniques RPG,” it appears like there’s a sure picture that involves thoughts: grid-based, turn-based, isometric, or top-down, with models hopping up and down terrain to bonk one another on the pinnacle with swords and magic. The sheer recognition of video games like Last Fantasy Techniques, Techniques Ogre, and Fireplace Emblem have cemented as a lot.

Possibly that is my very own biases talking, however listening to “(insert identify right here) Techniques” instantly brings that picture to thoughts, and it’s held true for a number of variations of tactical spin-offs. After taking part in the demo for Unicorn Overlord, Vanillaware’s newest, it’s clearly falling within the technique facet of the style; fairly than one other Techniques, it’s hearkening again to a unique department of the Ogre sequence: Ogre Battle.

It’s a very fascinating method to see Vanillaware take. Whereas Ogre Battle had a huge effect on the business, Techniques Ogre and FFT felt like they eclipsed it. However in seeing this group deal with these concepts, programs, and even the framing of the story, Unicorn Overlord appears like a non secular successor, years later.

The Unicorn Overlord menu, showing two sections of enemies in battle  and the Time Limit at the top.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Life in real-time

To begin, Unicorn Overlord is a technique RPG. Within the demo—out now on Swap, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox Sequence X|S—the sport principally begins originally, supplying you with a quick prologue and some tutorials earlier than dumping you out into the primary continent of Cornia.

You’re Prince Alain, the inheritor to the throne of Cornia, residing in exile after a former normal broke ranks and overthrew your mom, establishing the Zenoiran empire. Years later, all the world has slowly fallen to Zenoira. Alain, his trusty advisor Josef, and a slew of mates and companions now make up the Liberation Military, in search of to wrest Cornia again for its rightful ruler.

Already, we’re into some pretty commonplace concepts. And if I’ve something to nitpick in regards to the demo, it’s that the primary plot is what you’d anticipate: knights and warriors combating to regain management from the evil, mind-controlling empire.

Two knights in Unicorn Overlord, speaking to another character, Ochlys, who says "I turn my gaze foor one ungodly moment and look what happens!"
Screenshot by Destructoid

The enchantment of the early areas are of their open method. After a buddy is taken hostage, Josef warns Alain that the Liberation drive is lower than the duty of a rescue simply but. As an alternative, he ought to enterprise across the continent, establishing a foothold and recruiting allies, finally constructing a drive robust sufficient to forge forward.

So that you run world wide in real-time. Throughout Alain, NPCs wander round, ready to gossip or present useful suggestions; totally different useful resource nodes present lumber or ore, to show in for reconstruction efforts in war-torn cities you’ve liberated; and even some treasure waits to be found, deep in ruins or graveyards.

There’s a way of place right here that already units it other than different video games. Whereas I miss the intricate, detailed battle maps of a techniques sport, what I get as an alternative is the sensation of a persistent world and marketing campaign. After I wander into enemy territory, I’ve to be cautious of patrols. Ultimately, I can begin a battle stage, shuffling me right into a mode the place I can deploy my forces and cost forth. When this occurs, enemies throw up barricades, man towers, and gap up in garrisons dotting the trail between my base and the target.

Unicorn Overlord's battle menu with Rock Rat Spearbearer units on the left side, and Rolf's units on the right.
Screenshot by Destructoid

It’s actually spectacular to see the ways in which Vanillaware performs with terrain and locale, in these conditions. A swampy land has an eerie temper to it, sure, but additionally makes for an fascinating strategic puzzle to unravel when I’ve to really direct troops throughout it. I beloved the enclosed, walled metropolis of Barbatimo, which sat at a vital crossroads for my marketing campaign. It seemed like what I might think about a vital juncture level would in Unicorn Overlord’s world. Laying siege to it was as difficult as I might’ve hoped.

Automated battles

Fight in Unicorn Overlord is, basically, an auto-battling affair. When models of opposing forces meet on the sphere, they go into battle, backed up by any close by ranged or magical models. And by unit, I imply a squad: shifting our bodies on the board of Unicorn Overlord are literally a number of totally different troopers, comprising a single “unit.” So if my knight is main a band alongside a healer, housecarl, and archer, that’s who goes into battle.

Then, the 2 forces conflict in an automatic battle, the place the logic of your individual Last Fantasy XII Gambit-system techniques goes toe-to-toe with the enemies’. Items spend their energetic and passive level allotment as you’ve advised them to, and whoever wins advances ahead.

An unmounted knight squares up with another knight on a horse, both are holding a lance.
Screenshot by Destructoid

It really works actually, rather well. Whereas having a scarcity of management in battle would possibly really feel a bit regarding, the quantity of affect you exert beforehand is huge. Actions will be given situations, like “use this assault, if there’s a flying enemy on the sphere,” or “activate this if somebody drops under X well being threshold.” It prompts the technique a part of my mind, fairly than the quick act-and-react of techniques.

Quite a lot of Unicorn Overlord is pondering forward, when it comes to strikes, time, actions, and methods. In a single battle, I had to make sure my models had unfold of magic injury, to cope with all of the heavy armor on the opposite facet of the sphere. In one other, I wanted to roll out a unit with a frontrunner who may break down barricades first, to clear the best way for my cavalry.

Continuously, I confronted decisions primarily based on what the enemy was doing, how a lot time was left, and what state my models have been in. Particular person unit stamina can drop quick, and an overworked unit can depart itself open to an enemy strike, so I even needed to take that into consideration.

Again to the previous

With all this in thoughts, I used to be already fascinated. And after performing some analysis, I wished to see how a lot Unicorn Overlord pulled from the previous. So, I went and booted up Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. It’s form of wonderful to place the 2 side-by-side; it makes it fairly evident the place Vanillaware drew inspiration from, for its real-time overworld technique.

That’s to not say it’s all Ogre, although. Items of Unicorn Overlord additionally dredged up different techniques giants; the stats and level-up display screen, in addition to utilizing the “Discuss” perform on the battlefield, all jogged my memory of Fireplace Emblem. And the aforementioned logic-tactics add their very own spin to issues. Its persistent overworld offers me flashes of Heroes of Would possibly and Magic at instances.

So sure, Unicorn Overlord appears like Vanillaware rekindling an outdated Ogre Battle flame that’s been dormant for fairly a while. The final new entry was over twenty years in the past, in spite of everything. However my combining and sporting its influences on its sleeve like this, Unicorn Overlord nonetheless feels recent and thrilling, particularly for these like me who missed this period again when it first occurred.

It’s good to really feel like pillars of this style are getting renewed curiosity, and with that Vanillaware contact of artwork and music, too—each of that are wonderful, by the best way. The pretty prolonged demo offers a reasonably good take a look at what’s forward, and now I’m extra curious than ever to see whether or not Unicorn Overlord can stick the touchdown.

Eric Van Allen

Senior Editor – Whereas Eric’s been writing about video games since 2014, he is been taking part in them for lots longer. Normally discovered grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out across the Limsa Aethryte.

Extra Tales by Eric Van Allen


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